Celebrating Buchi Emecheta

Saturday, 3 February 2018 - 9:30am to 8:00pm

Celebrating Buchi Emecheta
Date & Time: 09:30-20:00, Saturday 3 February 2018
Venue: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre & Suite, SOAS, Thornhaugh St, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

An all-day celebration of the life and work of the acclaimed Nigerian novelist Buchi Emecheta, who passed away in January 2017.

As a novelist and story teller Buchi Emecheta touched the lives of many people, and continues to inspire a new generation through the example she set as an immigrant, single mother of five children who rose to became an international literary figure.
This anniversary event will be a celebration Buchi Emecheta's life and work as well as an opportunity to hold a public conversation about her legacy.
The event will include a curated installation of The Life and Times of Buchi Emecheta, panel discussions, dramatisations of excerpts from two of her best know novels, music and dancing and of course Nigerian food. Also expect a colourful cultural tribute from members of the Ibusa community in London... 
The official launch of the Buchi Emecheta Foundation and Omenala Press' exciting new edition of Buchi Emecheta's books will take place on the same day. The full programme will be available in January 2018 on www.buchiemecheta.co.uk
Presented by The Buchi Emecheta Foundation and Omenala Press, in partnership with the Royal African Society, Africa Writes, Centre of African Studies, University of London, Igbo Conference, City University & Afrikult. Supported by Arts Council England.
Tickets: £15 / £7 available to buy in cash on the door.
Image: Portrait of Buchi Emecheta on the cover of The Slave Girl (1977) by Val Wilmer


A Fresh Start

Monday, 27 November 2017
Nicholas Westcott

I arrived at the Royal African Society on 1 November from seven years working on Africa and the Middle East in Brussels. It is invigorating to make a fresh start working with the continent I know better than any except my own, and the RAS is the place to do it.

My first few weeks in the job have already illustrated the strength and breadth of the RAS’s work. Film Africa was in full swing during my first week, with some remarkable productions from the continent that really deserve the wider audience they get here in the UK. The Society was also in the thick of preparing the visit of the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo to London on 21 November to present his vision for an “Africa beyond Aid” to the world. At the same time, with the latest developments in the long-running saga of Zimbabwe and the future of its President, the African Arguments website has provided a platform for lively debate on what the recent moves mean and what is likely to happen next. In addition, in Parliament, the African All-Party Parliamentary Group conducted hearings in the prospects for trade with Africa after Brexit, with the usual support from the RAS.

It was a particular honour to host President Akufo-Addo, an old friend from my years in Ghana when he was successively Foreign Minister, Presidential candidate and leader of the opposition NPP. He brought a stirring message that Africa needed to seek its own economic and political salvation, and that Ghana was ready to lead the way in that respect – a message strongly supported by the panel of private sector representatives, including Fuse ODG, the award-winning Anglo-Ghanaian Afro-beats artist. Nana Akufo-Addo’s own story is an object lesson in the benefits of perseverance and genuine democracy in an African context, not just for him, but for the whole of Ghana. Live-streamed through Facebook from the V&A Lecture Theatre, it also illustrated the valuable platform the RAS can provide and wide audience that it can reach.

It was altogether a typical month for the Society. The agenda is forward-looking, economic, political and cultural, and informed by the depth of knowledge and expertise that the RAS can bring to bear on all these subjects. It is in joining up the dots and demonstrating the inter-connectedness, that we can help people understand British-African links better.

There is still much more to do. An immediate challenge that the RAS is facing is to find more reliable ways to finance this activity. I have been very impressed by how much is done by so few in the Society’s offices here in Gordon Square. While extremely efficient, if we are to reach out to a wider audience in business, in the diaspora and in the regions beyond London, to do the many things that we and our members would like to do, we need to adequately resource the effort.  We will be working hard on that in the months ahead.

Encouraging people to join the RAS is a good start. We are a membership organisation and the more members we have, the more we can do for them.

I therefore intend to make a priority in the next few months of meeting as many of the Society’s members as possible, individual and corporate, to hear what more you would like us to do. I also want to contact our many sister organisations and collaborative partners to see what more we can do in common with them to achieve our goals. And I will work with the team here to encapsulate those goals as clearly as possible to ensure we have a strong and purposeful sense of direction.

