Ethics Lab Opening Week 2019

After five editions of the Yaoundé Seminar (2012-2018), our efforts to reduce academic inequality between Western and African young scholars and to create an African platform for political theory are finally taking concrete institutional form.

In pursuit of these goals, this week marks the launch of the Ethics and Public Policy Laboratory (EthicsLab), a research center and think tank at the Catholic University of Central Africa in Yaoundé.

It has been a long and exciting journey that began at the Hoover Chair of the Catholic University of Leuven, where the Yaoundé Seminars were launched by a group of young doctoral students. The Institute of Business Ethics at the University of St.Gallen played a key role in the transition from the
Yaoundé seminars to the establishment of the EthicsLab. The icing on the cake was the tireless support of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, which helped us cross the finish line. That we are here today is due (among other things) to these institutions as well as the
people behind them.

To celebrate the institutional birth of the EthicsLab, this launch event is organized around three main activities:

  1. the Berggruen Workshop, featuring public presentations and new research by Harvard's three Berggruen Fellows, as well as commentaries by nine young African scholars;
  2. an international conference with five keynote lectures and ten parallel roundtables; and
  3. panels on building an institutionally strong EthicsLab.

The EthicsLab is a novel facility designed to anchor academic and public debates on pressing ethical and policy issues in the Central Africa sub-region. The EthicsLab aims to be a center of excellence offering high quality research in basic and applied ethics. It will build on the philosophical traditions of Cameroon and other African countries to set its scientific agenda free from political pressures. In doing so, EthicsLab will give voice to African perspectives on moral and political theories that are sorely lacking in philosophical debates. Our goal is to revitalize the political and academic agency of African societies, which has been undermined in the past by slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism, and today by neoliberal proclamations of international aid and some forms of political liberalism. We will accomplish this by supporting and training a new generation of young, highly qualified African political theorists and ethicists who are prepared to address the many challenges facing the Central African subregion and Africa more broadly. Our scholarly agenda will focus on five pillars: Ethics and Health, Ethics and Education, Ethics and the Environment, Ethics, Business and the Economy, and Ethics and Politics.

EthicsLab is a new platform that belongs to all of us and becomes what we make of it. Let us take advantage of its existence. We should not ask ourselves (only) what other (rich) countries can do for us, but what we ourselves can do for our sub-region and continent. It should fill us with pride that Cameroon - known as "Africa in miniature" - is taking the lead in this initiative, in the hope that other countries on the continent will follow.