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African Studies on the African Continent

The Centre for African Studies (CAS) at the University of Cape Town hosted a colloquium on African studies from October 1-2, 2012. This colloquium was a result of extensive discussions among directors of various centres/institutes of African studies on the African continent, as well as other scholars in the field who expressed the need to come together and share experiences on the status of and challenges facing African studies on the continent.A total of 40 odd individuals from institutions that are based on the African continent participated in these discussions, and were invited to the colloquium.

The following institutions were eventually represented at the colloquium: the University of Ghana (Ghana), Kenyatta University (Kenya), University of Botswana (Botswana), University of Pretoria (South Africa), University of Edwardo Mondlane (Mozambique), University of Cape Town (South Africa), Human Science Research Council (South Africa) and the Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC), a South African NGO based in Cape Town. Other invited institutions could not make it to the colloquium for various reasons.

The colloquium offered a platform for academics, researchers and activists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds to debate the status and future of African Studies on the continent. They presented papers on the status of African Studies in their institutions. A common concern that many participants raised was that most of the knowledge produced on Africa and by African based scholars is seemingly not acknowledged and recognized. In addition, there was a strong view that the production of knowledge on Africa is still dominated by Eurocentric views. The question which arose then was: What mechanisms do we need to ensure that research on Africa is Africa-centred, in terms of theory, method and episteme? Participants recognised the need to strengthen the capacity of existing institutions that focus on African Studies on the continent while at the same time increasing the number of these institutions. The need for establishing an African based structure was also raised.

Following discussions on the desirability and possibility of having a structure to promote African studies on the continent, the participants unanimously agreed to establish such a structure. In this regard, an interim working group (IWG) comprising of the directors/representatives of the various centres/institutes of African Studies represented was duly constituted. Noting that the IWG was not geographically representative, participants agreed to expand the working group to identify and include two representatives from Francophone and Arabic Africa. The following members of the IWG were unanimously elected:

  • Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza (University of Cape Town and Chairperson)
  • Prof Akosua Adomako Ampofo (University of Ghana)
  • Prof Jacob Gordon (Kwame Nkrumah Chair, University of Ghana)
  • Prof Catherine Ndungo (Kenyatta University, Kenya)
  • Dr Maude Dikoba (University of Botswana)
  • Dr Ana Monteiro (Edwardo Mondlane University, Mozambique)

The terms of references for the working group are as follows:

  • Propose the name, vision and mission of the association;
  • Recommend the working modalities of the proposed association;
  • Propose guidelines for the operation of the proposed association; and
  • Identify other institutions on the continent and the Diaspora who might support the work of this association.

With regard to membership of the proposed association, colloquium participants suggested the following possibilities: Institutions and individuals already on the current list of participants of the colloquium. Other individuals and institutions on the continent who are currently involved and interested in African Studies Africans and those in the Diaspora involved and interested in African Studies. As far as existing Associations of African Studies outside the continent are concerned, participants envisioned the possibility of working in partnership with them.

Funds permitting, it was agreed that the IWP will meet in Accra, Ghana, in February 2013, to discuss work done since the Cape Town meeting and to send feedback to the larger group. It was also suggested that it would be appropriate to launch the new association at an International conference being organised by the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana in October 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first congress of African scholars which was held at the University of Ghana in 1962.