“Africanists up in arms”

Norwegian journal on NAI’s future

“Uncertain future for Africa’s ‘home in Northern Europe’”. This is the headline of an article in the latest issue of Development Today, a Norwegian journal on matters related to aid and politics. It describes how a proposal to close down the Nordic Africa Institute in its current form has caused an uproar among Africanists the world over. The idea to turn NAI into a department within Uppsala University was raised in a report in March by the Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret).

The veteran Swedish Africanist Göran Hydén calls it “a step in the wrong direction that, at this point when Sweden tries to diversify its relations with Africa, the institute is reduced to merely an academic institution. As such it will easily be sidelined and maybe even closed down”, writes DT.

The article also mentions the many voices of support in other Nordic countries.

“From Iceland’s perspective, we are perfectly happy to continue with NAI as it is. But at the end of the day, it is a Swedish decision to make”, states Engilbert Gudmundsson, Director General of the Icelandic aid agency Iceida.

Timo Olkkonnen at the Foreign Minstry in Helsinki adds: “We are not opposed to re-examining the status of the institution. But we think it is very important not to lose the Nordic dimension… The idea of subsuming with the university raises questions about how the Nordic cooperation dimension would be preserved, if it would be there at all.”

According to DT the proposal also has caused strong reactions on the African continent.

Adebayo Olukoshi, Director of the African Institute for Economic Development in Dakar, calls NAI “the African home in northern Europe.”

Francis B Nyamnjo, Head of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town says a loss of autonomy would be a “terrible blow”.

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