So all contributions will be welcome to this process of reflection. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us through this google form: https://goo.gl/forms/jxhm6RlOQuEmLRGF2

All in all, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…” as someone once said.

'Africa Beyond Aid' - President Nana Akufo-Addo's vision for the continent

Tuesday, 21 November 2017 - 1:00pm to 2:30pm

'Africa Beyond Aid' - President Nana Akufo-Addo's vision for the continent
Date & Time: 13:00-14:30, Tuesday 21 November 2017
Venue: Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL

As part of international events marking Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary, President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo will address an audience at a public event on Tuesday 21 November hosted by the Royal African Society at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

After 60 years of political independence, Ghana is positioning itself as a beacon of stability and economic success in the region. President Akufo-Addo has announced a bold mission to build ‘a Ghana beyond aid’, with the aim to inspire ‘an Africa beyond aid’. The President will give a keynote speech on his country’s move to industrialisation and investment. He will also shed light on the prospects and challenges of this transition for the African continent as a whole.

This message of this mission comes at a key point as the UK redesigns its post-Brexit trade and investment policies. The President and guest speakers will highlight some new areas of opportunity and specific policy initiatives to facilitate investment and trade flows.

A panel of guest speakers will then respond to the President’s remarks and highlight the importance of mobilising the skills of Africans in the diaspora. For many years, remittances, skills and technology transfers have had an impact on African countries that far exceeds foreign aid. The event will be a platform for dialogue on business opportunities, partnerships, and mobilising the diaspora across several sectors.

Presented by the Royal African Society and supported by WorldRemit and DeCharles.


Tickets: £15 Royal African Society Members / £30 Non-members / £15 Non-members (concession). Book on Eventbrite.

Please note that due to the nature of this event, late-comers will not be admitted. 


Facebook Livestream 


Message from the new Director to all members and friends of the Royal African Society

Monday, 13 November 2017
Nicholas Westcott
I am honoured and delighted to take up the role of Director of the Royal African Society.  For over a hundred years it has played a crucial role in promoting a better understanding of, and improved relations between, Africa and the United Kingdom. 
Britain and Africa are an integral part of each other's history, and a growing part of each other's present.  Hundreds of thousands of people of African origin live in Britain.  Business and trade between us continue to grow, and global challenges such as climate change and terrorism affect both of us deeply.  In a world of ever closer connections it is more important than ever to understand each other - our history, our interests, our identity and our cultures - and allow open discussion and debate over our collective future and how we interact.
The Royal African Society provides an unparalleled network and platform through which we can have this discussion, promote understanding, identify those mutual interests, and encourage action.
Ever since I first visited Africa in 1976 (then as a back-packing, hitch-hiking student), I have been learning about the continent and connecting with its people.  After seven years living in East and West Africa and as many more dealing with Africa in Brussels and London, leading the RAS is a tremendous opportunity to put those connections to work for the mutual benefit of Britain and Africa.  
I look forward to working with all of you to that end, and meeting you as soon as the opportunity arises.
- Nick Westcott

Mobilising Through Messaging: Democracy and the Digital Space in Kenya

Monday, 23 October 2017 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm



Mobilising Through Messaging: Democracy and the Digital Space in Kenya
ASAUK 2017 Mary Kingsley Zochonis Lecture delivered by Dr Duncan Mainye Omanga, Moi University, Kenya

Date & Time: 19:00, Monday 23 October 2017

Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre,  SOAS, University of London

Listen to podcast

The growth and penetration of the internet in Africa, coupled with the popularity and ubiquity of the mobile phone have positioned social media platforms as the new spaces through which Africans organize and imagine both political discourse and action.

This lecture highlights the role of WhatsApp groups in Kenya’s Nakuru County in convening citizens for political deliberation and civic action in County government affairs. In the context of political and economic devolution in Kenya following the promulgation of a new constitution in 2010, this lecture shows how social media plays a critical role in localizing both formal and informal political discourse and action.

The presentation narrows focus to (possibly) one of the most organized WhatsApp groups in Kenya, ‘the Nakuru Analysts’. The analysts, as they are popularly known, have used the affordances of WhatsApp such as the ability to carry text, picture and video at very low costs, and the possibility of the platform to convene groups for ‘talk’, to emerge as one of the most notable spaces for deliberation, agitation and for mobilizing for social, legislative and political action in the city of Nakuru.

