Seminar: Dr Sirkku Hellsten

The Stellenbosch University philosophy department is pleased to announce a final seminar for the year.

Dr Sirkku Hellsten from Finland is current head of the philosophy department at the University of Dar es Salaam and will be presenting a seminar in our department (room 628 of the Arts and Social Sciences building, corner of Merriman Ave and Ryneveld St in Stellenbosch) next Wednesday26 November, 12:30-14:00.  The title of her seminar is: Rhetoric, politics and ethics of governance in Africa in the era of globalization. 


The new narrative of ‘Africa is rising’ is heard all over the world: African countries are rapidly gaining more economic power and business competitiveness. With this economic empowerment, many African governments are regaining – and reclaiming – their sovereignty after decades of colonialism – and alleged subsequent neo-colonialism by Western powers. Today’s politically, socially and economically transitional situation, the traditional partnership between African countries and their Western partners is briskly changing. African leaders are less willing to listen their former ‘colonial masters’ and (later day) ‘paternalistic donors’ about the direction of development that Africa should adapt to. With this regained confidence in increasing opportunities in international markets and other collaboration, many leaders in the continent call for African solutions for African problems, and call off the Western interference which is seen to be part of these problems to start with. Political rhetoric of ‘second liberation’ emphasizes African values and traditions, and builds pressure to discredit and disregard the allegedly Western values as foreign interference, paternalism and forms of neo-colonialism. In fact it often appears that many African leaders now want to convince their people that if something originated in the West, it is only good for Western countries; and thus, somehow it must necessarily be bad for Africa.
This paper wants to take a closer look at the rhetoric of ‘new sovereignty’ and expose some crimes against logic that have turned into crimes against the people in Africa. The paper is structured as follows: firstly, I will discuss how the current economy-based, Western originated concept of development has gradually created a transitional socio-politico-economic context that integrates some of the most egoistic individualistic practices with various suppressive and biased communalistic traditions in Africa. This integration is labelled here as ‘afro-libertarianism’. Secondly, I will show how the Western development and business practices have contributed to the current leadership crisis in Africa. I will also show how the unwarranted generalizations and false polarizations between Western individualism and African communalism are used to reject fundamental governance reforms and to slow down democratic processes. The hypocrisy that African leaders blame the West for is reflected in their own actions: they call for rebirth of African communalist solidarity traditions, while they themselves have intensely adopted libertarian-justified self-interest in their own political practice.

Please contact me should you require any further information regarding this seminar.

Warm regards

Andrea Palk

Department of Philosophy

Stellenbosch University

Private Bag X1

Stellenbosch • 7602


Tel: +27 21 808 2057 • e-mail:

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