Sub-Saharan Africa region | University of Oxford
Medical student in lab coat
Medical students studying bones and cartilage in the Medical Centre, Oxford.
(Image credit: Oxford University Images / Rob Judges Photography).

Sub-Saharan Africa region

The University of Oxford is one of the world's leading centres for the study of Africa. In every Division and almost every Faculty across the University there are active research programmes focused on the continent.

African Studies at Oxford

African Studies Centre

The African Studies Centre, within the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, acts as a focal point for graduate level work and faculty research on Africa. The centre’s MSc in African Studies, inaugurated in 2006, is already recognised as Europe's most prestigious and successful training programme in its field. The Centre brings together scholars from across disciplines, including politics, history, and anthropology. For instance, Professor Nic Cheeseman focuses his research on democracy in Africa and co-edits the journal African Affairs. Professor William Beinart's major research and teaching interests are in southern African history and politics and in environmental history. And Professor Miles Larmer's research interests focus on political and social change in southern-central Africa in the second half of the twentieth century.

The Centre also connects with other scholars across the University, including economists and migration experts.

Centre of the Study of African Economies

The Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), led by Professor Paul Collier, carries out economic research with a particular focus on Africa. The CSAE uses modern research methods with the aim of helping to improve economic and social conditions in the poorest societies.

International Growth Centre

Professor Stefan Dercon is a development economist and is the lead academic for Ethiopia at the International Growth Centre (IGC), a research institute based jointly at LSE and Oxford University. The IGC-Ethiopia programme looks at rural agriculture and financial systems. Professor Dercon’s own work also extends to conducting extensive long-term household surveys in Ethiopia and Tanzania, and random control trial based research on extending health insurance in Kenya, and on raising aspirations and extending drought insurance in Ethiopia.


Professor Christopher Adam is the lead academic on the IGC-Tanzania programme where his focus is on growth, macroeconomic management, agriculture and trade. Amongst other partners, the Tanzania programme collaborates with local Tanzanian and Tanzania-based researchers, including the research department of the Bank of Tanzania.

International Migration Institute

Within the Oxford Martin School, the International Migration Institute is undertaking a two-year project – ‘Mobility in the African Great Lakes’ - which seeks to analyse the complex mix of motivations that can be identified in any individual’s migration movements, in a challenge to the standard assumption that all migration in the Great Lakes region must only be the result of trauma or conflict. Once agreements are finalised, the project will involve partners from a number of African academic institutions.

African Environments Programme

The African Environments Programme (AEP) is an interdisciplinary initiative that aims to foster communication, collaboration and interdisciplinary research between academics at Oxford working on environmental issues in Africa. It does this through actively promoting the exchange of information on ongoing research, bringing together different researchers through interdisciplinary seminars, and encouraging interaction between institutions in Oxford and other institutions in the UK, in Africa and other areas of the world working on environmental issues in Africa.

Global medicine

Oxford’s research into global health issues on the African continent is extensive. Oxford's Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine is currently conducting research in Guinea Bissau on the HIV2 virus, a strain of the virus that does not cause AIDS. The hope is that this work on immune response to this virus may help contribute to the search for a vaccine for HIV-1. Stephen Kennedy and Professor José Villar from the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology are collaborating on two projects:

INTERGROWTH-21st looks at ascertaining how foetuses and babies from different parts of the world grow if they experience similar maternal health, environmental and socio-economic conditions. One of the study areas for this project is Kenya.

Their 2nd collaboration is INTERBIO-21st which examines why foetuses grow less well when mothers are exposed to malnutrition and infection, especially in resource-poor settings. Much of this work is taking place through Oxford’s unit in Kenya which is part of its Tropical Medicine Network.

Libraries and Museums

Scholars of African studies can draw on the exceptional resources of the Bodleian Library and the University’s museums. The Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House holds extensive research collections on the history, current affairs, culture and anthropology of Sub-Saharan Africa including books in English, Afrikaans, French, German, Portuguese and other European languages.

In addition to studies of the region, Oxford is engaged in a wide range of collaborations and research projects with African partners spanning the University’s four divisions.

Medicine and Health

KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme

The KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme is a collaborative research programme into malaria and infectious diseases. It was established in Kenya by the Wellcome Trust, Oxford University and the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), a government research body in the Ministry of Health.

The Programme takes a cross-disciplinary approach, which includes a major focus on malaria in clinical studies, parasitology and public health, as well as genetic, clinical and immune-response epidemiology. A strong clinical focus stems from a team of qualified paediatricians who combine clinical work with their own research. The aim is to inform the delivery of healthcare within existing African structures, oriented by local priorities and relying on local scientists.

The labs in Kilifi are currently following the health of 250,000 adults and children living nearby.  Many active research projects are being undertaken as part of this collaboration. Dr Julie Makani of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Medicine is tracking the health of over 2,500 children with sickle cell anaemia in Tanzania. Professor Kevin Marsh is researching immunity to malaria in Kenya. Professor Tom Williams is investigating the genetics underlying the differential susceptibility to infectious disease among young children in Kenya.

Oxford Institute on Ageing

African Research on Ageing Network (AFRAN) is part of the Oxford Institute on Ageing, one of the research programmes of the future-orientated Oxford Martin School. AFRAN sets out to link African researchers with colleagues at Oxford and to facilitate research with Oxford and other universities and research organizations. Current AFRAN members include Africa-based individual and institutional members, as well as members from European and international research institutions.

Young Lives

The Young Lives project, headed up by researchers at Oxford’s Department for International Development, is an ambitious large-scale study tracking the lives of children from four different developing countries over a period of 15 years. One of the study countries is Ethiopia where Young Lives works in partnership with the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI) and Save the Children-UK, Ethiopia. Young Lives researchers are based in 20 communities in the states of Amhara, Oromia, the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNP) and Tigray, as well as in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Wildlife and Conservation


Founded in 1986, WildCRU was the first university-based conservation research unit in Europe. Today WildCRU is recognised as a world leader in conservation. WildCRU was founded and developed by David Macdonald, Oxford's first Professor of Wildlife Conservation, who continues to guide its development.

Since 1986, WildCRU, now with over 50 researchers, has grown to be one of the largest and most productive conservation research institutes in the world. Its members have been drawn from more than 30 countries and our projects have a similarly international reach, ranging from the Scottish Highlands to Mongolia, West Africa and Borneo.

Most recently, our longstanding specialisation in wild carnivores has led to a partnership with Panthera, with whom we are developing our aspiration to become the world's foremost university centre for field conservation research, made possible through the generous support of the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation.

Politics and Development

Oxford Central Africa Forum

The Oxford Central Africa Forum (OCAF) seeks to push forward research on the multitude of challenges faced by the populations of Central Africa. OCAF brings together academic researchers, graduate students, development practitioners and policy-makers from the African Studies Centre and across the University to discuss current events as well as historical developments. OCAF  supports the diffusion of research and provides a platform for exchanges of ideas between stakeholders who don’t always find it easy to have a dialogue with each other.

Oxford China-Africa Network

The Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN) brings together scholars, graduate students and experts from the field to research and evaluate critical political, cultural and socio-economic trends. The rapid deepening and broadening of ties between the African continent and China has been evident recently; it is the single most important geopolitical trend of the 21st century for Africa, and China’s economic miracle cannot be understood without analyzing its multifarious partnerships with African countries. OUCAN's focus is thus a broad and multifaceted one, with research and analysis including study of  cultural bodies, NGOs, small and medium-sized businesses, minorities and ordinary people in addition to governments and state-owned enterprises.

International Migration Institute

The International Migration Institute (IMI) has cultivated collaborative relationships with a number of African institutions since it was established in 2006. These include formal research partnerships for the ‘African Perspectives on Human Mobility’ project which concluded in early 2012.

This project used detailed empirical study of the partner countries to explore alternative conceptions of human mobility across different groups. It was undertaken in partnership with the Université de Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the University of Ghana, the Université Mohammed V in Morocco and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. As part of this initiative, IMI has organised workshops bringing together African migration researchers and also developed a database of research and expertise.

Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment - Executive Education

The Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE) has collaborated with the social enterprise These Executive Minds to provide executive development programmes to equip public and private sector leaders with the strategic insight and competencies needed to adapt to emerging social, political and environmental trends in Africa.

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Oxford attracts some of Africa’s best and brightest students. The University currently has just under 320 students from sub-Saharan Africa, studying across the entire breadth of the University’s divisions.


A number of Oxford’s African graduate students have been supported by the world famous and prestigious Rhodes Scholarships which are awarded to outstanding all-round students and cover the costs of graduate study at Oxford.

In Africa, the scholarships are available to exceptional individuals from Kenya, Southern Africa (including South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and Swaziland), Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

In addition to being able to apply to the range of scholarships open to all graduate students, there are many scholarship opportunities specifically aimed at African students, including:

  • Three ENI Scholarships available to students from Angola, Ghana and Nigeria.
  • Five scholarships supported by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Chevening Scholarship Fund scholarships available for students applying for a part-time Masters degree in International Human Rights Law, and are available to graduates from African Commonwealth countries.
  • Oppenheimer Fund Scholarships open to students normally resident in South Africa who wish to pursue postgraduate study in any of Oxford’s divisions.    
  • The Waverley–African Studies Centre Joint Scholarship awarded to one exceptional African candidate from a disadvantaged background to study for an MSc in African Studies.

These are just a few of the many scholarship opportunities open to African scholars. More detailed information can be found at the Graduate Scholarships website.


Oxford is currently home to 64 staff members (academics and researchers) from Sub-Saharan Africa.  They are spread throughout the University’s divisions, departments and schools researching a broad range of subjects ranging from paediatrics in the Medical Sciences division to climate and development at the Smith School.

Dapo Akande

Dapo Akande is University Lecturer in Public International Law & Yamani Fellow at St Peter's College. He is Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC), an interdisciplinary research programme based in the Oxford Martin School that aims to strengthen law, norms and institutions to restrain, regulate and prevent armed conflict.

In addition to his academic work, Dapo Akande has advised states, international organizations and others on matters of international law. He has advised and provided expert opinions in cases before national courts and international tribunals. He has acted as Consultant for the African Union on the international criminal court and on the law relating to terrorism. In addition, he has provided training to diplomats, military officers and other government officials on a range of international law issues, especially international criminal law and the law of armed conflict. Akande was born in Nigeria where he studied for his law degree at Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly the University of Ife).

Dr Philippa A Hulley

Dr Hulley is a university lecturer in Musculoskeletal Sciences based in the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences and a Fellow of St Hilda’s College. Since moving to Oxford, Dr Hulley has been awarded a number of fellowships and research grants including a 5 year Arthritis Research UK Fellowship in 2004 and a 5 year Research Councils UK Fellowship. The research group that she leads explores cell signalling in bone and joint degeneration and regeneration with a focus on tendon biology.

Dr Hulley was born in Zimbabwe and gained her developmental biology PhD at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.


With over 2,500 alumni across Sub-Saharan Africa, Oxford has alumni groups based in Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

A number of key historical political figures in post-independence Africa were educated at Oxford. These include two former presidents and one former prime minister of Ghana:

  • Edward Afuko Addo
  • John Kufuor
  • Professor Kofi Abrefa Busia

Nigeria’s most famous Oxford graduate is General Emeka Ojukwa, who led the ill-fated secessionist struggle of Biafra shortly after Nigerian independence.

  • Seretse Khama and Festus Mogae, both former presidents of Botswana, spent time studying at Oxford.

Key academic figures include:

  • Zimbabwe born Aaron Sloman, a pioneering thinker in the area of artificial intelligence
  • Zimbabwean Arthur Mutambara, an Oxford-trained scientist and specialist in robotics. Following an illustrious academic career, Mutambara has moved into politics and is the head of one of the two factions of the key opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.

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