The road to now…
This meeting is a culmination of several years of effort towards organising astronomy in Africa. These brief bullet points provide a summary of how we got to this point (it is not exhaustive but provides a useful big picture):
- Over several decades, through efforts by many individuals like Pius Okeke, Peter Martinez, Paul Baki, Legesse Kebede, Claude Carignan, Ed Guinan and others, as well as the IAU’s Teaching Astronomy for Development (TAD) programme, activities took place in many countries on the continent to stimulate astronomy in Africa.
- In the years surrounding the International Year of Astronomy 2009 several initiatives took place to build on these past efforts and rally the astronomy community in Africa, through the “Developing Astronomy Globally” cornerstone project (DAG). A summary of DAG activities, many of which relate to Africa, can be found here.
- The first attempt at an open and inclusive discussion on the idea of an African Astronomical Society (AfAS) was coordinated through the DAG cornerstone project and a summary can be found here.
- The first face to face discussion on an AfAS was held in December 2010 in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, as a side event to IAU Symposium 277 (an event organised by Claude Carignan), after which an Interim Executive Committee was established, with Hakeem Oluseyi as President.
- AfAS was then launched at the second Middle East and Africa Regional IAU Meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, in April 2011, with Prof Pius Okeke from Nigeria as its first President.
- Thanks to the efforts of Lawrence Norris, Charles McGruder and the US-based National Society for Black Physicists, an AfAS website and Twitter account were set up.
- Unfortunately, activities of AfAS were very limited in the following years, with a lack of funding being cited as the main reason for the inactivity.
- In preparation for the fourth Middle East and Africa Regional IAU Meeting (MEARIM) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2017, there was a move to revitalize AfAS. As such, Solomon Tessema (the main organiser) arranged for a plenary session that was dedicated to discussing the way forward for AfAS. After frank and open conversations, and a message from Prof Pius Okeke (Founding President) indicating his intention to step down as President, a resolution was taken by the meeting on the way forward.
- This resolution involved the establishment of a group of nominated individuals who would investigate and explore options for the way forward. This group developed a Concept Note for the Astronomy in Africa meeting in Cape Town, circulated this widely across the continent, secured funding (thanks to the South African DST), and now forms the core of this meeting’s Programme Committee.
- After the MEARIM meeting Prof Okeke sent a message in October 2017 to the group of nominated individuals indicating that the office of the former executive of AfAS had expired a number of years ago and that “After a lot of discussion the current executive committee of AfAS has decided that the best way forward is for Professor Charles McGruder to serve as interim AfAS president while Lawrence [Norris] serves as co-ordinator” – both Charles McGruder and Lawrence Norris were thus consulted in the preparation of this meeting, with McGruder serving on the Programme Committee.
- Information about this meeting was distributed widely inviting interested individuals to pre-register and recommend others who may be important stakeholders. Participants were selected by the Programme Committee from the pre-registrations and their recommendations, in order to ensure diversity and inclusion of key stakeholders.
- The participants, programme and contents of this meeting are publicly available on this website and have been circulated widely. In the spirit of openness and transparency, anyone unable to join the meeting in person can still join remotely via video, and/or participate through other means.
- This meeting on Astronomy in Africa is thus now well positioned, as the best that we currently have, to try to organise the Astronomy community in Africa, through the re-establishment of an AfAS.