The Yale Undergraduate Association for African Peace and Development is hosting its sixth annual Yale Conference for African Peace and Development on Friday and Saturday in Rosenkranz Hall. The conference, which aims to put people with diverse perspectives in conversation with one another, will center on the theme of “intersections.”

Four panels, each with several guest speakers, will highlight the topics of identity, democracy, business and technology. President Lekha Tlhotlhalemaje ’19 said the board chose topics that would allow for interdisciplinary discussion and feature a wide variety of perspectives.

“We’re having a lot of important conversations regarding identity and how African identity and blackness is becoming decreasingly monolithic — there’s so much diversity in identity,” said Marie Gaye ’20, director of logistics.

Gaye, who helped plan their most recent conference as well, has been working with the rest of the board on this upcoming conference for the past year. She said the last few weeks have been incredibly busy but exciting as the group’s work comes to fruition.

Unlike last year, the conference will feature workshops with about 30 to 40 people, enabling conference-goers to engage directly with speakers and discuss more specialized topics. Workshop topics range from “The Diaspora Today” to “Building a Business in the Creative Industry.”

In addition to the workshops, Tlhotlhalemaje said she is looking forward to a series of lunches, scheduled to take place on Saturday from 11:50 a.m. to 1:10 p.m.

“Eight of our speakers will [each] have lunch together with ten people in a dining hall to talk about their work,” Tlhotlhalemaje said. “That will be a nice opportunity for collaboration and sharing ideas.”

The keynote speakers will be Evan Mawarire, a Zimbabwean religious leader, and Isabel Dos Santos, an Angolan businesswoman. There will also be 13 panelist speakers with diverse perspectives, including a human rights lawyer, a feminist activist, a software engineer and a social entrepreneur.

“We’re the more political wing of African activities at Yale,” said Tlhotlhalemaje, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Our conference asks specific questions about African peace and development and brings in a lot of people in one concentrated time span and space to intensely discuss these issues.”

The conference is the largest undergraduate-run, Africa-related conference in the northeast. Melat Lulseged ’21, who serves as the finance co-coordinator for the conference, said she knew about the conference even before coming to Yale and appreciates that there are people on campus who are “genuinely engaged and passionate about issues in Africa.”

“When you’re building solutions to things, you can’t just do it with only one lens,” Lulseged said.

A career fair on Saturday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. will enable participants to speak with different companies and businesses, such as BCG, Standard Chartered, development groups, consulting groups, arts groups and clothing groups. The fair will be held in the Afro-American Cultural Center E-Room.

As of now, the conference has about 150 attendees, many of whom are students from other colleges and universities.

One of the first events is the African Night Market, which will be held in Kroon Hall on April 13 from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The market features African cuisine with food from PABS African Restaurant in East Hartford, The Halal Guys and Sanctuary Kitchen, a refugee-run catering service that was formed in 2017.

“The night market is to get everyone really hype,” Gaye said. “It has a lot of good vibes, it’s chill, there’s music playing. We have a lot of performances and vendors there, which gives us the opportunity to support African businesses and artists.”

There will also be a fashion show at the market showcasing African patterns and styles. Dzana, an Afrobeat dance group, the New Haven drummers and the Bhangra dance team will be performing. Attendees will be able to enjoy artwork, music, shopping and the market’s open bar.

Students can attend the African Night Market without attending the rest of the conference for just $5.

YAAPD, which was formed in 2012, is an offshoot of the Yale African Students Association.

Meera Rothman |