The Speaker List For The 2021 Africa Down Under Conference Is Raising QWhite A Few Eyebrows

People in Australia and across Africa are calling out the all-white lineup of speakers that’s been announced ahead of the 2021 Africa Down Under conference for, you know, apparently not including any actual African people.

The Africa Down Under conference is an annual event in Perth for Australian mining companies doing business in Africa. So it’s less of a cultural event and more of a chance for resource-hungry mining execs to mingle in a nice hotel.

When the tentative lineup of panelists and presenters was released, people on Twitter quickly pointed out that something didn’t feel quite white. Or too white, in fact.

After white people have invaded and plundered the African continent for hundreds of years, it’s not a look great to have an event called the ‘Africa Down Under’ where all the speakers are literally just white mining execs discussing how they can best profit off of resources on the other side of the world.

Even in the 21st century, some Australian mining companies continue to be implicated in violence across Africa and are accused of syphoning wealth out of communities. They’re not necessarily the same companies represented at the conference, but it’s not great optics for the industry as a whole.

And sure, there’s a pretty strict travel ban at the moment, but it’s not as if there aren’t African people in Australia who could speak at the event.

Here’s the lineup that’s been announced so far. (Supplied)

Now the organisers, Paydirt Media, have put out a statement explaining why the preliminary list of speakers is so white, and claiming that they’re hoping to have African presenters on-board in time for the event in September.

“As organisers of Africa Down Under (ADU), Paydirt Media acknowledges the comments on social media and the interpretations which may be drawn by the advertised preliminary line-up for the in-person element of this year’s ADU,” the organisers said in a Twitter thread.

“As the premier forum for Australia-Africa business relations, ADU has always strived to ensure its programme is truly reflective of the diversity of African mining. In 2019, the last event before the pandemic, the programme featured 24 African presenters and 15 female presenters.

“Ongoing travel restrictions mean we will be unable to welcome our African-based colleagues in person this year but once the full programme – including virtual participants – is released we are confident balance will return.

“We look forward to announcing participants from the African continent – including Australian-based African diplomats – in the coming weeks.”

They also claimed that “the many delegates who have travelled from the African continent to Perth for ADU over the last two decades would attest to the diversity of the event,” adding that as part of the week they also organise several forums and sports events for Africans in Australia.

“ADU is proud of the contribution it has made to raising the profile of the African continent and the African diaspora in Australia and will continue to promote links between our two continents,” they said.

So this total white-out of a speaker line up does appear to be both tentative, and a one-off, considering previous iterations of the event. In other words, the final event is expected to be les overwhelmingly white.

Nevertheless, the fact that this list of speakers was published without a single Black African person – regardless of what was going in the background – was a huge lapse in judgement at best.