Africa in the Global South: Advancing African Agency, Amplifying African Voices Forum

19 JANUARY 2024
Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
Forum report
Prepared by:
Ms Kahunde Annet, Makerere University.
Dr Edward Kaweesi, Makerere University.
Dr Bob Wekesa, University of the Witwatersrand.

Introduction and background

The African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS), based at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), and the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University organised a one-day forum at Makerere University (Frank Kalimuzo CTF-Council Room) on 19 January 2024. The forum was held on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Group of 77+China (G77) summits held in Kampala, Uganda, between January 15 and 23, 2024.

The convening of the forum was informed by the fact that the summits potentially serve as platforms for the Global South to discuss and strategise around international economic, political, and social agendas. Besides, the summits were seen as being a reminder to the epistemic/scholarly communities in Africa to continuously reflect on the historical, philosophical, and sociological dimensions of the Global South. The organisers were driven by the need for scholars, civil society, and youth to get an opportunity to tailor their advocacy by tapping into the voices of Africans and aggregating them into meaningful African positions in the NAM and G77 organisations. These perspectives informed the events’ topic-cum-theme of ‘Africa in the Global South: Advancing African agency, amplifying African voices’.

The forum was part of a broader project entitled ‘Africa Agency Toward Global Powers’, supported by the Open Society Foundation (a separate concept note is available on request). The issues of discussion during the forum included, firstly, African positions and interests in the Global South. Secondly, inequalities and asymmetries in the Global South. Thirdly, comparisons of relations between the Global South and the Global North in an increasingly multipolar world. Fourthly, the rise of agenda-setting global summits and conferences into which Africa has been co-opted.

The objectives of the forum were:

  • Analyse, probe and interpret the intricate, multilayered, and evolving engagements of African nations in the NAM and the G77, identifying challenges and opportunities, and providing pathways for equitable and sustainable partnerships forged in African interests.
  • Discuss and debate means and ways through which African agency can be placed at the centre of Global South agendas for the reform of the multilateral and multipolar international system.
  • Advance African agency by placing the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, the East African Community’s external policies, and national policies of African countries at the centre of Africa’s engagement with global powers within and outside the NAM and G77.
  • Boost the analytical capacity of African government officials, civil society activists, media practitioners, businesses, scholars, and citizens to understand the impact and implications of the Global South and other global summits.
  • Facilitate the organisation of the themes for the book on the topic ‘Africa in the Global South: Advancing African Agency, Amplifying African Voices as the scholarly historical record of the summits.




Session 1: Opening remarks:

Moderator: Dr Edward Kaweesi, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Makerere University.

Speaker: Prof Josephine Ahikire, Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS), Makerere University.


The Principal welcomed the youth, civil society activists and academics to the Forum. She thanked the organisers, D Edward Kaweesi and Ms Ritah Namisango, as well as the University of the Witwatersrand for providing the resources for the Africa in the Global South Forum. She also thanked Prof Gilbert Khadiagala and Dr Bob Wekesa, both from the ACSUS at Wits for collaborating with the team at Makerere University to advance the African agenda.

She noted that there is a need to define the NAM from the perspective of what it is aligned to rather than what it is aligned against. She pointed out that as Africans, we need to go beyond the buzzword of decolonisation and strive to mean business in what we do. She argued that to be able to mean business, we need to revalidate African indigenous knowledge systems and African languages and be able to effectively articulate African issues. She gave the example of a keynote speaker at the Third Language Association for Eastern Africa Conference (held on August 15 and 16, 2023 at Makerere University), Dr Susan Nyaga, who had said that “the solution to Africa’s predicament should be deployed in African languages”.

The voices of the youth may not have been given space during the NAM/G77 Heads-of-State summits, Prof Ahikire added. However, other spaces outside the state-actors circle can be created to interrogate and discuss the various aspects of African agency and global marginalisation. She expressed gratitude to the organisers for providing an alternative space outside of governmental circles for the inclusion of youth, academic, and civil society perspectives.

Prof Ahikire challenged African people to decolonise their minds by dropping the negation of things that are African and also shunning the idolisation of what is considered Western. Covid-19, she observed, taught Africans a lesson that African knowledge can have excellent results if explored and efficiently utilised. For instance, during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, African medicine did better to combat the virus than modern medicine, she said.