Specifically, I historicize how The Nakuru analysts came into being, highlighting the specific contingencies that made it possible for ‘The analysts’ to become what they are today. Furthermore, the lecture offers an empirical insight into how WhatsApp groups are organized and the many ways through which they articulate their agenda.

In doing so, I will show why the Nakuru Analysts have emerged as the most effective ‘check’ of the County government and why they have succeeded in ‘modulating’ Nakuru County politics. The lecture will also reveal the various digital roles taken by the ‘administrators’ and selected participants of these platforms, and how these positions shape grassroots politics in Nakuru. More important, I will highlight the real and perceived achievements of the analysts, thereby giving insights into how members draw from this critical digital space to set the local political agendas.

Duncan Omanga is currently the Head, Department of Publishing and Media Studies, Moi University (Kenya). He is an alumnus of the Bayreuth International Graduate School of Graduate Studies (BIGSAS) at the University of Bayreuth, in Germany. Dr. Omanga is also a 2014 APN (Africa Peace Network-SSRC) alumni and was the 2015/6 African Visiting Fellow (Centre for African Studies) at the University of Cambridge. Dr. Omanga is the nominee for the 2017 Mary Kingsley Zochonis Lecture (ASAUK).The lecture is based on his current research on ‘Social Media and public Participation in Kenya.’ He is a columnist with The Standard, a Kenyan daily.

This event is free and open to all. Please register on Eventbrite.

Satire and Politics in Africa: The 2017 Kenya elections and other stories

Tuesday, 10 October 2017 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Date & Time: Tuesday 10 October 2017, 19:00 – 20:30

Venue: Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London, W2 1QJ

Godfrey Mwampembwa, a.k.a Gado is a renowned political cartoonist. He joins us to politics and the role of satire in Africa, with a particular focus on speaking truth to power and the build up to, rejection of, and subsequent re-running of the Kenyan presidential elections of 2017.

Speaker Bios

Godfrey Mwampembwa, a.k.a Gado is a renowned political cartoonist. Originally from Tanzania, Gado has lived and worked as an editorial cartoonist in Kenya for many years, and currently works for The East African Standard in Nairobi. His cartoons have also been published in Daily Nation (Kenya), Le Monde and Courrier International (France), Deutsche Welle (Germany), and The Guardian (UK) among others. He is the Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Buni Media, an independent multi-media company based in Nairobi, where he produces the weekly satirical puppet show, The XYZ SHOW. Gado is a recipient of many awards including the Kenya National Human Rights Commission Award in Journalism in 2005 and 2007 and the prestigious Cartoon for Peace 2016 International Editorial Cartoon award. In 2011 Gado was among 12 extraordinary leaders to receive a Visionaries Award from Ford Foundation for their innovative efforts on the frontlines of key social issues. In 2014, Gado was named as one of the 100 most influential people in Africa by the New African.

Nic Cheeseman is Professor of Democracy and International Development at the University of Birmingham. In addition to numerous book chapters, he is the author of Democracy in Africa: Successes, failures and the struggle for political reform (CUP, 2015) and over twenty journal articles including "Rethinking the 'presidentialism debate': Conceptualizing coalitional politics in cross-regional perspective" (Democratization, 2014), which won the inaugural GIGA prize for the best article published in Comparative Area Studies. Professor Cheeseman is also the editor of the collections Our Turn to Eat: Politics in Kenya Since 1950 (2010), The Handbook of African Politics (2013), and African Politics: Major Works (2016), and two special issues of the Journal of Eastern African Studies on the Kenyan elections of 2007 and 2013. As well as being the former editor of the journal African Affairs, the #1 ranked journal in Area Studies, Professor Cheeseman is the founding editor of the Oxford Encyclopaedia of African Politics, the Oxford Dictionary of African Politics, and the co-editor of the Handbook of Kenyan Politics (forthcoming). These days, he spends much of his time writing about contemporary events in Africa in a bi-weekly column for Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper.


Tickets are £12.50 / £10 for RAS members. Please book on the Frontline Club website.


A selection of Gado cartoons reproduced with kind permission of the artist...











