Announcing new RAS Council members

Thursday, 17 May 2018
Zeinab Badawi
Announcing new RAS Council members 
Thursday, 17 May 2018

A message from the Chair, Zeinab Badawi

Following our AGM, held on Monday, 30 April 2018, I am delighted to announce that the Society's members agreed to reinforce the Council by electing three new members. We thank Dr Mpalive Msiska and Professor Muthuli Ncube, who are leaving the Council after years of service, and warmly welcome our new members:
Mohamed Amersi is founder and chairman of Inclusive Ventures Group and of the Amersi Foundation. Born in Kenya, and with extensive business interests in Africa, he will bring valuable commercial expertise, experience and contacts to the work of the Council.
Afua Hirsch is a broadcaster, journalist and author who has regularly supported Royal African Society events as a moderator and speaker in the past. Besides frequent TV appearances and articles, she is the author of the recently published and well-received book Brit(ish).  
Nike Jonah is founder and director of the Pan African Creative Exchange (PACE) and a visiting research fellow at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama 2017 – 2019. Nike has been a keen champion for diversity and equality in the Arts, including with the Arts Council, and is on the boards of the European Cultural Foundation, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the Bush Theatre.
The Council also agreed to co-opt two further members to represent Parliamentary interests. Chi Onwurah MP, as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Africa, which the Society administers, will ex-officio represent the House of Commons, and a member of the House of Lords will be nominated shortly.
- Zeinab Badawi

DFID makes the right noises over Ebola lessons

Thursday, 17 March 2016
Anita Makri- SciDev.Net
The outbreak of Ebola that devastated West Africa is out of the media spotlight, and no doubt many of us have wondered what happened to all those debates over lessons to be learned. A panel discussion at the United Kingdom’s Parliament delved into this issue last week.
The event was organised by the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group to launch its report with Polygeia reviewing evidence submitted in response to an inquiry into the Ebola response last year, which included SciDev.Net's Spotlight collection.
Calling the report “genuinely useful”, Nick Hurd, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the UK Department for International Development (DFID), highlighted two areas of interest for DFID’s activities. One is working with communities — we learned that they must be at the heart of the response, he said, and that anthropology should inform on cultural aspects of disease. Another is strengthening health systems by addressing assumptions, expectations and resource challenges.
While ministers typically only make a five-minute guest appearance at parliamentary events, Hurd’s presence was more committed. “This matters a great deal. It’s personal” he said.
His messages were echoed by members of the panel. DFID’s health advisor Susan Elden said putting better systems and structures in place is a messy and complicated job but it has to be done.
Then the discussion moved closer to the nitty-gritty, resulting in three lingering questions.
The first is about who owns the data governments and aid agencies need in crisis response. Public Health Africa Initiative chair Aliko Ahmed argued that the data should be owned by affected countries in the first place.
It’s a question that will test the nature of collaboration with developing countries.
Hurd said that DFID is focusing on improving reporting systems, while Elden pointed to ongoing discussions with the World Health Organization (WHO) on creating a sharing platform.
The second question is about good value for money. The minister said that government would prioritise putting money towards proven ways of placing community engagement at the heart of future responses.
So measuring the impact of engagement is about to become a whole lot more important. But how will the struggle to prove value and cost-effectiveness compete with other aspects of crisis response?
The third point is about how to truly learn from experience. Other epidemics — such as SARS and swine flu — taught the same lessons on crisis response as Ebola, an audience member pointed out, but we are relearning every time. How can we do better than this?
The answers from the panel were not reassuring. There was some agreement that disaster response is, by its nature, a slow and complicated process. What is important, Hurd said, is to have consensus on cumulative evidence on what’s fundamentally important for an effective response.
The bigger lesson, Elden said, is about the need to learn from the affected countries themselves. But it remains to be seen how well DFID, the WHO and others will listen. 
The report from the Africa APPG together with Polgeia is available online and to download here. An audio recording of the launch event is also available here
This blog is taken from the original blog by Anita Makri from SciDev.Net available here
(photo credit: yahoo news)

It’s the Politics Stupid – By Richard Dowden

Thursday, 30 July 2015
Richard Dowden

President Obama’s message to Africa’s rulers at the African Union in Addis Ababa today will encourage Africa’s economic growth but he will also be critical of the dictatorial tendencies that still abound in Africa’s politics. Africa, he says, needs strong institutions, not strongmen.

Never since the end of the Cold War has there been such a dearth of leadership on the continent. South Africa and Nigeria are the continent’s major powers but President Jacob Zuma of South Africa shows weak leadership at home and little interest in the rest of the continent. In Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, newly-elected President Muhammadu Buhari is struggling to establish a government. Continent wide, regional integration which should be driving bigger inclusive economies, has been at a snail’s pace because of lack of vision and each president’s fear of losing control.

