Africa is going to be far more important in this century, growing dramatically in population and economic strength, and we have to be positioned as a university to prepare our students for the challenge…We also need to provide opportunities for our faculty to increase their knowledge of and involvement in these issues. Plus, we will continue to contribute to helping U.S. corporations in ways that will be important economically… 


Our charge is to create a strategic framework to enhance Washington University’s impact and programmatic efforts on the  Africa continent, in terms of research, teaching, advisory, and entrepreneurship.

The Africa Initiative was established to document the University’s formal and informal programs in Africa and to determine the level of interest in expanding and/or creating additional programs and initiatives. The Africa Initiative at Washington University is an interdisciplinary endeavor committed to expanding knowledge and creating teaching, learning, and cultural opportunities for faculty, staff, and students. Washington University has programs and initiatives in over 36 countries in Africa, focusing on research, education, and innovation. The Africa Initiative will work to create a framework to support and or strengthen these current engagements, build capacity and create opportunities for future collaborations.

Our core responsibilities include:

  • support faculty and student research focused on the Africa continent;
  • help establish formalized institutional relationships between Washington University and collaborative partners on the Africa continent;
  • enhance engagement through workshops, roundtables, and conferences at Washington University and on the Africa continent with our partners.

Africa’s rising economic significance and growing consumer markets can no longer be ignored. This positive view of Africa is justified—sub-Saharan Africa is the host of some of the fastest growing economies in the world.

A Conversation With Benjamin Akande, Director Of Wash U’s Africa Initiative

Benjamin Akande is assistant vice chancellor for International Affairs-Africa and also the associate director of Wash U’s Global Health Center.

The Africa Initiative at WashU aims to strategically enhance a wide range of institutional activities connected to the African continent.

On May 14, Akande joined St. Louis on the Air and guest host Ruth Ezell for an update on the initiative as well as a conversation about other topics. 

Wole Soyinka at 85: A Life of Meaning and Impact

Benjamin Ola Akande, July 2019

One of my favorite works of Professor Wole Soyinka is “telephone conversation,” a poem written more than 50 years ago while he was a student in London. 

Telephone conversation is a hilarious take on a very serious subject of racism encountered by African students from prospective landlords in 1950 London. It is engrossing, brilliant and as relevant today as it was back then.

Read more of Benjamin Ola Akande’s article on Sahara Reporters.

The true story behind ‘The Lion King’

Kellie Carter Jackson, July 2019

The story of Sundiata Keita is behind “The Lion King.” Known as the Lion of Mali, Sundiata was the founder of the Malian Empire, the largest kingdom in West Africa. He ruled his empire, which expanded from the Atlantic coast all the way to the Niger River, from 1235 to 1255. Some may know of his great-nephew, Mansa Musa, who was the richest person to ever live in the history of the world. According to Forbes, Musa’s fortune was estimated at $400 billion, adjusted for inflation. During his famous pilgrimage to Mecca, he built mosques in his wake and gave away so much gold that the price of gold was devalued for the next 25 years.

Read the entire article at the Washington Post

Signage during the world premiere of Disney’s “The Lion King” at the Dolby Theatre on July 9 in Hollywood. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

How Nigeria’s conservative northern region came to terms with its MeToo movement

Fakhrriyyah Hashim, July 2019

A young woman in the northern Nigerian city of Kano recounted her near-death experience at the hands of a man she had once loved, to her surprise, she was met with strong support, which drowned the condemnation from a section of Twitter dominated by northern Nigerians. A wave of recollections of sexual violence followed under hashtag I created #ArewaMeToo. Arewa, a local term for the northern part of Nigeria, could not evade the global overspill of the #MeToo movement that had taken off from the United States. 

Read the entire article on Quartz Africa.

Google is using Maps to try and bring order to one of Africa’s most chaotic cities

Yomi Kazeem, July 2019

At its third annual Google For Nigeria event (a flagship program for unveiling new products and upgrades which first started in 2017 with a visit from Google CEO Sundar Pichai), the global giant announced upgrades to its Map service in Nigeria aimed at easing navigation.

Read the entire article on Quartz Africa.

Lagos’ iconic yellow danfo buses.

WashU South Africa Brewing Interns Blog

July 2019

Three Washington University South Africa Brewing interns, Greyson Bourgeois, Nozomi Horikawa, and Rudy Lawler, were stationed at one of the offices in Sandton, an area situated in Johannesburg, South Africa, and given a variety of different resources to begin studying for their projects at the Rosslyn plant of AB InBev. Read more about their experiences touring the landscapes, working on their projects, and brainstorming potential solutions.

The Inaugural Africa Initiative Meeting was held at Brown Lounge, where a panel discussion “Engaging in Africa: Lessons Learned” was held.

Photos by Whitney Curtis/WUSTL Photos | APR 23, 2019


Africa Initiative Inaugural Meeting

April 23 │ 4:OO-5:30 PM│ Brown Lounge, Room 218 in Brown Hall

Prominent speakers at the event will include Chancellor Mark Wrighton and Dean Mary McKay and will feature a panel discussion, titled: Engaging in Africa: Lessons Learned

For more information and to RSVP, please visit: AFRICA INITIATIVE INAUGURAL MEETING EVENT.

Cocktail Party at the Zoo

April 24 │ 5:00-8:00 PM │ St. Louis Zoo – River Camp

Learn about Wash U’s Researchers and Conservationists in Africa! The event will be hosted by the Living Earth Collaborative, in partnership with the Africa Initiative.

Please RSVP by April 16 to LIVING EARTH WUSTL. View more information on LIVING EARTH COLLABORATIVE.



Africa Initiative Faculty Briefings
Nov 7 | 3-4 PM | Brown Lounge, Room 218 in Brown Hall
Nov 8 |  3-4  PM | Lobby Conference Room, Room 15145 – 15th floor Northwest Tower
Africa Initiative Faculty Briefing Alternates
Nov 12 | 8-9  AM |  Lobby Conference Room, Room 15145 – 15thfloor Northwest Tower
Nov 13 | 8-9 AM | Brown Lounge, Room 218 in Brown Hall
Africa Initiative Student Briefing
Nov 15 | 12-1 PM | Goldfarb Hall, Room 333A

U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria at Washington University
Stuart Symington, U.S. ambassador to Nigeria gave a lecture, “A Transatlantic Partnership of Global Importance,” in Knight Hall’s Emerson Auditorium on the Danforth Campus on October 1.
You can watch the recorded live stream at the link below.
Ambassador Symington Public Address
Read more about Symington’s visit to Washington University at The Source.


Benjamin Akande

Assistant Vice Chancellor International Affairs – Africa
Benjamin Ola. Akande, PhD
Associate Director Global Health Center

Assistant Director
Proscovia Nabunya, PhD
Research Assistant Professor

Mary Mauro

Administrative Coordinator
Mary Mauro, BS

Survey | Current Faculty Engagements in Africa

 Dr. Benjamin Akande invites all Washington University Faculty to fill out a brief survey to collect summary information of their current engagements on the Africa continent. Please fill out the survey at the link below.

 Africa Engagement Survey

For more information, please contact us by using the form below.

Africa Initiative

 Africa Initiative in the News