Africa Day is the yearly commemoration of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, which was the precursor to the African Union (AU). On Africa day (25 May) we celebrate the successes of the OAU and the AU as well as the progress the continent has made in the struggles against colonialism and apartheid, while reflecting on the challenges it is facing. Stellenbosch University honours Africa Day with its Annual Africa Day Lecture, a series which is hosted by the Vice Chancellor and jointly coordinated by the Centre for the Study of the Afterlife of Violence and the Reparative Quest and the Centre for Collaboration in Africa.
This year Dr. Chidi Achebe will deliver the fourth Stellenbosch University Annual Africa Day Lecture, titled “Intellectuals as Nation Builders.” The lecture will take place online and in the Stellenbosch Museum on May 31 from 17:00 to 18:30 (SAST).
Dr Achebe is the CEO of African Integrated Development Enterprise, an organisation dedicated to the development of the African continent focusing on healthcare, education, agriculture, and telecommunications. His unique implementation of “medicine without borders” has been recognised with prestigious awards including the Dartmouth College Martin Luther King Award and the John and Samuel Bard Award in Medicine and Science. Like his father Professor Chinua Achebe (the Nigerian novelist who is regarded to be a pivotal figure in African literature), Dr Chidi Achebe is widely recognised as a pan-Africanist with a profound commitment to Africa’s emancipation.
In his lecture on “Intellectuals as Nation Builders”, Dr Achebe reflects on the contrasts between Africa’s glorious past and its present day realities. He asks: How does a continent once symbolised by Emperor Mansa Musa of Mali – purportedly the richest man in history who distributed so much gold during this hajj to Mecca that he devalued the price of gold for a generation in the Middle East – now become the embodiment of poverty, disease, chaos, and corruption? How have home grown scourges: successive military coups, endemic corruption, inept leadership, and persistent “cults of mediocrity” running the affairs of the continent, led to Africa’s underdevelopment? How have “external” forces and the legacies of slavery and colonialism helped in creating and compounding our current state of affairs? How did we get here and what can be done about the African predicament?
Dr Achebe will trace an arc over several centuries, to celebrate African ingenuity, creativity, and seminal contributions to world civilisation. He will explore the central place of the intellectual in nation building, and will grapple with the failure (so far) of the intellectual class in Africa – despite its many successes – to help wrestle Africa from its present predicament. For Dr Achebe, this does not mean that we should lose faith in the African intellectual’s ability to lead Africa in the 21st century into prosperity. However, this new intellectual leader must be different from those of the past – a servant leader and sophisticate who understands the complexity of global politics – and must be able to walk the fine line between an advocacy for African liberation and development; and a non-aligned vision of friendship with all nations. In the lecture Dr Achebe will also reflect on Africa’s challenges, punctuated by misfortune, triumph, and on occasion, tragicomic absurdity. He will ask: What is the way forward for Africa, and what does a different future require of the continent and its intellectuals?
The lecture will take place on Tuesday 31 May 2022 from 17:00 to 18:30. To join online, click here.