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ICES from the Participants’ Point of View

This past three days of the International Conference on Eritrean Studies, have been some greatly noteworthy and brain storming for scholars, academics, professors, researchers and student both from Eritrea and abroad. Here are some of the participants on today’s ICES Special Q&A.

  • -Khwima Singini, University of Malawi-Chancellor College.
  • -‘Determinants of Chinese Investment in Africa’

“My name is Khwima Singini and I am an economist by profession, currently as junior consultant, I am highly interested in private economy sector. The research I presented at the International Conference on Eritrean Studies was mainly focused on Chinese investment in Africa, as clearly, China is nowadays major investor in African economy. I approached the case study by two streams: natural seeking and marketing seeking.

  • -In your presentation you said that “China might have a plan on Africa; Africa does not have plans for Chinese investments”. What exactly did you mean by that?

I believe China has plans for Africa, specifically targeted, on natural and marketing seeking. They actually have a policy, a globalization policy, on how to spread their market and resource seeking. On the contrary, I am convinced, that many African countries do not have a plan on how to receive and reciprocate these investments.

I think that it is up to African countries to assess what benefits and disadvantages these investments might have. Of course Africa being an under developed continent, it is only reasonable for the countries to collaborate with the advanced ones, nevertheless I believe that they should not let drain their resources.

Thus my research calls upon African countries to come up with plans and set up national development priorities, whereby, our continent’s priorities are put in focal consideration.

  • -Of Eritrea

I might not know in details but I know of your history, starting from the war for independence up to now. Eritrea was included in my model for panel data analyses and I did notice that China and Eritrea are working together on a few things. Moreover, I do see myself working with Eritrean colleagues in the future because through this conference, which by the way I think is a crucial initiative: the right way of benefitting national and continental interest, I did relate with Eritrean colleagues on topics concerning regional and continental development.

  • -Bhakti Shringarpure, University of Connecticut.

Bhakti Shringarpure
‘Foregrounding Italian Colonialism: New Literary Representations from the Horn of Africa’

I am assistant professor of English in the English Department at the University of Connecticut, where I teach post-colonial literature. I have for while focused on civil wars in post-colonial countries and sort of looked at novels, poetry that represents this particular of violence.

  • -“Marginalized African literature”?

Basically, post-colonial literature, historically speaking comes out of long period of colonialism within Africa and Asia; these works usually address what has happened and the impact of colonialism. As such, when I talked about “Marginalized African literature”, I wanted to emphasize that often political or very realist writings tend to be sidelined; in general a lot of writing from Asia and Africa tend to be seen as history or anthropology rather than literary works.

Western novels are appreciated by readers for their quality in writing style, narration and character formation; whereas, a lot of writing coming out the African continent is normally used for political, historical and anthropological information.

The way publishing works, at least in the UK US sphere, has little space for African novel publishing and thus writers writing novels in English French or Italian, face a hurdle in taking part in the western market. … Many believe that conditions are being changed as within such hurdles, we do see latest rise in the African novel.

  • -Your paper

My paper at this conference was essentially concentrated on Eritrean culture production and why we hear little about it within the global context; and so we researched why that may be.

Part of my paper was to understand what the hurdles causing the shortage of narratives from the horn might be. In addition to why while Anglophone and francophone writing are present with in the writing academy and not those of ex Italian colonies. There is a scholar called **Ruth Bengiard whom makes an interesting observation in which she says that Italy suffered a double marginalization; in a sense it has also been left out of Europe’s narrative. So I think I located some of our problems regarding Eritrean literary production within this framework. And only of course, some of that is now changing because there has been some great writers of the horn who write within the UK US sphere in English, and in a hopeful way, they are introducing the possibility for more.

  • -Do you plan to work with Eritrean writers if chances are provided?

I think chances are already provided. I have been working with several of them and I do look forward in strengthening our relations.

  • -And did you find some time to get out of the hotel and wander around Asmara?

Yes! I just walked from Cathedral to Asmara Place. 

  • -CLOUDE GOUL (visitor, Participant)

I am from France and 12 years ago I was appointed to work here at the French embassy in Eritrea and the Alliance Francaise. I think it is a great opportunity for Eritrea to be holding this conference, it clearly does function as a brain storming activity.

So far it has been a success and undeniably the networking is great as people, like myself, are participating even from all parts of the world. This type of events will definitely help Eritrea to be known for its correct image amongst the global community, which is why I strongly believe that it should be done again and again. Like I told you, I used to work here 12 years ago and if there is one reason that prompts me to come back to Eritrea from time to time, it is because I am fond of the Eritrean people. I have Eritrean friends even in the diaspora, I suppose that the Eritrean community could favourably contribute in the globalization era, which is why I think highly of this conference.

  • -Semhar Araia, George Washington University.


  • Semhar Araia
    ‘The Role of Africa’s Diaspora in Development: Lessons from Eritrea’

“… Diasporas are important and valuable cultural ambassadors… they are powerful actors in the realm of political and civic engagement. …Today, Africa is facing its largest growth rate as its population is set to double from one to two billion by 2040. This impending growth requires an understanding of diaspora networks, their role in advancing the continent’s development, and national and international diaspora policies. …The relationship between Eritrea, its diaspora and the international community can offer multiple countries lessons, best practices, and recommendations for ways forward.” Semhar Araia.

  • -Thoughts on ICES

Impressive! To have such a large gathering of scholars, analysts, academics, students, PR actioners who are all very focused on Eritrea and the Eritrean studies, makes this conference an massively extraordinary.

It is quite remarkable to see a wide range of topics related to Eritrea being assessed; we have very impressive presentations and also ‘very telling’ of how much more we have to discover about Eritrea and Eritrea’s studies.

  • -Your favorite?

First of all there are so many great presentations which make it hard to pick which ones to go to; you go to one that you love and try not to miss another!

There is diversity of knowledge, and there is so much about the depth of our country, people and history. I find it impressive to see young Eritrean students and scholars at the forefront of these eminent discussions, and, equally impressive to see many minds focused on past, present and future Eritrea. I think that it is really important for Eritrea, its works and history, to be shared with the world.

If I were a student at this moment it really would have projected my trajectory!

  • -The Eritrean Diaspora

As a member of the diaspora I am just fortunate to be here. We are always connected no matter where we live. A conference that is related only to Eritrean studies, is long overdue to be honest, nonetheless it is also the commencing of many future conversations and discussion for the development of the country. For the diaspora, this serves as an occasion to share lessons with each other as it allows us to prop up on what we’re doing to consequently work on what we have learned. Hopefully we can have such conference virtually, so as to involve Eritrean diaspora who could not come to attend.

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