Reconfiguring, reshaping and reimagining our region

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Reconfiguring, reshaping and reimagining our region
Reconfiguring, reshaping and reimagining our region

By Boniswa Matiwane, Postgraduate Diploma in Media Management student


As part of International Week, which started off with a vibrant parade hosted by the Rhodes University International Office, an inaugural Internationalisation Summit was held on 19 May.

The 2019 Internationalisation Summit at Rhodes University was filled with buzzing intellectual minds, eager to engage and share ideas. The day commenced with a welcome address by Orla Quinlan, the Director of the International Office and the current president of International Education Association of South Africa.

The theme of the Summit was ‘SADC: Towards a Borderless Region’, and topics covered included: Informality in the Fourth Industrial Revolution; Democratisation in the SADC Region; Common Values in SADCs Democratic Dispensation; Immigration and Human Security; and Climate Change and Food Security. In her welcome address, Quinlan reiterated that the conversations from the Summit were about working towards the creation of common spaces and cross disciplinary, as well as about recognising the importance of internationalisation within the University space.

Chairperson Simamkele Dlakavu, a PhD candidate and Visiting Lecturer in the Politics and International Studies Department at Rhodes University, began the plenary discussion by introducing the speakers, which included Shingi Mtero (Lecturer in Political and International Studies), Gertrude Mugizi (Senior Facilitator at the Public Service Accountability Monitor), Dr Sibanisezwe Khumalo (Senior Lecturer in Economics and Economic History), Dr Siphokazi Magadla (Senior Lecturer in Political and International Studies) and Distinguished Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka (SARChI Chair).

Mtero spoke about the idea of a paradigm shift, and urged the audience to think intently about what security means to our region and our government’s perception of security. She focused on the concept of human security and the call for its framework to be more practical. “Security is about more than warfare. It should encompass access to socio-economic resources such as water, land and affordable food,” she said. Mtero further highlighted the region’s greatest challenge – our fragmentation.

Mugizi looked into issues of inequality and technological advancement, the thought of which leaves many disempowered. She noted that the government needs to be held accountable for the future. Mugizi emphasised the need to experience the future as an opportunity rather than a risk.

Professor Lotz-Sisitka buttressed her fellow speakers by emphasising how critical it is to create a world that is easier to love and live in together. She also spoke into the need to transgress the current norms, and urged delegates to cultivate a “culture of earth stewardship”.

Dr Khumalo located economics within the conversation of a borderless region by considering factors such as trade and economic integration. He provided an insightful perspective on the need to harmonise policies and looked into SADC structural concerns. Critically, it was noted that trade is indeed a sensitive space to be in. At the core of the discussion, Dr Khumalo advocated for unity and working towards a community.

Dr Magadla sparked the debate on the informality in the fourth industrial revolution. She began the conversation by exploring what the fourth industrial revolution means for us as Africans and how we as Africans can make sense of this revolution. She went on to describe the issues facing technological developments within the unique African condition. Dr Magadla took a practical focus on the fourth industrial revolution by looking at the key implications of it in a highly informal system like ours. In conclusion, she noted the shift that the continent has taken by capturing the prominence of application systems such as cellphone banking and Uber, and how these various advancements have also blurred issues of accessibility across race, gender, social class and age. Dr Magadla sees this time as an invitation to leap, reimagine and recreate ourselves.

In essence, the Summit raised crucial matters facing the SADC region and key recommendations for the future. Quinlan drew the day to a close by asserting the importance of having these conversations in university spaces and to highlight the call for internationalisation across South Africa.