Who are we?
Africa-Asia, A New Axis of Knowledge is an inclusive transnational platform or collective that convenes scholars, artists, intellectuals, and educators from Africa, Asia, Europe, and beyond to study, discuss, and share knowledge on the intricate connections and entanglements between the African and Asian world regions.
Our aim is to contribute to the long-term establishment of an autonomous intellectual and academic community of individuals and institutions between two of the world’s most vibrant continents. We aspire to facilitate the development of research and educational infrastructures in African and Asian universities, capable of delivering foundational knowledge in the two regions about one another’s cultures and societies. This exchange, we believe, is a prerequisite for a sustainable and balanced socio-economic progress of the two continents. It is also an opportunity to move beyond the Western-originated fields of Asian and African area studies—something that would benefit Asian, African and Western scholars alike.
In recent years, there has been massive growth of Asian presence—economic, demographic, cultural, and political—in Africa, only partially compensated by a rising number of Africans traveling to Asia for business opportunities. This major Asian involvement, especially Chinese but also Korean, Japanese, Turkish, Indian, et cetera, even if overall positive, can nonetheless lead to asymmetrical arrangements, whether it be in trade deals, land-grabbing, illegal mining or fishing, brain drain, labour exploitation, et cetera.
Meanwhile, a number of Asian countries led by China are quickly developing their knowledge infrastructures on African realities. For example, the government of the People’s Republic of China supports 30 domestic universities to cultivate specialised knowledge on the continent and train hundreds of ‘Africa experts’. If this trend is good for China and Chinese economic or political actors, it is not plainly reciprocated in Africa, thus creating the risk of an uneven playing field in knowledge and knowledge production processes. As the new frontier for economic development, creative possibilities, and a demographic giant, it is crucial for Africa, and above all, African institutions of higher learning, to build educational capacities to train experts capable of engaging on equal terms with Asia and the rest of the world. Building academic capacities in Africa in the knowledge of such a diverse and rich region as Asia should, moreover, provide Africans scholars with new ways of looking at and addressing their own problems, as well as open new perspectives on development trajectories.
The Africa-Asia platform is a collective of individual academics from Africa, Asia and beyond. It was first envisioned in 2012, in Lusaka, Zambia, when concerned scholars from five continents and 17 countries gathered to discuss the state of Asian studies in Africa as well as to identify a way forward. This roundtable meeting led to the establishment of the pan-African ‘Association for Asian Studies in Africa’ (A-ASIA) and the decision to regularly organise international Africa-Asia conferences in Africa. The platform’s network does not limit itself to African and Asian members. It also includes European, North and Latin American institutions whose experience and involvement in Asia and Africa can positively contribute to closing the knowledge gap.
The debut Africa-Asia, A New Axis of Knowledge conference was held in September 2015 in Accra, Ghana. This historical event, organized sixty years after the Afro-Asian Conference of Bandung, saw over 300 participants from almost 200 institutions around the world engaged in 50 panels and roundtables.
The second conference, titled Africa-Asia, A New Axis of Knowledge - Second edition, will be held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 20-22 September 2018. It is set to surpass the Accra 2015 event in the number of participants and institutions involved.