Oxford University Africa Society 2019/2020 President’s report.
Posted by oxford on July 3, 2020 in Uncategorized
About a year ago, the 2019/2020 Executive Committee of the Oxford Africa Society was established. Even though, our tenure was disrupted by a pandemic, we are nevertheless proud of the contributions we were able to make to the growth of the society.
Oxford University Africa Society 2019/2020 President’s report
When I was elected President about a year ago, I had four main priorities, they included; broadening the society’s agenda; building a people-centred community; mainstream gender issues and strengthening the institutional fabric of the society. A year on, I am happy that my team was able to make significant advances on each of these issues. Even though, we never imagined that our tenure would have been upended by a global pandemic, we are nevertheless proud of the contributions we were able to make to the growth of the society.
Our tenure started typically with the Freshers fair and the traditional Oxford induction activities. However, in the middle of Michaelmas term, we found ourselves in the midst of a global advocacy campaign, demanding justice for our member, Mr Ebenezer Azamati who was assaulted at the Oxford Union. The way the African community was able to mobilise and organise, leading to the resignation of the Oxford Union President was highly inspiring and illustrative of the power of cooperation.
But the event was also an opportunity for reflection as it revealed the need to institutionalise welfare within the society. Therefore, one of the major institutional reforms we made was to introduce the position of Welfare officer and beginning with the 2020/2021 administration, the society will have a dedicated Welfare Officer responsible for leading the society’s welfare interventions.
As part of our increasing focus on welfare, we launched a COVID-19 welfare fund to support members financially impacted by the pandemic. Our first round of interventions which supported eight members was sponsored by the society and with the help of Prof Wale Adebanwi, a friend of the society made a generous contribution to the COVID-19 welfare fund, which was used to support seventeen more students. The balance of this fund will enable the new administration to fund future welfare initiatives.
We launched the Oxford Africa Society Advisory Board which comprises outstanding leaders in the fields of business, politics and Arts from both the continent and the diaspora. The board will be Chaired by Ambassador Johanna Svanikier Founder, President & CEO of the Heritage and Cultural Society of Africa (HACSA) who is an Oxford alum. The Board shall amongst other things support the President and executive committee in the implementation of its annual plans especially with respect to fundraising and student welfare. This Advisory Board builds on efforts by previous administrations to address the issue of access and we are convinced that by convening such high calibre of board members, we would be closer to our goal of endowing scholarships for African scholars in Oxford.
Hakeem Onasanya, Vice President of the society led our constitutional reform project. The purpose of the project was to have a constitution that is more reflective of our current priorities. Some of the main amendments to the byelaws of the constitution includes the incorporation of the Welfare Officer and Public Relations Officer roles and the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Advisory Board. Our Secretary, Ingrid Viban led the design and development of a new and modern website whose look and feel is more aligned with the brand of the society.
Furthermore, our society is in the healthiest financial state than it has been in years, our revenue increased by over 50% since we took office. This achievement can be attributed to generous donations and responsible financial management by our Treasurer, Emmanuelle Dankwa who ensured we minimised expenditures and maximised revenues from our AfroBops and re-introduced the sales of the society’s jumpers.
Agenda and programming
In terms of broadening the agenda, a huge focus of the term was on Entrepreneurship and doing business in Africa. We won a £2000 Booster Grant from the Oxford Foundry which enabled us to use the Oxford Foundry for our events and also host inspiring young entrepreneurs from Africa to share their experiences doing business with Africa. These entrepreneurs include Sangu Delle, CEO, Africa Health Holdings; Fatima Dewji, Director of Marketing at MTel Group; Axel Addy, CEO, Ecocap Investment Inc and former Liberian Minister of Trade and Commerce; Hema Vallabh, Co-Founder WomEng and WomHub, South Africa; Anike Edun, Founder, Mamalette, Nigeria and Diane Wangari, CEO/Co-Founder, Checkups Medical Centre, Kenya. At these events, we were able to have nuanced conversations about the realities of doing business in Africa; they also served as great networking opportunities for participants.
We merged the GRAIN (Graduate Research and Innovation Network) and Townhall introduced by previous administration to form the GRAIN Townhall series where members had the opportunity to present on topics of interest followed by a townhall conversation. The topics covered include;
Ghana’s year of return project: separating hype from substance – presented by Kofi Gunu, an Mphil in International relations.
