01 March 2024 Photo Unsplash
Collaborating across continents, the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies at the University of the Free State (UFS), alongside the Centre for African Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in India and the African Studies Association of India (ASA India), held a pivotal international webinar titled 'Africa’s Global Engagements: Opportunities and Challenges,' on 27 and 28 January 2024.

In the midst of a global landscape marked by rapid changes, Africa finds itself at the epicentre of a new wave of international interest. This intrigue stems from a myriad of factors, ranging from the continent’s abundant natural resources to its strategic geopolitical positioning. However, amidst this renewed attention, questions arise regarding Africa’s agency and its place in the evolving global order.

In recent times, there has been a notable surge in global actors vying for influence in Africa. From former colonial powers to emerging economies like China and India, various stakeholders seek to engage African nations on multiple fronts, spanning from economic cooperation to security collaborations. Against this backdrop, it becomes imperative to delve into Africa’s international engagements to grasp the nuances of its evolving role on the global stage.

Addressing this imperative, the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies at the University of the Free State (UFS), in collaboration with the Centre for African Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in India and the African Studies Association of India (ASA India), convened an international webinar titled, Africa’s Global Engagements: Opportunities and Challenges. Held on 27 and 28 February 2024, the event was jointly opened by Prof Vasu Reddy, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Internationalisation at the UFS and Prof Ajay Dubey, former Pro Vice-Chancellor at JNU and currently a professor in the Centre for Africa Studies at JNU. The conference brought together scholars and policymakers from diverse backgrounds and regions, united in their quest to comprehensively understand Africa’s evolving position in the global arena.

In his opening remarks, Prof Vasu Reddy, underscored the timeliness of the conference aligning it to the institution’s visionary framework, Vision 130. He highlighted the centering of Africa as a focal point for addressing broader global challenges emphasising the interconnectedness of Africa’s experiences with broader global narratives. Prof Reddy articulated how Africa serves as a nexus for transnational interactions, intertwining diverse histories, politics, and socio-economic dynamics with the larger global discourse.

Moreover, the conference shed light on the concept of the “Global South” and its implications in the contemporary global order. Participants deliberated on the complexities of African agency within this framework, examining how African states navigate their engagements with a myriad of international actors while asserting their own interests and priorities.

The event not only symbolised a collaboration between the UFS and JNU, as outlined in their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), but also signified a shared commitment towards prioritising engagements within the Global South. Through platforms like these, institutions like UFS and JNU demonstrate their dedication to fostering meaningful dialogues and scholarly exchanges that transcend geographical borders.

As Africa continues to navigate its place in the fast-changing global landscape, initiatives such as this webinar serve as critical platforms for fostering mutual understanding and cooperation among scholars and policymakers worldwide. By engaging in nuanced discussions and collaborative efforts, stakeholders can collectively contribute to shaping a more inclusive and equitable global order.

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