Instead of wallowing in perpetual pessimism, she urged the youth to be proactive and creatively envision and work toward the future they want to see. The Office of the Principal, CHUSS, pledged to provide as much support for the African agency agenda as is within its capacity.


“The solution to Africa’s predicament will be deployed in an African language.” The Principal, CHUSS, citing Dr Susan Nyaga.



Session 2: An overview and conceptual understanding of Africa, the NAM and G77.

Moderator: Dr Edward Kaweesi, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Makerere University.

Speaker: Prof Gilbert Khadiagala, African Centre for the Study of the US, University of the Witwatersrand.


Prof Khadiagala gave an overview of the Forum’s purpose and an explanation of the meaning of the theme of the Forum’s keyword, “agency”. The key highlights of his presentation were:

  • Seventy percent of the Ugandan population is made up of the youth, and yet the youth were not included and engaged in matters discussed at the NAM and G77 summits. According to the Daily Monitor newspaper of 19 January 2024, the youth felt that they were been disregarded and therefore left behind in the NAM and G77 discussions. Thus, the Forum provided a platform for the youth to amplify their voices and consequently advance African agency.
  • The world is continually and rapidly changing. How does Africa move forward? Africans need to define their position in the context of fast-paced dynamics on a global scale. Africans need to take up leadership positions and steer Africa in the direction where it should go, not to where the big political and economic powers want to push it.
  • Agency is the ability of Africans to prominently and confidently advance their voice globally. Given the fact that agency is a collective enterprise, it can only be achieved by having African players moving in unison, by advancing their interests on the global scene collectively as Africans, and not as individual African nations. It is important to note that former Ghanaian prime minister Kwame Nkrumah, in 1963, was the first proponent of the idea of having Africa as a collective whole – as a way to leverage the amplification of its voice on the global scene. Brilliant as his idea was, it was thwarted by the African leaders at the time, to the detriment of Africa’s steady advancement.
  • The G77 summit in 1977, besides advancing the idea of a collective political entity, created an international economic entity that would advance the member countries’ economic agenda in the global arena. This should be strengthened.

Audience questions to Prof Khadiagala’s remarks:

  • Why should we celebrate the resurgence of NAM when wars and coups d’étatare ravaging our continent?
  • The youth have not been represented or engaged in the summit. How then can the youth amplify their voices and advance African agency? Who sits at the table to decide on matters concerning the youth?
  • How can Africa have the same voice when its countries have significant social, political and economic disparities, and therefore interests?
  • The countries that participated in the 1955 Bandung Conference were non-aligned vis-à-vis the dominance of the USA and the then USSR. What power is the current NAM aligned against?
  • How effectively has the NAM addressed contemporary geopolitical challenges?
  • How can individual African member states advance their distinct economic interests with the collective goal of enhancing the Global South position?
  • The establishment of NAM was a result of bipolar politics. What has changed?
  • If the spirit of pan-Africanism failed during Nkrumah’s time, will the current leaders achieve the goal of enhancing African agency and amplifying their voices?
  • How do we deal with the UN consensus concerning the IMF and the World Bank projects?
  • What have the AU, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) achieved in terms of peace, security and development?
  • What is the Africa that we are talking about? What voices are we amplifying?
  • Africa has no common interests. Therefore, what are the African interests that can be amplified?
  • How do young people seize the moment to celebrate NAM without leaving anyone behind?



“The future is missing in the ongoing discussions of NAM and G77 because the youth who are the future of our motherland, Africa, are missing in the discussions. Instead, the NAM and G77 are discussing the past.” – Dr Edward Silvestre Kaweesi.




Session 3: Panel I: African agency towards the Global South powers.

Moderator: Dr Gardner Herbert Rwakiseta, Nyerere Centre, Makerere University.


Dr David Ngendo Tshimba, Uganda Martyrs University.

Mr Benon Herbert Oluka, Global Investigative Journalism Network, African Union Media Fellowship.

Mr Francis Gimara, former president of the Uganda Law Society.

Dr Bob Wekesa, African Centre for the Study of the United States, University of the Witwatersrand.

Dr Charles Bate, Tree Adoption Uganda.


How can Africans amplify their voices within the G77 that is yet to happen?

