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Seminars and Symposia

Seminars and Symposia

Issues in African Development Seminar Series examines critical concerns in contemporary Africa using a different theme each semester. The seminars provide a forum for participants to explore alternative perspectives and exchange ideas. They are also a focal activity for students and faculty interested in African development. In addition, it will prepare students for higher level courses on African economic, social and political development. The presentations are designed for students who are interested in the Africa and development, and Africa’s place in global studies, want to know about the peoples, cultures and societies that call Africa home, and explore development theories and alternate viewpoints on development.

The Fall 2019  - MIGRATION, Development, Policy Options and Africa

The twenty-first century is the century of the migrant, from global tourist to the undocumented employee, and from human trafficking to refugees forced to leave their country of origin because of climate change, poverty, economic decline, persecution or wars (Castles & Miller, 2009). More than 65 million people around the world are now officially displaced from their homes by conflict, violence and persecution-the highest number recorded by the United Nations since the Second World War (Oxfam, 2019). In 2017, more than 170, 000 migrants, including refugees, arrived in Europe by sea.

 Immigration has not always been viewed as negative. Europe has been at a crossroads of human mobility since ancient times. Throughout history, the region has been a central part of global migration systems, which helped to establish and shape, mainly through mercantilist and colonial expansions.

Recently, the African Development Bank released its Annual Development Effectiveness Reviews, which pointed out that the majority of African migration is within Africa—and usually to neighboring countries. The World Economic Forum echoes this finding. Where migrants can find work, they contribute to the economy. For example, more than 2 million immigrants in Côte d’Ivoire, a lower-middle-income country, make up 9.6% of the population and contribute 19% of the country’s economic growth. Whilst escaping from conflict and fragility is a major cause of migration, many young people migrate to search for work to support themselves and their families, often through remittances.” In 2017, the largest migrant flows in Central, East, and West Africa were to other countries in their respective regions. Two other notable findings from the report are that the middle class in Africa migrates to the region’s richer countries, and the need for jobs is a major driver of migration in poorer countries.

Humanitarian aid alone will not solve the migrant crisis. No matter how restrictive immigration policies become in response to the salience of immigration as a political and social concern in most countries, no country will be totally capable of preventing people who flee to escape poverty and misery from trying to reach safer shores. The root causes of the crisis have to be addressed. There has to be long-term sustainable alliances with key parties-and with Africa in particular. For there to be meaningful support, cooperation should go beyond migration, as it is a consequence of much broader shared challenges including geopolitical instability, demographic developments, climate change, poverty, unemployment and other socio-economic issues. There is need for more investment into Africa to spur economic development, growth and employment. There should be promotion of the rule of law-including respect for property rights of smallholders and small entrepreneurs-and support investment banks that issue credit to finance entrepreneurs and promote employment. There should be assistance in financing major infrastructure projects to limit transaction costs, which are currently so high that it discourages direct investment in large parts of the continent. There is also need to improve the governance and management of migration. Improving the governance of migration is not only a question of spending, but of long term investing in strengthening partnerships and existing global frameworks. Rather than short term migration fixes-which are often based precariously on shifting geopolitical sands. There needs to be longer-term structural solutions rooted in genuine partnerships and existing international frameworks.

Against this background, the fall seminar series will examine issues raised by migration and will seek to identify strategies for addressing the problem and ensuring that the root causes of migration are considered.

Videos from our recent seminars
  • Beyond Fences: Policy Options for Wildlife, Livelihoods and Transboundary Animal Disease Management in Southern Africa  (Spring 2019)

           Steve Osofsky, Jay Hyman Professor of Wildlife Health & Health Policy, Cornell University



  • Has African Growth Become More Inclusive? (Fall 2018)   

            Erik Thorbecke,  H.E. Babcock Professor of Economics and Food Economics Emeritus, Cornell University



  • Misguided Conservation and the Threat to Indigenous Rights(Fall 2018)

           Anuradha Mittal  Founder and Executive Director of the Oakland Institute 



  • Gender Dividends from African Fertility Transitions (Fall 2018)      

          Sarah Giroux, Lecturer and Research Associate, Cornell University


  • Maina Kiai, Distinguished Africanist Scholar   (Fall 2018)



  • Opportunities and challenges for the African continent to Finance de SDGs (Fall 2018)

           Sarah Hearn, Artist/ Researcher



  • The Interface of Education, Gender equality, and Empowerment (Fall 2018)

          N' Dri Therese Assie, Professor of African and Diaspora Education, Comparative and International Education, Cornell University