OH DEAR: Aussie conference slammed for all-white speaker line-up

Organisers of an Australian conference have come under fire after distributing a list of speakers who appeared to be all white.

Africa Down Under, which is set to run from 1 September to 3 September in Perth, is an annual forum for Australian mining companies with interests in Africa.

The tentative line-up is being widely criticised on Twitter for featuring 20 men and two women, all of whom are appear to be white.

Journalist Ivy Prosper posted an image of the line-up to Twitter and pointed out there was “not a single African face” on the list.

“Talking business about Africa … without any Africans,” she said.

“Who’s in charge of choosing the delegates!?” Twitter user Jagesh Panchal said.

“I understand how some cant travel, but surely organisers could have chosen African POC as delegates for discussion via Zoom?

“This is the most one-sided ‘African representation’ I’ve ever seen.”

Jomo Kigotho was quick to point out the irony of featuring an unknown speaker, “and yet there’s no black Africans speaking at Africa Down Under”, which he described as a “gaping hole”.

East Africa Rising, a Pan-African organisation that unites and connects professionals across West, Southern and East Africa said its members noted the poster with “serious concern”.

In a statement, the organisation said Perth is a city with a large population of African people, and questioned why it was not possible to make the line-up “reflective of African intellectuals”.

It also pointed out that any “serious modern conference worth its salt should be more gender-inclusive by identifying women who work in the industry”.

The event’s organiser, mining news outlet Paydirt Media, posted a series of tweets defending the line-up and said it “acknowledges the comments on social media and the interpretations which may be drawn by the advertised preliminary line-up”, adding it was for the in-person element of this year’s conference.

“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,” the outlet said.

“In 2019, the last event before the pandemic, the programme featured 24 African and 15 female presenters.”

Paydirt blamed the ethnically bland line-up on travel restrictions and lamented being “unable to welcome our African-based colleagues in person this year”, but promised the full program, including virtual participants, will bring more diversity.

Featured image source: Africa Down Under website