The challenges about information on Africa
One among the biggest problems concerning Africa is related to the control of the process through which the continent is perceived in the collective imaginary.
Such a process often depends on the way African themselves, and societies in general, have represented Africa so far. It is useless to notice how the most well-structured mass media, in particular those coming from the West, have been developing forms of knowledge production and transmission which easily give a pitiful image of the continent and its inhabitants by showing for example degrading situations most of all on television.
Just at the beginning of April, Nigeria was proclaimed the first economic power in the African continent – above South Africa – with a GDP of 491 billion dollars increased not only thanks to the oil revenues but also because of the effects of the trade sector, developed and organized by the resourceful Nigerian communities. However, if we asked people today as to what they remember about this country, the issue more likely to occur would be the abduction of the two-hundred Nigerian girls lately kidnapped by Boko Haram.
The war on the control of information and production of knowledge is a serious thing. In the future Africans will have to become more and more aware about it and know how to cope with it.
African Summer School’s program
In Italy, especially in Verona, it is Africasfriends Association which decided to address this challenge and give shape to African Summer School’s project.
The project comes from an original idea by Fortuna Ekutsu Mambulu, independent journalist and expert in economics and migration policies. In fact, Mambulu came up with this idea after five years spent as economics editor at afriradio.it, a radio whose objective was to get Italian people informed about an alternative Africa, different from the classic stereotypes according to which the continent ought to be saved by Europe or whichever other region from the “North.”
In general, African Summer School is willing to give an answer with respect to various problems all arising from the lack of a balanced information on Africa. Some of them concern the following issues:
- very often African youth born in Europe, and Italy in particular, do not get access to cultural resources such as an African-based teaching which is at the same time qualitatively of high-level and offered by professors of African origin;
- the young Africans who land in Europe often do not seriously consider the necessity to come back to Africa because they do not know about potential jobs – also in terms of self-entrepreneurship – within their country of origin (and more in general in the African region) that might be useful and enriching for the local communities living there;
- what Europeans usually read about Africa comes from a Western-based knowledge; they often lack the opportunity of having systematic seminars and lectures given by African academics and intellectuals; this phenomenon unfortunately strengthens an unilateral (and in many cases negative) conception of the African continent.
In order to fix these problems, the founder of the school together with the association have set three major goals:
- compete for the creation of renewed and balanced view of the African continent;
- promoting a young and intercultural entrepreneurship (which connects territories), aware of the real opportunities offered by the African countries today;
- favor innovative interaction/integration processes between Italian and foreign participants, against common stereotypes and prejudices deeply rooted in the local and global society.
Target and organization
The main target are the youth, who follow the courses principally held by African teachers whose approach, in turn, orient the young boys and girls towards an alternative message on Africa stimulating the debate and the rise of a counter-narrative about the continent.
The participants, in addition to their studies, stay, eat and spend their time together in a villa, thus having the chance in the leisure time to discuss and confront not only one to another but also with the teachers.
Besides the two main African teachers, who will give the majority of classes, various Italian teachers will be at students’ disposal through complementary lessons with more ad hoc subjects, like for example social economy taught by MAG experts, an incubator of social business located in Verona.
African Summer School’s study offer has got a dynamic structure. In effects, it does not end with the one-week courses in August. After this intense week of lessons, students will have three months for putting into practice what will be learnt in class and write a project work. Students may choose to compose a paper or rather experience the writing of a business plan to be concretized in the African territory – especially those more inclined to entrepreneurship. While the papers are published, the business plans take part of a contest where the best entrepreneurial projects are awarded. The very best one is accompanied in its incubation in the nextyear.
The first edition
African Summer School was inaugurated on 4th August 2013 with the extraordinary presence of the former Minister for Integration in Italy Cécile Kyenge Kashetu. The first edition depended on the proximity of numerous partners – 20 in all – who contributed to the success of the initiative thanks to their operational and financial support and patronage; among them: University of Verona, UIL Verona, Ital Nazionale, Banca Popolare di Verona, City of Verona (Department of Equal Opportunities).
Results of the first edition
The first edition of the Summer School (2013) saw fifty young Africans and Italians spending one week-course together by learning and dialoguing around the subject “African Geo-strategy” held by the Cameroonian intellectual Jean Paul Pougala. The participants, half of which were constituted by African young persons, wrote 17 papers and 11 business plans.
While the papers were put together and published in the e-book African Summer School Review, 4 business plans were awarded during a special ceremony at the end of November 2013, where all Summer School students could receive their certificate of attendance.
One enterprise in Africa per year
The last-year best business project, which the Summer School’s partner for incubation MAG Verona has been accompanying since January 2014 – will be realized in Togo (in the capital city Lomé).
It foresees the establishment of a fish farm with ponds and addressed to the local trade. Supported by African Summer School, by now the winners have been discussing with the bank (the school’s financial partner Banco Popolare – Verona) about the best way for the disbursement of a loan in order to start the business activities in Lomé.
The second edition, launched last month on 13rd May with a press conference at the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, seeks to introduce to the students an Africa which is protagonist of the human history, from the Neolithic age to our contemporary times, through a wide program of study which will fit in the week from 3rd to 10th August 2014 in Verona.
The one-week course has kept the first edition’s structure. Similarly to the past edition, about twenty partners have been involved in the Summer School project. All formative activities, occurring from 3rd to 10th of August in Verona, will focus on two main subjects: “General history of Africa”, taught by professor Jose do Nascimento, and “Afro-business” explained by Mawuna Koutonin, expert in marketing and one among the most influential bloggers in the continent today (siliconafrica.com).
Touristic sightseeing tour for international students
Verona is one among the most sought-after international destinations in Italy. The international students who will choose to attend African Summer School will have the opportunity at the end of the course (Sunday 10th August) to enjoy a guided sightseeing tour in the city of “Romeo and Juliet”, the best-known and enduring love story in the world by William Shakespeare.
Still a few days left to apply
All interested in participating at this second edition of African Summer School have still some time left to apply online, in particular until 13rd June 2014 for those who are intentioned to apply for the scholarships available; all the others have time until midnight of 27th June to enroll.