Yale deepened its connection to Africa on Monday at a conference about economic development.
Organized by the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and held at the Greenberg Center near the Divinity School, the conference brought together approximately 50 high-level policymakers and academics for a dialogue about the future of the African continent. Among the speakers at the conference were former World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn, former Mexican President and head of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization Ernesto Zedillo GRD ’81 and President of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka.
For Yale, the most notable development emerging from the conference was an agreement signed by University President Peter Salovey and University of Ghana Vice Chancellor Ernest Aryeetey. The agreement made the University of Ghana a partner university for Yale’s Fox Fellowship program, which provides funding each year for between two and four students, usually graduate students, to participate in an exchange program between two universities. The University of Ghana is the 13th university to partner with Yale through the Fox Fellowships.
“We see it as a win-win relationship, a huge opportunity,” Aryeetey said.
Aryeetey said Salovey has played a large role in building the partnership between Yale and the University of Ghana.
In October, Salovey announced his desire to expand the University’s efforts related to Africa during his inaugural address. Salovey said Tuesday that the agreement with the University of Ghana is an example of the kind of engagement he had hoped for when he spoke of Africa last fall.
“It’s great that President Salovey has articulated his interest in Africa. It sends a strong signal to all the other faculty members who are interested in working in Africa that there is support for them at the top,” Aryeetey said. “Once the leader supports what we are doing, it makes it a lot easier — it provides a lot of confidence that what we are doing is part of the Yale program.”
Salovey said the graduate students who participate in the Fox Fellowship program will help deepen Yale’s ties to Africa as they develop their own personal and scholarly relationships.
Aryeetey said in addition to the Fox Fellowships, there are several other collaborations taking place between Yale and the University of Ghana. Most collaborations, he said, are driven by individual faculty interest, especially from professors within the Yale School of Public Health and the Yale School of Management.
Aryeetey and Christopher Udry, an economics professor who has spearheaded a range of collaborative efforts with the University of Ghana, said the partnership between the two universities has proven beneficial to both institutions. Yale has made use of the University of Ghana’s local knowledge, while the University of Ghana has made use of Yale’s immense resources, Udry said.
Zedillo said the conference, which was entitled “Africa at a Fork in the Road: Taking Off or Disappointment Once Again?,” allowed participants to be open and honest about Africa’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We have very high level people from Africa, but also people who do serious work on Africa,” Zedillo said.
Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs who moderated a panel called “Factors of change: how globalized is Africa?,” said the conference successfully opened up the debate on African economic development.
Africa sometimes falls through the cracks in the common narrative of global development, Roach said.
Roach, who teaches a Yale College course called “The Next China,” said the conference inspired him to consider incorporating the study of China’s linkages with Africa when he teaches the class in the future.
Michael Skonieczny, executive director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute, said bringing people together to discuss African issues in the abstract can help produce concrete action in the future.
Salovey hosted a lunch for attendees of the conference, as well as several Yale professors and Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis.
During the lunch, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam delivered a talk urging nations to take an active role in combating income inequality worldwide. He cited policies in Singapore that dictate where people live in an effort to prevent one race from dominating a neighborhood as examples of measures that governments could take to address this issue. He also emphasized the development of a social culture that prizes civic engagement and education.
After the lunch, several attendees criticized Shanmugaratnam for focusing too exclusively on Singapore, rather than addressing possible solutions to Africa’s development challenges.
“There are differences between the Singaporean model and the African model,” said Jacob Odour, who works for the African Development Bank. “There are a number of things that can’t work in Africa.”
There are currently over 540 alumni of the Fox Fellowship program, which was founded in 1989.