News Roundup

Africa in Focus leads to lively launch
  Author panel: From left to right, Dr Mike Muller, Dr Tim Murithi,
Professor Laetitia Rispel and Dr Udesh Pillay.

One of the major issues raised by emerging African scholars is that their views on Africa’s challenges are often dominated by academics and intellectuals outside of the continent who assert their diagnoses of and prescriptions for Africa’s problems. Yet, given African scholars’ strongly anchored understanding of the diversity of society and culture on the continent, they are well placed to reflect on and address Africa’s challenges from first-hand experience.

With the launch of a new series on 25 May in Pretoria, Africa in Focus, Governance in the 21st Century (HSRC Press), the HSRC gives emerging African scholars a platform to make their voices heard in the academic and wider community. The series is the brainchild of HSRC CEO Dr Olive Shisana, whose financial support enabled the HSRC to assemble a group of scholars from all over Africa and the African Diaspora. Topics covered range from the normative dimensions of democratic governance in Africa; the role of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and the World Bank; and issues and challenges experienced by people from various backgrounds across the continent.

A panel discussion, led by Dr Udesh Pillay of the HSRC, led to a lively debate. The panel consisted of three contributing authors, namely Dr Mike Muller (environment and natural resources), Professor Laetitia Rispel (public health and well-being), and Dr Tim Murithi (Africa’s engagement with the world). The panelists raised themes of governance, international relations and the responsibility of civil society, the academic community and government in shaping Africa’s future.

In the light of current events in North Africa, several of the strands touched on by the panel members in their presentations were taken up by the audience, both in comment and further questions to the panel. It became apparent that issues of water, health and foreign policy are key issues for the African Union agenda.

And, in the spirit of celebration, musician Pops Mohamed entertained the guests with his demonstration of traditional African musical instruments and, in addition, regaled guests with the cultural contexts of each instrument. It is envisaged that future editions of the Africa in Focus series will be project managed by the HSRC in partnership with CODESRIA (Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa) and under the umbrella of the Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery research programme. With adequate funding and a dedicated managing editor, the aim would be to release a new edition every two or three years focusing on different aspects of democracy and governance across Africa.

The lipstick connection
  Helping hand: Constance Mamogobo (right), a MAFLI fellow, is managing director of the
Makhudu-thamaga Umbrella, which assists emerging NGOs working in 150 villages in Limpopo.
Through her HIV/AIDS prevention plan, Mamogobo uses existing family-oriented val­ues in the
rural South African context to promote HIV/AIDS prevention among women, girls and boys.

Gender equality is critical to effective HIV prevention and, for that matter, prevention of all sexually transmitted infections. In a new approach to tackle these complex issues, the MAC AIDS Fund, established by MAC Cosmetics in 1994, raised over US$ 135 million with a new product called ‘Viva Glam’ lipstick. All profits from the sale of the lipstick go into the Fund, which supports people affected by HIV and AIDS.

From this grew the MAC AIDS Fund Leadership Initiative (MAFLI) – a one-year fellowship designed to respond to the complex challenges of promoting gender equality in the context of HIV prevention in South Africa.

This unique and pioneering programme is underpinned by the vision to build the capacity of emergent leaders to support and sustain HIV prevention efforts throughout the country, and at the same time advancing gender equality.

Earlier this year, the HSRC hosted the Capstone Conference in Cape Town, which was the culmination of four years of the Leadership Initiative.

Since its launch in April 2007, 46 fellows in four groups have been trained and supported in the development and implementation of innovative, community based HIV prevention programmes. Fellows from across the country and from all four groups, along with programme staff and a number of trainers, converged in Cape Town for serious discussion about the future of leadership, gender equality and HIV prevention in South Africa.

The keynote speaker, former Constitutional Court Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, delivered a personal and moving address on her experiences of leadership in South Africa. During the leadership panel discussion, project leaders Dr Anke Ehrhardt (Colombia University) and Dr Thomas Coates (University of California, Los Angeles), lead a discussion on leadership in HIV that included their experiences thereof, as well as gender, and a focus on leadership in the field going forward.