Dakar, Senegal, 15-17 December 2014
The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa will hold its 14th General Assembly from 15th to 17th December 2014 in Dakar, Senegal under the theme ‘Creating African Futures in an Era of Global Transformations: Challenges and Prospects.’ CODESRIA’s general assemblies are the largest gatherings of African social scientists. This one will be no exception, with intellectuals from all social science disciplines, the humanities and law, gathering to explore and propose ideas that can lead to a continent that is more peaceful, democratic, prosperous and inclusive in the context of on-going global transformations.
The theme of the 14th General Assembly is consistent with the long standing commitment of CODESRIA, its members and the wider community of researchers to building more prosperous, democratic and just societies in Africa. This commitment has seen the Council over the years produce ground-breaking work on the challenges of development and democratization in Africa. Previous general assemblies have sought to analyse social realities on the continent in order to offer critical alternatives to the dominant development blueprints. The 14th General Assembly will also bring together the continent’s best social science researchers to offer ideas on Africa’s futures. The need for a framework that can inform the building of African futures is as critical in the context of a globalisation that threatens to reverse the social development gains of the past few decades, as it was half a century ago.
The celebration of fifty years of independence a few years ago was taken in many countries as an opportunity to re-examine the dreams of independence against the hard realities of life in Africa today. The number of Africans who live amidst violence (physical, structural and symbolic) and poverty is huge. Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide and the end of apartheid, the question of how to reverse the trends that, if unchecked, may lead to the further devaluation of life and greater threats to human freedom, dignity, and well-being on the continent must be posed. Given this, there is a critical need to reinvent a future for ourselves and re-define the social, cultural, moral, ethical and institutional foundations of citizenship and belonging at the local, national and continental levels, in a free, united, democratic and prosperous Africa that is at peace with itself and with the world.
The transformations in the midst of which the fashioning of African futures is to be undertaken are of great diversity. There are many complex forces operating globally and on the continent that are both creating and challenging the emergence of new possibilities for remaking our societies and developing our economies on more sustainable, equitable and just bases. A few of these are worth mentioning.
Globalization has reached unprecedented levels, and global governance involves a range of actors and institutions that make the issue of sovereignty extremely complex. Global challenges, such as climate change, and the transnational nature of many emerging threats to human security in Africa pose the question of the capability of the nation state to contend with those challenges that go beyond national boundaries. This is part of the explanation of the attention given to regionalism and pan Africanism as responses to globalization.
Within Africa, there have been major advances in the building of democratic governance systems. ‘Old’ and new forms of political organisation, struggle and citizen engagement in public life, using ‘old’ and new modes of communication, have led to dramatic transformations of the public sphere. Elections involving different parties has become normalised in many countries, to the extent where some opposition parties are even willing to call for the postponement of elections in order to enable institutional reforms that can enhance the quality of electoral systems. There has also been significant decentralization accompanying elections, increasing the potential for greater citizen participation. In some cases, however, this has led to violence as a result of the politicisation of ethnicity or the emergence of xenophobia. Violence has also frequently been manifested where there is competition over access to resources. In some cases, we have witnessed serious reversals of the democratic process, and a crisis of governance remains all too common. The recent crises in Mali, South Sudan and Central African Republic remind us of the work that has to be done to make many states and societies more capable of resisting local, regional and international political, economic and social stresses. Augmenting the resilience of African societies is critical given the continued use by global and regional powers of the guise of conflictresolution to further reinforce their economic and political hold on troubled countries through ‘humanitarian’ military interventions including under the so-called Responsibility to Protect (R2P).
Many African countries have been reported to have impressive economic growth, yet this has often been accompanied by growing inequalities and high levels of unemployment. The oft-hoped for transformation of African economies from being suppliers of raw materials to the North to developing an economy based on industrial and agricultural development supported by a healthy service sector has in most cases failed to materialise. Although the economic growth registered by African countries in recent years could be partly explained by improvements in governance, much of the growth has been primarily the result of natural resource exploitation by multinationals, accompanied by massive land alienation. Landlessness and unemployment (especially of the young), declining health and social services sector, and greater dependence on women to carry the burden of care, have been features of many countries.