In the early 1990s America promoted democracy, human rights and the free market to the world as the principles of global governance. The free market has taken off fast in Africa, largely because Africans have simply got on with it. African cities today are bustling and growing and trade has been at an all time high. But African rulers have never been less committed to democracy and human rights. Most countries hold elections but fewer and fewer lead to a change of government. Nigeria in April was an extraordinary exception. Respect for human rights is in the hands of the governments and respected in varying degrees.

Embarrassingly Ethiopia which hosts the African Union headquarters where Obama will be speaking tomorrow, has not a single opposition MP in its 547-strong parliament, despite being in power since 1992. The press is also very tightly controlled. The government makes no apology for its political repression but points to Ethiopia’s high economic growth rates – around 10% for the last few years – and the fact that a third of Ethiopians, about 1.5 million who were regarded as poor in 2000, are now better off.

A similar situation exists in Rwanda, another favourite of Western donors. Its government delivers health and education to its people while maintaining total control over their lives through a surveillance system that North Korea would be proud of. At least, its friends argue, they have good reason after the 1994 genocide. Elsewhere governments are increasingly rarely changed by elections and several presidents, including Rwanda’s, have removed or are trying to remove term limits from their constitutions. 

In Kenya on Sunday Obama stood next to an uncomfortable-looking President Uhuru Kenyatta. Son of the country’s first president, he heads the country’s richest family. You could see Kenyatta’s discomfort when Obama spoke of Kenya’s rampant corruption, lack of gay rights and discrimination against women. Kenyatta bluntly refused to accept gay rights and I believe most of his fellow presidents will support him.

At one time presidents like Kenyatta would have smiled meekly and obeyed. Thanks to China’s engagement in the continent, African rulers have an alternative powerful ally and can push back against US demands. The outright refusal to accept gay rights shows Africa’s growing self-confidence. China has given Africa’s rulers an alternative trading and political partner. Its engagement in Africa over the past two decades has enabled African governments to ignore or reject demands from Britain, France and the US although there are signs that Beijing is now beginning discreetly to support western demands for better governance, not least to protect their own interests in the continent.

This is a crucial time for Africa. Today it has more than a billion people. By 2050 that will have become 2 billion. Until now it has lived by exporting commodities, vulnerable to the price swings of raw materials. If it can start adding value by manufacturing and exporting, it could become the next big global economic driver. But this requires vision and leaders who have their countries’ interests at heart.

Today I expect President Obama will speak to all Africa’s presidents about better governance, term limits, human rights and democracy. He will urge them to create space for their young populations to thrive in a corruption-free market. They will give him a standing ovation but at the back of their minds many will be thinking: “nice words and good ideas but will they help me stay in power?”

Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society.

This article was published in The Times on July 28th

The Pan-African history of Basil Davidson: Episode 1 – Different but Equal: Screening + Q&A

Tuesday, 11 March 2014 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Date & Time: Tuesday 11 March, 7-9PM
Place: Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT), SOAS

Event in partnership with the SOAS Pan-African Society.

Speakers: Mick Csaky, Series Executive Producer; Gus Casely-Hayford, presenter, Lost Kingdoms of Africa; Professor Stephen Quirke, Institute of Archaeology, University College London; Dr Ayman El-Desouky, Senior Lecturer in Modern Arabic and Comparative Literature, SOAS.

The Royal African Society is proud to announce that it is hosting the 30 anniversary of Basil Davidson’s award­winning 8 x 1­hour documentary film series “AFRICA: A Voyage of Discovery” which first appeared in the UK on Channel 4 television in April 1984 and went on to play worldwide, with an accompanying book.

Basil Davidson’s seminal documentary series ‘Africa’ challenges the long held beliefs like the opinion of David Hume that Africa had ‘no ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences’. The series presents a pan-African conception of history from the origins of Egypt and Nubia to the liberation movements that Basil was familiar with, and newly independent nations in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

When Greek Historian Herodotus visited Ancient Egypt he described the civilisation he saw there as ‘different but equal’. Episode one shows that some of the world’s greatest early civilisations have their origins in black Africa, including those along the Nile Valley. The episode includes interviews with Senegalese mathematician, philosopher and Egyptologist Cheikh Anta Diop and explores the growth of African civilisations in West and Northeast Africa.

In the Q&A following the screening we will discuss the extent Victorian Egyptologists ‘whitewashed’ archaeology to fit in with their conception of Africa as a land with no intrinsic history.

About the series:

The series was produced in collaboration between Channel 4, The Nigeria Television Authority MBTV and RM Arts. It first aired 30 years ago in 1984 and won many awards, including the International Film & TV Festival of New York Gold Award. It has since been distributed, free of charge to many schools and colleges in the UK and Africa.

About Basil Davidson

Basil Davidson was a distinguished author and historian, having written more than 30 books on Africa. Prior to this he was a soldier working in Churchill’s Special Operations Executive during World War 2.








AFRICA - Episode 1: Different but Equal. Written & Presented by Basil Davidson. Executive Producer: Mick Csaky. 1983.




AFRICA - Episode 2: Mastering a Continent. Written & Presented by Basil Davidson. Executive Producer: Mick Csaky. 1983.