Charles Bate: The NAM needs to appreciate that climate change is the biggest threat that Africa faces towards its political stability and economic prosperity. Climate change has resulted in health issues; increased adverse weather events that have ruined infrastructure; destruction of property and loss of lives; reduction in productivity; poverty; etc. Therefore, NAM needs to declare war on climate change. It’s then that we will see political will and political action merging towards causes that advance Africa’s progress. Political will should be exhibited through climate financing. During the African Union’s Abuja Declaration in 2001, countries committed to spending 15% of their budgets on health. However, Uganda still spends less than 7% on health. A similar gap is seen between climate change pledges and failure in their implementation. The NAM needs to ensure that countries set aside at least 2% of their national budget to finance climate-oriented initiatives as opposed to waiting for the West to do the funding. That would not only help to mitigate the impact of bad weather conditions; it would also help to put in place mechanisms that build resilience.

What is the role of media in advancing the African agenda?

Bonon Oluka: Media plays an important role in informing people about what is going on but it also influences the people’s perceptions towards consequential social issues. In Uganda for example, the media has been hijacked to fan the interests and propagate the political agendas and propaganda of the political leaders and owners of the media organisations.

Internationally, Africa does not have a pan-African media organisation that can report, propagate, and advocate for African issues. That leaves Africa with no voice that could be amplified through media platforms. For instance, whereas South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice was a remarkable case of an African agency, both the BBC and CNN did not broadcast it.

The African Union is mentoring African journalists who can tell an African story from an African perspective. Nonetheless, the big question is: Where are the well-trained African journalists deployed after such mentoring? Thus, there is a need to have a pan-African media organisation that can present an authentic African story and advocate for a pan-African position.

Previous attempts by some African leaders to advance a unified African voice were unsuccessful. How best can the African agency be advanced? Should it be pushed at the national levels or the collective regional level?

David Ngendo Tshimba: There seems to be a misconception of what the idea of collective African agency implies. There is a need to interrogate the African Union’s Agenda 2063 ideas on what an ideal Africa should look like. The vision of having an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa that presents a dynamic force in an international arena can be achieved by redefining key concepts. Furthermore, there is a need to redefine who exactly the African citizen is, not from a colonial perspective but from an African perspective.



How can legal instruments be strategically employed to empower and advance the African agenda in addressing and socio-economic challenges in this era?

Francis Gimara: The key question that needs to be interrogated is whether we have a leadership that understands and honours the African agenda. Which is the kind of leadership that will give Africa a real voice and not a mythical voice. Our leaders have very lofty aspirations and very high-sounding ideals, such as the Agenda 2063, the policies of Regional Economic Communities, and other institutions. These aspirational precepts can only be meaningful in the context of good governance and the rule of law.

African citizens and their dignity should be prioritised over those of foreigners. African leaders dehumanise African citizens and perceive them not as citizens but as subjects. Some African leaders accord better treatment to foreigners and mistreat their citizens. Therefore, as youths, there is a need to advocate for good governance and the rule of law. Other than asking for favours, the youth should use their majority vote to demand their rights. For instance, they should demand that roads in Africa be cleaned, renovated and constructed for the good of the African citizens and not just when foreigners visit, such as in the case of the roadworks in and around Kampala meant to please dignitaries arriving for the NAM and G77 summits.

What is the relevance of our education system in advancing the African agency and amplifying the African voices?

Bob Wekesa: African education policies have been predominantly theoretical rather than practical. However, rather than lamenting, we need to take the agency into our own hands to advance an education system that empowers citizens with soft and practical skills, just like China, India, Turkey, and other countries did.

Many African countries have very wonderful policies. There is a need to have trained manpower who have a pan-African spirit to effectively implement the available policies. Many African leaders and officials lack negotiation skills and a pan-African spirit. Instead of representing their countries at international meetings, they prefer to go touring and shopping.


Summarised panelists’ views after responses to moderator’s questions.

