Technology Can Foster Unity, Says Ghana President

President John Dramani Mahama's talk at UCR packed the University Theatre on Oct. 2

President John Dramani Mahama, the leader of Ghana, at an appearance at UC Riverside. PHOTO BY PETER PHUN

By Amy Zahn

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — John Dramani Mahama, president of Ghana and accomplished author, historian and journalist, urged the audience to wield the power of social media to bridge cultural divides. He spoke Friday, Oct. 2, at UC Riverside.

In his talk titled “The African Diaspora: Possibilities and Privileges of Empowerment in this Technological Age,” Mahama expressed his dismay at the deep fissure that exists between Africans who reside in Africa and those who have scattered to other parts of the world. Watch his speech here.

“Astonishingly, many African Americans believe that Africans are backward and primitive. Some make cruel jokes about Africans or don’t acknowledge the great contribution Africa has made to the world,” he said, adding that African immigrants often buy into the idea that African Americans are “lazy and violent.”

Mahama believes that the power to change lies in technology, particularly social media. People continents away from each other sharing their experiences allows for an unprecedented ability to consider global ideas and understand each other’s stories, he said.

Some students have already begun to feel the weight of Mahama’s words. “I didn’t realize actually how ignorant we are with regards to African culture,” said first-year pre-business major Alissa Arunarsirakul.

Mahama urged the audience to utilize social media to change attitudes and move forward. “We should use technology as a tool for empowerment, as a way to unite us in our continual calls for progress and greater liberties,” he said.

Kelechi Kalu, vice provost for international affairs, says that the lessons students learn from exposure to international perspectives — particularly messages applicable to their everyday lives — are valuable in more ways than one.

“They can use the knowledge they gain from an international experience to find solutions to problems right here at home,” Kalu said.

“We educate our students to … be able to adapt to different cultures, speak different languages, and (be) able to use technology effectively,” he said. “We are enabling our students, our graduates, to have a competitive edge as they graduate and go out in search of employment or graduate school.”

Audience members crowd around President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana for photographs and autographs of his book, “My First Coup d’Etat: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa.” PHOTO BY PETER PHUN

Victor Moreira, an academic advisor who attended the lecture, believes that UCR’s diversity makes global perspectives on campus particularly impactful.

“You’re actually speaking to people that represent different places who can understand the importance of it,” he said. “It’s not over their heads. It’s something they can apply to their lives. Of all the schools that I know of, this is the perfect place for that.”

UC Riverside remains one of the most diverse campuses in the country, with many students coming from the African countries Mahama spoke about.

Moreira is Nigerian. He says he appreciates being encouraged to connect with his homeland with  a modern approach that resonates with today’s young people.

The visit to UC Riverside was coordinated by Kalu, and by Kenneth Simons, director of African Student Programs. President Mahama signed copies of his book “My First Coup d’Etat: And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa.”

Kalu said he will continue to bring individuals from across the globe to address the campus community. “This is just the beginning of the effort to begin to sensitize the student body, the community and the UCR family to begin to think globally and act locally,” he said.

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