China and other BRICS countries have become more assertive in their economic role in the continent, providing both opportunities for countering the heavy handed conditionalities of traditional ’donors’ as well as opening up potentials for great trade. The extent to which they continue the same practices of exploitation as have the traditional powers, and the degree to which they provide advantages for African countries, remains contentious.
The project of creating African futures out of the cauldron of challenges and opportunities that mark the second decade of the 21st Century has to be an open exercise grounded in recognition of the plural histories of the continent. Can we continue to think about economic and social development (including agricultural development and industrialization) in Africa as we have been doing in the last fifty years? The imagining of futures for Africa must also be done from a multidisciplinary perspective and through gendered prisms, taking into account the rights, freedoms, entrepreneurial dynamics and cultural and artistic creativity of both men and women.
There is therefore a need to go beyond creating multiple possible scenarios out of which ‘the best’ will be chosen. We must seek to create a multitude of diverse but well-integrated societies marked by openness, social inclusion, greater equity and prosperity that do justice to the rich and diverse histories and realities of the continent.
This work requires dedication to the holistic approach to studying the continent that the Council was created in 1973 to promote. Comparative work that draws historically-informed and empirically grounded theoretical insights from the diversity of the continent that can be put in conversation with work on Latin America, Asia and beyond is needed to forge new societies.
All of this will require a renewed commitment to the freeing of research, academic life and thought more generally, from the myriad of constrictions, including those imposed by states, markets, patriarchy and other systems of domination, and by dominant global interests and ideas, for which CODESRIA has historically struggled. It also points to the critical need for Africans to reinvent our collective identity and our future, and renegotiate our place in the international community.
The 14th General Assembly of CODESRIA will be organized in two parts: the first part will be a scientific conference on the theme ‘Creating African futures in an era of global transformations: challenges and prospects’. This part will be organized in plenary and parallel sessions. A number of leading scholars from Africa, the Diaspora and other parts of the global South, as well as representatives of partner institutions in the North, will be invited to participate in the conference. This will be followed by the business segment of the Assembly devoted to discussions on the institutional life of CODESRIA, a discussion on new priorities for research, and the election of an Executive Committee, a President and a Vice-President.
Those wishing to participate in the scientific conference are asked to reflect on, and submit papers, on one or more of the following themes:
1. Understanding ongoing global and regional transitions;
2. Fashioning African futures: disciplinary, interdisciplinary and gendered perspectives;
3. The new Africa in a new world: interactions and connections;
4. Technological innovation and the project of African social renewal;
5. African popular culture and the imagination of alternative futures;
6. Leisure in the society to come;
7. Planning development: alternative economic models for Africa’s futures;
8. Beyond MDGs: pathways to the sustainably developed community;
9. Toward more democratic futures: making governance work for all Africans
10. International criminal justice, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), and sovereignty in the Africa of the future;
11. Regional integration, and pathways to African futures;
12. Neo-liberalism and the financialization of natural resources in Africa;
13. Social reconstruction in post-neoliberal society;
14. Designing and building resilient and socially inclusive societies;
15. Towards knowledge-driven societies in Africa: higher education, research, and the transformation of African economies and societies;
16. The African Diaspora in the recreation of Africa’s futures;
17. Climate change and its implications for African futures;
18. Land grabs, property rights and citizenship;
19. Innovative approaches to agricultural development and industrialization.
CODESRIA invites abstracts and panel proposals on these and other issues related to the theme of the scientific conference of the General Assembly. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31st May 2014. Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by 30th June 2014. The deadline for submissions of final papers is 31st August 2014.
Abstracts and panel proposals that have to be accompanied by CVs with full contact details should be sent by email to CODESRIA at the following address: email@example.com, with your name and the sub-theme under which you want your abstract to be considered written on the subject line. All inquiries should be addressed to:
CODESRIA General Assembly
Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop X Canal IV, BP 3304, CP 18524, Dakar, Senegal
Tel.: +221 33 825 98 22/23 or +221 33 824 03 74 Fax: +221 33 824 12 89