3rd UMOJA Summit: UNILAG VC Emphasises Need For Youth Collaboration To Actualize AU Agenda 2063

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As university students across Africa and the United Kingdom converge in Nigeria for the 3rd Umoja African Student Leaders Network Summit, the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof. Folashade Ogunsola has emphasised the need for youth inclusion and collaboration to actualize the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 – Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.

Prof. Ogunsola stated this at the opening of the summit which also marked the commencement of a week-long celebration of Nelson Mandela International Day.

The summit, hosted by the University of Lagos, on Monday, July 17, 2023, featured speakers from UNILAG; Stellenbosch University, University of Free State, Wits University and the University of Cape Town from South Africa.

Participants deliberated on matters concerning the role of technology in preserving African culture, and proffer solutions that can use digital platforms as a tool to connect student leaders and boost good governance and ethical leadership among student leaders.

To actualize the AU Agenda 2063, the UNILAG VC noted that Africa has 1279 accredited universities, commending the student leaders’ network for taking the lead to discuss the way forward.

“We are glad to add new universities to this leadership network. 75 percent of Africa’s population are the youth. The youths are the hope we have to achieve the Africa we want.

“In the creative industry – music, fashion, art, tech, sculpture, they are everywhere. I am looking forwards to you coming up with concrete steps on how to go forward. UNILAG is solidly behind you”, she said.

Speaking on the objectives of the summit, the Dean of Student Affairs, UNILAG, Musa Obalola, said the gathering is to encourage student leaders to align their research on sustainable development in Africa and the Agenda 2063.

“If we must solve African problems, we must collaborate with other African countries particularly the youth to proffer solutions,” he said.

He noted further that the summit will encourage collaboration for solutions and promote good governance and ethical leadership among student leaders, adding that the summit seeks to encourage the use of digital platforms as a tool to connect student leaders in Africa to share ideas, information, and research for the development of Africa.

“We also want to see how African countries can benefit from the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.

In her comments, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Development Services, UNILAG, Ayodele Atsenuwa said due to the impact of colonialism, Africa hasn’t had that the opportunity to evolve in the way that it could have organically.

She said that although the traditional culture is constantly evolving and getting modified, “we use technology to preserve and communicate our culture to be invigorated.”

The Director of the Institute of Africa and Diaspora Studies (IADS), UNILAG, Muyiwa Falaiye during his presentation as the guest speaker noted that the essence of technology is to make impacts on the environment and not for fun.

He said that Africa has not done well in terms of technological advancement in Africa because of the “over-reliance on the West to produce everything that we need.

“The essence of technology is to be able to control your environment. It is not necessarily to develop fanciful things that perhaps you do not need. A lot of our resources are going to these fanciful things that do not speak to our reality. So I challenge young people to develop the kinds of technology that is fit for purpose.”

The Professor of African Philosophy also noted that the youths are capable to function in all aspects of human life.

“And I think if anybody says that Youths are restricted entertainment and all of that, it’s perhaps what we have pushed them to be to reduce them to.

“They can function in all aspects of human life. But perhaps we need to do more to challenge the ingenuity to speak to other parts of the economy or other parts of national requirements”, he said.

Representing the University of Dundee and Scotland, Peter McEleavy said the university has a long tradition of connecting with Nigerian students who have come to the university to study particularly in the field of energy, management and law for the last four decades.

He shared that under a new strategy, the University of Dundee wants to do more to work in partnership with institutions across the continent, noting that UNILAG is their strongest partnership in West Africa.

He said, “We’ve established a doctoral fellowship scheme for African academics to undertake their PhDs at Dundee. We hope to develop a collaborative programme in law, fields of architecture and science.”

On challenges students face applying to study at U, Mr. McEleavy said there is the Vice Chancellors Africa scholarship for undergraduate postgraduate degrees.

“We understand there are still many challenges to take. But we hope that our collaboration in the field of education with our joint law programme will be the easiest way for students to overcome the challenges that they might face,” he said.

He explained that some students will study part of their time at UNILAG and then complete their master’s in law at the University of Dundee.

“We think this innovative programme is a great way not only of ensuring a partnership between two leading institutions but also to make education or leading law schools more accessible for students in Nigeria,” he said.

On her part, Busisiwe Dlamini from the South Africa Consulate General in Lagos said the relationship between South Africa and Nigeria extends to academics, “it is cultural, real diplomacy, public diplomacy.”

She said the summit is not just about South Africa and Nigeria’s collaborations, but it’s also about Africa, achieving the aspirations of Agenda 2063 and achieving the UN SDGs.

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