President Obama’s message to Africa’s rulers at the African Union in Addis Ababa today will encourage Africa’s economic growth but he will also be critical of the dictatorial tendencies that still abound in Africa’s politics. Africa, he says, needs strong institutions, not strongmen.
Never since the end of the Cold War has there been such a dearth of leadership on the continent. South Africa and Nigeria are the continent’s major powers but President Jacob Zuma of South Africa shows weak leadership at home and little interest in the rest of the continent. In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, newly-elected President Muhammadu Buhari is struggling to establish a government. Continent wide, regional integration which should be driving bigger inclusive economies, has been at a snail’s pace because of lack of vision and each president’s fear of losing control.
In the early 1990s America promoted democracy, human rights and the free market to the world as the principles of global governance. The free market has taken off fast in Africa, largely because Africans have simply got on with it. African cities today are bustling and growing and trade has been at an all time high. But African rulers have never been less committed to democracy and human rights. Most countries hold elections but fewer and fewer lead to a change of government. Nigeria in April was an extraordinary exception. Respect for human rights is in the hands of the governments and respected in varying degrees.
Embarrassingly Ethiopia which hosts the African Union headquarters where Obama will be speaking tomorrow, has not a single opposition MP in its 547-strong parliament, despite being in power since 1992. The press is also very tightly controlled. The government makes no apology for its political repression but points to Ethiopia’s high economic growth rates – around 10% for the last few years – and the fact that a third of Ethiopians, about 1.5 million who were regarded as poor in 2000, are now better off.
A similar situation exists in Rwanda, another favourite of Western donors. Its government delivers health and education to its people while maintaining total control over their lives through a surveillance system that North Korea would be proud of. At least, its friends argue, they have good reason after the 1994 genocide. Elsewhere governments are increasingly rarely changed by elections and several presidents, including Rwanda’s, have removed or are trying to remove term limits from their constitutions.
In Kenya on Sunday Obama stood next to an uncomfortable-looking President Uhuru Kenyatta. Son of the country’s first president, he heads the country’s richest family. You could see Kenyatta’s discomfort when Obama spoke of Kenya’s rampant corruption, lack of gay rights and discrimination against women. Kenyatta bluntly refused to accept gay rights and I believe most of his fellow presidents will support him.
At one time presidents like Kenyatta would have smiled meekly and obeyed. Thanks to China’s engagement in the continent, African rulers have an alternative powerful ally and can push back against US demands. The outright refusal to accept gay rights shows Africa’s growing self-confidence. China has given Africa’s rulers an alternative trading and political partner. Its engagement in Africa over the past two decades has enabled African governments to ignore or reject demands from Britain, France and the US although there are signs that Beijing is now beginning discreetly to support western demands for better governance, not least to protect their own interests in the continent.
This is a crucial time for Africa. Today it has more than a billion people. By 2050 that will have become 2 billion. Until now it has lived by exporting commodities, vulnerable to the price swings of raw materials. If it can start adding value by manufacturing and exporting, it could become the next big global economic driver. But this requires vision and leaders who have their countries’ interests at heart.
Today I expect President Obama will speak to all Africa’s presidents about better governance, term limits, human rights and democracy. He will urge them to create space for their young populations to thrive in a corruption-free market. They will give him a standing ovation but at the back of their minds many will be thinking: “nice words and good ideas but will they help me stay in power?”
Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society.
This article was published in The Times on July 28th
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Date & Time: Tuesday 11 March, 7-9PM
Place: Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT), SOAS
Event in partnership with the SOAS Pan-African Society.
Speakers: Mick Csaky, Series Executive Producer; Gus Casely-Hayford, presenter, Lost Kingdoms of Africa; Professor Stephen Quirke, Institute of Archaeology, University College London; Dr Ayman El-Desouky, Senior Lecturer in Modern Arabic and Comparative Literature, SOAS.
The Royal African Society is proud to announce that it is hosting the 30 anniversary of Basil Davidson’s awardwinning 8 x 1hour documentary film series “AFRICA: A Voyage of Discovery” which first appeared in the UK on Channel 4 television in April 1984 and went on to play worldwide, with an accompanying book.
