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Centre of African Studies

CAS Events Reviews

Reviews of CAS lectures, seminars, exhibitions, conferences and more…

One challenge or two? Peace-building and state-building in post-secession Sudan

by Stefan Wolff (paper presented at the Conference on "Challenges and Prospects of State-Building in Post-Secession Sudan", SOAS, 17 December 2011)

Few debates in political science, international relations, development studies, and conflict management have as much currency at the moment as the one related to building peace and to building stable and legitimate states after conflict. Taken individually or together, sequentially or in parallel, the task is formidable at the best of times, and the track record of success patchy. Yet, societies emerging from often prolonged violent conflict have every right to expect that domestic elites and their regional and international partners give it their best to attain the twin goals of peace and stability/legitimacy. Discussing peace-building and state-building is thus not merely academic navel-gazing but of immediate and lasting relevance to the countries concerned. In an ever more interconnected world, whether peace-building and state-building succeed or fail is also significant in its implications for regional and international security more broadly. (read more by downloading the PDF version of Peace-building and state-building in post-secession Sudan)

DFID's Private Sector Work & Plans, ABG meeting with Gavin McGillivray 

Gavin McGillivray - DfID Private Sector Unit

Gavin McGillivray - DfID Private Sector Unit

20 October 2011 - By Prof. Christopher Cramer

Is Bad Investment Better Than None?
Gavin McGillivray spoke with great clarity and enthusiasm about DFID's new private sector department. The talk was extremely informative - it gave the audience a sense of DFID's interests in facilitating major infrastructure investment deals, in reducing risks for investors, and indeed in stimulating the provision of services by private sector actors, for example in contexts where state provision has continued to fall far short of needs. Gavin's talk provoked a range of questions and some debate. For example, some questioned whether supporting provision of mobile phones was a sensible use of resources when the poorest often cannot afford mobile phone payment plans. Some suggested more resources should go to strengthening state capacities for service provision, though Gavin replied that DFID both continues to do this and at the same time aims to address the interests of those who have poor, or no, access to services and that this may be achieved through whichever means is most efficient and effective. Most people, though, did seem to agree with the fundamental emphasis on reducing poverty through supporting the expansion of economic activities and investments that create jobs. Where there was discussion was over the sense - which some in the audience had - that DFID sees the private sector as an alternative to the state, while the record of economic development history has been one of a relationship between state and private sectors (in Korea, in China, and so on). There was also concern that the useful focus on stimulating employment as the source of poverty reduction should not ignore the issue of the quality of jobs and the role for support for the rights and 'voice' of workers. Gavin agreed with this but - in the sharp phrasing that brought the discussion to a close - argued that African poor countries have suffered more from the lack of investment than from bad investment.

Sacred Art of Ethiopia

A documentary screening and discussion with filmmaker Makonen Michael.
11 October 2011 - by Seraphin Kamdem

The Centre of African Studies (CAS) Screening of ‘Sacred Art’ at SOAS:
A brief report by Dr. Seraphin Kamdem, SOAS.
On Tuesday October 11, 2011, in the Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT) at the School of Oriental and African  Studies, SOAS, University of London,  the CAS organised a screening of the documentary ‘Sacred Art’, a film about Ethiopian art and the life story of one of the greatest  Ethiopian artists, Alle Felegeselam. The film maker, Makonen Michael is a former graduate of SOAS. The event was chaired by Dr. Seraphin Kamdem, representing the CAS as the organiser and host of the event.

After  the introduction of  the event by the chairperson, the film maker gave the audience a brief background of the making of the film.  The screening started at 7.40pm,and lasted an hour.  This lively documentary ‘narrates the history of modern art and art education in Ethiopia from the perspective of Alle Felegeselam, artist, educator and founder of the only modern art school in the country’. It covers the life of Alle Felegeselam, from his childhood, through the Ethiopian wars, to his training journey in the Americas,and his visits to Europe , and his special connection with the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie The Great. One of the major achievements of Alle  Felegeselam  in his very productive  life as a remarkable artist is his relentless efforts to create  a modern  art school and to produce various sacred and religious paintings and  sculptures which all have become landmarks in Ethiopian modern art. Now in his late 80s, Alle Felegeselam is still an active artist of immense talent, yet very modest, having an incredible memory, and a gift in story telling, in the true tradition of great African griots.

There was a very lively and interactive Q/A session at the end during which Michael exchanged with the  audience about the film and his original and unconventional approach in making it, and discussed some of the themes he focused on in the documentary.  The whole event ended around 9pm.