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 University of Ghana School of Law 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.

Prof. Ransford Edward Van Gyampo, Director of the Centre welcomed participants. He noted that the selection of the theme for the lectures 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 meet the expectations of the participants.

Dr. Hassan Wahab of the Department of Political Science at the University, who chaired the lecture, commended the CES for the lecture and called for a sustained effort in promoting European Studies among students and faculty of the University in order 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.

In brief remarks, Her Excellency Diana Acconcia, Head of the European Union Delegation in Ghana and Special Guest, indicated that the desire to achieve long term peace and prosperity was the background for 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 with many challenges and crisis. Nevertheless, she noted that “the European Union (EU) remains the deepest and most successful regional integration experience ever, 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. 

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. It complements a variety of theoretical perspectives on governance and development with the European Union (EU) basically serving as an empirical case study. 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.

Dr Osei-Kwadwo noted that in Africa, only South Africa, Zanzibar and Ghana have Centres for European Studies. 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.
  • 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.

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.

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.

He mentioned some of the challenges to European Studies in Africa and in Ghana.   For example, that there are only three Centres of European Studies across the African continent making European Studies unpopular among many students and faculty in the Universities and other educational institutions.  He added that whereas many Europeans have had the opportunity to fully understand Africa and can claim expertise in African Studies, there are virtually no African Experts in European Studies. Also, that 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 from 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.  He said, 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.

He paid glowing tribute to the University of Ghana, which he said has taken the lead in promoting European Studies in West Africa by setting up the Centre for European Studies.  He urged the University of Ghana to deepen its interest in promoting European Studies among students and faculty while addressing some of the challenges faced by the Centre. 

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 effectively promote the activities of the Centre. 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. 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 Osei-Kwadwo (Maastricht University, Netherlands) and Ambassador Christoph Retzlaff (German Ambassador to Ghana).