  • Having a citizen-driven African agenda means that Africans need to increasingly become inward-looking in terms of solving African problems and not looking to the West as a superior entity that should give the Global South ideas and policies of what and how things should be done. As Africans, we need to proactively and creatively be engaged in solving their problems on issues such as governance systems, domestic and foreign policies, elections, climate change, agriculture, etc. Solutions to these and other issues should be African-developed or African-led. To achieve this, there is a need to harness African knowledge that has been refined over several years and adapt it to address problems. As such, African leaders have the responsibility to empower and support Africans in the use of African knowledge to solve African problems.
  • Young people should use their numerical strength to assume the responsibility of propagating the African agency. They should not blame other people for their inability to participate in events such as the NAM and G77 summits in Kampala or any other events and issues. Instead of perceiving themselves as victims, they should view themselves as part of the problem. It is then that they would stop settling for peanuts in exchange for their future. It is then that they will seize the power that lies in their numbers, as a majority of the African population, to advance the African agency.
  • Africans need to collectively redefine and advance the African agenda. The initial agenda of the G77 back in 1964 was inspired and driven by the strong desire of all African peoples to get independence from their colonial masters. Since that was achieved, Africans need to collectively redefine and articulate what it is that Africa wants today. In addition, Africa needs to learn to love what is African and to appreciate and support African knowledge, skills, talents, and products. Who is going to believe in your product (as Africans) if you do not believe in it?
  • Africa should develop a grand agenda. Having a grand agenda will enable Africans to stay committed to the grand vision of Africa and not sell the continent to the other Global South players. It needs to dis-align itself and first have a separate discussion about issues before getting back to the collective table to renegotiate its position as a sovereign entity with distinct problems and therefore suggest solutions that are relevant to the African context. Africa needs a well-thought-out plan for Africa and of Africa. This will help Africa not to be manipulated and swayed by other players in a given block, such as Russia, Brazil, China, etc.
  • A Swahili proverb translated as ‘Crossroads made the hyena split into many parts’ was used to demonstrate the situation of Africa and the Global South. The proverb is about the hyena trying to go in every direction using its front and hind limbs at the crossroads because of its greed. The Global South is not homogenous; it has great powers such as China, Russia, and India at the top, middle powers such as Turkey, Gulf States, Brazil, and Vietnam, and then African countries that lie at the bottom of the ladder. The great and middle powers are devising various strategies to attract Africa to themselves for their selfish gains. Unlike the hyena, Africa should not spread herself thin and sell herself to the various members of the Global South in exchange for cheap favours.
  • It is pertinent for African leaders to come to the table with unique African solutions to African problems and not involve themselves in ‘dingi-dingi’ dance with other players in the Global South movement, as each of those players is looking out for their interests. Dingi-dingi dance is an Acholi traditional dance where young girls dance vigorously to showcase their athletic fitness to attract suitors. It is based on the dance that men would choose a wife to marry. This metaphor was used to caution African leaders to desist from engaging themselves, as Acholi young girls did in yesteryears, in dingi-dingi dance for other players in the Global South to grab and exploit. Africa is called to various summits by the big powers in the Global South. However, it should be noted that those powers have their own goals and strategies to advance their agendas at the expense of Africa’s growth and development.
  • To counter exploitation by global powers, Africa does not need merely good leadership but great leaders in all facets of life. It is therefore the obligation of every unit in the community, including the family, to nurture the great leadership that Africa needs. Both at the family level and at the school level, children need to be taught to appreciate the value of working to counter the dependency syndrome that is deeply ingrained in our society. It is then that Africa will experience the great transformation that comes from great leadership.
  • There is a need to have a leadership that understands the power of strategy, integration, and collaboration both at the national level and at the global level. This will not only avail employment opportunities for people at the national level, but it will also ensure amicable trade relations across the various African countries and beyond.
  • Africa should utilise the strength that it has in its rapidly surging numbers to play a leading role in defining and advancing the African agendas. For instance, as South Africa has shown various international forums recently, Africans need to collectively stand against all forms of injustices, and the world will join them if they are united in their causes. Furthermore, Africans need to hold their leaders accountable by doublechecking what their leaders are propagating on their behalf, and also to create grassroots governments that will create momentum for African issues to be advocated. There is a need for Africa to build strong institutions but also the need to maintain them. It is through functional institutions that Africa will be able to advance its agenda.


  • “Declare war on climate change.” – Charles Bate
  • “Who is going to believe in your product (as Africans) if you do not believe in it?” – Benon Oluka
  • “Africa needs a well-thought-out plan for Africa and of Africa.” – David Tshimba
  • “Crossroads made the hyena to split into many parts.” – Swahili proverb
  • “Africa should stop engaging in ‘dingi-dingi’ dance.” – Francis Gimara
  • “No African person is greater than another.” – Francis Gimara
  • “Africans sit with baskets in hand waiting for manna to fall from the global West.” – David Tshimba
  • “Africa does not need good leadership but great leadership.” – Benon Oluka


Session 4: Amplifying African Voices: media and summit diplomacy.

Moderator: Dr Gerald Walulya, Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University.