Fintech in Africa: How to scale impact

Monday, 25 September 2017 - 6:00pm to 9:00pm



Date & Time: Monday 25th September 2017, 18:00-21:00

Venue: London Business School, 26 Sussex Place, Marylebone, London NW1 4SA

Tickets: £24 - Registration is essential, please book your place on Eventbrite

Brought to you by the Professionals for Africa network and the Royal African Society, in collaboration with DLA PiperInnovate Finance, and London Business School's Africa Club.

Tickets are free for RAS Corporate Members & PFA Donor Members with the promotional code.


The future of business in Africa has become synonymous with ‘disruptive’ technology and fintech in particular. Entrepreneurs and investors alike are attracted by the task of creating a digital financial ecosystem from scratch, whilst providing social impact for Africa’s unbanked citizens. Over the past two years, Africa’s fintech scene has boomed significantly, marked by a surge in both the numbers of startups launched and investments. There are currently over 300 fintech startups operating in Africa, which have raised over $100 million since 2015.

But how can startup founders profitably scale their products and services whilst solving low levels of financial inclusion? How can they tackle challenges such as interoperability across Africa’s fragmented infrastructure and markets? And how can funders address regional gaps in funding destinations to ensure greater social impact?

Join this special forum where our expert panels of entrepreneurs and investors will delve into fintech in Africa, sharing their insights on the trends that are shaping the continent’s digital financial landscape; from payments and remittances to insurance and savings products. This event will facilitate unique interactive discussions with practical tips, inspiration and useful resources shared by our panellists.


For more information, please contact ras_corporate@soas.ac.uk


Africa Writes 2017 Pop-Up: Velvet Coalmine Festival

Thursday, 7 September 2017 - 7:00pm to Sunday, 10 September 2017 - 6:00pm

Africa Writes 2017 Pop-Up: Velvet Coalmine Festival
Thursday 7th – Sunday 10th September 2017
Various venues in Blackwood, Wales

Africa Writes visits Velvet Coalmine – the South Wales festival of writing, rock’n’roll & coal

This year, Africa Writes is on tour! We are visiting Rwanda and Tanzania in East Africa, and Edinburgh, Bristol, Birmingham and Blackwood in the UK. Stopping off at Velvet Coalmine festival in Blackwood, Wales, will be a group of internationally recognised poets and facilitators including Belinda Zhawi, Rachel Long, Victoria Adukwei Bulley, Nick Makoha, and Afrikult.. Through creative collaborations and captivating performances, Africa Writes at Velvet Coalmine festival promises to be an exciting weekend!

Both Africa Writes and Velvet Coalmine exist to celebrate and promote history, heritage, and creativity and innovation. We are about bringing people together to discover things about themselves and other people through art. With the packed programme of events including poetry performances, workshops for teachers, book club discussions and creative writing sessions, there are many engaging ways for the Blackwood community to discover African literature.

Book Tickets through the Velvet Coalmine website

Follow the adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

Africa Writes at Velvet Coalmine Festival is made possible through the support of the Caerphilly County Borough Council.

Africa Writes 2017 Pop-Up: Bristol

Friday, 6 October 2017 - 6:00pm to Saturday, 7 October 2017 - 11:30pm

Africa Writes 2017 Pop-Up: Bristol

Friday 6 October 2017 at The Cube Cinema, Dove St S, Avon, Bristol BS2 8JD

Saturday 7 October 2017 at Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, BS1 3QY Bristol, United Kingdom

The Royal African Society ’s annual literature festival comes to Bristol!

Africa Writes Pop-Up: Bristol presents exciting series of events celebrating contemporary African literature and thought.

With book launches, film screenings, discussions, family activities, workshops, and a poetry night, the festival brings you a vibrant programme showcasing the best new writing from the continent and the Diaspora. Featuring:

• Chinelo Okparanta (Under The Udala Trees)

• Jowhor Ile (And After Many Days)

• Half of a Yellow Sun screening & discussion

• Workshops on Creative Writing & Arts Management

• The Secret of the Purple Lake storytelling workshop with Yaba Badoe(Cassava Republic)

• Discussion on Literary Activism and Africa

• Poetry & music night hosted by Numbi Arts & Ujima Radio 98fm Djs

The majority of the festival is free and open to all, and the full programme will be announced soon on www.africawrites.org

Brought to you by the Royal African Society in partnership with University of BristolNumbi ArtsAfrika Eye Film FestivalUjima Radio 98fmSpike IslandCenter for African Cultural Excellence (CACE), Coexist at Hamilton House and others.

