State of the African Economy lecture welcomes new Center for African Studies


Felix Kumah-Abiwu, founder of the Center of African Studies, at the launch in Oscar Ritchie room 230. Nov. 21, 2019.  

“Today’s event is a dream,” Co-founder and Director of the new Center of African Studies, Felix Kumah-Abiwu, said.

Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m., the Department of Pan-African Studies launched the Center of African Studies in Oscar Ritchie Hall in room 230. 

“Why do we have a continent so rich in natural resources, yet so poor economically?” Kumah-Abiwu posed this question to the audience of students and staff.

After opening remarks, the microphone was passed to the chairperson of the Department of Pan African Studies, Amoaba Gooden. She explained to the crowd that the center is a place where black intellectuals at Kent State could come together and talk about Africa’s problems and even possible solutions. 

The center is the first one in northeast Ohio, with similar programs at Ohio University and The Ohio State University. 

“It’s a matter of complementing what already exists,” Gooden said. “What we’re hoping to do is really kind of augment what already exists in the area. We want to bring all the resources at Kent State together. And perhaps working in collaboration with OU in some regards, and as well as OSU. Perhaps doing a symposium and really kind of driving an intellectual conversation.”

The keynote speaker for the evening, Chris Williams, associate professor of the Pan-African Studies Department, took the stage next with a paper he wrote entitled “The State of African Economy.” 

In this five-page paper, Williams breaks down Africa’s economy and why a continent so full of potential is so poor. 

“There is no other continent in the world with richer natural goods,” Williams said in the introduction of his paper. 

He states Africa is rich in an abundance of natural resources and has the potential to be the richest in the world. 

However, he goes on to explain that the reason the continent as a whole is poor is because of hundreds of years of European imperialism embezzling on Africa’s natural resources for their own European countries. He also attributes the continent’s poverty to African leaders not making the best decisions for Africa, but for their own personal gain.  

He ends his paper by saying the only way for Africa to overcome their problems is if the diaspora as well as the continent come together as one. 

Williams said the new Center of African Studies can bring a lot of awareness to Kent’s campus. 

“The center can make people aware of the problems and in itself kind of solve the problems,” he said. “So when people hear about it and it’s publicized and people become mad enough to do something about it.” 

A number of students were there for class assignments. Freshman exploratory major Orianna Small was engrossed in the lecture. 

“It broadened my knowledge on the economy (of Africa) overall,” Orianna said. “Knowing about Africa and then going broader and broader is very helpful. It was really informative.” 

Gooden has big plans for the future of the center.

“I hope the center takes the claim for itself, in terms of creating its own niche,”  Gooden said. “So it will compliment what already exists but also creates something new.” 

Contact Felix Kumah-Abiwu at [email protected] for more information about the center. 

Contact Kennedi Combs at [email protected].