Representing delegates from the nations of Chad and Gabon at the 2018 National Model African Union Conference at Howard University, HWS students engaged in a weekend of dialogue and debate with their peers about the political, social, environmental and economic challenges that face the African continent.
Hosted in collaboration with the African Union Mission in Washington, D.C., the annual conference provides students with the opportunity to simulate a meeting of the African Union by role-playing the responsibilities and interests of nation delegates. The aim of the conference is to enhance students’ understanding of diplomacy and public speaking, respectfully engage with the diversity, significance and values of Africa, challenge colonial viewpoints and inspire interest in Africa.
“At Model AU, you are surrounded by individuals who are passionate, intelligent and the leaders of tomorrow. Being surrounded by those people, it is impossible to not be empowered and excited about what the future holds not just for the politics of Africa, but for global politics as a whole,” says Ethan Brown ’20, who represented Chad in the committee of Social Matters.
At the conference, Brown was awarded The Michelle Tooley Outstanding Delegation in Committee Award for representing his country accurately and for demonstrating leadership in committee meetings. The award also recognized Brown’s success at persuading other delegates to see his country’s perspective on social development programs.
In addition to Brown, HWS participants included: Tebyan Ali ’21, Linden Bascom ’20, Steve D’Alterio ’21, Pamela Icyeza ’19, Edgar Miranda ’20, Elfrieda Nwabunnia ’21, Israel Oyedapo ’20, Jules Picuri ’19, Yalemwork Teferra ’21 and Mouhamed Thiam ’20.
Icyeza, president of HWS Model African Union, represented Gabon in the Executive Council. Throughout the committee, she was impressed by the students’ ability to discuss difficult topics and persuade others. “It was refreshing being around students that are just as interested and passionate about African politics and issues on the continent as we are,” she says.
Students were accompanied on the trip by Associate Professor of Anthropology Christopher Annear. Throughout the conference, he observed as students from across the United States, Canada and Kenya participated in “intelligent and exuberant debate.”
“Students successfully applied their research, knowledge and professional swagger toward crucial political, social and economic issues of our day, as they relate to African countries,” Annear says.
On campus, the Model African Union is advised by Assistant Professor of Economics Keoka Grayson. Having advised Model AU through several years of regional and international conferences, Grayson has witnessed HWS students succeed in their committees.
“I think that the Model African Union Conference represents a comprehensive test to college students, a test that liberal arts students are uniquely equipped to master,” says Grayson. “Participants have to research; they have to analyze, assess and communicate their findings; they have to persuade; and sometimes they have to recognize that the rational argument is not enough. “Success” at the conference requires intellectual maturity.”