Join us for our live screening of Episode 3: 

Buika + Special guests

Monday, 14 October 2013 - 7:30pm
Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS



Many missed out on her April show at La Linea, as the tickets sold out quickly.


Hailed as a star in contemporary flamenco, Buika is blessed with a remarkable voice; raw and smoky but with a tenderness that hits right at the heart.


This is your opportunity to see her in an intimate environment, playing tracks off her latest release: "La Noche Más Larga"


Get your tickets now, her show at the Barbican is selling fast!


"Buika possesses the most haunting voice to be found on either side of the Atlantic” - Sunday Times 


Watch the trailer for her Barbican Show Here

The concert follows her sold out show at this year's La Linea festival and the release of her stunning new album in June.

'Luminous…magnificent…superb!'  New York Times

Ticket Prices:  £15-£24


Click here to book tickets


African Composers Series: Tony Dudu

Saturday, 13 April 2013 - 8:30pm
VORTEX JAZZ CLUB 11 Gillett Square, London, N16 8AZ

Tony Dudu

Jazz driven by Latin grooves.

Tony Dudu is an in demand session guitarist, appearing on over 100 records with artists from Guinea Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome, Cape Verde and Brazil. Tonight Tony Dudu and his band “Gumbe Jazz” play frenetic jazz dance grooves powered by creative jazz solos.

Click here for more information

Africa's Next Generation: A bright Future?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
African Development Forum, Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre

Africa's Next Generation: A bright Future?

 Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre

The upcoming second African Development Forum will focus on harnessing the potential of youth for the continent’s development.

Africa is home to 350 million young people – and the numbers are growing rapidly. How can the African continent turn this into an asset? What if it becomes a liability? Which scenarios are likely?

Addressing opportunities and challenges in this context, the Forum will consist of two interactive panel discussions - ‘Mobilizing Youth’ and ’Innovating Africa’ -, involving a range of dynamic speakers from different industries and disciplines. The following questions will be tackled:

Employment: How will the continent employ 350 million young Africans?

Agriculture: How can farming attract Africa’s youth to compete with urbanisation?

Diaspora: What impact will the ‘brain gain’ have on African development?

Entrepreneurship: What is the role of young African women in business?

Leadership: Will the young replace the old and inspire real change in African politics?

Technology: Already pioneering in mobile technology, how can Africa do the same elsewhere?

Visit the African Development Forum website for more information

Organiser: African Development Forum

Contact email:

Sponsors: Centre of African Studies, University of London; SOAS, University of London; Royal African Society; Standard Chartered

Taxing Africa: Coercion, Reform and Development

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

Taxing Africa: Coercion, Reform and Development

Date & Time: Wednesday 19 September, 18:30 – 20:00

Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

Launch of the latest book in the African Arguments series

Taxation has been seen as the domain of charisma-free accountants, lawyers and number crunchers – an unlikely place to encounter big societal questions about democracy, equity or good governance. Yet it is exactly these issues that pervade conversations about taxation among policymakers, tax collectors, civil society activists, journalists and foreign aid donors in Africa today. Tax has become viewed as central to African development.

Written by leading international experts, Taxing Africa offers a cutting-edge analysis on all aspects of the continent’s tax regime, displaying the crucial role such arrangements have on attempts to create social justice and push economic advancement. From tax evasion by multinational corporations and African elites to how ordinary people navigate complex webs of ‘informal’ local taxation, the book examines the potential for reform, and how space might be created for enabling locally-led strategies.


About the Series

Written by experts with an unrivalled knowledge of the continent, African Arguments is a series of concise, engaging books that address the key issues currently facing Africa. Topical and thought-provoking, accessible but in-depth, they provide essential reading for anyone interested in getting to the heart of both why contemporary Africa is the way it is and how it is changing. The African Arguments series is published for the International African Institute by Zed Books in association with the Royal African Society and the World Peace Foundation.

Copies of Taxing Africa Coercion, Reform and Development by Mick Moore, Wilson Prichard, and Odd-Helge Fjeldstad will be on sale at the event.

Register here through Eventbrite

Please consider making a donation to the Royal African Society to support the events series.




RAS Annual Lecture 2018 - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Tuesday, 9 October 2018 - 6:00pm

The Royal African Society's Annual Lecture 2018

Delivered by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia
Date: Tuesday 9 October 2018
Venue: Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre, Victoria and Albert Museum,
Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL
Biography: Nobel Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a leading promoter of freedom, peace, justice, and democratic rule. Africa’s first democratically-elected female head of state, she led Liberia through reconciliation and recovery following the nation’s decade-long civil war, and the Ebola Crisis, winning international acclaim for achieving economic, social, and political change. President Sirleaf was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011. She is the recipient of The Presidential Medal of Freedom—the United States’ highest civilian award—for her personal courage and unwavering commitment to freedom for Africans.
In 2017, former President Sirleaf was awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which celebrates excellence in African leadership. Sirleaf was the first female recipient.
Please save the date in your diaries for our 2018 Annual Lecture.
Further details and registration will be announced in due course.