The ethical challenges faced by African societies are well known, for instance corruption, misappropriation of public funds, lack of transparency in the management of natural resources, the decay of public services, especially in health care and education, the lack of transparency in electoral processes, tax evasion, and brain drain, to name a few.
The profusion of these ethical challenges, however, contrasts with the scarcity of academic structures or other institutions specialized in ethical questioning. To date, there is only one ethics committee at the level of the Central African sub-region in Yaoundé, Cameroon, which is only dedicated to clinical issues, and a few other similar structures, scattered in the other States. While some academic institutions offer ethics courses, there are not yet in place research structures that focus on ethics.
The creation of the Ethics and Public Policy Laboratory (EthicsLab) within UCAC intends to fill this void. One of its missions is to think the terms and delimit the scope of an ethical deliberation that will serve a public debate on ethical and political issues that our societies cannot escape.
This laboratory aspires to be a center of research excellence in Central Africa, an incubator of innovative ideas and a nursery of young researchers that will not only contribute to the promotion of a culture of integrity in public and private domains, but also to building just public policies in Central Africa.
This launch week, and in particular this inaugural conference, will bring together leading international and local researchers, who have a proven track record in the practice of research in ethics and the management of research centers in ethics. It aims to open up the debate about what ethics can do for the university itself and for society, and what in turn the university and society can do for ethics and research centers like EthicsLab. The launch week is organized around three main activities: a) the Berggruen Workshop of Harvard University, featuring public lectures by Mathias Risse and Ajume Wingo and new research by Harvard’s three Berggruen Fellows and commentaries from nine young African scholars; b) an International Conference focusing on the five avenues of EthicsLab—health, education, economy, politics, environment—and featuring keynote lectures by Danielle Allen, Philippe Van Parijs, Rose Leke, Godfrey Tangwa, and Alain Renaut; and (c) panels on the institution building of EthicsLab.
The late Prof. Fabien Eboussi Boulaga was highly instrumental in shepherding us to the launch point.