As university students across Africa and the United Kingdom converged in Nigeria for the 3rd Umoja African Student Leaders Network Summit, youths have been charged to uphold the uniqueness of the African culture amidst technological advancement.
Hosted by the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, the opening ceremony, which was held Monday at the Arthur Mbanefo Digital Research Centre (AMDRC) on the campus, marked the commencement of a week-long activities to mark the 2023 Nelson Mandela International Day.
The summit featured speakers from UNILAG, Stellenbosch University, University of Free State, Wits University and the University of Cape Town from South Africa.
The participants deliberated on pertinent issues, including the role of technology in preserving African culture. They also discussed the deployment of digital platforms for partnership towards boosting good governance and ethical leadership among student leaders on the continent.
Actualising Agenda 2063
The UNILAG Vice-Chancellor, Folashade Ogunsola, a professor, in her welcome remark, emphasised the need for youth inclusion and collaboration towards actualising the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 – Africa’s blueprint and masterplan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.
Mrs Ogunsola, who noted that Africa has 1,279 accredited universities, commended the student leaders network for advancing partnerships and collaborations in the interest of humanity.
She said: “We are glad to add new universities to this leadership network. 75 per cent of Africa’s population are the youth. The youths are the hope to achieving the Africa we want.
“In the creative industry – music, fashion, art, technology, sculpture, they are everywhere. I am looking forwards to you coming up with concrete steps on how to go forward. UNILAG is solidly behind you.”
Speaking on the summit’s objectives, the UNILAG Dean of Students’ Affairs, Musa Obalola, a professor, said the gathering is to encourage student leaders to align their research and advocacy activities on sustainable development in Africa and the Agenda 2063.
“If we must solve African problems, we must collaborate with other African countries, particularly the youth, to proffer solutions,” he said.
He noted that the summit will encourage collaboration for solutions and promote good governance and ethical leadership among student leaders.
He added that the summit seeks to encourage the use of digital platforms to connect student leaders in Africa to share ideas, information, and research for the development of Africa.
“We also want to see how African countries can benefit from the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.
Technology for culture
In her comments, the UNILAG Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Development Services, Ayodele Atsenuwa, said due to the impact of colonialism, Africa has not had the opportunity to evolve in the way it could have organically.
She said although the traditional culture is constantly evolving and getting modified, “we use technology to preserve and communicate our culture to be invigorated.”
The Director of the Institute of Africa and Diaspora Studies (IADS), UNILAG, Muyiwa Falaiye, during his presentation as the guest speaker of a panel session, noted that the essence of technology is to impact the environment and not for fun.
He said Africa has not done well in terms of technological advancement in Africa because of the “over-reliance on the West to produce everything that we need.”
“The essence of technology is to be able to control your environment. It is not necessarily to develop fanciful things that perhaps you do not need. A lot of our resources are going to these fanciful things that do not speak to our reality,” he said.
“So I challenge young people to develop the kinds of technology that is fit for purpose.”
The Professor of African Philosophy also noted that the youths are capable to function in all aspects of human life.
Mr Falaiye said: “And I think if anybody says that youths are restricted to entertainment and all of that, it’s perhaps what we have pushed them to be reduced to,” he said.
“They can function in all aspects of human life. But perhaps we need to do more to challenge the ingenuity to speak to other parts of the economy or other parts of national requirements,”
Speaking on behalf of the University of Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom, Peter McEleavy, a professor of International Family Law and the institution’s University Africa Lead, said the university has a long tradition of connecting with Nigerian students for academic purpose “particularly in the field of energy, management and law in the last four decades.”
He shared that under a new strategy, his university is seeking to do more on partnerships with institutions across the continent, noting that UNILAG remains its strongest partner in West Africa.
He said: “We’ve established a doctoral fellowship scheme for African academics to undertake their PhDs at Dundee. We hope to develop a collaborative programme in law, fields of architecture and science.”
Mr McEleavy also spoke on opportunities for African students to leverage for advancement in career growth for continental advantage.
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On her part, the Vice Consul, Political, at the Consulate General of the Republic of South Africa, Lagos, Busisiwe Dlamini, said the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria extends to academics, describing it as cultural, “real diplomacy, and public diplomacy.”
She said the summit is not just about South Africa and Nigeria’s collaborations, but about Africa achieving the aspirations of Agenda 2063, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals ().
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