Department of Pan-African Studies to establish Center of African Studies effective Fall 2021

Nicole Lew Reporter

The Department of Pan-African Studies will establish a new center aimed at focusing on contemporary African politics and current events. 

Effective fall 2021, the Center for African studies will complement the department’s curriculum, which discusses the history of African empires and civilization prior to European colonialism, by focusing on issues relating to modern day Africa, such as democracy, women issues and other cultural trends.

“My goal as a scholar of Africa in African affairs from the continent is to bring a better understanding of the continent,” said Felix Kumah-Abiwu the founding director of the Center for African Studies and associate professor in the Department of Pan-African Studies with a Ph.D. in political science.

Kumah-Abiwu, who joined the Department of Pan-African Studies in 2015, said he recognized the department’s need for a greater emphasis on current events in Africa. 

“I noticed that there’s an area which we need to supplement, or do more,” he said. “That is the area of current events, or contemporary events.”

The center will operate within the Department of Pan-African Studies, which will become the Department of Africana Studies in fall 2021, to host speakers and experts in the field of African studies to inform the community about current political, social and cultural events taking place throughout the continent. 

Current issues in Africa including security and development, conflict prevention and climate change will be discussed at the Kent campus through speakers, panels and public lectures.

“We essentially function as a think tank and resource/educational institution,” said Mwatabu Okantah, interim chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies.

Other universities in the state have similar centers, such as Ohio University, which has the largest Center for African Studies in Ohio. However, Kent State’s Center for African Studies will be the first of its kind in Northeast Ohio. 

“It’s timely and very well positioned as a center here in Northeast Ohio,” Kumah-Abiwu said.

Kumah-Abiwu, who was born in Ghana, said many of his students believe Africa is primarily a jungle or desert. In actuality, he said, Africa is a thriving continent with cities and countryside including areas that are developed and some that are not.

“When we talk about Africa, the whole idea is that every place is involved in conflict and wars, but that’s not the case,” Kumah-Abiwu said. “There are various places that are stable and doing well.” 

Kumah-Abiwu said he hopes to use his political science background and knowledge of Africa to help the Northeast Ohio community re-envision how they perceive Africa.

“[The] goal is to promote awareness about a continent that is misunderstood for many years,” he said. “I’m passionate about the continent and I want to bring a good understanding of the continent to our community.”

Nicole Lew is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].