TOFAC 2018
Prof. Toyin Falola speaks during the opening session of the Eighth Toyin Falola Annual International Conference (TOFAC) on Africa and the African Diaspora held at the auditorium on Tuesday, July 3, 2018.Photo: Antonio Longangi

By Diana Meso

USIU-Africa in partnership with the Toyin Falola Annual International Conference (TOFAC) hosted the Eighth Conference on Africa and the African Diaspora themed “Beyond History – African Agency” from July 3-5.

The three-day event which was the first to be held in Kenya, aimed at demystifying and identifying ways in which Africa can innovate the future for itself based on a progressive embrace of a young, productive, optimistic and endowed Africa. It was attended by over 200 participants representing at least 15 countries.
During the opening session at the auditorium, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Paul Zeleza welcomed the participants saying that the conference plays a key role in Africa’s redefining itself as the driver of its destiny, by harnessing the productive energies of its ample youth and capitalizing on the synergies of its diaspora and making peace with the necessity of forging global alliances.

Prof. Toyin Falola- after whom the conference is named - also welcomed the delegates describing the conference as a platform to engage on the need to produce knowledge at the highest levels of excellence.

In her keynote speech, Professor of Security Leadership and Development at King’s College, London, Prof. Funmi Olonisakin, urged participants to change the way Africans are being listened to as part of a transformative process.

“Those who matter most are not speaking overtly, if we do not look for answers, by looking beyond that which is presented to us, we might actually in essence be sustaining the very inequalities and inequities that create the kind of continent in which our agency is hijacked, and appropriated,” she said.

The subsequent breakout sessions held on the second and the third day of the conference, covered important themes surrounding cultural dynamism and creative arts in the 21st century African development, Africa and China relations, Africa and globalization, human rights, democracy and leadership issues in Africa and African diaspora, education and Africa, communication and innovation, gender, youth and transformation in Africa, health issues in Africa among others.

The conference further involved presentation of research papers, which together with the discussions held brought to light key elements required for Africa to rise. These include; the imperative to reflect more deeply on innovations that engage African young minds on what it means to be African and a conscious reminder of the contributions that African people have made to global civilization, the need to strengthen democratic institutions, work for the emergence of good leadership, and promote the ethics of non-corruption, the emergence of African media outlet to counter negative narratives coming from outside the continent of Africa and the radical approach to address Africa’s developmental challenges.

Moreover, the conference participants came to a realization of the importance of culture as an agency of empowerment, the rejection of new forms of imperialism and neo-colonization either coming from the West, Europe or Asia, the expansion of private and public universities as centers of great research and learning to transform the continent among others.

The conference was organized by the School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension and spearheaded by Professor of International Relations Prof. Cassandra Veney and Prof. Amos Njuguna (Dean, School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension) together with the organizing committee.