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Symposium to explore Africa's challenges

November 10, 2008

   To Nubert Boubeka and Michael B. Ayodele, graduate students in the Master of Liberal Studies program at ASU, Sub-Saharan Africa has been overlooked as an area of study in academe.
    But as story after story has appeared in newspapers about political strife, unrest, and conflict in many African nations, Boubeka and Ayodele, who met in a graduate class at ASU, felt they had to do something.
    Boubeka's adviser, Paul Morris, said, "Why don't you work on something that would get people interested?"
    Boubeka, who was born in the Republic of the Congo, also mentioned his and Ayodele's idea to promote the study of Africa to President Michael Crow during student office hours, and Boubeka said that the president told him to "come up with something and send it to me."
    So, Boubeka and Ayodele, who was born in Nigeria, formed the Africa initiative Project (TAIP) an interdisciplinary endeavor that will sponsor its first international symposium on Africa Friday, Nov. 21, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Manzanita Hall on the Tempe campus.
    "With the recent waves of changes in global politics, wealth and resources, the continent of Africa, as argued in academia, continues to fall behind at an alarming rate," Boubeka wrote in advertising for the symposium.
    Ayodele, who is a U.S. citizen, as is Boubeka, believes that the United States's relationship with Africa is now seen as one of "master-servant," in the eyes of Africans, but that needs to be changed.
    "I see an opportunity for the United States and Africa to work cooperatively on so many issues," Ayodele said. "Instead of offering aid, the United States should work together with Africa on investment and security and other issues.
    "The best bet Africa has is those of us from Africa who are here in the United States."
    The conference will explore four themes: domestic political organizations and cooperation; health and delivery systems disparities; environmental issues; and justice and social awareness.
    The keynote speaker will be Ambassador Phillip Carter, principal deputy assistant secretary for African affairs, U.S. State Department. His topic for the noon presentation will be "U.S. Foreign Relations in 21st Century Africa: Democracy and Human Rights Promotion, Politics Participation, and What It Means for the Years to Come."
    Guest speaker will be Lesley Obiora, professor of Law at the University of Arizona and former minister of mines and steel, Federal Republic of Nigeria. Her topic will be "Looking for Africa Where It Can Be Found."
    Lisa Aubrey, professor of African American studies at ASU, also will deliver a talk on "Variegated Approaches to Development in Africa: Conflicting, Competing, Concurrent and/or Complimentary Paradigms.”
    Additionally, there will be a faculty roundtable on "Challenges of Development and Growth in Contemporary Africa." Participants will be Aubrey; David Hinds, ASU; and Abdullahi Gallab, ASU.
    A roundtable on "Contending Perspectives on Modern Africa" will follow lunch, with panelists from GlobalResolve joining the discussion. GlobalResolve is a network of universities, nonprofits, governments and communities working together to provide students with a global education by the creation of and spreading of sustainable village-based ventures in developing countries.
    From 4:45 to 6 p.m., Ambassador Carter will address ASU students.
    Boubeka, who graduated from the University of Arizona and completed a summer internship at the Hudson Institute, said academia and the general population need to learn about more issues in Africa than HIV-AIDS.
    He said he realizes that changes won't happen in Africa immediately, and that the symposium will not have an immediate effect.
    "We are not trying to solve anything. We are trying to find issues we can work on," he said. "We want to awaken the people. We want to have people doing work in Africa. I want to be able to look back in five years and say, 'This is what we have done.'"
    The conference is free but anyone wishing to attend must R.S.V.P. to Conference sponsors are the MLS Program and Star Canyon School of Nursing, Phoenix.