The University of Jyväskylä’s coalition of Africa Networks (JYU-CAN) hosted the first ever Africa Day in the city of Jyväskylä, and by extension at University of Jyväskylä (JYU).
The hybrid event that attracted participation of JYU students, JAMK students and visiting exchange students had the pleasure of engaging top African scholars, book authors, JYU and JAMK students present various African-centered scholarly works throughout the event. This year, other Finnish HEIs celebrated the Africa day including University of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland.
The History of Africa Day
The Academic leader of the JYU-CAN Professor Laura Stark gave a speech about the history of Africa Day.
“Africa Day is celebrated on May 25th every year across Africa and the world. It marks the day in 1963, when 32 African states voted for the formation of the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU), later changing its name to the African Union (AU). The Africa Day celebrations are intended to bring people together from all ethnic groups, cultures and religions and to promote good-neighborliness, harmony and solidarity among Africans,” she said.
Laura reckoned that today, Africa Day is a world-wide celebration of the entire continent of Africa. She reiterated that the event presented JYU community with an excellent time to share African culture with friends and family, adding that the JYU community had an even more scholarly benefit for researchers that came together to share scholarly work done on the African continent and with African partners.
“Africa Day is a time to come together as one and celebrate the rich culture, history and traditions of Africa.”
“For us today, we are doing this using the lens of scholarship. The University of Jyväskylä encourages all Africans to take pride in where they come from and who they are,” said Prof. Stark.
The university’s Coalition of Africa Networks hopes to see the Africa Day made into an annual University event that brings together scholars that are interested in, working in or partnering with other researchers in Africa for Africa.
Highlights at the Africa Day
The Africa day event was graced by top African university dons Dr. Willy Ngaka (Makerere University, Uganda), Prof. Bitange Ndemo (University of Nairobi, Kenya) and Prof. Elias Yitbarek (Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia) who engaged in a panel discussion on the Ideas for Future of Finnish-Africa HEI collaboration. The panel shared their views and opinions on the potentials and challenges in the collaboration between African and Finnish HEIs.
Acknowledging the positive lessons and experiences to-date, the dons agreed that the Finnish-African collaboration was registering positive outcomes already by inspiring joint teaching and research. The challenges that exist in Finnish-African HEI partnerships were also highlighted.
Dr. Ngaka highlighted the contextual differences and bureaucracy in the African HEIs, resource challenges, technological gaps and much more as challenges faced by the collaboration.
Prof. Ndemo noted that technology was expanding the space for collaboration and partnerships between the North and South, underscoring the significance of innovation and ICT in bridging the geographical gap between Finnish and African HEIs.
Prof. Elias shared that more still needed to be done on decolonizing HEIs in North-South collaboration, adding that the African HEIs were still lagging behind and needed help to catch up with peer institutions in the Finland.
Professor Laura Stark presented a recently published book titled Power and Informality in Urban Africa: Ethnographic perspectives that was a product of collaboration between Finland and African researchers.
The session was follows by fieldwork research grant recipients that shared their research objectives for the upcoming fieldwork in Africa under the EDUCASE network that aims to use case-based approaches to solve challenges in the global south. The fieldwork research grants will be used for research work in Ghana, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Tunisia. The research will address various thematic gaps in Africa, and the recipients will present their findings at JYU during autumn.
The highlight of the day was the poster presentations that attracted participation of researchers from JYU, JAMK and exchange students from Kenya, Eritrea and other countries collaborating with African researchers on Africa-themed research. The poster presentations drew from different disciplines and faculties across JYU and JAMK. The poster session presented a good opportunity for researchers to share the work that they were doing at JYU on Africa-linked themes.
The Africa day also saw the launch of a book titled Christianity, politics and the afterlives of war in Uganda: ‘There is Confusion – by Henni Alava. The book launch was followed by a panel discussion on “Churches, development and peace in Uganda: academic and practitioner perspectives” that was based on the doctoral research work by Henni.
The closing remarks was delivered by the vice-dean for research and innovation, Professor Tapio Litmanen. Professor Litmanen challenged the JYU community to take advantage of the opportunities available in the JYU-CAN and leverage existing scholarly strengths in the South. He encouraged researchers and students to partner with African researchers and participate in the JYU-CAN activities that were informative, educational and eye-opening.
The event ended with the heartwarming beats from Mama Afrikka cultural group that is based in Jyväskylä.
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