The Association of African Universities (AAU), the Pan African Heritage World Museum (PAHWM) and UNESCO, under the auspices of the Government of Ghana and the African Union Commission, organized a special Diaspora Conference titled: World Conference on Education and Restitution from August 30th to September 1st, 2022. The overarching theme for this hybrid conference, hosted at the AAU’s Secretariat in Accra, Ghana and online was – Afrofuturism and Africa’s Development. The three subthemes supporting the overall theme and underpinning the discussions at the conference were as follows — Addressing the prerequisites for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area; Rethinking Education: Towards Achieving the African Renaissance; and Reclaiming and Reconceptualizing African Arts, Culture, and Heritage.
The conference brought together scholars, artists, political and economic decision-makers, traditional leaders, civil society activists, professionals, and practitioners from across the continent and from the African diaspora to share the results of their research, collaborative work, and practices that address the above-mentioned issues. The overall aim of the event was to provide the platform for key discussions by stakeholders towards reclaiming and recontextualizing African education, technology, politics, languages, histories, arts, culture, music, and spirituality and to heighten the need for a conscious effort of unification in these endeavors for Africa’s rapid development.
At the opening ceremony, the Secretary General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Prof. Olusola Oyewole, underscored the need for Africans to own our heritage and the relevance of events such as the Diaspora Conference in promoting the African culture. While stating that the AAU welcomes collaborations in this focus area, Prof. Oyewole further called on stakeholders to promote this agenda in the various higher education institutions, especially in this era of Afrofuturism and Pan-Africanism.
Key issues raised from the discussions and engagements included the need to transform the curricula of African higher education institutions to respond to the challenges faced by the continent, as well as the need to teach the history of Africa, as lessons from history are critical in mapping the way forward for the development and decolonization of Africa.
Dr. Kayode Aderinsola of the Durban University of Technology, South Africa/University of Ibadan, Nigeria, mentioned in his submission, that the design of the African curricula lacks indigenous knowledge, cultural values, and black consciousness. He called for a quick review of the curricula currently being followed by higher education institution across the continent, while stressing the need for a clear indication of what content should be decolonized in the African curricula.
Dr. Meghoo and Dr. Kayode recommended the need for a paradigm shift (not necessarily a reinvention), which should be in the form of a reconceptualizing and repositioning of the curricula of African higher education institutions to help solve the current and future problems of Africa. According to him, this should aim at promoting solidarity among Africans and training the youth to address African problems, with home grown solutions.
According to the representative to the African Union endorsed Diaspora African Forum, Dr. Desta Meghoo, Pan Africanism, and Afrofuturism are two powerful tools capable of transforming the African educational system, preserving African heritage, and reclaiming African heritage. Dr. Meghooo indicated that rebooting our indigenous traditional knowledge ignites intellect and values, and thus Africans must remember our dismembered identity. Adding to this, the Quality Assurance Expert of the Association of African Universities, Dr. Violet Makuku, postulated that, for the African continent to solve its problems and promote peace, it is necessary for us to take responsibility for these issues, and thus the time to act is now.
A documentary by Emerita Prof. Sheila Walker, Professor of Anthropology and Documentary Filmmaker/Executive Director of Afrodiaspora, Inc., titled Familiar Faces/Unexpected Places, suggests African technology, spirituality, and culture have been transformed to form and make sense of modern-day civilization in the Global African Diaspora. As such, to restore African dignity and culture, Dr. Laniser Kitchiner proposes “a just compensation” to aggrieved countries and recommends that restitution should adopt an object-centered approach and be geared towards addressing intangible cultural knowledge to understand indigenous African knowledge. All of which can be done through educational campaigns to drive the robust knowledge of African heritage.
The three-day conference concluded with the Chair of the conference planning committee, Prof. Pashington Obeng, commending the stakeholders for their insightful suggestions and contributions. He highlighted the need to follow up on the development of home-grown solutions for Africans to solve our own problems in our quest to achieve the Africa we want.
Other collaborators were PANAFEST, the Ghana National House of Chiefs, the Ghana Cultural Forum, the Diaspora African Forum, the African Private Sector Summit (APSS), the Global Institute of Planning and Sustainable Development (GIPSD), and the All-African Students Union (AASU).
Article Written By – Nana Essumamba Sam, Partnership Office, AAU