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18 November 2020

The Future of Work in a Post COVID-19 Africa: Engaging Knowledge Production and Knowledge Systems

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Call for abstracts

The Future of Work in a Post COVID-19 Africa:
Engaging Knowledge Production and Knowledge Systems

The COVID-19 pandemic is redefining the way we live, work and learn.  While the global economy has been greatly disrupted, the impact of the pandemic in Africa has been exceedingly telling. The incidences of the pandemic have continued to escalate with some countries currently experiencing the second wave of the pandemic. Health interventions in managing the pandemic have varied across the world. Scientific knowledge has helped so far in managing the spread of the pandemic. Though PFIZER recently announced that a vaccine has been found for the virus, it is understood that it will take years before the vaccine is available for all. With or without the vaccine, the reality is that Africa’s future depends on her ability to engage her knowledge production and knowledge systems to chart the future of work in a post COVID-19 era, irrespective of when vaccine will be available in Africa.  How the entire world got lockdown at the heart of the pandemic earlier in 2020 presented a scenario that has never happened before. It shows how important it will be for nations of the world, including the continent of Africa, need to focus on innovation in developing knowledge systems and knowledge production across disciplines to reinvent the continent.

For Africa to thrive, itsher predominant youth population must be enabled to commit to knowledge production, resilience and become more creative and innovative to respond to the continent’s needs now and in the future. In this regard, and working in a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary manner, the scientific community on the continent needs to start looking at new ways for knowledge generation in a post-pandemic era. What are some of these new ways of knowledge generation in the post-pandemic era? How would such knowledge be disseminated and more particularly, how would the knowledge generated in the post-pandemic era on the continent be consumed?  With this new normal, the continent would equally have to contend with the economic exigencies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Suffice it to note that, and according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the period of the 4IR is ‘characterized by the fusion of the digital, biological, and physical worlds, as well as the growing utilization of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things, and advanced wireless technologies, among others’. It is Against this background that the 15th Africa Young Graduates and Scholars (AYGS) Conference shall run under the theme ‘The Future of Work in a Post COVID-19 Africa: Engaging Knowledge Production and Knowledge Systems in a Post COVID-19 Africa’.

With the disruption this is causing and now the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa cannot afford to be left behind. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how interrelated disciplines are especially in the face of dealing with a challenge of such a global significance. The continent needs to largely look inward, value the abilities of itsher youth in academia and research institutes to advance solutions to African challenges. This intention is what drives the 2021 Africa Young Graduates and Scholars (AYGS) conference.

The conference considers specifically four interrelated sub-themes as follows: (1) research in multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity contexts in a post-pandemic Africa; (2) Rethinking higher education curriculum and processes in a post COVID-19 Africa ; (3)  The Education-Skills-Employability nexus in a post COVID-19 Africa; (4)  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in knowledge production and knowledge systems in a post COVID-19 Africa .

Sub-theme 1:
Research in multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity contexts in Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic shows how interconnected our world is and how this interconnectedness presents to us a different way of thinking across disciplines. The time for research to be in silos is over. The multidimensions of the societal challenges we face today is bigger and complex than one discipline to address. We cannot continue to think and act in traditional disciplinary boundaries going forward. Today, our world is more connected, and new ‘big questions’ surround us. Food and water shortages, climate change, energy crises, global poverty, gender equality, economic development, and peace among many others. Some questions that humankind is facing today are too new, and too big, to be addressed with the traditional disciplinary boundaries. The overarching question guiding this theme is, ‘how can current traditional disciplinary boundaries be redefined to allow for multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to address complex societal challenges?’

Sub-theme 2:
Rethinking higher education curriculum and processes in a post COVID-19 Africa

The global challenges we face are complex in the twenty-first century. Within the first two decades of the century, the world has experienced the 2008 global economic meltdown and now the 2019 coronavirus pandemic. The mainstream higher education curriculum which was put together before this century is not sufficient to cater for the kind of education and training required in this century. Higher education is an important pipeline to educate and train Africa’s intellectual workforce. Disruptive innovation makes its way into higher education in which it redefines the conventional ways higher education institutions (HEIs) deliver content to students. New modes of curriculum and teaching arise, and the focus changes from modes of teaching to modes of learning. Similarly, alternative curricula need to be considered to prepare students to adjust into a world of work driven by technology.  This theme problematises higher education curriculum and processes in Africa especially in a post COVID-19 continent. The theme is guided by the question, ‘how can higher education institutions in Africa respond to knowledge production and build strong knowledge systems through curriculum change and reform?

Sub-theme 3:
The Education-Skills-Employability nexus in a post COVID-19 Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in Africa unveiled systemic flaws and highlighted the drastic inequality in a global neoliberal system. It was only the skilled and properly resourced population globally were able to work from home during the total lockdown. Majority were in the informal sector with intermediate skills especially in Africa. Globally and in Africa, unemployment has become a societal menace and the need to consider employability as linked to education and skills is urgent than before.  It is not enough to be educated and have a qualification. It is important to ascertain the skills graduates possess to be able to seek employment in an ever-changing labour market.  To be gainfully employed and operate a world that demands reduced levels of physical human interaction, new graduates must understand the new trends in the labour market and be skilled properly beyond a degree. There is now a need to train and appropriately re-skill those already at work. The overarching question driving this theme is, ‘how can understanding and properly unpacking the Education-Skills-Employability nexus help Africa thrive in a post COVID-19 era?’

Sub-theme 4:
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in knowledge production and knowledge systems in a post COVID-19 Africa

Globally, impressive innovation has been observed with reference to digitalised medical technologies. This is demonstrated by the strides achieved in Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems for disease detection including with AI-enabled wearable technology for alerting early symptoms for disease. Developments in technology, in the arena of biomedicine, biotechnology and the public health sector has the potential to advance human medicine, medical research and access to medical care. Even so, it is equally critical to consider the effects that these developments will have on accessing health services for the underprivileged, the impact of a techno-dependent life on overall well-being, and the psycho-social consequences of a high reliance and convergence between man and machinery. Contextualising this within Africa bring forward the argument for Ubuntu and the need to acknowledge our identity including Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS). The overarching question guiding this theme asks, ‘what is the role of and contributions of STEM research in knowledge production and knowledge systems foregrounded by our identity as Africans in a post COVID-19 Africa?’

AYGS 2021 invites contributions from emerging scholars, activists, researchers, policy makers, professionals, and students from Africa. Emerging refers to contributions from Masters’ and Doctoral Degree Level scholars or those who completed their PhD within the last 3 years.

Young scholars from across the continent in all disciplines should rethink the future of Africa from a post-pandemic perspective, identify current issues and present ongoing empirical research that can move the continent forward in a global knowledge economy. Priority will be given to submissions that address at least one of the themes. These could be conceptual or empirical. Either way, the contributions must clearly contribute to existing knowledge but stretch this to ‘new’ knowledge on how Africa can thrive in a post COVID-19 context.

Abstract submissions should have the following format:
Abstract: Maximum of 300 words, including a maximum of five keywords and or phrases.
Bio: 100- word author biography, including email address
Bio picture: Head-and-shoulders photo in 300 dpi jpeg format

Deadline for abstract submission:       23:59 on 30 December 2020
Decision on submitted abstracts:        15 January 2021
Deadline for final paper submission:   10 February 2021

Please submit your abstracts to:

For those whose abstracts are successful, a full paper of not less than 6000 words and not more than 8000 words including references in American Psychological Association (APA) 7th referencing style is to be submitted by 10 February 2021.

The organisers of the conference will not consider late submissions. Successful applicants will be notified by 15 January 2021.

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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