The initiative started in September 2018 at the Africa-Asia conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Kasetsart University organized a panel titled “Three Decades of Thai-African Relations through Agricultural Exchange Programme: Towards Sustainable Development” at the conference. Four participants from the faculties of agriculture, fishery, and social sciences presented their papers on their first-hand experience working in sustainable development programmes in African countries. For decades, Kasetsart University has undertaken many programmes with Africa, primarily with financial aid from Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other funders. One remarkable achievement was presented by Dr. Suchart Ingthamjitr, an expert on aquaculture from Kasetsart University, Kampangsean Campus, who has done extensive research on Tilapia fish in Mozambique and several other African countries. The panel attracted a diverse group of people interested in Africa-Asia connections and development.
It was agreed at the end of the panel that Kasetsart University should take a more significant part in strengthening academic partnerships with African universities and other organizations, playing the leading role in re-thinking African-Southeast Asian connections among universities in Southeast Asia. Thailand has decade-long ties with Africa. Since the 1980s, Thailand gradually established embassies and consulates in Africa, starting from the Royal Thai Consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1992. As one of the world’s leading tropical agricultural countries, Thailand has forged agricultural exchange programmes with many countries across continents. With diplomatic assistance from Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), Kasetsart University, the oldest agriculture university in Thailand, has had partnerships with African countries.
As a subsequent response to the conference, in July 2019, Kasetsart University, together with the University of Zambia and International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), co-hosted an institutional panel named “Southeast Asian-African Connections and Parallels: An Alternative Platform for Knowledge Sharing” during the ICAS-11 Conference in Leiden, the Netherlands. This panel focused on a considerable debate about who we are. It looks at African-Southeast Asian connections, similarities, parallels, and platforms for knowledge-sharing. It aims to bridge the gaps between SEA and Africa through academic exchanges. As mentioned above, the panel was a follow-up from the roundtable as part of the Africa-Asia: A New Axis of Knowledge 2 conference.
In order to structure and sustain the new Africa-Southeast Asia axis of knowledge, Kasetsart University has created an alternative platform, currently known as Kasetsart University Africa-Asia Programme (KU-AAP), to act as a research hub for researchers working on issues relating to Africa-Southeast Asian connections. The Programme aims at creating a consortium to collaborate in a set of joint educational initiatives with universities and other institutions in both Africa, Southeast Asia, and beyond to reinforce and develop collaborative pedagogical and research activities with KU-AAP partners. This could crystalize into institution-specific educational components on Southeast Asia-Africa comparative studies to be offered to students in the future.
In its formative period, the Programme will be operated through the guidance of the steering committee composed of the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Associate Dean for Foreign Relations, Research and Academic Services, together with other appointed faculty members. An advisory committee will also be vital in driving the Programme forward and will be made up of those outside Kasetsart University, including TICA, the Royal Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IIAS, and IDE-JETRO. The new programme will develop step-by-step from ad-hoc activities to more regularly established programmes. The plan for the initial phase is for five years. The programme, as an entity, will sign MoUs with universities and institutions across Southeast Asia and Africa and will see the development of its activities on an incremental basis, notably for its physical space, budget, staffing with future planning.
March 2020: The Brainstorming Meeting
The president of Kasetsart University, the Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences, representatives from KU-AAP and its partners, including International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), University of Ghana, University of Zambia, University of Gaston Berger in Senegal, University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and Singapore University of Social Sciences met in Bangkok (just before the global outbreak of COVID-19) to brainstorm objectives and activities of KU-AAP.