Richard Dowden is the Director of the Royal African Society. He was formerly the Africa editor for The Economist newspaper. Richard became director of the Royal African Society in 2002, following a long career as a journalist with a focus on Africa. His first two years on the continent, as a volunteer teacher in Uganda, coincided with the first two years of Idi Amin's rule. He has visited and written about almost every country on the continent. He is the author of Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles




Caitlin Pearson is the RAS Events Programme Manager, working on the general public events programme as well as the annual Africa Writes festival. Her background is in higher education and scholarship - she previously worked in communications and events at the Centre for African Studies, based at SOAS, and at the Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust. Caitlin holds a BA from the University of Birmingham and an MA from SOAS, both in African Studies. Her research interests include film and television, representation, class and disability. Caitlin is originally from South Africa. 

Rachael Loughlan is the Festival Producer for Film Africa. She is a freelance film festival consultant and project manager. She has worked in the film industry for 10 years, providing strategic support, event production, programming and venue management to a range of venues and film festivals, including Glasgow Film Festival, TIFF and EIFF. Rachael has an MLitt in Film Journalism from University of Glasgow and has been producing Film Africa since 2014.

Joanna Brown is the Education Programme Coordinator at Africa Writes. After six years as a primary teacher in Haringey, specialising in Literacy and Reading Enrichment, she is now developing streams of work to support cultural organisations in  their delivery of educational programmes. Prior to working in education, she co-ordinated community projects in the housing sector, with a focus on performing arts. Previously she worked as an events co-ordinator at the British Film Institute and the  BBC. She is of Sierra Leonean and English descent. Joanna holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Cambridge and trained to teach at the Institute of Education.




Shushan Tewolde-Berhan is the RAS' Business Programme Manager. Shushan has worked in administrative and events roles in small charities in London focusing on issues such as community development, homelessness and breast cancer care. Shushan holds a BA in Chinese and Politics from the University of Leeds and an MA in Post-war Recovery Studies from the University of York. She carried out field research in Afghanistan’s national peace and reintegration program for her dissertation, and is interested in peace-building infrastructures in African contexts. Shushan speaks Tigrinya and Mandarin. 

Sheila Ruiz is the Head of Programmes, Partnerships and Operations for the RAS -  heading the organisation's extensive programme of events, including the annual Africa Writes and Film Africa festivals and the RAS Annual Lecture. Prior to joining the RAS, Sheila was the Communications and Programming Consultant for the Africa Centre and previously worked as a freelance events producer for various arts projects in London. Sheila holds an MA in African Studies and a BA in History from SOAS. She is of mixed Spanish/Equato-Guinean heritage and is bilingual in Spanish and English. With a passion for dance and music, Sheila has performed with a number of groups, including the London Lucumi Choir. 
James Wan is a journalist and editor focusing on Africa. He was previously Acting Editor of African Business magazine and Senior Editor of Think Africa Press. He has written for the likes of AlJazeera, BBC, IRIN and the Guardian and was recently listed as one the  leading journalists on aid and development. James is a fellow of Wits University China-Africa Reporting Project and was shortlisted in the Guardian's International Development Journalism Competition in 2013. He tweets at @jamesjwan.
Melmarie Laccay is the Membership Administrator for the RAS.  Mel joined the RAS in July 2011. She was previously a Data Analyst for professional services and insurance firm - Marsh and McLennan Companies, as well as a Membership Officer at the Energy Institute. She has a BA in Digital Media and Mass Communications from London Metropolitan University. Working with the RAS has given her completely new insight into Africa's culture, diversity, politics and people. 

Lailah Nesbitt-Ahmed is the Africa APPG Policy & Research Coordinator. In addition to her work with the APPG, Lailah works for Muslim Aid as a UK Programmes Officer managing the INGO’s UK based education, livelihoods, healthcare and advocacy programmes.  Prior to joining RAS she worked with the Stabilisation Unit deploying experts into fragile and conflict affected states, as well as a number of International Development organisations and NGOs focused on improving outcomes for the poor and marginalised in the developing world. She has a Degree in Politics and Economics from the University of Kent and a Masters in International Development from the University of Birmingham.


Lizzie Orekoya   is the Administrative Manager at the Royal African Society.  Having worked in various project coordination and administrative roles in the healthcare and property industries, she provides support to the Director as well as ensuring the smooth running of the office.  With an active interest in the arts and culture, the RAS provides the opportunity for her to further develop her passion for Africa's past, present and future.


Yovanka Paquete Perdigao is the Marketing and Communications Manager for the Royal African Society. Previously she worked in event programming and communications for the Africa Centre and later at the Africa Research Institute. Yovanka is from Guinea-Bissau  and hold an Msc in Violence, conflict and development from SOAS, University of London.