Since the colonial era, the question of to whom Africa belongs has sparked furious debate. UCT's All Africa House was the site of the latest discussion, at a student-organised gathering in late March.
Collaboration between UCT's Students' Representative Council (SRC), UCT's Abantu Zambian Society and All Africa House brought keynote speaker Professor Muna Ndulo to address the full house on the topic. Ndulo, Professor of Law and Director of the Institute for African Development at the University of Cornell, spoke of Africa's unique situation in an era of globalisation and the free market in relation to the theme, To whom does Africa belong? The generation [of scholars] and the future of Africa.
Despite describing the dangers of the "predatory capitalism" that was globalisation, Ndulo insisted that there was much cause for optimism about Africa's future.
"Recent high growth rates and increased foreign investments in Africa have given rise to much hope," he noted. "We have even begun to think that Africa may well be on track to becoming an economic powerhouse. The narrative is all over. The Economist, which in 2010 called Africa 'The Hopeless Continent', this year called Africa 'The Rising Continent'.
Africa's development had to be generated from within, Ndulo argued. While "inadequate leadership, corruption" and, as yet, a failure to optimise profits from Africa's vast mineral wealth undermined the continent's development, improving regional integration and intra-African trade could go a long way towards improving its fortunes.
Ndulo urged the younger generation to take charge of Africa's destiny by maximising opportunities for academic engagement. "If we are not developing our own research agendas, how are we going to address issues that are unique to us?" Chanda Chungu, the SRC societies co-ordinator, said the talk was the first in a series designed to stimulate dialogue among UCT students about the challenges facing Africa and how they could be overcome.
"This series of talks will involve forums and discussions with African academics, lawyers, politicians and possibly former UCT students making an impact in their careers," says Chungu. "This will allow UCT students to engage with our role in building up the continent."
The next instalment in the series is tentatively scheduled for 9 May.
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