Our Team

Our Team


President:

Carli Coetzee

 

Vice-President:

Louisa Egbunike

Durham University

 

Projects Officers:

Adriaan van Klinken

Leeds University

 

José Lingna Nafafé

Bristol University

 

Honorary Treasurer:

George Ogola

University of Central Lancashire

 

Honorary Secretary:

Sharifah Sekalala

Warwick University

 

Newsletters:

Simon Heap

Oxford Brookes University

 

Web site:

Poppy Cullen

Loughborough University

 

Sara Dorman

Edinburgh University

 

Kadija George

Institute of English Studies

 

Patricia Kingori

University of Oxford

 

Ife Okafor-Yarwood

University of St Andrews

 

Sarah Ozoirabor

Caine Prize

 

Akin Iwilade

Edinburgh University

 

Simon Manda

Leeds University

 

Rama Salla Dieng

Edinburgh University

 

James Wan

African Arguments

 

Portia Roelofs

Kings College London

 

Ini Dele-Adedeji

SOAS, University of London

 

Lindiwe Dovey

SOAS, University of London

 

Jonathan Fisher

Birmingham University

 

Helene Neveu-Kringelbach

UCL

 

Nathan Richards

Sussex University

 

Katharina Oke

University of Graz

 

Janet Rogan

Royal Africa Society

 

Ricardo Soares de Oliveira

African Affairs editor

 

Stephanie Kitchen

IAI and Africa Books Collective

 

Jennifer Skinner

SCOLMA

 

Nici Nelson

Honorary Member

 

James Currey

Honorary Member

1901 – 1914

The Society was originally established “for the purpose of investigating the usages, institutions, customs, religions, antiquities, history and languages of the native races of Africa; of facilitating the commercial and industrial development of the continent in the manner best fitted to secure the welfare of its inhabitants; and as a central institution in England for the study of African subjects.”  For the time, these objectives were progressive and the Society primarily pursued them through the setting up of a journal to publish factual information and research about Africa. That publication – now called African Affairs – remains the oldest, most prestigious and highly-ranked academic journal on Africa today.

1914 – 1929

During the First World War, the Society continued to publish and hold meetings focused around the political and military turmoil. In 1917, Jan Smuts, a South African general who went on to become its  Prime Minister, gave a lecture in which he outlined sentiments that later hardened into the practices of apartheid. Similar beliefs were later reflected in an address given by the Society’s president, but opposing views, calling for greater African political participation, were increasingly being expressed in the journal even at this early time.   In the 1920s, the Society established the Medal of the African Society, supported by Henry Wellcome. The inaugural prize was awarded to the society’s retiring president Sir Harry Johnston. In 1924-5, it was awarded to Lord Lugard, architect of the amalgamation of a group of British territories into the colony of Nigeria and author of the de facto manual for British colonialism The Dual Mandate in British Africa (1922).  As well as regular lectures, an annual dinner began to be held to celebrate the work of the Society.

1930 – 1945

It was only in the 1930s that people from Africa began to be directly represented in the Society’s activities. The journal notes the participation of some Africans in various conferences and commissions, and African authors began to be published in the journal itself. It was in 1935 that the King formally agreed to become Patron of the Society and it adopted the word ‘Royal’ into its title.   During the Second World War, the journal was affected by paper rationing and was notably sparse, though it did continue publication. The 1940 edition noted: “like every British organisation, the Royal African Society, saw at once in the outbreak of the War an opportunity of increasing its service to the King, its Patron and to our Country, and Empire”.    The journal’s articles, while primarily informative, still reflected both old-fashioned paternalist views as well as more progressive viewpoints. In 1945, the Society’s journal was renamed as African Affairs.

1945-1960

By the end of the Second World War, the rising political pressure in Africa for independence was increasingly reflected in the journal. Colonial administrators wrote anxiously and constitutional and political battles were discussed in its pages. At the same time, more and more Africans attended the Society’s meetings and, in 1948, Fela Sowande is recorded as the first to give a talk, in this case on African music.    The Society came to see itself as uniquely placed to provide a platform for discussions on contemporary African issues. A Council member wrote: “The Royal African Society is in a position to make a serious contribution to the study of continental problems, which concern not only Africa but also Europe and civilisation at large. Its platform is detached, independent and non-political in any narrow partisan sense.”   Through the 1950s, the journal increasingly reflected African academic voices on issues of decolonisation and independence though European ones still dominated. In March 1957, the Society held a tea-party in celebration of Ghana’s independence.

1960s – 1970s

In the 1960s, as more African countries gained independence, perceptions shifted within African Affairs and in the Society, which for the first time elected some African members to its Council. In the heated debates over Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, a number of members apparently resigned over the Society’s opposition to the declaration and support for majority rule. In 1963, a conference agreed to form the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK), whose membership was to be independent of, but associated with, the Society. ASAUK started holding an annual conference. In 1965, the Society made a formal request for a Royal Charter, which was officially conferred upon it on in May 1968.  In the 1970s, the Society hosted a growing number of prominent speakers from Africa including, in 1975, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.

1980s – 1990s

In the 1980s and early-1990s, the Society increased its involvement in academia as well as hosting a wide range of speakers from Africa including Nuruddin Farah, Kole Omotoso and Ebun Jones. In 1989, the Council established the Mary Kingsley Memorial Lecture. The inaugural address was given by Ghanaian musicologist Kofi Agawu.    In the lead up to its centenary celebrations in 2001, the Council commissioned a history of the Society. It moved from its old offices in the Royal Commonwealth Society to new offices within the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. This consolidated a supportive relationship between the Society and SOAS, which continues to this day.

2000s – Present

In 2002, Richard Dowden, former Africa Editor at The Economist, became the Society's first full-time Executive Director. Under his tenure, the Society launched several new programmes and expanded its staff.    In 2003, the Society supported the establishment of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa providing the secretariat ever since. The APPG has played a key role in influencing the perception of Africa in the UK, encouraging British parliamentarians to engage with African issues and influencing Government policy on Africa. Dowden also introduced a corporate engagement programme whose regular meetings with political and financial leaders complemented the Society's prestigious Annual Lecture.  In 2009, the Society collaborated with a number of organisations, including the International African Institute, to launch the African Arguments book series, published by ZED Books. The series, which tackles a wide range of African issues in an accessible way, was followed a couple of years later by the creation of an online pan-African website under the same name which provides specialist and informed commentary on current political, social, economic and cultural affairs in Africa.    In 2008, the Society supported the launch of the London African Film Festival, which evolved into Film Africa in 2011, and in 2012, the Society launched Africa Writes celebrating contemporary African writing. To bring more awareness of African culture, literature and film to schools and younger audiences, the Society initiated an arts-based education and outreach programme through Africa Writes Young Voices and Film Africa Young Audiences   In 2017, Richard Dowden retired as Director and was succeeded by Nick Westcott, a former diplomat and academic with a long engagement with Africa. At the same time, The Queen passed on the role of Royal Patron to HRH The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William.