Basil Davidson’s seminal documentary series ‘Africa’ challenges the long held beliefs like the opinion of David Hume that Africa had ‘no ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences’. The series presents a pan-African conception of history from the origins of Egypt and Nubia to the liberation movements that Basil was familiar with, and newly independent nations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
When Greek Historian Herodotus visited Ancient Egypt he described the civilisation he saw there as ‘different but equal’. Episode one shows that some of the world’s greatest early civilisations have their origins in black Africa, including those along the Nile Valley. The episode includes interviews with Senegalese mathematician, philosopher and Egyptologist Cheikh Anta Diop and explores the growth of African civilisations in West and Northeast Africa.
In the Q&A following the screening we will discuss the extent Victorian Egyptologists ‘whitewashed’ archaeology to fit in with their conception of Africa as a land with no intrinsic history.
About the series:
The series was produced in collaboration between Channel 4, The Nigeria Television Authority MBTV and RM Arts. It first aired 30 years ago in 1984 and won many awards, including the International Film & TV Festival of New York Gold Award. It has since been distributed, free of charge to many schools and colleges in the UK and Africa.
About Basil Davidson
Basil Davidson was a distinguished author and historian, having written more than 30 books on Africa. Prior to this he was a soldier working in Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during World War 2.
AFRICA - Episode 1: Different but Equal. Written & Presented by Basil Davidson. Executive Producer: Mick Csaky. 1983.
AFRICA - Episode 2: Mastering a Continent. Written & Presented by Basil Davidson. Executive Producer: Mick Csaky. 1983.
Join us for our live screening of Episode 3:
Many missed out on her April show at La Linea, as the tickets sold out quickly.
Hailed as a star in contemporary flamenco, Buika is blessed with a remarkable voice; raw and smoky but with a tenderness that hits right at the heart.
This is your opportunity to see her in an intimate environment, playing tracks off her latest release: "La Noche Más Larga"
Get your tickets now, her show at the Barbican is selling fast!
"Buika possesses the most haunting voice to be found on either side of the Atlantic” - Sunday Times
Watch the trailer for her Barbican Show Here
The concert follows her sold out show at this year's La Linea festival and the release of her stunning new album in June.
'Luminous…magnificent…superb!' New York Times
Ticket Prices: £15-£24
Jazz driven by Latin grooves.
Tony Dudu is an in demand session guitarist, appearing on over 100 records with artists from Guinea Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome, Cape Verde and Brazil. Tonight Tony Dudu and his band “Gumbe Jazz” play frenetic jazz dance grooves powered by creative jazz solos.
Africa's Next Generation: A bright Future?
Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre
The upcoming second African Development Forum will focus on harnessing the potential of youth for the continent’s development.
Africa is home to 350 million young people – and the numbers are growing rapidly. How can the African continent turn this into an asset? What if it becomes a liability? Which scenarios are likely?
Addressing opportunities and challenges in this context, the Forum will consist of two interactive panel discussions - ‘Mobilizing Youth’ and ’Innovating Africa’ -, involving a range of dynamic speakers from different industries and disciplines. The following questions will be tackled:
Employment: How will the continent employ 350 million young Africans?
Agriculture: How can farming attract Africa’s youth to compete with urbanisation?
Diaspora: What impact will the ‘brain gain’ have on African development?
Entrepreneurship: What is the role of young African women in business?
Leadership: Will the young replace the old and inspire real change in African politics?
Technology: Already pioneering in mobile technology, how can Africa do the same elsewhere?
Visit the African Development Forum website for more information
Organiser: African Development Forum
Contact email: email@example.com
Africa Writes, the UK’s biggest annual African literature and book festival brought to you by the Royal African Society, returns to The British Library and Rich Mix from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July 2018. Bringing together over 60 of the most influential voices in contemporary writing from Africa and its diaspora, this exciting literary weekend features writers from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Somaliland, Uganda, South Africa, UK, USA and Zimbabwe, and highlights womxn and queer writers who are changing the face of African literature.
Celebrated Somali-British poet Warsan Shire appears on Sunday 1 July, the first writer under 30 to headline the event in the festival’s seven-year history. In her first UK public appearance since her poetry reached millions of people in Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade, Shire will be in conversation about her work, process and inspiration, and will speak about her new projects that explore the intersections of art and healing. She was awarded the inaugural Brunel International African Poetry Prize in 2013 and appointed as the first Young Poet Laureate for London.
