Centre for European Studies (CES) Holds 5th Lecture Series

The Centre for European Studies (CES) of the College of Humanities, University of Ghana held its 5th Lecture Series for the year 2018 on the theme “Probing the Relevance of European Studies in Africa”. The event took place on Friday 16th November, 2016 at the Law Faculty Conference Auditorium. It was attended by over 400 participants including representatives of the European Union Delegation, Ambassadors, Representatives of the European Union-Member Countries in Ghana, Students, faculty, policy makers, parliamentarians, clergy, media, and civil society leaders.
Professor Ransford Gyampo, Director of the Centre welcomed participants. He noted that the selection of the theme for the 5th Lecture Series was occasioned by frequent calls by students and their desire to know more about how relevant and beneficial the study of Europe would be to them. He expressed the hope that the lecture would answer all the questions on the minds of students.

Prof Ransford Edward Van Gyampo, CES Director presenting his brief welcome remarks

The Chairman for the occasion, Dr. Hassan Wahab of the Department of Political Science commended the CES for the lecture and called for a sustained effort in promoting European Studies among students and faculty of the University in other to build a critical mass of African experts on European Studies. This, according to him, would help shape public policy in a manner that follows best practices of governance and development in Europe.
Her Excellency Diana Acconcia, Head of the European Union Delegation in Ghana was the Special Guest for the occasion. In her brief remarks, she noted that the desire to achieve long term peace and prosperity was the background behind the foundation of the European Union, a unique integration experience that changed the life of more than 400 million people.  The road according to her, has been bumpy and it has known many challenges and crisis. Nevertheless, the European Union in her view, remains the deepest and most successful regional integration experience ever and, while the EU would not want to propose itself as "the" model to be replicated, it may certainly be a source of inspiration and best practice for other regions. She therefore stressed the relevance of European Studies among students and faculty of the various Universities across the Africa region. 

Her Excellency Diana Acconcia, Head of EU-Delegation in Ghana

The Lead Researcher and Presenter for the 5th Lecture Series, Dr Victor Osei-Kwadwo of Maastricht University, Netherlands noted that European studies provide an analytical foundation for understanding the main topics, debates, theories and developments surrounding the integration of Europe. Its complements a variety of theoretical perspectives on governance and development with the European Union (EU) basically serving as an empirical case study. While European Studies departments are obviously more common in Europe than elsewhere, there are departments dedicated to its study further afield. According to Dr Osei-Kwadwo, researchers across the globe, are busy studying Europe. In Chinese Universities for example, European Studies has been institutionalised for more than 30 years. Indeed, over 60 Universities in China provide European Studies for students and faculty.
However, in Africa, Dr Osei-Kwado noted that only South Africa, Zanzibar and Ghana have Centres for European Studies. According to him, China by far has the most uptake of European Studies outside Europe. There are about 500 courses offered in Chinese Universities related to European Studies and there are three Chinese Universities having the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence. With over 60 Universities and 30 centres on European Studies in China, the presenter explained the basis and relevance of the uptake of European Studies in China as follows:
• First, China established formal diplomatic relationship with the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1975 and this has deepened overtime. The bilateral relations between Europe and China is described as one of the best in the world.  As partners in development, the uptake of European Studies in China serves as a platform to socialize and educate its people about the ideologies, governance practices and mode of international relations in Europe in order to strengthen the bilateral relationships between China and Europe.

• Secondly, European Studies gives an alternative perspective to rethink and engineer China’s domestic development and external relations. European integration and the multi-level structure of the European Union is regarded by the Chinese as a good model for China’s domestic governance and efforts towards promoting regional integration in Asia.

• Thirdly, there is support from European institutions, including the EU-China Cooperation Programmes. Since 1995, the EU has funded various kinds of EU-China Cooperation Programmes. European Studies in China therefore serves as a basis to understand the modus operandi of the EU by the Chinese to enable them benefit from new types of strategic partnership in peace and security, partnership for growth and development, partnership for governance reform and partnership for civilization and culture.
According to Dr Osei-Kwadwo, China, has been able to position itself strategically to benefit from the growing affluence and best practices of the European Union. With the integration of European Studies in the Chinese academic landscape, knowledge on core areas such as European economic and political integration; legal system; social policy and social security system; public administration and party politics; environmental policy and climate change; regional policy and urbanization; peace and security; among others, are being imparted to students to innovatively integrate and apply successful measures in Europe to the development of China.

