The UWI and University of Johannesburg launch Institute for Global African Affairs

A joint master’s degree programme in Global African Studies is one of the major initiatives which will be offered by the new Institute for Global African Affairs—a collaborative effort between The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in South Africa. The Institute was launched on Monday, November 26, 2018 at The UWI Cave Hill Campus, with a press conference and plaque unveiling. Both Vice-Chancellor of the UJ, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Angina Parekh were present for the occasion, alongside The UWI Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Cave Hill Campus Principal, Professor V Eudine Barriteau and Pro Vice-Chancellor and Chair, Board for Undergraduate Studies, Professor Alan Cobley. A similar event was held on November 5, in Johannesburg.

Commenting on the initiative, Vice-Chancellor Beckles stated, “The Caribbean has played a critical role in the defeat of Apartheid and colonialism in South Africa, and other parts of Africa. In many respects, the diplomacy of CARICOM and the deploying of Cuban soldiers into Southern Africa were critical forces that secured the final liberation of the continent. It was an enormous Caribbean investment in intellectual labour, morality, and life. Nelson Mandela made his first overseas visit to the region in celebration of this recognition. The 21st century will require the consolidation of these 20th century relationships and the forging of even closer development bonds between the Caribbean and Africa. These relationships will require strong institutional arrangements. To this end The University of the West Indies and the University of Johannesburg have come together to establish the UWI-UJ Institute for Global African Affairs.”

The much anticipated launch of the initiative began in January 2017 when a delegation from The UWI, led by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles visited the UJ to explore possible opportunities in developing a formal bilateral relationship between the two universities. A reciprocal visit was later arranged for a delegation from UJ, led by the then Vice-Chancellor Professor Ihron Rensburg. During their visit in March 2017, a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed, which outlined proposed areas of cooperation and included the joint establishment and operation of an Institute for Global African Affairs.

The Masters in Global African Studies is the flagship academic programme for the Institute. This programme is envisaged as a joint or double degree programme, utilising the academic resources of both universities. It will focus on the current and future role of Africa and Africans in a global context, with Africa and Africans defined as the African Continent and its diaspora, with particular reference to the African diaspora in the Caribbean.

The Cave Hill campus will host the headquarters for The UWI site. This, Principal Barriteau stated, “enables the Cave Hill Campus to be strategically involved in the Global Africa network enterprise and to participate in the unfolding Global Africa narrative.”

Joint delivery of the programme will be delivered using face-to-face, online and blended modalities. Plans are also in the works for an annual summer school module to be offered alternately between Barbados and South Africa. This will deepen the students’ experience of ‘Global Africa’ by allowing cohorts from both universities to interact face-to-face.

In addition to the master’s programme, there are plans for the Institute to develop initiatives for scholarly and student exchange between the two universities, as well as promote seminars and conferences, and produce joint publications.

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles lauded the achievement as one which would sustain the intimate relationship the Caribbean region developed with Africa during the twentieth century. “It is important to have institutions for these conversations to be harnessed, taught to have public outreach activities,” he said.