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University of Dayton ‘Global Voices’ virtual symposium examines Africa’s growing importance to the world

By Dave Larsen

On the first day of class, University of Dayton history professor Julius Amin challenges his students to name something from Africa that is improving their standard of living here in the United States. When they can’t come up with an answer, he pulls a mobile phone from his pocket and says, “coltan.”

A metallic ore mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, coltan is one of the most important minerals for modern technology, producing several elements that are used in the production of electronic components.

“The Congo in Africa has over 75% of the world’s known reserve of coltan, a commodity needed by the cellphone industry to function, and yet the per capita income of this country is less than $1,000,” Amin said.

He uses the example to illustrate Africa’s important contributions to the global economy, as well as how that economic system functions: “You provide a necessary commodity, but you continue to live in poverty.”

Africa in Our Century is the theme of the 2022 Global Voices virtual symposium, hosted by Amin, the University’s Alumni Chair in Humanities. The two-day event, presented online March 1-2, examines the growing importance of Africa to the world’s present and future.

Now in its fifth year, the Global Voices symposium’s goal is to educate, inform and contribute to ongoing conversations to strengthen global consciousness and awareness on campus and in the larger Dayton community.

“It is important to focus on Africa, because people don’t understand that Africa is making such contributions to the world,” Amin said. “This is a continent that is very complex. This is a continent that is clearly on the move.”

Julius Amin

In November, The Washington Post reported that by the end of this century, Africa will be home to 13 of the world’s 20 biggest urban areas — up from two cities today — as well as a third of the world’s population. By 2034, Africa is expected to have a larger labor workforce than China or India, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report.

The Global Voices symposium begins at 3 p.m. March 1 with an introductory address by Amin, a native of Cameroon.

Three panel discussions on March 2 will address topics that include the impact and promotion of global learning, as well as resetting global awareness amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists include faculty, staff and students from UD, Sinclair Community College, Central State University, Miami University and Wright State University, and participants from the city of Dayton.

Landry Signé, a senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program and the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, will deliver the keynote address at 7 p.m. March 2. Signé also serves as professor and managing director at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management. He is a distinguished fellow at Stanford University’s Center for African Studies. His address is titled Unlocking Africa’s Potential in a Time of Competition Between Rising and Global Powers.

“He is a powerful speaker and presents very significant ideas about why Africa should matter to people in our society here in Dayton, in America and around the world,” Amin said.

Jayme Shackleford, a 37-year-old mother of three and full-time University of Dayton junior pre-medicine major, will participate in the student panel session Perspectives on Global Education and Impact.

After graduating with an associate’s degree in Christian ministry, Shackleford visited Denmark, Sweden and Norway, where she spoke at churches. She enrolled at UD in 2018 to fulfill her dream of becoming a physician and practicing medicine in Africa. In 2019, she studied abroad for three weeks in Durban, South Africa.

“It was by far the most significant and life-changing trip I have taken,” Shackleford said. “Study abroad trips for students are relative to growth and development, because they challenge all that the student thinks they know about a culture that is different from their own.”

Amin said the symposium is intended to introduce students to Africa — a continent with 54 nations — in a more deliberate and direct manner.

“This symposium brings all these mission-driven things at UD like social justice, race, diversity and inclusion to the forefront,” Amin said. “It helps our students realize that we may live in Dayton, Ohio, but we are part of the global community and this global conversation.”

All events are free and open to the public, but advance registration is required. For more information, including the complete symposium schedule and registration links, visit the Global Voices page on the Alumni Chair in the Humanities website.

Photos: Top, Global Voices Virtual Symposium keynote speaker Dr. Landry Signé; Middle, UD professor Julius Amin

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