Fellow young poets Yomi Ṣode and Octavia Poetry Collective will appear in the festival headline events. Following sold out shows at the Roundhouse and Battersea Arts Centre, British Nigerian Yomi Ṣode opens the festival at the British Library with his one-man show, COAT, exploring themes of identity, migration and displacement while cooking up a stew live on stage (29 June).
The womxn of colour poetry group Octavia hosts the Africa Writes 2018 Party (30 June, Rich Mix). Taking their name from the American science fiction writer Octavia Butler and inspiration from the $1 billion-grossing Marvel film Black Panther, Octavia presents a Wakanda-themed event featuring art displays, gal-dem DJs and a line-up of poets including Sarah Lasoye, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Hibaq Osman, Rachel Long, Belinda Zhawi, Amina Jama, 2018 African Poetry Prize winners Theresa Lola and Momtaza Mehri (the 2018 Young Laureate for London). Celebrated author and long-time advocate for writers of colour Bernardine Evaristo will deliver a speech on ‘Warrior Womxn Writers’.
Exploring themes of identity, migration and displacement, award-winning writer Leila Aboulela launches her new book Elsewhere, Home at the British Library – a collection of intimate stories of longing and exile set between Sudan and the UK (30 June). Hit books and pop-culture podcast Mostly Lit host a live version of the show with Afua Hirsch, journalist and author of Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (30 June).
Historical fiction and non-fiction is the focus on 30 June: Ayesha Harruna Attah launches her third novel set in 19th century Ghana, The Hundred Wells of Salaga, and we delve into the intriguing history of African literary figures Phillis Wheatley and ABC Merriam-Labour in Georgian and Edwardian London.
As Zimbabwe prepares for national elections in August, and the nation reconfigures following the deposition of Robert Mugabe, young writers Panashe Chigumadzi and Novuyo Rosa Tshuma launch their new books These Bones Will Rise Again and House of Stone , presenting inventive new ways of telling the nation’s story and discussing its future (1 July). Highlighted in these books are the interactions between the world of spirits and the self, also a feature of Akwaeke Emezi’s highly-anticipated debut Freshwater. The writer presents a pre-launch of her novel that explores the obanje of Ibgo spirituality and religion, and the metaphysics of identity and being (30 June).
Stories of queer womxn are highlighted in an event featuring narratives from Nigeria, the UK, and Equatorial Guinea, and appearances by Cassava Republic publisher Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, UK Black Pride Founder Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, and gal-dem founder Liv Little (1 July). Writer and activist Trifonia Melibea Obono will join by video link to speak about her book La Bastarda – the first book by an Equatoguinean woman to be translated into English.
A key aspect of the festival programme each year is inspiration, discovery and new writing. Audiences and readers can get an introduction to Cameroonian literature, read new work by young people in Uganda, hear from the festival authors on their favourite pieces of writing in African Books to Inspire, and meet the 2018 Caine Prize shortlisted writers (30 June - 1 July). Poets and secondary school students will present their creative writing in a free showcase event, alongside the launch of the Africa Writes Young Voices Anthology produced in the festival’s education programme (30 June).
Looking at translation and inter-generational interaction, Numbi Arts will host a discussion on contemporary Somali literature with writer Hanna Ali, whose work explores themes of womanhood, blackness, forced migration, religion and family trauma. The Hargeysa International Book Fair of Somaliland is showcased in an event to launch a collection of poetry entitled Hargeysa Breeze (30 June).
The programme includes workshops to develop skills and encourage participation: a masterclass in literary translation presented by Wangui wa Goro of SIDENSI, a workshop of Afrofuturist literature art, literature and fashion presented by FUNCTION, and a pitching event for budding writers to meet publishing industry experts. Also included are a workshop on small magazines and African literary networks, and a discussion on podcasts – the publishing industry’s single fastest growing format – with Not Another Book Podcast, BakwaCast, 2 Girls & a Pod, and Africa in Words.