Speaker: Dr William Tayeebwa, Senior Lecturer, Department of Journalism and Communication.


What is your perspective on the media’s role in advancing the African Agency?

There is a need for Africa to adopt Afrocentric media values. The news values that are taught in institutions are mainly Western-centric. The Western-centric media values (objectivity, truth and centrality, detachment and neutrality, balance, truth and factuality, etc.) focus on the individual and therefore fall into the concept of liberalism. On the other hand, Afrocentric media values (respect, solidarity, caring, comprehension, forgiveness, tolerance, etc.) are community-oriented. These values are in line with the African philosophy of ubuntuism and therefore appeal to African society.

The Department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University has lately adopted an integrated approach that exposes students to both Western media values and Afrocentric media values, with an emphasis on the latter. However, there is a disconnect between what is taught in institutions and what the market expects. Although some African journalists are well equipped with Afrocentric media values, they are not given room to practise them as most media houses practise Western-centric values.

How do you expect a journalist out of school to practise African values?

Bukedde TV (a Luganda language broadcaster) provides a good example of Afrocentric news that the Ugandan society appreciates. The TV station uses the ubuntu approach in its popular news programme, Agataliiko Nfuufu. It tells African stories in an African voice and style which has attracted large audiences, even when the programming goes against Western-centric and Anglo-American principles and media values. It is feasible that many other media platforms across the continent have adopted Afrocentric news and feature approaches. This calls for a rethinking of teaching and practising journalism in Africa. It is an interesting example of African agency in the media and communication spaces.

What do you have to say about the applicability of solution journalism in advancing the African agency?

The new paradigm in journalism, solution (also called sustainable) journalism, rhymes with the ubuntu principle of solidarity. Solution journalism goes beyond reporting a problem and goes ahead to find solutions to the problem reported. The most important issue to the journalist or editor is not reporting the problem but answering the how question.

How does the media frame play within the context of G77 and China?

The image portrayed by some G77 players like China is sometimes manipulated to give a false impression. A journalist who does not adhere to China’s agenda and gives an image of China that is deviant from Chinese expectations risks sanctions.

There is a need to have an African media agenda. Africa needs to have its own journalists who will tell the African story from the African perspective through an African media organisation. Until then, Africa’s image and voice will continue to be distorted by parachute journalists who come to the continent for two to three days and report on Africa as if they understand the continent well enough. Even correspondents who are of African origin do not frame Africa the way it should be. For that to be reversed, Africa needs to come up with its own agenda in this regard.



Session 5: The intersection of Agenda 2063, the East African Community policies and the Global South.

Moderator: Dr Ivan Lukanda, Department of Journalism and Communication, Makerere University


This session was a dialogue between panellists of sessions 3 and 4 and the youth. In consideration of the preceding discussions and the Forum theme, the youth asked the following questions. Not all the questions were answered due to time constraints.


  • How do we guard against bad theories, such as those generated by social media influencers?
  • What is the African Union doing to advance the African agenda and amplify African voices?
  • Why do our leaders silence their voices when we send them to represent us in national, regional, and international institutions?
  • Why do you use Western theories to train African journalists? Where does that leave Africa?
  • How do the African people position themselves in light of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s new leadership role in the NAM and G77?
  • What is the conceptualisation of ‘agency’?
  • How should Africa change the narrative of how its story is told?
  • When should we embrace our African languages to conceptualise and do things?
  • What plans do we have for financing the ideas of the African agency?
  • How do we counter the issue of patriarchy and ‘academic empty talk’ or actionless talk?
  • Who trains the African diplomats to speak in such forums, such as the NAM summit?
  • Who is a journalist?
  • What are the youths who are in leadership positions doing?
  • What goal does the African agency have in terms of harnessing a common goal?

Responses from the panellists

  • Although the Bukedde TV model dismantles the principles of conventional journalism, it presents a model that advances African values, and therefore the African agency. To society, the news on Bukedde is informative, entertaining and educative and none of the Western principles of truthfulness, objectivity and others matter. To counter the shortcomings of the Africanist Bukedde and Lumbuye models, there is a need to conduct media literacy for people to be able to verify the information that is reported to them.
  • Like the rest of the world, Africa is flooded with information overload as a result of the information age. As part of building its agency, Africa needs to introduce media literacy in its education curricula to help its people interrogate digital aspects and effectively manage, assess, and utilise the information at their disposal for the advancement of the African agenda.
  • To advance the African agency, Africa needs to create adequate room for leaders to grow. This would address the Andrew Mwenda (a veteran Ugandan journalist) phenomenon, where brilliant African leaders are not well utilised and end up being demotivated in their zeal and vigour to advance the African agenda.
  • There is so much that can be done to advance the African agency that does not require money. Everyone has the power to do things that are within their means to advance the African agency. Africans need a strong political will more than resources.
  • Women need to utilise the spaces that are availed to them in every engagement and take up leadership to promote the African agenda.

