Pretoria, South Africa – Emphasising the need to take knowledge back to people, the Conference on African Renaissance, Integration, Unity and Development ended in Pretoria on Friday with a call to empower the people and promote an increased use of African languages in all spheres of national, regional and continental development.

Map showing the six traditional language families represented in Africa

The two-day conference discussed at length how to use African languages and the meaning of language as an identity of the people’s repository of knowledge.

It also discussed questions around science and technology and the challenges for Africa to make sure that the really innovate and uses of science and technology for development.

The conference which discussed regional integration, also debated issues relating to leadership and governance on the continent, emphasising the true role of African women in African society which is not just lip-service but how to re-position women in Africa as the centre of society, give them that recognition and allow them to provide that leadership.

Professor Shadrack Gutto from the University of South Africa who spoke at the end of the meeting said unity and development were critical to Africans moving forward and understanding the way people viewed the world.

“Africa’s view of itself and the world and what it has contributed to humanity needs to come out so that Africans (can) walk tall and proud; (but) also the whole question around a continent that has been raped for so long through slavery, colonialism and yet remains one of the richest regions in the world…how can we turn that into development so that people can truly enjoy the wealth that nature gave us,” Gutto told PANA.

He explained that a book would be produced from the conference which would be useful for schools at every level to the highest level at the university. ”We need to decolonise knowledge, decolonise our universities.”

“We want the African Union leadership to study the publication and start putting some of those (suggestions) into action; we want to ensure that our universities and schools use this to change mindset, knowledge so that people can begin to rise, most importantly the ordinary person. I believe although we are scholars we need to take knowledge back to people because we are reflecting their knowledge and empower them, we want produce also intellectual activists who go with the people,” Gutto said.

“We want to be soldiers of knowledge to change Africa and there is no part of Africa that we shouldn’t touch; every sector of society not only at university level,” he added.

He said the biggest challenge was that Africa was already within a globalised world that operated within the rules that had all along under developed Africa and kept Africa down, adding that the international global society would not easily let go because it was feeding on Africa.

Gutto said it was important therefore that Africa had good leadership where it was united if it had to change terms and the rules of engagement with the rest of the world, if it stood firm.

The two-day conference on African Renaissance, Integration, Unity and Development was organised by the African Union’s African Academy of Languages in collaboration with the Institute for African Renaissance Studies, University of South Africa and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance ( IDEA).

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