What Can Wakanda Teach Us About Foreign Policy?

By Sameer Rao May 31, 2018

Though it’s set in a fictional African nation, "Black Panther" explores many important issues that impact our nonfictional world. In fact, it inspired Donald Steinberg, a former deputy administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to use Wakanda as an example for his students at Dartmouth College.

Steinberg told The Hollywood Reporter today (May 31) that he developed a Wakanda-focused case study for students in his global development class: The Challenge of Global Poverty: Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It. The project requires students to imagine how Wakanda might distribute $400 million in aid to neighboring Tanzinia, Uganda and Rwanda, as well as antagonist Erik Killmonger’s hometown of Oakland. 

Steinberg told THR that he was inspired by the end of the Marvel movie, in which T’Challa/Black Panther abandons Wakanda’s isolationism with a United Nations speech about the need to provide compassionate aid for the oppressed. Steinberg introduced the idea by telling his students that T’Challa asked him for help with an aid strategy. 

"Everyone looked at me like I was crazy," he recalled. "By the end of the class, though, I had four people come up and volunteer to be ‘deputy ministers’ to put the process together."

The class will issue its findings in a 120-page capstone report.

Steinberg’s lesson plan is one of several examples of foreign policy experts citing Wakanda’s example for real-life development issues. For instance, a Brookings Institute report uses Wakanda’s protection of vibranium as an example for how African nations like Nigeria, for whom precious minerals make up over 90 percent of exports, can best manage their natural resources.