Windhoek — The University of Namibia (Unam) in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) hosted the inaugural conference of the International Geographical Union (IGU) Commission on African Studies last week from May 17-18 at the Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management.
This was the Commission on African Studies' first ever annual conference following a decision of the IGU to create a platform for Africans and experts on Africa to examine African challenges and attempt to provide African responses.
The aim of the conference is to promote African and Africanist scholarship on issues around and in Africa, ranging from social sciences to natural sciences, but informed in the main by geographical, multi and interdisciplinary perspectives.
The Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi, made the opening remarks and expressed the importance of ensuring that geography is given consideration to strengthen understanding of relationships between humans and physical processes upon which regional and national development is anchored.
The Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Namibia, Izumi Morota-Alakija, emphasised the need to have robust research done in order to understand the issues surrounding poverty and inequality. Furthermore, she stated that Namibia is one of the most unequal countries in the world with a Gini coefficient of 0.56 in 2016, despite it being ranked as an upper-middle income country.
Additionally, she stated that one of the reasons for the slow decline of poverty rates in Africa is limited decent employment opportunities because Africa's growth has not succeeded in creating labour demand that is sufficient to meet supply.
The Unam Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Development, Prof. Kenneth Matengu read the welcoming remarks on behalf of the vice-chancellor of the university Prof. Lazarus Hangula. He emphasised that Africa's response to global problems should be on the agenda of universities because Africa's problems and the global problems are intertwined.
During the inauguration, Dr Innocent Moyo, the chairperson, introduced the IGU Commission on African Studies, stating that it was formed in May 2017 and is based at the University of Zululand, South Africa.
The commission, which has established its own academic sessions, namely, Africa and Climate Change, Migration in Africa, and Migration Development also collaborates with other IGU commissions. Furthermore, he stated that more collaborations with other stakeholders are planned as the commission is still young and plans to have annual meetings.
The participants presented their abstracts on researches that they have undertaken with possible solutions. Prof. Detlef Müller-Mahn from the University of Bonn in Germany held a presentation titled "Future Rural Africa - a new collaborative research center and its conceptual background". Moreover, a presentation that links Community-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) Inequalities and Rural Poverty in Namibia and Southern Africa by Michael Schnegg (University of Hamburg) and Michael Bollig (University of Cologne) was held, which sparked conversation from the audience.