Leading change

Discussing the dilemmas of knowledge production in Africa

“On this occasion, our interest in South Africa is because it is a very important African knowledge production hub and also because it has been a laboratory of momentous rapid social change in the last few decades,” said Prof Dzodzi Tsikata, President of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). She was speaking at a roundtable hosted by CODESRIA and the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI) on 19 December 2017.

Some of the participants at the roundtable

The theme for the roundtable was Dilemmas of knowledge production in Africa—envisioning new pan-African conversations.

Prof Dzodzi Tsikata (President: CODESRIA).

Tsikata highlighted that there were many issues facing knowledge production in Africa. “African scholars have to make tough choices between privileging indigenous knowledge systems that give them access to lucrative research grants, prestigious conferences, and being published in the most highly regarded publication outlets,” she said. Within this situation facing African scholarship, Tsikata pointed out that there are also gender hierarchies that are dismissive of feminist research, which reflects the low status of women in the academy, and their even more dire situation in Africa.

Tsikata explained that there are many other dilemmas that need attention, as well. “I just want to point out how important a discussion of pan-Africanism in an inter-generational dialogue is in the current context of a South Africa struggling to fashion an inclusive vision of Africa, in which South is an integral part. Such a conversation is only one of the many such conversations that are needed to inculcate the importance of pan-African ideals and ideas, as well as pan-Africanism as the subject matter of knowledge production,” she said.

Speaking at the roundtable, Dr Edith Phaswana, Senior Lecturer at TMALI said that this platform for discourse had come at the right time considering the political activity currently taking place in South Africa.

Prof Serges Kamga (Acting Head: TMALI).

Echoing this was Prof Serges Kamga, Acting Head of TMALI. He also said that they were proud to be hosting this roundtable with CODESRIA considering their calibre and footprint on the African continent.

Getting to the crux of the theme, Prof Hassam Remaou (CODESRIA) and Dr Samuel Oloruntoba (TMALI) engaged on the dilemmas of African-centred knowledge. Other panellists further engaged on inter-generational conversations on pan-Africanism.

CODESRIA is a Pan-African research organisation headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Its aim is to promote, facilitate and disseminate research (within the social sciences) throughout Africa and also to create a community in which members can work without barriers regarding language, country, age or gender. While CODESRIA is an active research organisation it does not abstain from serving as a platform for political statements.

*By Kirosha Naicker