On the relevance of European Studies in Africa, Dr Osei-Kwadwo stated that EU-Africa relations have existed for a long time. Cooperation between Ghana and the EU for instance, has been in existence since the first Lomé Convention in 1975 which established non-reciprocal trade preferences from Europe to its African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) partner countries. Many African countries including Ghana, have long histories of successful partnership with Europe in the areas of promoting good governance, political dialogue, trade, economic relations, and development aid. The EU remains the most important trading partner of Ghana, accounting for around 30% of Ghana's total external trade in 2012. Through the Economic Partnership Agreement concluded in 2014, the EU has initiated moves to expand trade relations with Ghana and to fully help integrate the economy of Ghana into the world economy and trading system. Given the already existing relations and ties with the EU, the presenter argued that there should be more efforts aimed at deepening and consolidating the ties in order for Ghana to fully benefit from the bilateral relationship. These efforts must be undertaken through teaching, innovative research, and public outreach activities in the area of European Studies as means of educating the Ghanaian young and future policy makers about operations of the EU and its member states on matters relating to bilateral arrangements.

According to Dr Osei-Kwadwo, the lack of knowledge and information about who is on the other side of the negotiation table makes Africa and for that matter, Ghana a weak opponent in negotiations, agreements and the offering of policy recommendations when bilateral agreements are at stake.  Moreover, given the importance and success of Europe and the EU in world politics, an understanding of their economic structure, social protection systems, multilevel governance arrangements, financial integration, among others are best practices that Ghana can emulate to shape its development. Also, with the uptake of European Studies in Ghana, the presenter noted that we can develop human resources who are generalists and are capable of identifying, understanding, describing, explaining, and ideally also solving, topical problems from an interdisciplinary perspective. As Ghana’s relationship with Europe and the EU grows, he opined that there will be the direct need for professionals who can understand, analyse and explain complex current problems (for example, the migration crisis) at the European level from various disciplinary perspectives. Such expertise, according to Dr. Osei-Kwadwo, will be required in European institutions, public administration, management systems, etc.

Dr Osei-Kwadwo however noted that there are challenges to European Studies in Africa and for that matter Ghana. First of all, there are only three Centres of European Studies across the African continent. European Studies is therefore quite unpopular among many students and faculty in the Universities and other educational institutions in Africa. Whereas many Europeans have had the opportunity to fully understand Africa and can claim expertise in African Studies even more than Africans themselves, there are virtually no African Experts in European Studies. There are almost no recognized African scholars of global repute, who understand matters relating to Europe and can claim mastery and competence over European issues.  Secondly, the only three Centres for European Studies in Africa continue to suffer the problem of lack of recognition and funding to conduct research, teach and train more young people in the areas of European Studies. Since its inception in 2016, the Centre for European Studies in the University of Ghana for instance, has only benefitted from small grants from the EU-Delegation in Ghana and the German Embassy to hold its lecture series. Even though the Centre is working relentlessly to train students and project European Studies, it has no core secure funding for its activities. Boosting student interest in the areas of European Studies therefore remains quite problematic and difficult.

Given the relevance of European Studies in Africa and for that matter Ghana, the challenges confronting efforts at institutionalizing it must be dealt with proactively in order to promote massive interest in the course by both students and faculty. The University of Ghana, according to Dr. Osei-Kwadwo, has taken the lead in promoting European Studies in West Africa by setting up the European Studies Centre. The Centre, though vibrant, is very new and lacks the space, offices, personnel, and logistics to carry out its work. The University of Ghana must deepen its interest in promoting European Studies among its students and faculty by ensuring that the problems of logistics, personnel and space are immediately dealt with to make the Centre attractive to all stakeholders.  The presenter also recommended the need for EU-Member countries in Ghana as well as the EU-Delegation to take full interest in the activities of the Centre by helping to secure some core funding to enable the activities of the Centre to be undertaken effectively. This according to him, would promote and project European Studies not only in Ghana, but across Africa. Finally, he noted that the Centre’s aim to facilitate innovative research, encourage interdisciplinary study, debate and discussions regarding Europe, would also benefit from collaborations from likeminded institutions in Europe whose vast experience will be required in a curriculum development. Indeed, collaboration with a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence which aims at creating joint transnational activities and structural links with academic institutions in other countries, according to Dr Osei-Kwadwo, will be a necessary boost to the work of the Centre and serve as a shining example for other African Universities to follow.

In his closing remarks, the Chairman for the occasion, Dr, Wahab noted that European Studies in Africa is highly relevant to Africa’s quest for development. Nevertheless, it is not a popular course among African Universities largely because both African Universities and the European Union, or EU-Member countries have not paid much attention to the need to promote the course as a possible solution to the challenges confronting the African continent. A call for prompt and timeous action by policy makers in Africa, University Authorities and the European Union, according to the chairman, is therefore critical. Also, the need to fully support and project the only three platforms of European Studies in Africa is even more crucial in boosting interest in the study area.

Front seat: L-R: Student, Paolo Salvia (Political Advisor to Head of EU Delegation in Ghana), Ambassador Diana Acconcia (Head of EU-Delegation in Ghana), Prof Ransford Gyampo (CES Director), Dr. Victor Ose-Kwadwo (Maastricht University, Netherlands) and Ambassador Christoph Retzlaff (German Ambassador to Ghana)