The African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) in partnership with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and the Institute for African Renaissance Studies (IARS) of the University of South Africa (UNISA), organized a conference on African Renaissance, Integration and development at the Burger’s Park Hotel, Pretoria, South Africa.
The conference was a contribution of the African Renaissance Campaign launched by the African Union on Africa Day, May 25, 2010. It largely aimed at broadening and deepening the debate on African Renaissance across disciplines, and to give more strength to the African Union’s quest for a rebirth of the African continent especially in the socio-economic and cultural domains.
The conference brought together more than thirty distinguished scholars across different fields, as well as representatives from various governmental and non-governmental organizations. The Honourable Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union Commission, H. E. Advocate Bience Philomina Gawanas, officiated the opening ceremony, and led the discussions of the conference to their end. Members of ACALAN’s Assembly of Academicians were also present including the Chairperson, Professor Ayo Bamgbose.
In her opening remarks, the Honourable Commissioner said that it was a great honour and pleasure for her to be in Madiba’s country, a place where the Organization of African Unity was transformed to African Union in July 2002. “It is equally in this country that the term African Renaissance, having the basic concept that African peoples and nations overcome the challenges confronting the continent in the form of a renewal of their culture and society at large, was first use in its formal context in 1994, following the first democratic elections after the end of apartheid. The philosophy, she said, had been popularized thereafter especially by President Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African” speech in May 1996, which meant that South Africa, had shown us, in an exemplary manner, the way to materialize Pan-Africanism, as part of the shared values on the continent. The Honourable Commissioner said that this symbolized the Campaign for African Cultural Renaissance, launched during the celebrations of Africa Day on May 25, 2010 in Accra, Ghana, which was made to coincide the celebration of the centenary of the birth of a Great Pan-Africanist, and one of the founding fathers of the Organization of African Unity, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. She went on saying that South Africa is one of the right places to honor the founding fathers of the OAU who had made great efforts since its inception in 1963, to promote greater African socio-economic integration. She paid homage to all the veterans, activists, fallen heroes and heroines who struggled for Africa’s emancipation and development.
The Honourable Commissioner thanked the organizers collectively for the noble initiative to broaden the debate on the African Renaissance as a way of finding best practices. She stressed the need for Africa to embarking on concrete actions in the pursuit of the renewal of its cultural identities as part of the shared values on the continent for her effective emancipation, integration and development. For this the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance should be adopted to come to force and attain its global aim of promoting African Renaissance as a factor of African unity and development.
She said that Africa still needed to face major challenges and consequently expects much from its citizens. She therefore urged the participants to make concrete proposals for the consolidation of the African cultural Renaissance Campaign, by the active involvement of Members States of the African Union, social actors, academicians, scientists etc. The debates and deliberations, she ended saying, should significantly pave the way to the materialization of the historic quest for African integration and development, for the African Renaissance to cease to be a utopia and become a reality.
The Executive Secretary of ACALAN, Professor Sozinho Francisco Matsinhe, during his opening remarks, recalled the Commissioner’s idea that the organization of the African Renaissance Conference resulted from the Campaign for African Cultural Renaissance, that the African Union launched during the celebrations of Africa Day on May 25, 2010, in Accra, Ghana, to mark the centenary of the birth Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. He told the participants that ACALAN has considered important to continue the campaign in collaboration with its partners. He continued by reiterating the role of African languages in the campaign in terms of communication and awareness. He said that the conference would contribute to the cross-fertilization of ideas and experience on African Cultural Renaissance in general as well as the empowerment of African languages as a factor of African integration and development.
Professor Sammy Beban Chumbow, former vice Chancellor of the University of Yaoundé and member of ACALAN’s of Assembly of Academicians delivered the Keynote speech entitled “African Renaissance and National Development in the age of Knowledge Economy.”
The presentations including that of Professor Ayo Bamgbose, entitled “African Language Dilemma in African Renaissance and Development,” dwelled on issues pertaining to the themes of the conference as follows:
- The place and role of African languages in the development of Africa;
- The place and role of culture in the development of Africa;
- Women’s Empowerment and development in Africa;
- The place and role of education in the development of Africa;
- The role of science and technology in the development of Africa;
- Africa and the globalization discourse;
- Indigenous Knowledge systems, African Languages and Development;
- African Renaissance and democratic culture and governance in Africa;
- African traditional governance institutions and frameworks and their contribution to democracy;
- The challenge of managing democratic elections in Africa.
Outcomes and recommendations
At the end of the workshop, participants recommended the broadening of the campaign so that it could have greater impact on African integration and development. For this to be realizable, the Khartoum decision on the linkage between culture, especially languages, and education should be strengthened. The workshop also recommended that the African Cultural Renaissance be adopted by the Member States of the African Union, and that the proceeding of the conference be published to bear theme of the presentations.