West African Regional Conference – A Weekend Of Freedom In Nigeria

On October 7 through 8, 2016, young people from Nigeria, Kenya, Burundi, Ghana, and USA gathered at hall of  Ibadan Business School for the 2016 ASFL West African Regional Conference. It is the second time ASFL will host the West African Regional Conference after the first one in 2013. This time, participants were required to apply in order to attend the two day conference. In the end, 206 of the best applicants were invited to attend, of which 140 of them made the conference.

Oluwafemi Ogunjobi, the Conference Director and the new Chairperson of the ASFL Executive Board, gave the opening remarks. SFL Director of Academic Programs, Kyle Walker gave the first presentation titled Arguing about Marx.

Kyle is a former Marxist, who explained what he believes is wrong with Marx’s thought and why he turned away from it. First, he explained that Marx thought socialism, in which the state owns the means of production, would happen and once the government puts everything in place, the state would fall away to execute communism. However, Kyle does not think that Marx’s theory explains why the government would give up its power to have a communist society.

Second, Marx considers wage labor as a sort of prostitution due to selling oneself. Marxism considers that socialism cannot happen without capitalism first. According to Marx, Capitalism promotes alienation not just from wealth or ability to own but from each other and our humanity. However, competition allows workers look for better wages and forces capitalists to pay more.

Emeka Adimmadu, a Professor of Evolutionary Economics delivered on Africapitalism: The Future of Africa’s Economic Development. Adimmadu argued that Africa’s quest for liberty and freedom must begin with reform of institutions and mechanism that support poverty reduction, political pluralism and widespread prosperity and a radical free market economy. He explained that the empirical relationship between governance, and economic freedom makes a case for liberalism. Africa is unique in character and history and free market capitalism must embrace Africa’s tradition and cultural values in other to generate the clout necessary for growth.

Linda Kavuka, advocate at Kenyan High Court and Executive Board Member gave a discursive lecture on How Gender-based Stereotypes Limit Individual Liberty and Expression. Linda gave a practical explanation of why individuals should do away with stereotypes, and stand up for what they believe in irrespective of gender.

Through a recorded presentation, Kalu Aja, a fiscal conservative delivered on: How Welfare Destroys the Economy. According to Aja, the intentions of welfare are noble but government policy must be judged by its effects not its intentions. Welfare does not end poverty. Poor families drag down any economy, even as more and more resources are committed.

‘Welfare creates a culture of dependency and entitlement. It removes the incentive for active labour force to seek paid employment and penalizes marriage which is proven as a way to escape poverty. Welfare drains the fiscal purse of the government, reducing funds for other areas of the economy.’ he said.

Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, ASFL Programs Associate spoke on How Foreign Aids Hurt Local Growth in Africa. Emeka explained that foreign aids, coupled with stiff government regulations have made it difficult to business in Africa, adding that aids may be seen as a kind intervention on the surface, but has terrible economic consequences.

Day two of the event saw Olumayowa Okediran, SFL Director of African Programs give the first address of the day. Olumayowa lectured on: ‘Regional Integration in Africa’. He illustrated how the current boundaries were colonial systems that have destroyed our unity and pride as Africans. They continue to hinder us from exploiting potential inter-state trade and movement which could boost not only our individual economies but Africa as a whole. The barriers have allowed corrupt officials to thrive.

Olumide Makanjuola, the Executive Director of The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs), spoke extempore on: Human Rights Abuse And How It Tears Africa Apart. Makanjuola presented a very strong argument on LGBT rights and perspective. According to him, oppression should not be granted a form or structure as it has no place in our society.  He added that people should not look at choice of sexuality as lifestyle, as LGBTs are individuals with human rights. He stressed that LGBT right is a sensitive topic in any African society and should not be ignored.

Martins Oloja, Editor at The Guardian, Nigeria explored the topic; ‘Using Media and Communication Tools to Promote Human Rights’. Oloja explained the power of media especially social media as a powerful tool available for the promotion of freedom and justice in the society. He stressed the need for participants to focus attention on how media can help prevent abuse of rights and promote justice in the society.

The final speaker, Jonah Akufai, who represented Adeolu Ogunrombi, a Drug Policy Reform Advocate discussed the topic: ‘The Need For African Governments To Encourage Open Debate For Drug Policy Reforms’. Akufai did justice to the topic by citing the needs of Africa government on open dialogue for various reforms of drug policy.

Lunch was served on both days of the conference and participants also got to take away SFL T-shirts, books including Why Liberty and Voices from Africa, published by SFL and Atlas Network respectively, and a CD on the Foundations of a Free Society from the Institute for Economic Affairs. The award-winning film “Poverty Inc” was screened at the conference, with partnership with Eastern African Policy Center, Nairobi, Kenya. ‘Hell or High Water’ – a short Nigerian film challenging the narratives about sexuality and spirituality was also screened at the event, courtesy of The Initiative for Equal Right. The documentary, the 100th Man, which portrays the relationship between profit and service provision, was also aired at the conference. The WARC 2016 evening socials at ID Restaurant and Bar marked the end of the annual conference, where participants were able to network and socialize.

Special thanks go to Atlas Network and Students for Liberty for the tremendous support that made the event possible. This conference attracted some of the best minds in the region, who have been empowered to act as champions of liberty and join our efforts to grow the libertarian community in Africa. Read the full report here.