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

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 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

Kenya goes to the polls – again

Friday, 1 September 2017
Richard Dowden

The cancellation of Kenya’s recent election shows that – so far – Kenya’s new constitution has held. The legitimacy of the election was called into question and the result was annulled by a panel of seven senior judges. What happens next is a test of the politicians. Will they accept the court ruling or resort to violence?  It is significant that one of the two judges who did not vote for a rerun is Luo – ethnic allegiances cannot be taken for granted even in Kenya’s deeply divided ethnicities. 

Kenya politics have always been rough and often murderous. In 2007, Kenya exploded in ethnic warfare. But it was only partly spontaneous. Much of the arming and killing was paid for by the political bosses. The biggest battles being between Kikuyu,  Kalenjin and Luo. Anyone in the “wrong” area was killed and their property seized. Thousands were forced to leave their homes. There has never been a formal casualty count. An international team headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan was brought in to hold an inquiry but witnesses were murdered or intimidated and process collapsed but before the inquiry was abandoned the names of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto were cited. They refused to go to the International Criminal Court at The Hague and witnesses were hunted down and intimidated into renouncing their statements or going into hiding. It was agreed that they be tried in Kenya but the cases never came to court.

In this election Chris Msando, the senior technology manager of the new digital electoral machinery, was kidnaped and murdered just before the election in August. That was just the latest in a long series of Kenyan political murders. In 1969 Tom Mboya, a prominent politician was assassinated. In 1990 Robert Ouko, a minister who upset President Daniel arap Moi was abducted and murdered. There have been many others. Of course the politicians will not be violent themselves but almost all employ gangs of thugs to protect them and attack rivals.

Even if Kenya stays peaceful the cost will be astronomic. The election cost 50 billion Kenya shillings. The GDP is $70 Billion. There are no statutory spending limits of elections and Kenyan politics are massively monetised. They call it eating and sometimes that is exactly what it is. If you want to get into parliament you must demonstrate that you are rich and can feed your people. So they hold Nyama Choma meetings. It means “roasted meat”, huge gatherings were cows are slaughtered and cooked and local beer is provided. This proves to the electorate that you are rich and can bring resources to the constituency. Few Kenyans would vote for a poor man with only a bicycle. MPs are expected to give their voters something real and immediate. Many politicians travel round handing out bundles of shillings to their constituents.  

The system is exceedingly expensive so MPs have to recoup their outlay by stealing whatever they can from the state and voting in parliament for higher and higher expenses. Kenyan MP salaries are slightly lower than those in the UK but their overall income is far greater as they are given cars, houses and barely-checked cash expenses tax free. 

The Kenyan political system is also multi layered so Kenyans have to vote for five different candidates representing the political system from Presidency to village. The election rerun means the candidates will have to do this all over again and many will not be able to afford it. Whether this will make for a better, fairer election remains to be seen.

Can Technology Fix Nigeria?

Wednesday, 27 September 2017 - 6:15pm to 8:30pm


Date & Time: Wednesday 27th September 2017, 18:15-20:30

Venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, LSE

54 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LJ

Speakers: Martin Eigbike (Dalberg Global Development Advisors), Ndubuisi Kejeh (De Charles), Victor Asemota (SwiftaCorp) & Olamide Bada (Jumia Food Nigeria). Hosted by Funmi Iyanda.

This event is part of the #HowToFixNigeria series, hosted by Funmi Iyanda, Oya Media, and the Royal African Society in partnership with the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa, LSE 


Technology is meant to make things easier, quicker, cheaper. Smart innovation is often seen as a panacea for Nigeria, Africa and the world’s ills. But technology is not just used by people and societies. It also shapes them.

Innovation can change people’s livelihoods and transform politics, culture and economics. Messaging apps and social media allow news (whether real or fake) to spread like wildfire. Mobile money payments enable vast sums to move across the globe in mere seconds. Crowdsourcing platforms allow real-time mapping of humanitarian disasters or election results.