Africa Writes Presents: Saraba Magazine Launch

Monday, 2 October 2017 - 7:15pm to 8:30pm

Date & Time: Monday 2nd October, 19:15 – 20:30
Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 0XG

Speakers: Emmanuel Iduma, Irenosen Okojie, Abiola Oni, Ayòbámi Adébáyò. 
Chair: Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed

Saraba is a literary magazine focused on the work of new writers in Nigeria and other parts of the African​ ​continent. Founded in 2009 by Nigerian​ ​undergraduates, Saraba has published several​ ​digital​ ​issues of a​ ​magazine, poetry chapbooks, and online-only work,​ ​becoming​ ​​an acclaimed literary magazine out of Africa​.​ ​The magazine aims to create unending voices by encouraging writers at the outset of their careers, and offers a reflection of the world, and how literature can speak to, about and for, basic human interaction.

Contributors include winners or shortlistees of acclaimed literary awards including the Caine Prize for African Writing, Bailey's Women Prize for Fiction, Etisalat Prize for Literature, and NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature.

As the publication evolves from its online presence to one in physical form, this event marks the launch of Saraba’s first print issue TransitionsThe featured writers and visual artists explore the theme of ‘transitions’, through questions of time, movement, and sexual identity, among others. Join us to celebrate this special occasion and hear from the published writers and editors - Emmanuel Iduma, Irenosen Okojie, Abiola Oni and Ayòbámi Adébáyò in conversation with bookshy blogger Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed.

This is the London edition of a series of launch events, taking place in Lagos and Abeokuta, Nigeria, and New York City, Pittsburgh, and Winnipeg in the USA. Copies of the new Saraba issue will be available to buy.

Image: N65 by Aderemi Adegbite.

Tickets for this event are £8 / free for RAS Members. SOAS Staff & Students
Please book on Eventbrite

Speaker Bios

Emmanuel Iduma is the author of The Sound of Things to Come (first published as Farad in Nigeria). He co-edited Gambit: Newer African Writing. His essays on art and photography have been published widely. He is editor of Saraba Magazine, and a faculty member of the MFA Art Writing program at the School of Visual Arts, New York. A Stranger's Pose, his book of travel stories, is forthcoming in 2018. 

Irenosen Okojie is a writer and Arts Project Manager. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask award and was shortlisted for an Edinburgh International First Book Award. Her work has been featured in The Observer,The Guardian, the BBC and the Huffington Post amongst other publications. Her short stories have been published internationally. She was presented at the London Short Story Festival by Ben Okri as a dynamic writing talent to watch and was featured in the Evening Standard Magazine as one of London’s exciting new authors. Her short story collection Speak Gigantular ,published by Jacaranda Books was shortlisted for the Edgehill Short Story Prize, the Jhalak Prize, the Saboteur Awards and nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. She is online at www.irenosenokojie.com and @IrenosenOkojie

Abiola Oni is a Nigerian writer who lives in London. In 2016, she won the inaugural short story prize created by The Guardian and 4th Estate Books for black and minority ethnic (BAME) writers in the UK. Her stories have appeared in Jalada, Bakwa Magazine, Riposte and Somesuch Stories. She is currently working on her first novel. She tweets @AbbiOni

Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀’s stories have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, and one was highly commended in the 2009 Commonwealth short story competition. She holds BA and MA degrees in Literature in English from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife and has worked as an editor for Saraba magazine since 2009. She also has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia where she was awarded an international bursary for creative writing. Ayobami has received fellowships and residencies from Ledig House, Sinthian Cultural Centre, Hedgebrook, Ox-bow School of Arts, Ebedi Hills and Siena Art Institute. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria.

Chair: Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed is a researcher, writer and blogger with extensive experience in gender, urbanisation and international development. She is currently a Technical Specialist on Women’s Economic Empowerment at Social Development Direct. Zahrah is also the founder and editor of bookshy – a labour of love dedicated to African literature – and the curator of ABC, a visual showcase of African Book Covers. She holds a BSc in Human and Physical Geography from University of Reading, an MSc in Urbanisation and Development and a PhD in Human Geography and Urban Studies, both from LSE. She tweets @bookshybooks