On the 13th of January, the latest addition to Columbia University’s network of global centers opened its doors in Nairobi, Kenya, the first institution of its kind in Africa. The Columbia Global Centers | Africa represents an important milestone in the history of Columbia, for it signals a greater level of engagement between the University and the region. Dr. Belay Begashaw, Director of the MDG Centre for East and Southern Africa, assumes the directorship of both institutions.
Columbia University’s decision to establish the center for Africa is part of a farsighted strategy to expand its global impact and create an academic environment informed by perspectives from around the world. The Global Centers network has been an integral part of this process, by developing regional hubs for Columbia’s research, policy and academic work abroad.
“The big ambition is to create an intellectual, academic and scholarly community which is globally integrated, and address simultaneously the huge challenges that globalization itself has brought,” said Prof. Kenneth Prewitt, Vice President for Global Centers, guest speaker at the event.
To maximize the contribution of its activities, the new institute will engage African leaders from the outset. In the spirit of collaboration, the highlight of last week’s event was a discussion between Columbia University representatives, and leaders from Kenya’s business, political and academic landscape. Attention focused on defining Columbia’s role in Africa, and potential areas of collaboration, such as the issue of intellectual property rights for African states.
Points raised during this discussion will form the basis of the Center’s strategy to be launched at the official inauguration ceremony later in the year.
Prof. Prewitt was joined on the panel by Dr. Safwan Masri, Director, Columbia Global Centers | Middle East, and the Hon. Farah Maalim, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya, alongside Dr. Belay Begashaw who moderated the discussion. They engaged with guests including Mr. Mugo Kibati, Director General of the Kenya Vision 2030 implementation board, former Attorney General Mr. Amos Wako, Maureen Syowai from Columbia’s International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs (ICAP), Prof. Karanja Njoroge, Acting Executive Director at the Green Belt Movement and Prof. Debra Wogemeth, from Columbia University.
”We are very excited about the launch of the Center,” stated the Hon. Farah Maalim. “At the same time we have high expectations. We want to see how the diverse research you will conduct will affect lives in this country, and engage local scholars and academics.”
The significance of the new center for Columbia is clear. It will provide a base for the University’s students and academics to conduct contextualized research work in and for Africa, grounded in the continent’s real life challenges. By expanding the scope of knowledge on issues relevant to the region, the Center aims to transform Nairobi into the region’s academic hub, benefiting both the country and its neighbors. Columbia Global Centers |Africa will work to increase the continent’s role in the strategic direction of key global issues, including climate change, global trade, and sustainable development, by providing African and Africa-based institutions with unbiased, science-based advice and by being a conduit for the latest multidisciplinary research, science and technology.
Following several years of impactful engagement with Africa, in recognition of the continent’s role in world affairs, Columbia’s decision to initiate the Center has been highly welcomed by African states in general and by the host government, the Government of Kenya, in particular.