Technology can widen the realm of the possible. However, it can just as easily simply deepen existing fractures and inequalities. At less than 30%, internet penetration in Africa still lags way behind the world average. Meanwhile, levels of access to technology replicate the divides between the rich and poor, urban and rural, male and female.

Nigeria is at the forefront of much innovation on the continent with its buzzing tech hubs and bold entrepreneurs. But can technology fix Nigeria?


Free event, please register on Eventbrite

Kenya Pre-Election Briefing

Wednesday, 2 August 2017 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Kenya Pre-Election Briefing
Date & Time: Wednesday 2nd August, 18:30 - 20:00
Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS
Listen to podcast
Speakers: Njoki Wamai, University of Cambridge; Justin Willis, Durham Unviersity; Edwin Orero, Royal Holloway University & Keni Kariuki, SOAS
Chair: Agnes Gitau (GBS Africa)
Kenya, East Africa's largest economy, will hold a general election on 8th August 2017. It is difficult to speak of Kenya's democratic process without referencing the 2007/2008 post-election crisis which saw over 1300 hundred innocent people killed and many others displaced. The nation held elections in 2013 which were peaceful in comparison but critics doubt whether peace is sustainable, claiming that factors that led to violence in 2007/2008 have never been dealt with. Can the country move forward without confronting this past? And with the devolution of powers in political and legislative units, does this election represent a shift in the relationship between local and national power?  
In economic terms, Kenya has in the last decade rebuilt its position in the regional and global affairs, its communication and infrastructure sectors making the nation a competitive investment destination. With the decline of Nigeria's economy and crisis in South Africa, leaders outside the continent seem to be inclined to strengthening relationships with Kenya (note the recent participation of President Kenyatta at the G7 summit and representing Africa at the Silk Road Forum). How will these relations play out post-election? The current drought and food shortage is having a significant impact on the battle for office. What does the political economy of agriculture and food security look like after election day has passed? 
This event is presented by the Royal African Society in partnership with GBS Africa.
Speaker Bios
Njoki Wamai is a Kenyan Post Doctoral Researcher at the Politics and International Studies Department's Centre for Human Rights and Governance(CGHR) at the University of Cambridge. She completed her Phd in Politics and International Studies at the Cambridge Politics Department in 2016 with a thesis that focused on the everyday politics of intervention within the Kenyan context. She has previous degrees from the University of Nairobi and the Africa Leadership Centre(ALC) at King's College London. She is currently working on a book manuscript on the politics of the ICC intervention in Kenya at the everyday level.

Edwin Orero is a final year Doctoral candidate at the School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London. Edwin's PhD thesis examines the adoption and use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Kenya, within the context of a lower middle income country, in meeting key infrastructural and public policy needs. Edwin is also a qualified accountant and a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK) and has worked both as an external and internal auditor in different organizations, both in Kenya and in the UK.

Justin Willis is Professor of Modern African History at the University of Durham. He was formerly Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) in Nairobi. He is also the Vice President of Research and Chair of the Research Committee at the BIEA. His work is largely concerned with identity, authority and social change in Eastern Africa over the last two hundred years.

Keni Kariuki is a PhD candidate at the School of  African and Oriental Studies. His research focus is on Kenyan agricultural public policy and the political economy of the Kenyan agricultural sector. Previously, he focused on the ‘right to food’ from a legal perspective, before being confronted with the reality of the intersection of formal and informal institutional interactions within the political settlement of developing nations. Currently, he seeks to address the reasons for the disparity in performance of various commodities through the lens of rents, with a specific focus on the county of his birth, Kenya.

Chair: Agnes Gitau is a partner at GBS Africa, a boutique Africa Advisory Firm whose focus is to link Africa projects to global pools of Capital Her role in the firm involves supporting International corporates manage political and policy risks associated with Africa Investments.

Tickets: £5 / Free for RAS Members and SOAS staff & students. Please book on Eventbrite.


