Africa Knows! It is time to decolonise minds

Theme: Decolonising minds

In recent years, Africa’s universities, research institutions and other knowledge agencies have undergone tremendous change. A growing demand for scientific forms of knowledge and for higher education has pushed many of them to expand rapidly and to engage in a combination of daring initiatives and institutional, scientific, and educational creativity. New knowledge organizations, for example, with ties to religious groups or the private sector, have also been established. ‘Decolonizing the academy’ has become a loud call within and beyond the continent. Eurocentrism is increasingly questioned, while calls to ‘look East’ and ‘look inside Africa’ are gaining momentum.

Contemporary African trends thus fundamentally challenge inherited ideas about a colonial-hierarchical relationship between European and African knowledge organizations. While most of Europe’s scientists continue to ignore Africa, European governments, bureaucrats, and funding organizations often remain wedded to a ‘capacity development’ approach. At the same time, a growing number of African scholars and Africa-based knowledge institutions vehemently object to Africa’s presumed dependence on foreign funding and ideas. Emphasizing their autonomy and ‘leapfrogging’ achievements, they increasingly reject offers of benign paternalism from European partners. Perhaps it is finally time for Europeans to decolonize their minds too!

Wanted: open-minded debate

The dynamism of Africa’s knowledge landscape and the debate about ‘decolonizing the academy’ both require open-minded debate. The conference Africa Knows! aims to facilitate this debate by taking stock, describing and analysing dynamics regarding the making of knowledge in and of Africa, and critically addressing dominant perceptions and biases. Guiding questions are:

  • What is currently happening in the knowledge arena in Africa?1
  • What are the histories of knowledge development in Africa and what are likely developments in the near future? What are the drivers of change?
  • What have been the consequences of ‘Western’ models of knowledge development in Africa?
  • How can Europe-Africa relations move away from the remnants of colonialism to genuine partnership and ‘co-creation’ in the new global environment?
  • How does the digital revolution create new ways of linking, learning and contesting?

The Africa Knows! conference will provide a free and open space to discuss these controversial yet vital topics. Up for discussion are regional and trans-regional knowledge production on Africa including, but not limited to, attitudes and lingering power hierarchies in Europe-Africa partnerships, commercialization of knowledge production, fraud, overstretching of human resources, problematic research environments, transparency, and academic freedom. We intend to make the conference a physical and virtual space for engaging with these pivotal questions on the basis of academic integrity and mutual respect.