On Friday, April 8, 2022, faculty, graduate students, and organizations from the University of Notre Dame gathered for the 2022 Africa Graduate Conference, an event designed to promote and advance Notre Dame’s engagement in Africa. The event was hosted in partnership by the Africa Graduate Club of Notre Dame (AGC), the Pamoja Initiative, and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies’ Africa Working Group. The Pamoja Initiative, funded by Notre Dame’s Moment to See, Courage to Act campaign, and co-facilitated by the Pulte Institute for Global Development, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and Notre Dame International, was created to elevate African voices on Notre Dame’s campus. It also aims to strengthen ties between the University and scholars, students, and other entities on the African continent for mutual gain.
The conference started with a keynote panel. Presentations and discussions centered on how to advance healthy partnerships between Notre Dame and Africa, and were led by the panelists Dr. Ben Ngoye (Strathmore University), Dr. Paul McNamara (University of Illinois- Urbana Champaign), Dr. Leonard Wantchekon (Princeton) and Faith Manuel (Notre Dame alum), and was moderated by Fr. Arthur Ssembajja. The discussion revolved around building sustainable relationships in Africa, maintaining mutual respects among participating organizations, acknowledging diversity within the African continent, upholding reciprocal partnerships, and co-producing knowledge between Notre Dame and institutions in Africa. One of the many key lessons from the panel discussion was the need for western institutions to be guided by the question “What can I do with Africa?” rather than “What can I get from Africa?”
The event continued with breakout rooms, facilitated by Rasheed Ibrahim, Trevor Lwere, and Joachim Ozonze, all students at the University of Notre Dame. At the breakout room led by Trevor Lwere, students shared their experience as Africans at Notre Dame, identifying the strengths of the international student body on campus, as well as areas of improvement. Rasheed Ibrahim facilitated discussion on knowledge production in Africa and the United States, highlighting the need for establishing functional partnerships and policies guided by in-depth research. Joachim Ozonze directed the conversation about Notre Dame’s engagement in Africa, identifying the high points of the ongoing relations that Notre Dame has with other institutions in Africa, and the need for institutional presence on the African continent to further strengthen the built relations.
As part of the networking scope of the event, graduate students presented their projects to their peers and faculty members in attendance. The organizers also encouraged graduate students to identify the resources available to them at the University with presentations by Notre Dame institutions working in Africa, including the Eck Institute for Global Health, Notre Dame International, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and the Pulte Institute for Global Development. The event ended with an informal dinner at International Fuse where attendees continued to network and build relationships.
According to Tinaishe Maramba, the President of the Africa Graduate Club of Notre Dame (AGC), the event was a huge success. It helped African students and graduate students working in Africa to further identify resources available to them on campus. Graduate students and faculty were also able to connect and extend their networks, creating relationships that would last long beyond the event.
The Pamoja Initiative hopes to grow its presence after its inaugural year, both on campus and in Africa. For more information on this initiative, or if you’d like to get involved, please contact Ellis Adams or Czesia Eid.