Aware of Africa: The Continent on the Threshold
After ten years of uninterrupted growth, the last five at rates in excess of five percent, Sub-Saharan Africa is still suffering. Foreign private sector investment has increased from $7 billion in 2002 to $53 billion in 2007, and Western-educated Africans bearing skills and significant sums are returning to build the private sector, yet every day hundreds more leave in rickety boats seeking opportunity elsewhere. Seventy percent of Africa’s countries are now free or partly free, and major conflicts have fallen from more than a dozen to less than five, but crises persist in Mauritania, Madagascar, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Whether the last ten years represent a permanent departure from decades of stagnation and decline since independence, or only a hiatus, will depend on how both Africans and non-Africans meet these difficult challenges.
October 20: Since their emergence as nations, Africa states have been plagued with instability, corruption, and violence. Kairn Klieman will provide a broad historical context for understanding how Africa has become what it is today. She will examine the role that Africa has played in global economic systems since the era of the Atlantic Slave Trade (1500-1800) and assess the impact that European rule (1880s – 1960s) had on African conceptualization of nationhood, politics, and identity, highlighting the choices that African leaders made as they emerged from the colonial era and created new states.
October 27: The United States today imports more of its oil from Africa than Saudi Arabia, yet parts of the continent face famine, malnutrition, disease, and still more disastrous harvests. Amy Myers Jaffe will discuss the disconnect between Africa’s significant energy resources and the health crisis and extreme poverty afflicting much of its population.
November 3: One in six African children dies before the age of five– every three seconds a child dies from AIDS and/or extreme poverty. Over half of the estimated 20 million Africans afflicted with HIV are women. Rebecca Richards-Kortum is spearheading a Rice University initiative to prevent disease in vulnerable populations. She will discuss efforts to combat the pressing health problems and reduce the high rates of disease and mortality in Africa.
November 12: Drawing from his tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the African Union and his broad experience in promoting private investment and health initiatives in developing countries, John Simon will focus on what lies ahead for Africa—the colossal challenges and enormous opportunities.
Kairn Klieman is an associate professor of history at the University of Houston. A specialist in pre-colonial African history, Dr. Klieman’s first book focused on the history of Bantu and Batwa (“Pygmy”) peoples over a 3000-year period and was a finalist for the Herskovitz Best Book in African Studies Award in 2003. This book is considered a groundbreaking contribution to the study of pre-colonial Africa. Dr. Klieman was recently awarded the University of Houston Gear Grant to continue research for her second book about the history of oil and the environment in Africa. She is a recipient of the University’s Teaching Excellence Award.
Amy Myers Jaffe is the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies at the James A. Baker II Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. She is the director of the Baker Institute’s Energy Forum, a multidisciplinary research program that investigates U.S. and global energy policy including the geopolitical trends that influence the supply and pricing of oil and natural gas. Ms. Jaffe is a frequent commentator in the media on energy issues and is widely published on the subjects of oil and natural gas geopolitics, U.S. strategic energy policy, energy economics, energy and the environment and sustainable development.
Rebecca Richards-Kortum is the Stanley C. Moore Professor and chair of the bioengineering department at Rice University. She is a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator and a National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellow. Dr. Richards-Kortum currently serves on the National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering for the National Institutes of Health, and will be inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in October 2009 as the first woman, the youngest, and the third Rice bioengineer to be selected since the department was founded in 1996.
John Simon is currently a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development, after serving in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as the United States Ambassador to the African Union. Prior to this appointment, Ambassador Simon was the Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), where he spearheaded efforts to promote private investment to the developing world and create new private equity funds focused on social impact investment in Africa. He served as Special Assistant to President Bush, responsible for several new development initiatives including the Millennium Challenge Account, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the President’s Malaria Initiatives; and he was Senior Director for Relief, Stabilization and Development on the National Security Council.
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