Introductory Note




In commemoration of its fifth anniversary and in continuing pursuit of its aim of propagating and fostering a “culture of ideas” in African societies, The Okali Seminal Ideas Foundation for Africa (OSIFA) is proud to announce the inauguration of the OSIFA Great Debate Series (OGDS), which has as its watchword “Public Enlightenment Through Intellectual Discourse.” The present Note outlines the main features of this programme activity as well as the underlying rationale for it within the context of OSIFA’s overall mission. This will also help to clarify OSIFA’s particular approach to this activity.




OSIFA’s basic mission or raison d’etre is to combat the notion of Africa as but a “consumer” and not a “producer” of ideas – a notion seemingly validated by the continent’s noticeable and continuing “ideas dependency” and reputed minor footprint in the world of ideas.

OSIFA aims to tackle this situation by actively propagating and fostering a “culture of ideas” within African societies, driven by a new approach termed “Assertive African Intellectualism”, while at the same time providing a global platform for the articulation of such Africa-generated ideas. This way, not only is relevant output boosted, but, just as importantly, the negative perception about Africa and the world of ideas is effectively challenged.


Great Debate Series (OGDS)

It is against the foregoing background of OSIFA’s main mission that one should evaluate the functional utility of the OSIFA Great Debate Series. The important point in that context is that, unlike other “debate” situations where the actual substantive conclusion is the key output, an OGDS debate is more about the intellectual exercise of generating, articulating and interrogating ideas, where the actual result of the debate, while interesting and useful to know, becomes, in a sense, of secondary importance in the work of OSIFA.

The function of an organization such as OSIFA is to be a catalyst for the generation and free flow of intellectual output within society, leading eventually to the emergence of a “culture of ideas” – one in which ideas per se are accorded high value and their originators are recognized and rewarded, both materially and in terms of honours (as, of course, happens in the West!) It is under such incentive conditions – in which the generation of ideas becomes itself a recognized path to greatness – that independent and innovative thinking will flourish in Africa, finally banishing our “ideas dependency” condition. That is OSIFA’s aim.

From the foregoing, one may, therefore, envisage an OGDS event with the following main characteristics:

  1. A topic that is both weighty and engaging, provocatively couched in the form of a debate Proposition.
  2. Panelists/debaters of equal numbers (2 or 3, each, for example) on both sides.
  3. Interactive participation/comments, questions, etc. by select members of the audience.
  4. Summary by the Debate Chairman (assisted by the Rapporteur) of main arguments/points adduced in the debate and comments, but with no voting or conclusion, and so no “winners” or “losers” on the night.
  5. Final publication of the debate submissions, statements and comments as an OSIFA Occasional Paper, sealing the achievement of OSIFA’s goal of public enlightenment on a major issue through intellectual discourse.


The inaugural event of the OSIFA Great Debate Series (OGDS 1) is scheduled as follows:

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