‘Enfranchising the African Diaspora: Comparing Notes across Sub-Saharan Africa’

Between the 21st and 22nd of June, 2017, a joint conference organized by the Institute of African Studies and the Nordic Africa Institute was held at Lady Bank-Anthony Hall, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. The conference on the theme ‘Enfranchising the African Diaspora: Comparing Notes across Sub-Saharan Africa’ brought together African and Africanist scholars from near and far to deliberate on a timely issue whose relevance cannot be overstressed given the different ways and dimensions in which African countries and their various diasporas are invested in one another.

Scholars and researchers considered and debated the prospects, modalities, frameworks, problems and actualities of diasporic enfranchisement in Africa’s political decision-making. Acknowledging that the diaspora already plays a role in politics back home, at issue were the necessity, scope and means of further diasporic enfranchisement in the homeland political and electoral process, a question that intertwines with the massive investments the diaspora keeps contributing to the social and economic development of the continent. Participants scrutinized and unpacked these issues in a vivacious atmosphere, dissecting the nuances of the relationships African peoples create among themselves both in the homeland and in the diaspora, and the vested interests that are factored into the realpolitik of these relationships. Case studies of the situation in relation to Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Somalia were presented.

Some of the participants at the IAS-NAI Conference on Enfranchising the African Diaspora

It was a most exciting two days of critical engagement, and IAS-UI played the role of proud host to scholars who concern themselves with the question of continent-diaspora linkages.

On the IAS steering committee for this conference were Dr Sola Olorunyomi of our Cultural and Media Studies unit, Dr Senayon Olaoluwa of our Diaspora and Transnational Studies unit, and Dr Kayode Samuel of our African Music unit. The high-powered NAI team to the conference included its Director, Ms Iina Soiri and Prof Victor Adetula, Head of Research at NAI. The Designated Ambassador representing the Nordic Diplomatic Missions in Nigeria, Her Excellency, Ambassador of Finland, Ms Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury, was also in attendance at the conference.

IAS’s engagement with the Nordic Africa Institute has borne the fruit of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between IAS and NAI. An active WhatsApp group is one outcome of the conference, keeping the conversation alive in real time across continental distances.