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Afrika-Studiecentrum Leiden

Africa has a population of 1.5 billion. In 30 years’ time, this will be 2.5 billion. The continent’s impact on the global economy, but also on the environment, will therefore increase drastically. Researchers from the African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL) have been aware for decades of the crucial role that Africa plays in the world, a role that is only set to grow.

As Africa’s voice will only become louder – by 2050 20% of the world’s population will come from Africa – it is important to have a thorough understanding of the continent. The ASCL is an interfaculty institute whose aim is to gain a better understanding of Africa in a rapidly changing world. The linchpin of the ASCL is its library, which has one of the biggest and best Africa collections in Europe with unique books that researchers from all around the world come to Leiden to see.

Collaborative Research Groups

At the heart of the ASCL’s research are its seven Collaborative Research Groups (CRGs).

The researchers at the ‘Africa in the world: rethinking Africa’s global connections’ CRG study the links of African countries with a growing number of international players, such as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the Gulf States. They also look at how these relations have changed over the centuries.

In terms of scientific profile, there is no doubt that the ASCL is considered to be an authoritative source of knowledge about Africa by policy makers, the media, civil society groups etc. within the Netherlands.

(African Studies Centre Leiden RQA report Spring 2017)

Written and spoken word

The researchers from the ‘Collaboration and contestation in words: dialogues and disputes in African social realities’ CRG want to understand how the written and spoken word is used to bring about social change in African countries. Sometimes people form movements to advocate a certain goal, but sometimes they fight each other if their freedom is at stake.

African economies are growing: the continent is increasingly seen as a potential market. The ‘Governance, entrepreneurship and inclusive development’ CRG studies what this means for governance, entrepreneurship and inclusive development.


The researchers from the ‘Pioneering futures of health and well-being: actors, technologies, and social engineering’ CRG focus on new technologies in health care, such as m-health (mobile health) and e-health (electronic health). Take the Dawa Mobile Health project in Chad. Here doctors in remote villages use text messages to discover, treat and prevent bilharzia, a disease caused by worms.

Power in Africa

The ‘Politics, governance and law in Africa: exploring connections’ CRG looks at which processes define African politics, power and legislation. The researchers also consider new developments, such as how politically active youths are becoming increasingly vocal.

The ‘Rethinking contemporary African history and historiography’ CRG studies the history of Africa – and its position in the world – and African Studies. It also researches the historiography of the continent.

And finally, the ‘Trans-species perspectives on African Studies’ CRG includes animal perspectives in the study of social issues.


The ASCL is a heavyweight in the academic world. The Institute, with its enormous collections, is the coordinator and one of the founding members of AEGIS, the European network of institutions for African studies. Its researchers also work intensively with other universities, such as the Centre for African Studies at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Ghana, which has one of the oldest research centres in African studies on the continent.

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