Recommendations for youth

  • There are unequal power relations between members of the Global South. The strong powers always have an upper hand in making decisions concerning what and how things should be done. Therefore, there is a need to reconceptualise the term ‘agency’.
  • Women and youth should be involved in decision-making for purposes of responsibility and accountability.
  • Uganda and Africa in general should seize this moment to showcase their products, skills, and talents to attract foreign markets of other players in the Global South.
  • Youth should proactively demand their rights and not just sit back to wait for things to be given to them on a silver platter.
  • Academics and the youth need to move from being rhetoric to being practical.
  • African youth need to embrace the values of honesty, transparency, and integrity.




Session 6: Presentation: Is Africa agency in the Global South deliverable?

Moderator: Dr Eunice Akullo, Department of Political Science, Makerere University.

Presenter: Dr Julius Kiiza, Department of Political Science, Makerere University.


  • Why should we care about African agency?

The conceptualisation of agency is crucial because it amplifies the views of the people, empowers them and yields results.

  • What is missing in the conversation on agency and agential power in regards to multi-dimensionality?

There is a misunderstanding of agential power. The following dimensions of agency need to be considered to ensure meaningful and effective agential power.

  • The political dimension: should ensure that the voices of the majority are amplified versus the wishes of the rulers.
  • Institutional dimension: The bureaucracy of recruiting political leaders should be meritocratic and not based on technical know-who. This is because issues concerning trade and economic negotiations require the best and most competent brains. There is a need to wisely choose political leaders or else suffer the consequences of their bad decisions. Trade is war. If you are going for war and you send the incompetent, the unprepared, the untrained, you are signing a contract with failure.
  • Economic dimension: Africa needs economic power for it to engage in meaningful relations with the powerful economies. Currently there is asymmetrical power imbalance between the Global North and the Global South. As such, there is a need to transform Africa’s economies from agrarian economies into high-tech industrial and knowledge economies.
  • Social dimension: There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor in Uganda and Africa in general. African leaders should empower their citizens, for instance, teach people skills like construction and give them a few bags of cement for them to be able to put in place safe and decent places to live in. Also, Africa should create job opportunities for its citizens – male and female. Affirmative action should be left for people who are underprivileged and cannot compete to access resources or services. Some political leaders do not need affirmative action because they are financially able.
  • Environmental dimension: The injustice of the climate justice agenda – through the buzzwords of green and clean energy – should be looked into. People’s rights should not be breached in the name of climate change, as is the case with [the] Batwa [people]. The Batwa have been displaced from their home in the name of preserving the environment – even though they have always coexisted with the ecosystem. Institutions like Makerere University should be given a token of appreciation for staying green and therefore supplying clean air to the environment around Kampala City.
  • The digitalisation dimension: Digital spaces – software and hardware – should be subsidised so that people from all classes are able to access digital resources and services. This will not only help people to build their intellectual capacities, it will greatly contribute towards the expansion of Africa’s trade relations globally, research and innovation etc., hence hastening the achievement of the African agenda.
  • Other dimensions to considered: Aim for the rule of law versus rule by divine right and ensure gender and youth inclusivity at all levels of society.

Obstacles to Africa’s agential power are as follows:

  • The weak agrarian economy.
  • The death of industrial policy.
  • Regional institutions e.g. the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) are impacted by foreign ideologies.
  • Digitalisation, artificial intelligence (AI), ChatGPT creating the notion of useful idiots.
  • Ritualistic gender and youth inclusion.
  • Toxic global institutions e.g. Free Trade Areas (FTAs), the World Trade Organization.


