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Harvard affiliates and locals interested in Africa gathered to discuss the continent’s future at the 7th annual African Development Conference, hosted at Harvard Law School this weekend.
The conference included discussion groups, panels, and keynote speeches focusing on highlighting successful development initiatives and rethinking development beyond 2015, according to pamphlets distributed at the event.
Achille Mbembe, a history and politics professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an undercover journalist working in Ghana and around the African continent, drew on their professional expertise in discussing challenges facing Africa during the opening keynote speeches.
Mbembe emphasized the role changing demographics in Africa will have on the international climate.
“The future of our planet is being played out in the continent. If we want to have an idea of where our world is going, what is coming, Africa is the laboratory where we can see this,” he said.
Mbembe also highlighted the importance of creating a form of African nationality, which he said will require a re-opening of Africa and the abolition of colonial boundaries.
Anas, who works with law enforcement to not only expose, but also prosecute criminals, defended his controversial journalistic practices as necessary in protecting the people of Ghana.
“I believe that extreme remedies are the most appropriate for extreme diseases, and I belong to the remedy,” Anas said, covering his face to maintain anonymity.
Panel sessions on Saturday explored education, governance, health, and personal narratives, among other topics.
Debisi Araba, a Kennedy School fellow and student organizer for the conference, underscored the drawing power Harvard has in holding such an event.
“We created our unique selling point of bringing in not necessarily consenting voices, but bringing in people who have different perspectives on what Africa’s future will look like, and should look like, and have them create an atmosphere for healthy debate amongst all our participants,” Araba said.
Yusuph O. Mkangara ’17, who helped organize the event, emphasized his own desire to see the conference be made more accessible, both financially and institutionally, especially to members of the African diaspora in the greater Boston area.
“There’s a great Cape Verdean community here in Boston, and I just didn’t see Cape Verdean representation. There are tons of African workers within the Harvard system, people with African roots, that could really benefit from this conference,” he said.
Lisasa A. Opuka, who has attended the conference three times, said the conference allows him to gain a better perspective on solutions to issues in Africa.
“I decided to come because Africans have been marginalized and one reason for the marginalization has to do with the fact that people from the diaspora, especially Africa, are not as well-informed as they should be,” Opuka said.
The organizers emphasized a hope for the conference to leave attendees better informed and inspired to be a part of Africa’s future.
“The hope is that ultimately, out of the space, people connect, network, and start thinking about what are some deliverableswhat are some actions we can take, starting Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, this summer, or next month,” Mkangara said.
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