Africa Liberty Forum forges connections, strengthens collaborations among partners

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A elderly woman gives a speech at the Africa Liberty Forum.
Network's current chair of the Board of Directors—Linda Whetstone—is joined by ASFL's Linda Kavuka during opening remarks.

More than 150 freedom champions from 29 countries met in Nairobi, Kenya for Atlas Network’s 2019 Africa Liberty Forum. The two-day conference, which was co-hosted by local partners African Students for Liberty (ASFL), is an annual event to bring together leaders from think tanks and civil society organizations from all over Africa, creating opportunities for dialogue that focuses on challenges facing the continent as well as launching collaborations that will most effectively advance the cause of liberty.

ASFL’s Linda Kavuka, a Nairobi resident and former Atlas Network Smith Fellow whose help in planning the conference was instrumental to its success, greeted attendees with a warm welcome in the region’s lingua franca. “Mabibi na mabwana,” said Kavuka in Swahili, “Tunawakaribisheni Katika jiji letu la Nairobi!” She was followed on stage by Linda Whetstone, daughter of Atlas Network founder Sir Antony Fisher and current chair of the Atlas Network Board of Directors, who congratulated the assembly on their hard work to spread the message of freedom among new audiences.

Performers at the Africa Liberty Forum.
Unforgettable traditional performance by the Rambolo Dance Group was a highlight of the 2019 Africa Liberty Awards dinner.

The two days were filled with speakers who emphasized the need for helping young people understand the importance of free enterprise in building a prosperous future for Africa. The Cornerstone Talks session, which gives five speakers a brief platform to set the tone for the conference by discussing their work and ideas, featured speakers from South Africa, Nigeria, and the United States. Olumayowa Okediran, ASFL’s Director of International Programs and a key leader in the region, shared his perspective on the ways in which educating the next generation of leaders on free-market ideas will change the world.

Three men in discussion at a round table at the Africa Liberty Forum.
Attendees converse during the buzzing crowdsource networking session on day one of the 2019 Africa Liberty Forum.

Attendees were able to choose from a wide variety of panels and topics, including sessions on women in the liberty movement, property rights, media strategies, and the future of trade. During a panel on the rule of law and human rights, Rejoice Ngwenya of African Liberty pointed out that the relationship between constitutional allegiance and stability was fundamentally important to the future of freedom.

Ambassador Dr. Martin Kimani discusses the future of Africa during his keynote speech at the 2019 Africa Liberty Awards dinner.

Two keynote speakers made a strong impression on the audience. Ambassador Dr. Martin Kimani, who is Director of Kenya’s NationalCounter TerrorismCenter and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary serving as Kenya’s Permanent Representative and Head of Mission to the United Nations at Nairobi, spoke of his involvement in forging consensus after Kenya’s tumultuous 2017 elections and told the audience that “African lives matter.” Kimani took a long view of history, pointing out that the continent is still in its infancy in matters of international trade, but that removing barriers for the individual to succeed will transform markets and create prosperity across the continent. Senegalese entrepreneur Magatte Wade, who heads Atlas Network’s new Center for African Prosperity, closed out the conference with a strongly-worded speech about the need for Africans to work together to end corruption and create wealth that will benefit millions, rather than stay mired in cronyism that will keep the continent poor. Both speakers agreed that traditions are strong across Africa, and those traditions can enhance future prosperity—if entrepreneurship is allowed to succeed.

Magette Wade speaks at the Africa Liberty Forum.
Network's Director of Center for African Prosperity—Magatte Wade—gives an invigorating speech during the 2019 Africa Liberty Awards dinner.

Several awards were presented during the conference. Audace Institut Afrique (AIA), of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), won the 2019 Africa Liberty Award for their work to strengthen property rights in their country through the “Liberating Rural Land’s Potential In Côte d’Ivoire” project. The $7,000 prize is generously sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and Templeton Religion Trust and is part of Atlas Network's suite of Regional Liberty Awards. The two other finalists—IMANI Center for Policy and Education (Ghana) and African Students for Liberty International (Kenya)—were each awarded $1,500.

A man hold his plaque at the Africa Liberty Forum.
Mehmet Issa N’DIAYE of Audace Insitut Afrique, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast ), was granted the 2019 Africa Liberty Award for helping secure land certificates for Ivory Coast residents through the “Liberating Rural Land’s Potential In Côte d’Ivoire” project.

John Mustapha Kutiyote of Students’ Organization for Liberty and Entrepreneurship (SOLE) won the 2019 Think Tank Shark Tank prize for his pitch to end cultural discrimination that takes private property rights away from women in South Sudan. The $5,000 prize will be spent on an awareness campaign that includes special workshops, community meetings, and radio outreach to help women understand their rights.

Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips poses with three men at the Africa Liberty Forum.
Mustapha Kutiyote of Students’ Organization for Liberty and Entrepreneurship (SOLE) accepts the 2019 Think Tank Shark Tank prize.

At the end of the forum, Kavuka announced that Africa Liberty Forum 2020 will be co-hosted by IMANI Center for Policy and Education and will be held August 20-21 in Accra, Ghana.