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Towards the establishment of a Pan-African University:
A strategic concept paper

Prof. Dani W. Nabudere, Executive Director, Afrika Study Centre,


Posted with permission of Professor Dani Nabudere, Afrika Study Centre, Uganda
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Pan-Africanists and people of goodwill towards Africa's advancement for a long time have advocated the establishment of a Pan-African University, and yet this hope has never been realised despite various attempts having been made in this direction. The challenge is that such a University must be a new University, not only in the approach to teaching and research, but more fundamentally, in its strategic conception and its placement at the base of African and human emancipation and liberation. In being a new University, it has to play the vital role of freeing knowledge production from narrow class, technical, and instrumentalist dominance by a few specialists to a broader theatre of recognition of other producers of knowledge, which matters in their lives and which has validity in their cultural contexts. This is what has made the creation of such a University more difficult because its creation would not only undermine existing dominant interests, but also challenge the citadel of Eurocentric paradigms and western `scientistic' epistemologies of knowledge.

Yet it is time that such a task be embarked on headlong. As Chancellor Williams cautioned us in his last book: The Rebirth of African Civilisation [1963], the task of establishing an African University "even when pushed on all fronts, as it must be, with the speed consistent with careful study and soundness, will nevertheless be like building a cathedral- which one expects to see completed in his lifetime or that of his children" [p.212]. Williams called for a Master Plan with a clear goal but with which we will begin to build, no matter in what small way, but begin to build concentrating on those tasks which can be done but which become the foundation for the rest [Ibid].

In somewhat similar vein in advising on the embarking on this task, Professor Kwesi Kaa Prah, advised that it is better to take small steps but which, when put together, lead to success. In whatever case, he added, we must ensure that "we do not fail"1.

It is for this reason that Afrika Study Centre Trust-ASCT based in Mbale, Uganda, wishes to be associated with those institutions, organisations, and individuals both on the African continent and the African Diaspora that wish to see the fulfilment of this dream in the furtherance of African emancipation and liberation. Afrika Study Centre was established and registered in Uganda on the 2nd December 1994 as a Trust under the Trustees Incorporation Act, (Cap 147). Under the Act, ASCT has the status of universitas personarum with a perpetual succession unaffected by changes in members of its trustees, which is capable of owning property and incurring liabilities in its own name of suing and being sued in court of law. Therefore, the ASCT has, in relation to its property and affairs, and for the purposes of carrying out its objects or performing any acts incidental thereto, all rights, powers, and privileges which it would have possessed had it been a private individual of full legal capacity, except as limited by law.

At the first meeting of the Board of Trustees, held shortly after its registration, it was noted by the promoters of the project that the Trust was the collective outcome of the thoughts and efforts of a small group of Ugandans of varied intellectual and professional backgrounds who were united by a common desire to contribute constructively to the emancipation of Africa through study and research. The Trustees had also noted that this was part of a multifaceted struggle of the African peoples, both on the African continent and in the African Diaspora, who were ceaselessly engaged in the human endeavour of uplifting themselves from centuries of degradation, exploitation, and domination by others who had enslaved and colonised them. Without improving their knowledge of the world around them and their memory of their world of the past, they could not foster their authentic and wholesome development amidst great historical and contemporary odds.

Among the broad goals of the Trust, the following were central to its general vision: sponsoring, promoting, undertaking, establishing and conducting research into recognised subjects and academic study, including African history, African culture, African society, African links with other peoples on other continents now and in the past, problems of transition of African societies and the role of African tradition and institutions in the world, as well as the dissemination for public benefit the useful results of such research by publishing the same for worldwide distribution and consumption to include educational establishments throughout Uganda, Africa and the World. In addition, the ASC Trust was to establish, set up, promote, organise, and maintain or assist in so doing seminars, conferences, public and private meetings, displays, libraries, study centres, resource centres, and the like-all intended to advance African research and learning.

Since then Afrika Study Centre has, from its small semi-rural enclave in Mbale, eastern Uganda, embarked on a number of research, training, and collaborative activities that have helped inspire the Trust to pursue the vision of the establishment of a Pan-African University in collaboration with other institutions and organisations. These have included:

  • Making contacts with individuals, organisations and institutions standing for the same ideas as the Trust in order to maintain the image of the Trust;
  • Carrying out some limited research for the production of academic papers as well as the writing of monographs and books on current issues of African culture and development. One such major book is the manuscript now with the publishers entitled: Africa In the New Millennium: Towards a Post-Traditional Renaissance, which was submitted to Africa World Press in 2000, but which is coming out in 2003. Another, which has come out of the political activity connected with the African Renaissance and the transformation of the OAU into the African Union (including the emergence of continental economic programmes such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development-NEPAD,) entitled: The African Renaissance and Pan-Africanism, is due to be published also by Africa World Press in 2003.
  • Collaborating with other institutions in Uganda, other parts of Africa and the world at large. This included collaboration with the Islamic University in Uganda aimed at staff development as well as co-hosting of Swedish students from Osterlenes Folk High School to double with African students in small-scale research in communities and institutions that encourages cross-cultural learning and understanding. We hope that this programme can lead to the creation of department of Afrikan-Skandinavian Studies within the Pan-Afrikan University.
  • Three-year research programme on violence and conflict in agro-pastoral communities supported by Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation of New York. This research has resulted in the production of five monographs on sub-themes on the subject and a book manuscript entitled: Globalisation, Arms Proliferation and Transformation in Agro-pastoral Communities in Eastern Africa. As a result of this research, ASCT developed a "Field Building" research activity on security in agro-pastoral communities.
  • Collaboration with the Social Science Research Council of New York, supported by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation in "Field Building" research activity aimed at bringing together academic scholars, practitioners, and indigenous knowledge experts and custodians. This activity was intended to result in the pooling of skills and expertise from these sources of knowledge so that such pool of knowledge can be made accessible to all users. This activity has led to the questioning of the dominant Eurocentric epistemologies which had eclipsed endogenous knowledge systems but which are now being recognised. To complete this challenge, we have to elaborate further the epistemology and methodology that can inform knowledge production in Africa as part of the process of creating a truly global knowledge in which African sources are fully recognised [Nabudere, 2002].
  • The promotion of the idea of establishing a Pan-Afrikan University. Currently the ASC Trust is developing a collaboration arrangement with the University of South Africa-UNISA and other like-minded institutions of higher learning aimed at creating an African-centred higher education (including materials, books, curriculum development, etc.) consistent with the need for the African renaissance and African rebirth.

  1. This came out of a consultation between Prof. Prah and members of the Task Force of the Afrika Study Centre, at the Sheraton Hotel, Kampala, on 10th December, 2002.

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