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President Michael D. Higgins Opens Africa Day Event

Posted on 27 May 2014

Dublin city

To mark the sixth annual Africa Day celebration, the Trinity International Development Initiative (TIDI) held an event on Friday May 23rd, in Trinity College Dublin, on the sensitive issue of land ownership and use and dispossession and the changing nature of land use on the African Continent. With a focus in the African Union in 2014 on Agriculture, Food & Security, TIDI are bringing together a host of speakers who will look at crucial current issues which are affecting those living on the African Continent today. The event, Imagining Land: Significance of Land in African Economics, Politics and Culture, was opened by President Michael D. Higgins, who received a standing ovation for his remarks. 

The event also featured the eminent development economist Professor Howard Stein from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan. Professor Stein discussed the complex relationship of the G8 with farmers in the African Union and with agro-industrial multinationals engaging in large scale foreign investment in agriculture in Africa. Speaking in advance of the event, Professor Stein said his talk would ask: “Are we witnessing an effort by the wealthiest states to expand new avenues of accumulation for large-scale private agro-industrial and other businesses through what could be one of the largest dispossession of land in recent history?"

Imagining Land: Significance of Land in African Economics, Politics and Culture looked at: ‘land grabbing’ policies and conflict around land ownership/dispossession; the convergence between land development and property rights; displacement of local populations; risks to traditional lifestyles and practices of indigenous local populations; the threats of food insecurity and how some solutions such as ‘climate smart agriculture’ can offer real practical solutions for the long-term sustainability of food security. 

Speakers also examined the cultural significance of land in the African imagination and how the inheritance of historical land policies affect the identities of indigenous populations whose connection to land goes beyond the economic and political.

The programme was chaired by Professor Martina Hennessy, Chair of TIDI, Consultant Physician, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin and featured:

  • An opening address by President Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland
  • The keynote speaker, Professor Howard Stein from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan who will be speaking about formalisation, dispossession and the G8 Land Agenda in Africa.
  • Gregory L. Akall, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge who will be presenting his research on the experiences of the Turkana people in North West Kenya in relation to the changing landscapes and livelihoods in their region.
  • Thomas Sommerhalter, Concern Worldwide, who will be presenting on climate smart agriculture.
  • Dr. Michelle D’Arcy, Assistant Professor in Political Science, Trinity College Dublin.
  • A closing address by H.E. Anas Khales, Ambassador of Morocco to Ireland.

There is growing interest at Trinity College Dublin in research and teaching on issues related to international development. TIDI is a college-wide initiative to coordinate and promote TCD's expanded engagement with research and teaching on subjects related to international development. By helping to forge links between different teaching and research activities, it aims to ensure that the College’s overall approach to international development is distinctive, coherent and integrated.

Africa Day, which falls on May 25th annually, is the official day of the African Union and marks African unity.  In Ireland, events to mark Africa Day, celebrate African diversity and the cultural and economic potential of the continent are held around the country.  In addition, it is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the progress which is being achieved, with a lens still very much on the development challenges which remain.  For further information on Africa Day, visit:

More information about the Trinity International Development Initiative (TIDI) can be found at