Georgia College proudly hosts Model African Union conference this week

Dr. Charles Ubah and Dr. Eustace Palmer (in middle) with Georgia College's 2019 SEMAU participants.

Georgia College proudly hosts Model African Union conference this week

Ever feel like you’ve been thrown into a frying pan? You must think fast, be creative and do what it takes to get the job done.

Magnify that about 20 times, and you know what it feels like to participate in the Southeast Model of the African Union (SEMAU)—a realistic, three-day simulation that recreates the gathering of African heads-of-state. Students debate issues of critical importance and make decisions that could be adopted by real governments, impacting the lives of millions.

This week, Nov. 3-6, SEMAU hosts its 24th annual conference at Georgia College. About 150 participants are expected from schools in the University System of Georgia, including the University of Georgia, Georgia State University, Savannah State University and others.

“SEMAU is a really big conference on African affairs that gives students an unprecedented opportunity to learn about all facets of African life,” said Dr. Charles Ubah, professor of criminal justice and SEMAU advisor at Georgia College.

Ubah co-directs this year’s conference with retired English Professor Dr. Eustace Palmer, who chaired the university’s system African Council for four years.

Georgia College students have participated in the conference every year since SEMAU’s inception in 1997. This year, 19 students will model themselves after Ethiopian and Nigerian state officials. Two of Africa’s most populous nations, Nigeria is one of the world’s largest oil producers while Ethiopia remains largely undeveloped.

Actual African heads-of-state meet yearly in Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia. They discuss African affairs and make decisions that affect African populations in 54 nations.

SEMAU copies this process. Students get only weeks to prepare. They research their assigned country, study issues of importance, learn what delegates do and how they act. Then, they’re dropped into a realistic arena and expected to perform professionally.

On the final day, student heads-of-state vote on resolutions. Copies of their decisions are sent to the African Union Embassy in Washington, D.C., then to African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where some are adopted and put into action.

This real-world playacting makes SEMAU “a transformative experience beyond-the-classroom,” Ubah said. Students acquire knowledge about Africa and African affairs. But they also experience problem management, conflict resolution and how to deal with other people.

“They hone their diplomatic skills, negotiate and adopt resolutions. That’s the benefit,” Palmer said. “They have to think on their feet.”

“Hosting the event helps Georgia College showcase it's concern for diversity and internationalization as well as its interest in experiential learning,” he said. “The community as a whole becomes aware of what’s going on in a continent that will have two billion people by 2050 and play an extremely important role in world affairs.”

This year’s schedule of events includes:

  • Wednesday (11/3) 6 to 9 p.m. a reception in Magnolia Ballroom for faculty and Milledgeville city officials to greet four African Ambassadors to the U.S.––Republic of Togo’s Frederic Edem Hegbe; African Union’s Hilda Suka-Mafudze; Republic of Mozambique’s Carlos dos Santos; and Nigerian General Council’s Dr. Amina Smaila.
  • Thursday (11/4) 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. opening statements in Magnolia Ballroom, then students meet in committees at Arts and Science (A&S) building to discuss African issues like peace and security, government and human rights, continental unity and economics.
  • Friday (11/5) 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. students in committees all day at A&S with a cultural performance by the Atilogwu Dancers from Atlanta Igboo School at 8:30 p.m. in the University Banquet Room.
  • Saturday (11/6) 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. concluding resolutions, awards and closing remarks in the University Banquet Room.
Updated: 2021-11-01
Dr. Charles Ubah
(478) 445-7392