The Oberlin African Student Association was recently invited to participate in Yale’s Africa Innovation Symposium held November 11-12. This two-day conference aimed to deconstruct traditional views of issues affecting Africa and produce actionable resolutions related to various African industries.
This was the first time that ASA was invited to the symposium. The symposium aligns with ASA’s mission statement, which describes one of its goals as improving “education by providing a network for future African students abroad and in the United States.” It was also the first time since the start of the pandemic that the Yale symposium was held in person.
“A student who knew another Yale student who was organizing the event told us about it, because the student was trying to get other schools involved besides the usual Ivy Leagues,” said Nyakwea Ndegwa, a sophomore at the university and treasurer. from ASA. . “They told us about the conference and then put us in contact with Yale, so we emailed them and found out what it was about.”
ASA sent out a form to its members urging them to apply and attend the conference over the weekend. The conference was open to both international students from Africa and US-born students. After going through a selection process, five students were chosen to participate. At the symposium, they had the opportunity to attend different seminars and conferences on topics that interested them, from economics to fashion.
“The Yale symposium is talking about innovation, particularly in Africa,” said Omukoko Okoth, a sophomore college student who attended the symposium. “It seeks to encourage Africans, the diaspora and people of African descent to go and invest in Africa.”
Attendees came from universities across the US One of the goals of the event was to unite the entire African diaspora, including those of African descent.
“I felt the need to build important connections and learn how I can not only give back to my community, Africa, but also critically analyze and create innovative channel strategies that can be implemented to make this happen,” said College in third place. year Norman Mwangi said. “The experience was fantastic. It diverted my attention to things that had never crossed my mind. They influenced me to invest in Africa.”
The symposium invited speakers who had contributed to addressing African challenges in different ways. These speakers have contributed to the general culture in different parts of Africa; for example, Mphethi Morojele shed light on architectural innovation. Morojele is the owner and founder of MMA Design Studios, which is involved in multiple architectural and urban projects in various African countries, including South Africa, Ethiopia and Burundi.
“I was bringing to light the many opportunities that we have in Africa that many people have not yet taken advantage of,” Okoth said. “That’s part of the reason we had the symposium – just to talk about how we could connect people in the US with people in Africa and invest.”
One of the highlights of the event were the innovation labs that focused on a specific topic and had the presence of experts to present their studies and research. For example, Nairobi-based businessman and economist Wilmot Allen presented his talk “Making the Dashiki Economy Work: Addressing the Challenge of Creating Structured Pathways to Shared Prosperity for Africa and its Diaspora.”
“The ultimate goal is for our experts to take the solutions to their businesses, organizations and communities and put them into action,” Abigail Ndikum, founder and CEO of YAIS, wrote in a letter to attendees. “In addition, we hope that the work in the labs will provide all the participants with the foundation to turn their innovative ideas on African development into realities after the conference.”
Overall, the students came together to form connections and strengthen their knowledge of African development. Through this process, symposium presenters and African students from Oberlin and other universities learned to deconstruct African challenges and propose solutions.
“It was a pleasure to be involved and invited to the Yale Conference Symposium,” said Ndegwa. “We hope to participate in similar events. This is our first time, and we had a fantastic time.”