Born too soon: a discussion beyond survival: a discussion on the implications of pre-term birth in Africa – presented by Josephine Agyeman-Duah, a Dphil candidate in Women’s & Reproductive Health.
Medical imperialism: Who decides the test population for vaccines? Unpacking the history facts and implication of medical imperialism in Africa. Presented by: Dr. Ceasar Atuire, visiting fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford; Sandra Adele -Msc candidate in International Health and Tropical medicine and Viviana Mabombo -Msc Candidate in International Health and tropical Medicine.
Our Scholarships and Access team led by Temitope Oluwaseyi Ishola and Frank Tianyi implemented our annual mentorship programme to support prospective African students. We were able to support 53 applicants and with the generous support of the Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx), 77% of them received application fee waivers.
A major termly highlight in the society is the AfroBops and this year was no exception. Our Social Secretary, Lilian Maboya led the organisation of the Michaelmas and Hillary AfroBops both of which were highly successful. The Michaelmas term BOP was judged the best BOP in Oxford by a popular Oxford page ‘Oxfess’ while the Hillary term BOP was completely sold out such that people had to be turned back due to venue limitations. This increased turnout at BOP’s can be attributed to Lilian’s consistent and ingenious marketing strategies and this enabled us to make significant profits from both events. We hosted a Michaelmas term Telegram event where we shared food and music from different parts of the continent.
As part of our efforts to make the society safe and welcoming, AfriSoc member Kelly Ann Fonderson with the support of Forward UK organised a ‘Sex and Consent’ workshop which provided members the opportunity to discuss relevant aspects of this important issue.
Other social events included movie screenings and spoken word events. Our former General Secretary, Temitope Ajileye led the Production of the ‘200 days of Lumumba’, a documentary screening and spoken word event to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Patrice Lumumba, former President of Congo DRC. He also organised the screening of the movie, Timbuktu. We hosted Film maker Sarah Marecek to screen the movie ‘Waking Stellenbosch’. We also had an ‘Afrofeminist’ event on spoken word and poetry featuring Nsuku Nxumalo and Mimi Borders.
Our main partners, the African Studies Centre (ASC) and the Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx) continued to provide us with support throughout the year. Through ASC’s support we were able to access facilities at the St Antony’s College to host our numerous events. AfOx also continued to support our initiatives, especially the Graduate Research and Innovation Network (GRAIN) Townhall series and the society’s Mentorship Programme for prospective African graduate students.
We also partnered with Wolfson College for a Black History Month event. We organised a panel discussion on critical reflections on race and identity featuring a member Kelly-Ann Fonderson and other external speakers. We partnered with the Graduate Common Rooms (GCRs) of Linacre and Green Templeton Colleges, to host our AfroBop events. Finally, we partnered with the Oxford Africa Business Alliance of the Said Business School to host our entrepreneurship Townhall event.
I am extremely grateful to each and every member of the society for the popular support we enjoyed throughout our tenure. The cooperation and commitment shown especially during the Azamati campaign remain one of the most humbling moments of my Presidency. I am thankful for everyone who participated at our events either as attendees, volunteers or organisers. I am also appreciative of those who called us out when we erred, such constructive feedback ensured that we remained focused on our core goals.
I am thankful to AfOx for their constant support and genuine interest in advancing the cause of African students in Oxford. I am immensely grateful to our Senior Patron, Prof. Wale Adebamwi whose consistent advice and support enabled us to manage difficult situations. I am highly indebted to my predecessors, Papa Kojo Botsio (President 2018/2019) and Ndjodi Ndeunyema (President 2017/2018), both of whom I admire and respect deeply. Their kindness, support, advice and consistent availability whenever I needed help enabled me to make smarter decisions in both small and big affairs throughout my tenure in office. I am also grateful to Temitope Ajileye (General Secretary 2017/2018) who was always available to intervene whenever we had issues.
To my teammates – Hakeem, Ingrid, Lilian and Emmanuelle, thank you for your dedication and diligence to the attainment of our shared vision. Thank you for creating a healthy work environment and team dynamics that has ensured that we completed this tenure not only as colleagues but as friends. Working with you all was seamless and I have learnt so much about leadership from this our joint adventure.
I am truly hopeful and confident about the prospects of the society under the leadership of President Elisha Ngetich who brings such pure passion and interest. I hope that you can all show him and his team even greater support and cooperation than we enjoyed.
Nwamaka Chidera Ogbonna
President, Oxford University Africa Society (2019/2020)