The power of an idea

AfOx Visiting Fellow & ReDA awardee Prof Caesar Atuire has been appointed as one of 20 experts selected from around the world to be a member of the WHO ACT Accelerator Ethics Working Group on Access to COVID-19 Tools . The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed inequalities and vulnerabilities among and within nations. The WHO Ethics Working Group will examine the criteria for vaccine acquisition and distribution between nations and offer recommendations for priority setting of vaccination programmes within member countries.

Dr. Caesar Atuire, a Ghanaian philosopher was awarded an AfOx Visiting Fellowship hosted at All Souls College in 2018. Following his successful Fellowship, he was invited back as an All Souls Visiting Fellow to spend 6 months in Oxford in 2020.

Caesar Atuire started studying for a degree in Engineering in 1986. During this period, Caesar realised that he was more interested in the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’. For him, philosophy became a way to understand the why of things and the reason behind them.

Caesar is now a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Philosophy and Classics at the University of Ghana, where he teaches students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. His research interests include bioethics, politics of development in Africa and personhood in philosophy. Talking about why he chose to teach and study philosophy, Caesar explains

In 2018, Caesar visited Oxford for 6 weeks as an AfOx Visiting Fellow. He worked in collaboration with colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities to study attitudes that inform the way people perceive mental health in West Africa. During the course of the Fellowship Caesar created a culturally attuned framework of bioethical concepts to address complex challenges facing the understanding and treatment of people with mental disorders in Ghana.

“It is the power of an idea. It excites me to see how ideas evolve from being concepts in our head, to action, which then transform lives. Philosophy gives us the capacity to think critically and find organic and constructive solutions to problems at a theoretical level and then assimilate thought to perception.”
Dr. Caesar Atuire

Caesar is particularly passionate about exploring contextbased solutions to problems and translating his research into results.

“We cannot always import solutions from the western world. We need to go back into African philosophy. However, the idea of going back to African philosophy is not about closing in on ourselves but offering an African voice to the global discourse.”

After completing the AfOx Fellowship in 2018, he published a book titled ‘Bioethics in Africa’. The book offers diverse theoretical and practical perspectives on bioethical challenges that are common in sub-Saharan Africa. In an effort to translate his ideas to action, he is now working on a programme to train healthcare workers in bioethics.

Caesar also extends his principal of finding context-based solutions to Amicus Onlus, a NGO that he founded in the year 2003. Amicus Onlus engages with communities across Ghana to conduct needs analysis to identify solutions to problems faced by young people. Amicus Onlus engages with about 30,000 people across Ghana every year, working on projects such as skill training for youth, vocation training for single mothers and medical outreach programmes.

“Africa is a continent of young people. If we are able to empower these young persons, then we can look forward to a bright future. The empowerment I would like to contribute is intellectual, cultural and moral- hence my commitment to academic life."

Caesar talks about his research on medical philosophy at an AfOx insaka in 2020