Asserting Africa’s Relevance; locally, continentally, globally – a reflection by Sarah Michieka
The 2019 Oxford Africa Conference was centered around the theme of asserting Africa’s Relevance: Locally, Continentally and Globally. The conference began with several satellite events leading up to the main conference events at the end of the week.
During the Roundtable on Continent and Diaspora Collaborations for African Development event, we heard from several presenters and discussants including Ambassador Johanna Svanikier and Oxford Alumni and former Africa Society President Hugh Quarshie before beginning our discussion on the potential for collaboration and impact on the continent. As this was the 60th year of the Oxford University Africa Society, we took time to reflect on the previous accomplishments in government, business, and arts of previous alumni from the continent and discussed our generation’s potential impact. It is often easy to speak about the challenges facing the continent, from youth unemployment to government, but as Hugh Quarshie reminded us, “We may have got it wrong, but it’s not too late to correct.”
After that inspirational roundtable, the main conference scheduling began on Friday with an opening speech and Q&A with Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Founder And Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Dr. Ibrahim spoke about his career and how experiences guided him to build the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Dr. Ibrahim urged us to take on the challenges of public affairs with the same passion and determination that we bring to our pursuit of of academic and professional success. And finally Dr. Ibrahim offered guidance and reflection on how we can be intentional and thoughtful about our purpose and impact as Oxford students and future Oxford graduates.
The next day was filled with panels, debates, interesting addresses, and an innovation fair. We covered wide ranging topics including the Utilization of Africa’s Cultural Capital for Social and Economic Development, Challenging the Status Quo for Good Governance, and Leveraging Innovations in Agritech and Agribusiness on the Continent.
The 2019 Oxford Africa Conference was an exhibition of the great potential of the continent as well as a poignant reminder of the responsibility and the privilege we have in contributing to the realization of that potential. It is easy to get caught up in my time at Oxford especially during exam season. However, events like the 2019 Africa Conference allow me to pause, reflect on my purpose, and consider how I can best utilize this opportunity to study at Oxford as a Weidenfeld-Hoffmann scholar. I was able to reflect on how to prepare for a life of service; As Dr. Ibrahim noted, “we cannot succeed if society around us is failing;” success is not only about accolades and degrees, it’s about making an impact on the society around us.