African/African American Studies

Africa in IR Conference Sept. 2009

The African and African American Program and the International Relations Program at Grand Valley State University are pleased to host the conference: Africa in Contemporary International Relations: Context, Stakes, Actors and Issues. The conference comes at a turning point for the continent of Africa. After decades of Afro-pessimism and amidst images of conflicts and abject poverty too often conveyed by the mass media, Africa has been experiencing some fundamental changes that seem to point toward a different future: the strengthening of democracy, the vibrancy of its civil society, expanding information technology, economic reforms and growth in many countries over the past years and, above all, a renewed sense of its own destiny and agency in the international community.

In addition to these fundamental changes and dynamics, a host of other factors ranging from energy security and terrorism concerns to high demand for the continents abundant natural resources have led to an alteration of the strategic context in Africa and the reconfiguration of its external relations. Based on this new reality, many among which the Council on Foreign Relations have called for a new approach toward Africa, an approach that goes beyond humanitarianism to embrace a strategic view of the continent.

To take a full measure of Africa's changing role and status in world affairs, we have assembled a selected group of prominent scholars, both from the US and abroad, to discuss various strata of Africa's international relations. The discussions are structured around six panels that address issues concerning the shifting balance of power at the world stage, new security threats and global challenges, multilateralism, economic and political development, and regional conflicts. The conference represents the most up-to-date and comprehensive evaluation of Africa's evolving external relations.