  • African countries should levy a 5% tax policy on wealthy Africans in order to mitigate the disparities between the population. Social justice organisation Oxfam conducted studies in 2017 and 2023 and found out that there is an unequal distribution of wealth globally. It suggested that in order to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, a 5% tax should be imposed on the rich.
  • African countries should consider dropping the idea of free market fundamentalism, full capital account liberalisation and giving tax holidays to foreigners.
  • There is a need to transform Africa’s agrarian economies into powerful industrial economies.
  • Africa is underpopulated. There is a need for Africa to build its numerical muscle by increasing child birth. Let the rich people produce many children and poor people few children.

Questions in response to Prof Kiiza’s presentation:

  • Isn’t export of labour a problem to advancing the African agenda?
  • Do you see a flame in the eyes of young people and if not, how can the flame be sparked?
  • What is your response to lumpen de vigencia?
  • How do we develop tools that can measure performance in Africa?

Prof Kiiza’s response to the questions:

  • The system that exports African citizens into slavery should be condemned as it is tantamount to the slave trade. It is a violation of human rights and a breach of Article 1 of the Ugandan constitution. African governments have the mandate to protect their citizens. There is need to build strong economies that will provide job opportunities for Africa’s growing population.
  • Yes, there are youth who can be nurtured to become the great leaders that Africa needs. Those can be trained to be patriots and to be loyal and committed to the state. And no because many youths are so used to a soft culture. Youth should not focus on quick gains, there is a need to invest time and effort to achieve the meaningful success that Africa needs.
  • There is a need to consider the idea of having the United States of Africa so that Africa does not fall prey to manipulations and exploitations of strong powers – even within the Global South bloc.
  • There is too much funding coming from the West in the name of promoting science for purposes of ‘family planning’, a strategy meant to diminish Africa’s population. Contraceptives are killing African women and affecting the physical, psychological and mental well-being of African children. Contraceptives have been weaponised to sterilise our women. Medical research needs to be interrogated to ensure that what is being produced is not endangering the African population. Scholars who are into dubious medical research ventures should also be called to order.
  • Africa needs to reconceptualise the issue of the agency amidst unequal power relations between the NAM member states.
  • There is also a need to consider the issue of responsibility and accountability in decision-making. Women and youth need to be included in such conversations as the NAM summit to voice the interests of their respective categories in the matter of African agency.
  • Uganda should seize the NAM engagement moment to showcase her unique products, skills, and talents so as to attract foreign market from other players in the Global South.


  • “A problem well defined supplies more than 50% of the solutions.” Mao Tse-Tung
  • “African agenda will remain mythical unless we become intentional about strengthening the preconditions for active agential power.” – Dr Julius Kiiza
  • “When you stay green, you are signing a contract with poverty.” – Dr Julius Kiiza
  • “Trade is war. If you are going for war and you send the incompetent, the unprepared, the untrained, you are signing a contract with failure.” – Dr Julius Kiiza
  • “In life, you only get what you negotiate for.” – Dr Julius Kiiza
  • “The future belongs to the organised.” – Salim Saleh

Session 7: Book launch: China’s Footprint in East Africa: Pessimism versus Optimism


Dr Bob Wekesa, Director, African Centre for the Study of the United States, University of the Witwatersrand (Author)

Dr Julius Niringiyimana, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Makerere University (Respondent)


The book, China’s Footprint in East Africa: Pessimism versus Optimism, which was authored by Dr Bob Wekesa (the University of the Witwatersrand) reflects on and cross-examines China’s contribution and influence in Africa and its implications. The book views China’s presence and participation in Africa from three perspectives, called strands: the optimistic strand, the pessimistic strand, and the pragmatic strand.

The optimistic strand talks about the bright and positive role that China has and is still playing towards the development of East Africa. China has, for instance, contributed greatly in the development of infrastructure such as roads, railways, hospitals, hydropower stations, airports, to mention but a few. In Uganda, China funded the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, the Karuma Dam Hydro Power Project, the oil fields of Western Uganda, the twin tower buildings in Kampala City, and refurbished the Entebbe Airport, among others. In Tanzania, it funded the Songo Songo iron ore project and constructed the Nyerere building, the Confucius Institute, etc. China also helped to construct the presidential palace in Bujumbura. The optimistic story is shared by Rwanda, Kenya and other East African countries.

