Edinburgh Global

Edinburgh Celebrates African Connections

Fourteen events were held this year for Africa Week, celebrating the University’s connections to the continent.

Africa Week 2019 marked the fourth year the University of Edinburgh has joined together to celebrate its many connections with the African continent. Over 500 people attended 14 events across the week, the most diverse programme yet. Events were held across the different University campuses and run by a mix of students and staff. Events included the University’s first Africa Cup of Nations 5-a-side football tournament and a research symposium on work in Malawi.

The Week started with a colourful procession of flags and national dress, across the George Square campus. Students from Gambia, Zimbabwe and Cameroon organised the event to coincide with the launch of the Model African Union student-led society, the only one of its kind in the UK. Other groups, including the Nigerian and African Caribbean societies attended and Professor Peter Mathieson, the University’s Principal, waved off the procession from the Old College quad.

colourful display of flags

Later that evening, a session on Afrobeats, hosted by the student led Afrobeats Society, gave people the opportunity to learn more about the dance discipline as well as try out some basic moves.

For the second year, Africa Week provided a valuable opportunity for researchers across the University’s Little France campus to come together and learn from and question each other on work being done in the agri-food sphere. Colleagues from the Roslin Institute, Supporting Evidence Based Decision Making (SEBI), the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security and the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health presented on a wide variety of projects and to continue to map their work interactively to seek areas of collaboration.

man speaking at conference
Agri-Food research event, picture courtesy of Norman Russell, The Royal Dick School of Vet Studies

In a similar fashion, Africa Week also provided a platform to invite colleagues in a variety of fields to share research taking place in and with Malawi. A research showcase exhibited work undertaken in areas including mental health, reproductive health and childcare, satellite mapping of forests and the ethical challenges of undertaking clinical trials in LMICs. The event was part of the University’s broader work around stimulating future research projects, supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The session also welcomed colleagues from the Scotland Malawi Partnership, and Edinburgh Napier and Glasgow universities.

The first food event of the Week saw an African Braai, hosted by the Centre of African Studies on Friday evening. The rain stayed away as attendees from across the University enjoyed some incredible food and kept warm next to the fire in the back garden of 22 George Square. Mastercard Foundation Scholars the next evening also hosted their own Taste of Africa event, with around 150 guests sampling dishes from countries such as South Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Saturday morning, in bright Edinburgh sunshine, saw 12 teams compete in the Sports Union’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament at Peffermill. Each team represented a country from the African continent and the Republic of Congo were eventual winners, overcoming South Africa in an exciting high-scoring final, 5-3.

Africa Week was again delighted to work with the Tandem Language Café, where, as well as the café’s more permanent fixtures, attendees also had a chance to learn Swahili and Shona.

language cafe discussion
Tandem Language Cafe, picture courtesy of Nick Rowland

The Week also benefitted hugely from external visitors to Edinburgh, including the Namibian High Commissioner to the UK, HE Linda Scott. Ms Scott spoke to staff and students about the opportunities and persisting challenges for a country still under thirty years old. The High Commissioner also had a chance to meet Namibian diaspora in Scotland, including students from Aberdeen and Dundee.

Professor Emeritus Edward Webster, based at the Southern Centre for inequality Studies, at South Africa’s Witwatersrand University, contributed to a lively discussion on the future of work in Africa. The audience heard how most of the research comes from the industrialised north and how this can be applied to the African continent. Professor Webster’s focus was specifically on the informal economy, which makes up a huge percentage of employment on the continent. We also heard from Rebecca Valentine, from the University of Edinburgh’s careers service on how they are contributing to curriculum reform to ensure the institution is best preparing young people for the future of work.

Visiting teaching fellow in African History, Josh Doble, intricately depicted a small sector of Kenyan society, commonly referred to as Kenyan Cowboys and two US-based PhD students Alex Marino (Arkansas University) and Kelsey Zavelo (Duke University) discussed their research on the propaganda of white minority regimes in southern Africa and the United States.

Africa Week 2019 wrapped up with a film screening, in partnership with the Centre of African Studies and Africa in Motion Film festival. Manthia Diawara’s film, An Opera of the World, based on the African opera Bintou Were, a Sahel Opera, illustrated the plight of forced migration from the African continent and the ongoing refugee crisis from South to North.

If you would like to be involved in Africa Week, please email Nick Rowland

Email Nick Rowland