Festival Programmers Marcelle Mateki Akita and Caitlin Pearson said: “We are excited to present a huge range of voices from the continent and the diaspora at the seventh edition of Africa Writes. Young people from countries with uncertain and shifting political climates such as Zimbabwe, Somalia, Uganda and Kenya are writing some of the most inventive and exciting fiction around at the moment. In an apparent new era of insularity and hardening borders, we look at both the history and the present of what it means to belong in Britain, and through books, poetry and performance we celebrate Africa and the diaspora in its fullest sense”
Audiences can also enjoy family storytelling events, a lively atmosphere and an international book fair with classics, recent publications and rare finds. All tickets are now available to book at bit.ly/AW2018Tickets.
-- ENDS –
CONTACT: Caitlin Pearson, Events Programme Manager firstname.lastname@example.org or 0203 073 8337
Notes to Editors:
- Africa Writes festival is an annual celebration of contemporary literature from Africa and the diaspora brought to you by The Royal African Society. Launched in 2012, every year Africa Writes showcases established and emerging talent from the African continent and its diaspora in what is now the UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing. www.africawrites.org
- The Royal African Society is a membership organisation that provides opportunities for people to connect, celebrate and engage critically with a wide range of topics and ideas about Africa today. Through our events, publications and digital channels we facilitate mutual understanding between the UK and Africa across academia, business, politics, culture and education. We amplify African voices and interests, reaching a network of more than one million people globally. www.royalafricansociety.org.uk
- The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive research collection. www.bl.uk
- Rich Mix is East London’s independent arts venue, based in the heart of one of the most diverse and vibrant parts of London – Shoreditch / Bethnal Green. Rich Mix is a charity and social enterprise that offers over 600 events each year across live music, film, dance, theatre, comedy, spoken word and a range of creative activities for people of all ages and all cultures. All profits go back to support arts and community activities which nurture new and local talent. www.richmix.org.uk
- Africa Writes 2018 is made possible through the financial support of Arts Council England and the Miles Morland Foundation, and the partnership of these institutions and organisations: AFREADA, Africa in Words, Afrikult., Bakwa Magazine, bookshy, Brittle Paper, Department of English, University of Bristol, Enkare Review, FUNCTION, Hargeysa International Book Fair, Mostly Lit, Numbi Arts, Octavia Poetry Collective, SIDENSI, The Caine Prize for African Writing, The Literary Consultancy, Writivism, Africa Book Centre, Atlantic Books, Cassava Republic, Faber & Faber, Hurst, Market FiftyFour, New Beacon Books, Saqi Books, Team Angelica, The Indigo Press, October Gallery, Alt. Africa, gal-dem, Granta, Bare Lit Festival, Centre of African Studies, University of London.
- Confirmed Line up: Warsan Shire, Yomi Ṣode, Leila Aboulela, Afua Hirsch, Akwaeke Emezi, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Panashe Chigumadzi, Ayesha Harruna Attah, Chike Frankie Edozien, Trifonia Melibea Obono, Sarah Lasoye, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Hibaq Osman, Rachel Long, Belinda Zhawi, Amina Jama, Theresa Lola, Momtaza Mehri, Bernardine Evaristo, Kinsi Abdulleh, Nancy Adimora, Hanna Ali, Dfiza Appeah, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, Joanna Brown, Candice Carty-Williams, Emma Dabiri, Nonyelum Ekwempu, FUNCTION, John Gordon, Stacy Hardy, Jama Musse Jama, Danell Jones, Maria Kakinda, Madhu Krishnan, Mostly Lit, Liv Little, Sharmaine Lovegrove, Dzekashu Macviban, S.I. Martin, Layla Mohamed, Zaahida Nabagereka, Ziki Nelson, Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed, JC Niala, Irenosen Okojie, Olufunke Ogundimu, Makena Onjerika, Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, Martin Orwin, Not Another Book Podcast, Deirdre Osborne, Christopher Ouma, Ranka Primorac, Farrah Serroukh, Ade Solanke, Wole Talabi, Wangui wa Goro, Kate Wallis and 2 Girls & a Pod.
117th AGM of the Royal African Society (members only)
Date & Time: Monday 30 April, 16:15 - 18:15
Venue: Royal African Society, 36 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD
Members are invited to the Annual General Meeting of the Royal African Society, which will be followed by a reception with RAS staff and Council members.
Copies of the 2017 Annual Report will be available on the day.
To RSVP, please send your name and contact details to RAS Administrative Manager Lizzie Orekoya at email@example.com
Image: Amos Ruiz