Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave a lecture in the Sheldonian Theatre on Thursday 13th February as part of Exeter College’s 700th Anniversary Campaign ‘Exeter Excelling’.
The lecture- entitled ‘The future of Africa: challenges and opportunities’- was the first in what will be a series of intellectual celebrations held by the College in the lead-up to Exeter’s 700th anniversary in 2014.
In his lecture, Annan dispelled “stereotypes” that Africa is a “broken continent, stricken by disease, war and poverty,” citing Botswana’s years of sustained economic growth and good governance since independence as proof.
“Africa is once again being seen as a continent of opportunity – the last emerging investment frontier”, he said. “We see this optimism in the number and diversity of businesses and countries flocking to invest in the continent.”
He continued: “It is an optimism based on strong economic growth which even the global financial crisis was only able to reverse briefly. And increasingly, this growth is being used to diversify economies and invest in the bedrock of successful societies – in education, in health and vital infrastructure.”
The former Secretary-General suggested that African leaders could use the revenue from the continent’s vast natural resources towards improving underdeveloped areas further.
For Daniel Loh, a PPEist from Exeter, Annan’s talk resonated with the issues his subject addresses.
“The most important takeaway I had was his point on how we should ensure that the benefits from trade and resource extraction permeate to the local populace”, he said. “It has some direct application with the Economics portion of my degree.”
Before the lecture, Annan officially unveiled the University’s African Studies Centre.
It was also announced during the ceremony that the University will introduce three new scholarships per year to graduate students from Angola, Nigeria and Ghana to pursue studies at St Antony’s College.
Annan’s lecture marked the second appearance by a UN Secretary-General in two weeks at Oxford, after current UN head Ban Ki-Moon spoke at Examination Schools last week.
The high-profile international figures proved a draw for students, with many queuing to see Ban Ki-Moon last week but failing to get in.
Thea Tan, of Somerville College, said that although she missed last week’s lecture, Annan’s talk “makes up for that disappointment”.
The goal of the ‘Exeter Excelling’ campaign is to raise £45 million for the College as the 700th anniversary celebrations approach.
The campaign aims to increase the College’s endowment, currently projected at £47 million, in order to secure educational excellence for the College in the future.
According to Exeter’s Rector, Frances Cairncross, the three principal objectives of ‘Exeter Excelling’ are “to guarantee tutorial excellence, transform the collegiate campus at the centre of Oxford, and secure ﬁnancial resources for students and Fellows of the College”.
She added: “In short, this Campaign in celebration of Exeter’s 700th Anniversary, will realise the College’s aspirations and dreams to beneﬁt generations to come.”
The campaign is helmed by Sir Ronald Cohen, an alumnus of the College.
Cohen is a prominent venture capitalist who graduated in 1964. He said: “What has motivated me is a desire to give other young men and women the opportunity to enjoy and beneﬁt from Exeter College life as much as I did.”