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Neo Pan-African Conference Urges Action Over Passive Discussion

The African Students Association at Colby-Sawyer College hosted Pamoja60: Neo Pan-African Conference on Friday, April 4, and Saturday, April 5. The 100 conference participants from Colby-Sawyer College, Wellesley College, University of New Hampshire, University of Rhode Island, Bunker Hill Community College and the New London community convened with the spirit of action rather than passive discussion of ideals.

The conference kicked off on Friday with the screening of “An African Election,” a documentary on the Ghanaian presidential election of 2008-09. The film detailed the lack of accountability shown by Ghanaian political leaders toward the people and the people's inability to make sound voting decisions, which were often based on geography rather than an evaluation of ideologies.

“The movie was truly shocking,” said Nathaly Abreau '17, a Media Studies major. “I was overwhelmed to see how the democratic core of an electoral process could be affected by inherited beliefs and lack of objective, independent thinking.”

Following the movie, the panel discussion Pan Africanism in the 21st Century: A Strategic Roadmap for Development was led by Divine Muragijimana, founder and president of the Council of Young African Leaders; Tom Hull, former U.S. ambassador to Sierra Leone, former deputy chief of mission and charge d'affaires in Ethiopia; Priscilla Jeffrey, founder of Community Partnership of Ghana; Nana Poku and Kwaku Awuah, co-founders of Creative and Media Operating Group. The panel urged attendees to examine developmental possibilities through both their native African lenses and their experiences in developed nations. While Muragijimana said that Neo-Pan Africanism is about individual social responsibility and a shift from conversation to action, Hull noted that education needs to be at the core of sustainable African development.

Saturday's keynote address was presented by Semhar Araia, founder and executive director of the Diaspora African Women's Network. Araia explained the disconnect between West African countries, which have experienced independence for a long time and are ready for continental unity, and countries like Eritrea and Southern Sudan, which have just gained independence and are still getting accustomed to running their own affairs. “Even though Africans are trying to come together beyond national borders, it is important not to lose one's national and cultural uniqueness for continued streamlined development,” she added.

“The common theme running through the speeches was that African development comes down to how well [Africans] are able to reconcile varying identities to work toward a shared vision,” said Michellina Wuddah-martey '14, conference projects coordinator.

Following the keynote address, the conference broke out into six panels titled “Militancy and Terrorism; Food, Future, and Business,” “An African Education; The African Democracy,” “The African Arts Front,” and “Changing Healthcare in Africa.”

Led by Lisa Purvis, educational specialist and research coordinator at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and adjunct Colby-Sawyer faculty member, and Erwin Boateng, president and founder of Quality Health Africa, the panel Changing Healthcare in Africa focused on issues of cost, access and quality of healthcare in the continent. “The session underlined how a single person can help communities in need,” said Sukriti Raut '15, a Healthcare Management major at Colby-Sawyer, who participated in the panel. “Like-minded individuals eventually gravitate toward one another to make their efforts sustainable.”

Staying true to the spirit of action, conference attendees participated in three breakout sessions broadly classified as healthcare, educational, and arts and culture. Participants brainstormed project ideas for the African population, which then were evaluated by Colby-Sawyer Professor of Social Sciences and Education Randy Hanson and Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Education Eric Boyer, with Muragijimana and Wuddah-martey.

Based on its creativity, originality, scalability, measurability, achievability and passion, “One-on-One Volunteer Mentoring,” a project envisioned by Colby-Sawyer Business major Yanick Macuacua '16 and community members Sidiki Swaray and Nancy Erickson Allenby, was named the best. It intended to help the African diaspora, especially the youth, in refugee communities in the United States, build on their English language and computer skills to enable them to search, and secure better employment and educational opportunities independently.

At the closing ceremony, Colby-Sawyer President Thomas C. Galligan Jr. presented the Nkrumah Lumumba Toure-60 Fellowship of $1,500 to the One-on-One Volunteer Mentoring project. Professor Hanson presented the W.E.B. Du Bois Award to Akua Dziffa, volunteer at the African Day Parade, while Conference Adviser Dana Dakin, founder and president of WomensTrust, an NGO in Ghana, presented the Patrice Lumumba Award to Gold Label Africa for their success in popularizing African culture by adding an African touch to western fashion. Professor Boyer presented the Kwame Nkrumah Award to Muragijimana and the Pamoja60 Award recognized Colby-Sawyer College for its support to the conference and the African Students Association.

“The possible change of Africa lies in the ability of the African youth to organize on the African continent and the diaspora and take charge of their own destiny,” said Conference Director Bernard Botchway '15. “The Neo-Pan African Conference acknowledged the fact and so must every stakeholder of African development.”

- Anurup Upadhyay '15
Anurup Upadhyay is a Business major at Colby-Sawyer College and a student writer for College Communications.

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