Nevertheless, China’s participation in East Africa also presents a pessimistic story, that is the story of colonialism and neo-imperialism. The expansion of Entebbe Airport, for instance, was done using a loan from China and there was a claim that Uganda might lose its assets as the loan was not properly procured. Kenya had to mortgage its port at Mombasa in order to have China fund the construction of the Kenya Standard Gauge Railway. China asked Tanzania to displace natives from their land as a precondition to construct the Songo Songo iron ore field and offshore gas. In many of its interventions in East Africa, China demands that the beneficiary countries use China’s labour and materials, something that does not benefit the local people in the developing countries.

The last strand or perspective of the book is pragmatism. The pragmatic strand looks at the negotiation aspect of the East Africa-China relationship. It reveals the fact that Africa can use its power to negotiate for better deals with China, as has been done in some East African countries. Instances of pragmatism have been cited in various African countries. Realising that the Bagamoyo Port deal was not well-negotiated, the former Tanzanian president, John Pombe Magufuli, indefinitely suspended the construction project and opted to negotiate for better conditions. During the construction of the Kenya Standard Gauge Railway, the Kenyan government renegotiated with China to scale down the number of Chinese prisoners who had been brought to supply labour. The Kenyans perceived the prisoners as a threat and engaged the funder to reach a consensus.

Furthermore, during the construction of the conference facility in Kigali, Rwandan President Paul Kagame suspended a Chinese construction company for doing substandard work. In addition, Kagame is reported to have ordered the deportation of 18 Chinese investors who were alleged to have mistreated their Rwandan employees. Kagame made two statements that are worth noting here: “Africa is for Africans. We can’t be slaves in Africa. We don’t tolerate the nonsense of discrimination here. Rwanda is for Africans and those who mean well for us;” and “Rwandan people must enjoy their rights in their country.” Thus, the pragmatic strand challenges African leaders and the African people in general to use their power to fight for the rights of the African people, the safety and stability of African countries, as well as negotiate for feasible contracts with stronger powers such as China, Russia, India and others.




Session 8: Concluding remarks and way forward:

Prof Gilbert Khadiagala, African Centre for the Study of the United States, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Dr Edward Silvestre Kaweesi, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Makerere University


Dr Edward Silvestre Kaweesi cautioned Africa not to take China for granted but to receive her interventions with a pinch of salt. He noted that it is a natural phenomenon that all powers at a certain point project imperialism, and China is not exception. He added that China will be as intrusive as the United States of America is at the moment, once it gets to the top. “As China rises to the top, there is no guarantee that she will treat Africa any differently than her predecessors-to-be,” he reiterated.

He concluded by calling upon Africans to reflect on the questions below, which will also inform the scholarly contributions for the upcoming book volume on the issue of African agency.

  1. What is the future of African agency in the world? How can it be enabled and strengthened?
  2. What is the Ugandan agenda for Africa and the East African Community during its leadership of the NAM and G77?
  3. How should African countries engage with the middle powers?
  4. What shape should Africa’s agency towards the Global North engagements take?
  5. How should Africa amplify its voice and positioning on the global stage?
  6. How should African gender and youth issues be positioned in the Global South?

Prof Gilbert Khadiagala appreciated the youth for the good turnout and the endurance that they exhibited by staying focused through the long forum discussions. He promised that more such engagements will be organised in future to continue engaging the Ugandan youth on the matter of Africa’s agency.

He highlighted the two outputs of the forum, i.e. the forum report and the edited book. He added that discussions will be held with Makerere Publishing Press and the publishing houses in South Africa to finalise plans for the publication of the edited book on African agency.

He said that more seminars will be held across other African subregions to help determine who to bring on board to contribute to the above-mentioned scholarship endeavours. The next forum will be held in South Africa so as to get South Africa’s perspective on the issue of Africa’s agency.

The forums will ensure the gathering of the various issues concerning African agency which will be used to clearly establish Africa’s position in the current global order.

More books are to be written from the various conversations that will be held on the issue of African agency. That will not only equip Africa’s young leaders with the knowledge they need to advance Africa’s agenda, it will accentuate the degree of seriousness of Africa.

He ended by thanking the youth, the organising committee, and the service providers for their various contributions towards the successful completion of the forum deliberations.

Action points

  • A report to be compiled out of the forum discussions.
  • The forum’s organisers to share the forum report with the various state houses of African countries.
  • An edited book on African agency to be commissioned.
  • Dr Edward Kaweesi and Dr Bob Wekesa to send out calls (in the week of January 22-28 2024) to scholars to contribute chapters to the book on African agency.
  • Dr Edward Kaweesi and Dr Bob Wekesa to edit the book.