Nordic Africa Days 2018

September has been a busy month for many of the team members of the IDEAS project. As we are moving into a phase where the main priority is to write up our findings in the coming months, the input we have gained from conferences and workshops will be very useful. The latest conference where I have presented findings from the IDEAS project was the Nordic Africa Days in Uppsala, Sweden. The theme of the conference was ‘African Mobilities’, and almost 50 per cent of the participants came from Africa to join the conference. The event took place in the main building of Uppsala University, which is a beautiful building from 1880s. This building served as a ‘natural’ meeting space in between panels, which created great opportunities to mingle with other scholars. The large number of African scholars contributed to thought-provoking panels and an opportunity to get a view of the latest research taking place across the continent.

There were two key notes. The first one was by Kah Walla from Cameroon. She describes herself as an entrepreneur, activist and political leader, and was the first woman from Cameroon to run for presidency (see her website https://kahwalla.com/). She is an energetic and charismatic speaker who managed the audience very well, and she provided interesting perspectives on the relationship between mobilities and the challenges of governance in Africa. The second key note was given by Francis Nyamnjoh. Even though he claimed he is not very good at speaking in front of a large audience, his presentation was fascinating. Drawing on his recent book ‘RhodesMustFall#: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa’, he linked the current decolonialism movements and debates to mobilites in Africa. 

Markus Roos Breines represented the IDEAS team in Sweden, and presented a paper entitled: ‘Reconsidering unequal access to mobility: the use of social media to overcome immobility’. The presentation focused on how international distance education students at UNISA use social media to claim physical presence at the university through proxies. The panel I presented on was ‘Voice for the voiceless: knowledge, technology and transformation’. Originally, the panel had two sessions with 11 presenters, but we ended up being only two presenters because of visa issues and other circumstances hindering people from attending. Despite the small number of presenters, the panel worked well and we had a stimulating discussion after the presentations.

Overall, it was a very exciting conference. I met a large number of people and had very interesting conversations about current student movements in South Africa, the higher education system in Zimbabwe, the rapid political changes in Ethiopia and its implications on the relationship with Eritrea, as well as about the experiences of women migrating from Eritrea. The conference lasted only two days, but they were very intense and highly productive. I am already looking forward to the next Nordic Africa Days.

Markus Roos Breines

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