Africa’s future explored at AYGS conference at UJ

Young African graduates and scholars from South Africa and around the world will converge on the University of Johannesburg (UJ) for the 8th Annual Africa Institute of South Africa’s (AISA) Young Graduates and Scholars Conference (AYGS) from 17 to 19 February, 2014.
The three-day conference entitled, Africa at the Crossroads: The continent’s future prospects 50 years after the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU), will voice young graduates and scholars’ views on Africa’s future and developmental breakthroughs, as well as its challenges and opportunities going forward. The participants are from institutions, organisations and universities in Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, and South Africa. The participants are from multidisciplinary backgrounds.
Hosted by the Division for Internationalisation at UJ, in partnership with AISA, in collaboration with the International Council for Science Regional Office for Africa (ICSU ROA) and KARA Heritage Institute (KHI), the conference which will be opened by the minister of Public Enterprise, Malusi Gigaba, promotes knowledge production and provides a platform for participants to engage and exchange insights and debate around the challenges faced by the African continent, and the opportunities thereof.
The conference is further intended at bridging the existing gap of expertise in knowledge production on African affairs by contributing to the development of a society of knowledge producers among the youth. As one of AISA’s prime capacity-building programmes aimed at providing research skills and experience for emerging young African scholars, the AYGS Conference also takes the form of discussions on ways to uplift the African value systems and provide pathways for the ultimate integration of the entire African continent.
Key focus areas are: Climate change, energy and water supply security, science and technology, international relations, governance, poverty, sustainable development as well as peace and security.
According to UJ Internationalisation Division head, Dr Pinkie Mekgwe, partnering with AISA over this conference furthers the university’s ambition to be the epicentre of critical engagement on issues of importance to Africa, and to providing a platform for the development of global citizens on the UJ campus and beyond.
She further points out that the core of the AYGS Conference will be the critical interrogation of the current and future drivers of change in Africa, so important for the youth of the continent – in conversation with their international counterparts – to take up in the context of the African Union’s 2063 vision.
“The youth are the future and as such, their ideas and voices are key to the AU’s new vision for the next 50 years. The participants will take this futuristic approach to drivers of change in Africa – while locating them in a historical context. I am particularly excited about the Model AU concept that forms part of the programme for the conference: It should go a long way towards offering understanding on how the AU works; as well as inculcate further cross-knowledge of African countries for our students and young scholars,” she says.
Similarly, the convenors are of the view that although wars, hunger, HIV-related deaths, and insufficient socio-economic development are still highly associated with the African continent, the 21st century is a century for the rise of Africa.
AISA’s Chief Executive, Professor Phindile Lukhele-Olorunju, maintains that Africa has managed to re-position itself as a relevant and key player in the global political economy, as demonstrated by its role in agitating for the reform of the United Nations (UN) and for the recognition of Africa’s important role in global governance institutions.
“This, therefore, means there is an urgent need to prepare young graduates from Africa, and its Diasporas, to become innovative researchers and knowledge reservoirs in order to advance the socio-economic and political development of this continent, and ensure growth is sustainable,” added Prof Lukhele-Olorunju.
Moreover, AYGS’ strategic partners such as ICSU ROA endeavour to ensure that the voice of African scientists influence the international science agenda and that scientists from Africa are fully involved in international research programmes.
ICSU ROA’s collaboration with AISA, UJ and KHI in organising the upcoming AYGS is in furtherance of its aim to strengthen the network of young scientists and expand its database of young scientists on the continent. Cooperation in the AYGS is part of ICSU ROA’s objective to enhance capacity for young scientists while KHI is committed to leveraging the knowledge and ethos of Africa’s heritage to grow sustainable and empowered communities, to shape their own destiny.
Prof Pius Adesanmi, an acclaimed literary and cultural critic from Carleton University (Canada), will deliver the keynote address at a public lecture hosted by the UJ’s International Leadership Platform, as part of the conference. His lecture entitled, Culture, development and other annoyances, is scheduled for 18:30 on Thursday, 16 February 2014 at the University’s Council Chamber, Madibeng Building, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus, Johannesburg.
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