SOAS Africa Conference : Alternative forms of Protest in Africa

Friday, 21 July 2017 - 12:30pm to 1:30pm


Alternative forms of Protest in Africa

Date & Time: Friday 21 July, 12:30-13:30

Venue: B102, Brunei Gallery Building

Speakers:  James Wan (African Arguments), Nanjala Nyabola (Independent Researcher),  Jenny Mbaye (City University), Stephen Chan (SOAS)
Chair: Anna De Mutiis (Centre of African Studies SOAS)


In many countries across Africa and the rest of the world, civic space is shrinking and leaders are becoming more entrenched. In response, activists are coming up with new protest strategies. In this lunchtime workshop, we bring together practitioners, analysts and scholars to look at the innovative ways that citizens are making their voices heard. We will question the impact of these alternative methods and look at their global implications. What can African activists teach the rest of the world and what can they learn from it?

This event is part of the SOAS Africa Conference


The moral economy of elections in Africa: Research from Ghana, Kenya and Uganda

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 - 6:00pm to 7:15pm




Date & Time: Tuesday, 13 June 2017 - 6:00pm to 7:15pm

Venue: Lecture Hall, British Academy,10-11 Carlton House Terrace, St. James's, London SW1Y 5AH

Speakers: Nic Cheeseman,  Birmingham University; Gabrielle Lynch, University of WarwickJustin Willis, University of Durham

 Chair:  Dr George Bob-Milliar,  Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology


Since the 1950s, elections by secret ballot and adult suffrage have lain at the heart of both dreams and fears about Africa’s possible futures – and have sparked continuing debates. Will the vote transform governance, teaching citizenship and making governments accountable? Will unscrupulous politicians stoke ethnic and sectarian hatred, sparking chaos? Or are elections merely a show for an international audience, a threadbare disguise for authoritarian rulers? The results of a major ESRC-funded project suggest that the universal secret ballot is much more embedded in popular ideas of authority than sceptics would argue. But the research has also shown that the ballot has not had any uniform or transformative effect on citizenship; and that elections themselves are not always what they seem. Elections are nominally constructed through law and regulation; they are made of paper, and process. Yet the behaviour of voters, candidates and officials is shaped by expectations and attitudes that make demands, and impose constraints,  quite distinct from -  and even contradictory to - the formal rules. This lecture explores the emergence, nature and significance of these moral economies of elections.

Speaker’s bios:

Nic Cheeseman is Professor of Democracy and International Development at Birmingham University. 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. 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. Professor Cheeseman also regularly provides analysis to the UK and US governments, and is an advisor to, and writer for, Kofi Annan’s African Progress Panel.

Gabrielle Lynch is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Warwick. Her research interests lie in understanding the nature and political salience of ethnic identities, politics of being indigenous, causes of inter-communal violence, impact and utility of reconciliation and transitional justice mechanisms, and elections and democratization.

Justin Willis is Professor of Modern African History at the University of Durham. He was formerly Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) in Nairobi. He is also the Vice President of Research and Chair of the Research Committee at the BIEA. His work is largely concerned with identity, authority and social change in Eastern Africa over the last two hundred years.

 Dr George Bob-Milliar is  is Senior Lecturer at the Department of History and Political Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Ghana-Legon. His articles have appeared in leading journals including Democratization, Journal of Modern African Studies, African Affairs, and International Journal of African Historical Studies. He has been visiting fellow at Cambridge University, Makerere University, and the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). 

This event is in partnership with the British Institute in Eastern Africa. The event is free and open to all but spaces are limited.

The event is livestreamed here:


Ghana 60 Years On: Mobilising for Ghana's Future

Tuesday, 23 May 2017 - 5:45pm to 9:00pm


Date & Time: Tuesday 23rd May, 17:45 - 21:00
Venue: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG
Speakers: Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Baroness Valerie Amos, Richard Dowden , Paul Adom-Otchere

Ghana was the first country to gain independence from British colonialism in 1957. This event, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Ghanaian Independence, will be conducted by Ghana's Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey.

