faculty & experts
19 May 2022

New optimism for Africa at the Geneva Graduate Institute

Africa is not only a geographical expression … It is in fact a view of the world and the whole cosmos perceived from a particular position.

-Chinua Achebe, Hopes and Impediments: Selected Essays, 1988

A new narrative of ‘Africa rising’ has taken a foothold in media and politics in the past years. Demographic trends, natural resource wealth and diversified partnerships: Africa seemed to have it all lined up. The compounded economic, nutritional and geopolitical repercussions of recent global events make it all the more important for African countries and citizens to pool their efforts to build a prosperous, healthy and safe Africa. A critical challenge is to ground such optimism on inclusive and sustainable development strategies, beyond ‘data mirage’. 

The Geneva Graduate Institute aims to be at the forefront of a new pragmatic, realistic yet optimistic interest in Africa. Its convening power across disciplines, organisations and continents makes it an ideal place to reframe Africa in this light. 

A recent visit by Ahunna Eziakonwa, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP's Regional Bureau for Africa, to the Graduate Institute perfectly captured this spirit. In an exchange with Geneva-based organisations and our academic community, Ms Eziakonwa convincingly outlined her vision of working with Africa in an opportunity-focused, positive framing and a ‘future smart’ programming mindset. In this regard, African youth represent a valued driving force for a continent where innovation plays a crucial role in addressing local challenges. With their creative power and ambitions for the future, they can really induce change.

The question of Africa’s political institutions is also at the forefront of this new vision for Africa at the Institute. In partnership with the Africa Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, we are celebrating Africa Day 2022 with a day of reflection on the future of African multilateralism. The discussions will highlight the critical linkages between African and global multilateralism, focusing on multilateral institutional innovations, new partnerships, and new ways of making peace. Switzerland’s campaign for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council makes these discussions all the more timely. At a time when we must reinvent the international order and design it as a sustainable civitas, Africa has more than ever a critical role to play by sharing its own perspectives to contribute to the making of our pluri-versal world.

A public keynote and reception on 25 May 2022 will cap off this day. The keynote speaker, Jean-Marie Ehouzou, looks back at a rich career in diplomacy and multilateral organisations, including as Foreign Minister of Benin and Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United Nations Office in Geneva.

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