The Center for African Studies (CfAS) at Howard University is currently partnering with the African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS) at Wits University, Sister Cities International (SCI), leaders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other critical partners for the Africa-U.S. Cities Conference.
The event takes place after months of planning and years of forming its foundation. The cross-sector convening takes place Feb. 15-17 at the ANEW Hotel Parktonian in Johannesburg. The conference is the first of its kind and explicitly connects multidisciplinary leaders from the international, private and public sectors and HBCUs.
Hluma Ralane, a conference organizer and research associate with ACSUS, discussed the importance of the upcoming conference, which seeks to foster relations between the U.S. and African cities.
The conference is being organized as part of a greater effort – the 2023 African Regional Summit – which takes place Feb. 20-24, in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Cape Town summit is also new and aimed at strengthening and increasing the number of U.S.-Africa sister cities within the SCI network. The summit will consist of a week-long series of engagements, and activities and will include participants from around the world.
The Africa-U.S. Cities Conference in Johannesburg will convene academics, political leaders, business professionals, funding agencies, practitioners, members of civil society, and students. The conference will provide an opportunity to develop further academic knowledge of cities within the United States and across the African continent.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the new U.S. Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa in Aug. 2022 in Pretoria, South Africa. Ralane mentioned that U.S.-South Africa bilateral relations have identified cities as a crucial cornerstone in foreign policy, setting a new tone for Africa-U.S. city relations.
“The strategy made it visible that the world is keenly aware of the importance of African cities,” Ralane said.
The conference’s organizers view this as an opportunity for HBCUs to establish partnerships with African universities, international organizations and public and private institutions.
“The international transformation of cities as international actors took a definite trajectory from the early 1990s with the end of the Cold War and as part of greater democratization globally,” Ralane said.
“These developments have seen cities gaining a foothold in international policymaking. They are developing and growing confidence in articulating their own political agendas beyond the borders of their nation states through city-to-city diplomacy,” he continued.
In addition to being organized by leaders from Bennett College, North Carolina Central University and Howard University, the convening is expected to include participants from HBCUs including Albany State University, Claflin University, the University of the District of Columbia, Elizabeth City State University, Morris Brown College and Prairie View A&M University.
Key conference organizers also include the South African Local Government Association, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the World Bank, investSA Gauteng and the Centre for Learning on Evaluations and Results Anglophone Africa (CLEAR-AA).
SCI is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization serving as the national membership organization for sister cities, counties and states across the U.S. The organization has over 2,000 partnerships in 140 countries and its network consists of tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers across approximately 500 member communities.
Howard University currently has over 800 students enrolled in African language courses, the most of any educational institution in America. As a Title VI institution that receives funding from the U.S. government, the Center for African Studies seeks to connect Howard and HBCU students with opportunities in Africa.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew