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Board Members

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Asunka, Joseph
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Boone, Catherine

Joseph Asunka is the CEO of the Afrobarometer, a non-partisan, pan-African research institution that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, the economy, and society in more than 30 countries repeated on a regular cycle. Between January 2016 and March 2021, Joseph worked as a program officer in the Global Development and Population Program at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation where he led a portfolio of grants to increase government transparency and responsiveness to citizens in decisions about how public resources are allocated and used. He also previously worked at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, an Afrobarometer core partner, and was a lecturer in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he taught courses on research methods and data analysis, political institutions, and economic development. 

Joseph holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UCLA and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Ghana. His research interests are in elections, electoral politics, and political economy of development with a focus on public procurement reforms and taxation.

Catherine Boone is a Professor of Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her research focuses on questions of comparative political economy, and especially on questions of institutional change and economic development. She is the author of Property and Political Order: Land Rights and the Structure of Conflict in Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2014); Political Topographies of the African State: Territorial Authority and Institutional Choice (CUP 2003), Merchant Capital and the Roots of State Power in Senegal (CUP 1993), and many other articles.  She convenes the MSc program in Africa Development at the LSE.  Her current research centers on questions of regional competition, market integration, and land politics in African countries, with attention to regional tensions fueled by economic inequalities and rising land conflict.  She is the PI and project leader for the UK Economic and Social Research Council Project on "Spatial Inequalities in African Political Economy" (2018-2022).

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Branch, Adam

Adam Branch is a Reader in International Politics and the Director of the Centre of African Studies at the University of Cambridge. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University and his BA from Harvard University. Prior to joining Cambridge, he was the Senior Research Fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala. Adam’s research broadly examines the politics of global justice interventions, in particular peacebuilding, international criminal law, and now sustainable energy and climate change mitigation, all with a regional focus on East Africa. He is the author of two books, Displacing Human Rights and Africa Uprising: Popular Protest and Political Change (with Zachariah Mampilly). His research has been funded by the AHRC, GCRF, and the British Academy, and he is a series editor for African Arguments.

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Chelwa, Dr. Grieve

Dr. Grieve Chelwa is the Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute on Race and Political Economy at the New School. Prior to joining the New School, Dr. Chelwa was a Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Economics at the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business and before that was an Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for African Studies at Harvard University. He's previously been a visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) at the University of the Witwatersrand. He holds a BA in economics from the University of Zambia and advanced degrees in economics, including a Ph.D. from the University of Cape Town.

Dionne, Kim Yi

Kim Yi Dionne is an Associate Professor of Political Science at UC Riverside. She is also an editor of The Monkey Cage, a blog on politics and political science at The Washington Post and was a founding member of #WomenAlsoKnowStuff, an initiative to promote the scholarship of women political scientists. She now serves on the board of the sister organization, #POCAlsoKnowStuff. Her research focuses on African politics, particularly health and development interventions, public opinion, and political behavior. She is the author of Doomed Interventions: The Failure of Global Responses to AIDS in Africa (Cambridge University Press 2018). She collected much of the data for her book in Malawi, where she was a Fulbright Fellow from 2008-2009. She received her Ph.D. from UCLA, where she was a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellow in Swahili. She held previous faculty appointments at Smith College and Texas A&M University.

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Honwana, Alcinda

Alcinda Honwana is a leading scholar on youth, protests movements and social change in Africa. Her widely cited work on youth in waithood has greatly contributed to shaping current youth studies in Africa and the global South. Professor Honwana is currently the Inter-Regional Adviser on social development policy at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) at the United Nations in New York. She has been a Centennial Professor and the Strategic Director of the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Chair in International Development at The Open University, UK. Honwana has also been the Prince Claus Chair for Development and Equity at the Institute for Social Studies in The Netherlands,  a Director at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) in New York, and she is currently the Chair of the International African Institute. Her most recent books include Youth and Revolution in Tunisia (2013) and The Time of Youth: Work, Social Change and Politics in Africa (2012).  

Sean Jacobs
Jacobs, Sean

Sean Jacobs is the Associate Professor of International Affairs at The New School in New York City and the Founder-Editor of Africa Is a Country. He was born and grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. You can find out more about him here:

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Niang, Amy

Amy Niang is a political scientist with research interests in State and Sovereignty, Africa’s International Relations, and the Geopolitics of Security in the Sahel. Her work has been published in journals such as International Relations, Alternatives, Politics, African Studies, African Economic History, Journal of Ritual Studies and in many edited collections. She is the author of The Postcolonial African State in Transition: Stateness and Modes of Sovereignty (2018), the co-editor (with Baz Lecocq) of Identités sahéliennes en temps de crise : histoires, enjeux et perspectives (2019) and of Researching Peacebuilding in Africa: Reflections on Theory, Fieldwork and Context (with Ismail Rashid, 2020). She is an Associate Professor in International Relations at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Morocco. Prior to her current position, she taught at the University of the Witwatersrand for many years and has also held visiting positions at the University of Sao Paulo, Princeton University, the University of Halle-Wittenberg, the University of Michigan, the Institute of Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) and many other institutions. Niang is a member of the Advisory Board of the African Peacebuilding Network of Social Science Research Council (APN-SSRC); a committee member of the General History of Senegal (GHS) and a member of the editorial/advisory board of a dozen journals in Political science, International Relations and African Studies.

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Mahdi, Rabab El

Rabab El Mahdi is an Associate Professor of Political Science at The American University in Cairo. She earned her Ph.D. from McGill University in Montreal, where she wrote her dissertation on the impact of neo-liberal economic reconstruction on changing patterns of state-civil society relations in Egypt and Bolivia. Her field of specialization is comparative political economy and development, with a focus on Latin America and the Middle East. El Mahdi’s research interests cover the areas of state-civil society relations, social movements and resistance, as well as the political economy of social policy. Before joining AUC, she worked for several developmental organizations, including NGOs and UN agencies. Previously, she taught at Yale University and was a recipient of a number of fellowships at Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and the Rockefeller Bellagio Center Residency. She is also the recipient of a number of research grants from Carnegie Corporation of New York and The Rockefeller Brothers Foundation. Currently, she leads AUC's research project, Alternative Policy Solutions (APS). She serves on the boards of a number of civil society and professional organizations, including the Arab Political Science Network (APSN).

Cyril Obi
Obi, Cyril

Cyril Obi is a program director at the Social Science Research Council, New York, where he leads the African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and (since September 2018) the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa programs. After completing his doctoral studies in political science at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, he joined the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos, Nigeria, and became an associate research professor in 2004. That same year, Dr. Obi was awarded the Claude Ake Visiting Chair at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. From 2005 to 2011, he was a senior researcher and led the research cluster on “Conflict, Displacement and Transformation” at the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Uppsala, Sweden. He has received numerous prestigious international academic awards and fellowships. Dr. Obi is currently a research associate of the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa and was formerly an adjunct professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). His publications include The Rise of China and India in Africa: Challenges, Opportunities and Critical Interventions (Zed Books, 2010), with Fantu Cheru; Oil and Insurgency in the Niger Delta: Managing the Complex Politics of Petro-Violence (Zed Books, 2011), with Siri Aas Rustad; The Unfinished Revolution in Nigeria’s Niger Delta: Prospects for Environmental Justice and Peace, London and New York: (Routledge, 2018), with Temitope Oriola. His most recent book is, Developmental Regionalism and Economic Transformation in Southern Africa, (London and New York: Routledge, 2020), with Said Adejumobi.

Lyn Ossome
Ossome, Lyn

Lyn Ossome is a researcher and educator working and writing in the fields of feminist political economy and feminist political theory, with research interests in gendered labour, land and agrarian studies, the modern state and the political economy of gendered violence. She is a Senior Research Specialist at the Institute for Economic Justice, Johannesburg, and prior to this was a Senior Research Fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research, Makerere University. She received her PhD in Political Studies from Wits University and is the author most recently of Gender, Ethnicity and Violence in Kenya’s Transitions to Democracy: States of Violence (2018), and co-editor of the volume Labour Questions in the Global South (2021). She is an editorial board member of the Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy, co-editor of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies, and advisory board member of Feminist Africa. She has been a visiting scholar at the National Chiao Tung University and Visiting Presidential Professor at Yale University, and is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg. She serves on several boards including the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) and the executive committee of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA).

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Pillay, Suren

Suren Pillay is currently a Senior Researcher and Associate Professor in the Center for Humanities Research. He has held this position since 2010. From 2007 to 2010 he was seconded to the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) of South Africa as a Senior Research Specialist in the Democracy and Governance Programme. From 2003 to 2004 he served as a Programme Officer at the Centre for African Studies at Columbia University. He held a position of senior lecturer in the Department of Political Studies, UWC, from 1995 to 2010. Professor Pillay holds an Mphil, and a Ph.D in Anthropology with distinction, from Columbia University in New York (2011). He also has a Masters (cum laude) in Development Studies from the University of the Western Cape (UWC). He has published extensively in the press, including the Mail and Guardian, Cape Times, Ugandan Monitor, Jerusalem Post, and Al Jazeera international online. His awards include a prestigious Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Award for Anthropological Research, a CHOICE Award from the American Publishers Association for Outstanding Book title (2011), and a Special Mention for authoring one of the ten most downloaded articles in African Studies by the African Studies Association (USA) in 2010.

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Wantchekon, Leonard

Leonard Wantchekon is the Founder and President of the African School of Economics. He is also a Professor of Politics, International Affairs and Economics (affiliated faculty) at Princeton University.  Prior to joining Princeton University, he was on the faculty of New York University (2001 to 2011), and Yale University (1995 to 2001). He received his Ph.D. in Economics from Northwestern University (1995) and his M.A. in Economics from Laval University and University of British Columbia (1992). His research is broadly focused on Political and Economic Development, particularly in Africa. His specific interests include topics such as democratization, clientelism and redistributive politics, resource curse, and the long-term social impact of historical events.  He is the author of numerous publications in leading academic journals, including “Education and Human Capital Externalities: Evidence from Colonial Benin” (With Natalija Notva and Marko Klansja) in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (2015); “The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa” (with Nathan Nunn), in The American Economic Review (2011); “The Paradox of ‘Warlord’ Democracy: A Theoretical Investigation,” in the American Political Science Review (2004); “Clientelism and Voting Behavior: A Field Experiment in Benin,” World Politics (2003) as well as “Electoral Competition under the Threat of Political Unrest” (with Matthew Ellman) in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (2000).  He is also a core partner director at the Afrobarometer Network. Most recently, he joined the Executive Committee of the International Economic Association.

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Zerhouni, Saloua

Saloua Zerhouni earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Hassan II, Casablanca. Her dissertation was on “Elite and Democratic Transition in Morocco: the Parliamentarians of the 1997-2002 legislature”. Currently, she is an Associate Professor at Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco. Dr. Zerhouni has done work on elites as agents of change and theories of political transformation, Islamist political parties, the parliament, youth and politics in Morocco and on elections. She was a research associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin, and contributed to a study on “Elite Change in the Arab World”. Before then, she was a visiting researcher at Georgetown University. Among her publications is a co-edited book with Ellen Lust-Okar, on Political Participation in the Middle East. In 2009, she was a Fulbright scholar in residence at Illinois Wesleyan University. In 2016 she was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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