Finland-Africa Academic Celebrations: Research Day and Academic Night in focus


Author Elizabeth Eta, Nico Stockmann (GINTL Africa coordination)

TopicsBlog posts & articles, GINTL-funded projects

27 and 28 October 2023 marked a remarkable milestone in the history of academic events dedicated to Africa in Finland. During this two-day span, Finland witnessed the celebration of the African Research Day and the African Academic Night. Both are a pair of events that not only showcased the broad spectrum of Finland-Africa academic collaborations encompassing education development, research and publishing, capacity development, teaching and exchange programmes but also provided a platform for individuals and organisations involved in Africa-related initiatives to come together, forge connections, and network in a relaxed environment enriched by traditional dances, enthralling music, and delectable cuisine. In this article, we delve into the essence of the twin events while highlighting their significance, occurring during a time when interest in Finland-Africa collaboration is surging!

African Research Day: Collaboration in research and education with Africa

On Friday, 27 October 2023, history was made as the inaugural African Research Day was held at the University of Turku under the theme “Collaboration in Research and Education.”

The event, which was organised by the Finland-Africa Platform for Innovation (SDG 9) (FAPI), in collaboration with the Diaspora Academic Network for Africa (DIANA ry, with headquarters in Turku), and the African themed Global Networks of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland – GINTL, EDUCase and SAFINET, shows collaboration in action among these stakeholders with a common mission to facilitate and increase meaningful work related to Africa.

The event provided a platform for diverse stakeholders involved in Finland-Africa academic activities to network and reflect on collaborative practices and measures for successful Finland-Africa collaborations. Satu Nurmi, the International Liaison Officer at the University of Turku, set the tone in her opening speech, emphasising that the event was to “celebrate the spirit of collaboration and knowledge exchange between Finland and Africa” and serves “as a platform for the exchange of ideas, experiences, and research findings that can pave the way for greater collaboration.”

Image: Participants at the African Research Day (Creidt: University of Turku)

The day was marked by insightful and thought-provoking presentations including keynote speeches, a side event, panel discussions, and a show case of presentations of various Finland-Africa collaborative projects. These engagements underscored the multifaceted nature of Finland-Africa collaborations spanning joint research, publications, research and development, innovation, capacity development, teaching and exchange programmes. These conversations raised some burning questions, addressing issues of representation and inclusivity and measures that can be taken to amplify the impact and sustainability of collaborative activities.  

The core of these discussions resonated profoundly in the panel session titled “Research with Impact regarding Africa.” Here, a diverse array of topics were explored, ranging from the fundamental need for such collaborations, strategies to ensure and measure impact, the pursuit of equitable partnerships, challenges inherent in fostering effective Finland-Africa collaborations, and the critical path to ensuring ethical consideration in these partnerships. While the numerated topics offer a snapshot rather than an exhaustive list of the questions discussed, the serve as a focal point for reflections on how to advance Finland-Africa collaboration in a manner that is mutually beneficial, ethical, and sustainable.   

Participants of the African Research Day 2024 (Credit: Universtiy of Turku)

Throughout the day, the importance of contextual relevance in these collaborations was emphasised in various sessions. This emphasis was particularly crucial given the unique dynamics between the country (Finland) and the continent (Africa) approach to partnerships.

UniPID’s “Ethical guidelines for responsible academic partnerships with the Global South” emerged as a recurrent reference, underscoring its value as a substantial resource for reflections on ethical considerations in the context of these collaborations. Hopefully, these discussions will continue beyond the event becoming integral to our individual and collaborative endeavours related to Africa, and the Global South more broadly.

Read more about the African Research Day in the article “African Research Day highlighted the importance of impactful collaborations” by the University of Turku:

African Academic Night: Where science meets entertainment, business and cultural diversity

On Saturday, October 28th, 2023, the spotlight was shifted to the second edition of the African Academic Night, initiated, and organised by the Diaspora Academic Network for Africa (Diana ry). The event held under the theme “Multicultural Finland-Africa Academic Community with Business Mindset” offered a seamless transition and continuation into a more relaxed environment, celebrating the collective contributions of various actors engaged in work related to Africa.

Image: Musical programme at the African Academic Night (Credit: Pamela Britney)

The night was not only a platform for showcasing and promoting the invaluable contributions of African diaspora academics in Finland and in Africa’s knowledge economies, but it also placed a spotlight on the imperative for improved-work integration approaches for highly educated immigrants in Finland. This resonated with the sentiments of Minna Arve, the Mayor of Turku, who welcomed the audience to “the oldest and boldest” city and underscored the alignment of the mission of DIANA ry and the city of Turku’s vision for a stronger immigrant community.

Preceding her speech, Dr. Pascal Doh, the coordinator of DIANA ry, elaborated on the organisation’s mission to not only share knowledge and give back to Africa but also support their immediate host country. He outlined the other three key missions of DIANA ry, which revolve around facilitating partnerships, integration, and solidarity.

The African Academic Night brought together a diverse international audience comprising students, academics, entrepreneurs, business-focused organisation such as Finnpartnership, Global Networks, such as GINTL and FAPI, as well as local community members, including the City of Turku. Among the many international audience, Prof. Sarah Anyang, the former Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology at the African Union reiterated the significance of collaboration and the role of the African diaspora in contributing to knowledge advancement for Africa.

Image credits: Pamela Britney & DIANA ry

The evening was a true reflection of an environment where “science meets entertainment, business and cultural diversity.”  Finnpartnership facilitated theentrepreneurial and business angle with projects and business presentations while the event’s entertainment and cultural diversity facets were interwoven throughout the night. Traditional dances, melodious music and delectable cuisine celebrated the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Africa, treating the audience to an exquisite blend of science and entertainment.

Significance of the twin events

As interest and action in Finland-Africa partnerships surges, these events invite us to celebrate collective milestones while reflecting on impactful, inclusive, ethical, and sustainable approaches to Africa-related initiatives. Beyond showcasing existing research and collaboration on education in Africa, these events serve as dynamic platforms for networking among diverse actors involved in these initiatives, fostering inclusivity.

Discussions on the role of the African diaspora in Finland in these processes continue with the aim of finding complementarity. The diaspora academics can greatly contribute to sharing Finnish education expertise in African countries. As cornerstones in fostering a sense of community, knowledge exchange, and nurturing academic and business collaborations related to Africa, these events play a crucial role in advancing collaborative endeavours that are mutually beneficial.

We already look forward to the next edition of both events in 2024!

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GINTL Finnish higher education institutions