I am a Professor of Geography at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (USA) with a strong connection to West Africa, particularly Ghana. I have been a member of the RSA for nearly 20 years. I have attended many of the UK conferences, been a featured speaker in the EU Open Days, and been on the scientific committee of two RSA Workshops on regional sustainability and the green economy. For the past few years, I have been a RSA US Ambassador. However, as my research became involved more and more in Southern and West Africa, it made more sense for me to become Ambassador in West Africa. There have been very few contributions by Africans on Africa in the pages of our journal, barely a dozen over the past ten years. There is a lot going on in West Africa around regional development, sustainability, climate resilience, and alternative economies. Indeed, we have a lot to learn from our colleagues there. It is my hope that I can work with existing RSA Ambassadors to bring together the diverse voices in the region, and around the continent, to speak to, critique, and offer insights into the literature on Regional Studies.
If you have an idea or an interest that you want to share, please feel free to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you.
Associate Professor of Geography Director,
Environmental Studies Program,
Worcester Polytechnic Institute,
100 Institute Road,
Regional Studies in West Africa
West Africa has put forward a significant effort to cultivate innovation that will bring improvements to the region’s economies, the health and safety of its inhabitants, the resilience of the region’s communities, and improved environmental performance in its many industries. Ghanaian President, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, is the co-chair of the UN’s Secretary General’s Sustainability Advocates. In this role, he promotes the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and seeks to ensure the UN’s commitment that no one is left behind; to promote the engagement of new stakeholders in the implementation and financing of the SDGs; to encourage partnerships with governments, civil society and the private sector to share knowledge and resources; and to raise awareness for the integrated nature of the SDGs. To do so, the group brings a collective approach to address such challenges as poverty eradication, climate change, food security, social protection, public health and infrastructure development. While science and technology seek to drive innovation, policies and institutions are being created around the region to promote local and regional self-sufficiency. This means that West Africa is promoting internal approaches, local knowledge, an entrepreneurship to reach the SDGs.
In the past regional studies and innovation have been rather Euro-North American-centric. For many, no innovation occurred in Africa. It was a place where there were problems to be solved by western ingenuity and technology. This approach is no longer pursued by many African nations, as these countries and their regional systems of governance seek to identify their own problems and develop appropriate solutions, technological or otherwise. Given this transition over the past few years, West Africa is an exciting place to learn about different kinds of social processes, knowledges, and institutions that can drive innovation for a more just and stable society, whether in Africa, or the ‘Global North’. As Ambassador to the Region, I will seek to bring these ideas to the literature, policy makers, NGOs, and communities so that we, too, can learn for the African experience in its own terms rather than those imposed by our own organizing epistemologies.