Live 8 and African Studies
The biggest Africa-related news story of the summer is the gathering of Western political leaders in Gleneagles Scotland at the invitation of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair to talk about his initiative to substantially increase aid to the poorest of the world’s continents. In his words, “there can be no excuse, no defense, no justification for the plight of millions of our fellow human beings in Africa today. And there should be nothing that stands in our way in changing it.” Blair’s stirring charge has been met by the worlds of media and entertainment, and their leading customers, the public, with elaborate musical performances, huge demonstrations, wrist bands and fund raising events designed to prick global consciousness about the deteriorating circumstances faced by most of Africa’s people.
Where does the African Studies academic community fit into this rare opportunity to tell the world what is happening on the ground in Africa? The “something must be done” statement that is at the heart of all this attention is preceded by the work we do in the field, in our libraries, with our student discussions, in our writing. The journalists, policy makers, government officials who have passed through our classrooms to learn the techniques of research and analysis, who have become aware of these issues through our assignments, need to be pricked themselves to support the work we do in building a foundation of interest about Africa. The “something must be done” exhortation is really about choices, and the world may know what choices are available for change in Africa through the work the academic community does in making as much information as possible available to all who are interested.
Our university work needs support. We need funds to train the African human resources: social scientists, health scientists, botanists, engineers, writers, journalists, and teachers who- alongside their western counterparts- will continue to lay out the choices that Africa has to make in carving its development path. These are people who will be responsible partners to the students from the Western countries also increasingly interested in the continent. We need to reassert ourselves as centers of balanced and detailed knowledge resources about Africa and engage in transferring those resources to our publics and to the continent. Please join our leadership team and get started on doing something about Africa by coming to our institutions, learn an African language to introduce yourself to the invitation that Africa offers, and continue to articulate the message that Africa needs global attention.