I am delighted to welcome you to the 2021 conference of the Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS). The theme of this year’s conference — “Achieving Ubuntu: Reframing equity, partnership and social change” — is incredibly apt for our transnational and transgenerational gathering at this time in human history. Our lives have undergone (collectively and individually) tremendous changes, particularly in the last one year. For a start, we have experienced a once-in-a-century pandemic. At the time of writing this, at least 3.2 million people had died worldwide from COVID-19. There are now glimmers of hope. Human ingenuity and resilience have helped produce vaccines. However, global distribution of vaccines has brought to fore familiar social fissures.
The central element of our conference theme — Ubuntu — speaks to the imperative of equity and partnership. As is now widely known, Ubuntu means, “I am because we are”. The philosophy of Ubuntu and our theme therefrom remind us of our collective humanity. Sharing is a fundamental element of the Ubuntu African philosophy. How quickly life returns to a semblance of normalcy is dependent on how our neighbours as well as communities in other parts of the globe deal with the pandemic. We are in this together. The theme of this year’s conference is therefore didactic and one for the ages.
I wish to put on the record my profound appreciation for the fine work of the conference organizing committee. The committee comprises Nicole Haggerty, Phillippe Frowd, Isaac Bazié, Khalid Medani, Thomas Tieku, Elysee Nouvet, and Henri Boyi. Uche Ikenyei provided robust liaison with graduate students. Aislinn Adams, the administrative assistant at Africa Institute, Western University, ensured smooth coordination of meetings and execution of tasks. The CAAS executive director, Audace Getavu, provided tremendous assistance regarding conference registration. Miriam Grant, our secretary-treasurer, was a stalwart regarding membership and registration, as always. I am particularly grateful that Nicole Haggerty agreed to host the conference at Western University despite the cancellation of the 2020 conference due to the pandemic.
This year’s keynote lectures are freely available to everyone around the world. We have two outstanding keynote speakers. They are the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Leymah Gbowee and Dr. Tade Aina, the Head of Research at Mastercard Foundation. Thank you, Madam Gbowee, and Dr. Aina for honouring our invitation.
The panels at this year’s conference provide fascinating angles on the theme. I hope you enjoy the presentations and socialize despite constraints of the virtual environment. Welcome to the 2021 CAAS conference.