The event will premiere the documentary film entitled 'From Gold Coast to Ghana, a Glorious History of Self Determination'. The film depicts the processes of Ghana's independence struggle, from the Imperial Britain’s model of colonisation, to the intense negotiations that attended the challenge to imperial rule. The film presents the controversial plan produced by the British that would allow decolonisation but introduce the markings of of neo-colonialism. The historical film tells the history of Ghana through its constitutions - from the bond of 1844 to the constitution of 1992 - which has now produced 5 presidents and 7 parliaments.

Join us for this film screening, and an evening of discussion, dance and drumming. With contributions from Hon Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Baroness Valerie Amos  (SOAS Director), Richard Dowden (Director of the Royal African Society), Paul Adom-Otchere (Filmmaker) and others to be announced.

The event will be followed by a networking reception in the Brunei Suite.

This event is organised in collaboration with the Centre of African Studies, University of London and the Ghana High Commission

This event is free and open to the public, please reserve your ticket on Eventbrite 



Press Freedom, Activism and Writing in Eritrea: An Evening to Celebrate Dawit Isaak

Thursday, 4 May 2017 - 7:00pm to 9:30pm

Date & Time: Thursday 4th May 2017, 19:00 - 21:30

Venue: Djam Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG

An evening of celebration and discussion in recognition of Dawit Isaak being awarded the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. 

Eritrean-Swedish journalist and playwright Dawit Isaak was an active and far-sighted presence on the arts and media scene in Eritrea.  He was arrested in a crackdown on the media and opposition that occurred in September 2001, and has been in prison since this time, without charge or trial. The last time he was heard from was in 2005, and his present location is unknown. He wrote poems, short stories, newspaper articles and plays. He worked closely with Fessehaye Yohannes, who was also imprisoned in 2001, and who died in jail in 2007. Together they created the Children’s theatre group SEWIT and the acrobat group Circus Eritrea.

This year an independent international jury of media professionals recommended unanimously that Dawit Isaak be awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in recognition of his courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression.

To mark this award, the event will celebrate Dawit Isaak’s work, launch a campaign for his release, and enable a discussion about the current situation in Eritrea. The panel will analyse the recent UN commission report, efforts to improve the situation and will discuss related UK and EU policies. There will be readings and an excerpt of the play I Am Your Brother  by Karl Hoff.

Speakers include: Dawit Mesfin Writer, veteran commentator on Eritrean affairs and political activist, Michela Wrong, former Africa correspondent for BBC, Reuters and the Financial Times, Vanessa Berhe, Founder of One Day Seyoum, FCO Eritrea Desk &  APPG for Eritrea to be confirmed.

Followed by Music & Eritrean Food from Merkato Restaurant - £7 per plate

This evening is organised by Arts for Action in partnership with The Royal African Society, Amnesty International, Pen Eritrea, and Pen International, with support from Cultures of Resistance.

This event is free and open to all but spaces are limited. Please register on Eventbrite.

Facebook event page

The evening will be recorded for podcast and linked to a global audience through International Pen Centres. Any questions, press queries please call Melissa Eveleigh on 07542630069. 

O.R. Tambo Centenary Public Lecture and Panel Discussion

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 - 6:00pm to 8:30pm
Date & Time: Wednesday 26th April, 18:00 - 20:30
Venue: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG

In 2017 South Africa celebrates the centenary of the birth of O.R. Tambo, an anti-apartheid politician and revolutionary who served as President of the African National Congress from 1967 to 1991.

The South African High Commission and its partner, the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation, will celebrate the life of O.R. Tambo in a series of events taking place in 8 countries around the world. The events will explore In His Footsteps: Passion, Patriotism, Integrity, Humility.


This event is brought to you by the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation, the South African High Commission, the Royal African Society, the Centre of African Studies, University of London and SOAS. The theme of panel discussion will be: 'Retracing O.R. Tambo's path towards liberation and the dawn of democracy in South Africa'.



6pm Live mbira music by Kudaushe Matimba

6.30pm Welcome and introduction

6.40pm Panel discussion

7.30pm Q&A with the audience

7.50pm Poetry reading by Leeto Thale

8pm Reception

9pm Close

This event is free and open to all but spaces are limited. Please register on Eventbrite and consider making a donation to the event series.