The Elite Africa Project is a global network of scholars working to shift how Africa and its elites are understood.

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The Elite Africa Project

is a Canadian-based global network of scholars working to challenge predominant understandings of Africa and its elites.

Both in academia and in wider public discourse, African elites have either been ignored or depicted as grasping and self-interested. This framing perpetuates negative depictions of the continent and its peoples and draws on a simplistic understanding of what power is and how it is wielded. Our work aims to counter these perceptions by initiating global conversations about “who leads” in Africa and how they do so.

We seek to disrupt and renew both academic and public discussions of African leadership, refocusing attention on a wider, qualitatively different set of elites from those that have predominated in the past (such as the parasitic “Big Men” of neo-patrimonial politics).

Burna Boy, Nigerian musician, rapper and songwriter; in 2021, his album Twice as Tall won the Best World Music Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, and he enjoyed back to back Grammy award nominations in 2019 and 2020.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian economist, fair trade leader, environmental sustainability advocate, human welfare champion, sustainable finance maven and global development expert. Since March 2021, Okonjo-Iweala has been serving as Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

This project focuses on Africa’s elites, defined as those who operate at the highest level across a range of domains, wield significant power, and possess expert knowledge, skills, and personal strengths that are deployed in strategic, creative, and generative ways. While elites are those who possess the most consequential and powerful agenda-setting and decision-making capacity, Africa’s elites have either been sidelined in many of our analyses or rendered monotonal. When we switch frames to consider the continent as embodying and projecting new, generative forms of power, it changes our view of Africa. It may also change how we understand power itself.

We look at six domains of elite power, from the political to the aesthetic, and ask how we might shift how we think about and study Africa, and how this shift would impact our conceptualization of power and its exercise. Our goal is to contribute to popular conversations about Africa and to highlight the achievements of the astonishing new generation of leaders for a broader public audience.

This website will serve as a hub for collaborative activity by scholars, activists, and practitioners working on Elite Africa and house a searchable database of primary and secondary materials on African elites.

Kofi Annan (1938-2018), Ghanaian-born diplomat, trained in economics, international relations and management; was the first UNSG to be elected from within the ranks of the UN staff itself and served in various key roles before becoming Secretary General.

Namwali Serpell, Zambia award-winning novelist and writer; Recognised early on with the Caine prize, her numerous subsequent awards include the Windham–Campbell Literature Prize, one of the world’s richest literary prizes.

Mohammed "Mo" Ibrahim, Sudanese billionaire businessman. He worked for several telecommunications companies, before founding Celtel, which when sold had over 24 million mobile phone subscribers in 14 African countries.

The Elite Africa Project

is a Canadian-based global network of scholars working to challenge predominant understandings of Africa and its elites.

Both in academia and in wider public discourse, African elites have either been ignored or depicted as grasping and self-interested. This framing perpetuates negative depictions of the continent and its peoples and draws on a simplistic understanding of what power is and how it is wielded. Our work aims to counter these perceptions by initiating global conversations about “who leads” in Africa and how they do so.

We seek to disrupt and renew both academic and public discussions of African leadership, refocusing attention on a wider, qualitatively different set of elites from those that have predominated in the past (such as the parasitic “Big Men” of neo-patrimonial politics).

This project focuses on Africa’s elites — those who operate at the highest level across a range of domains, wield significant power, and possess expert knowledge, skills, and personal strengths that are deployed in strategic, creative, and generative ways. When we switch frames to consider the continent as embodying and projecting new, generative forms of power, it changes our view of Africa. It may also change how we understand power itself.

This website is the hub for collaborative activity by scholars, activists, and practitioners working on Elite Africa and will house a searchable database of primary and secondary materials on African elites.

ELITE AFRICA PROJECT DATABASE

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Paoletti, Giulia. Portrait and Place : Photography in Senegal, 1840-1960. 1st ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2024. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780691256153.

When the daguerreotype first arrived in sub-Saharan Africa in the early nineteenth century, local kingdoms still held power in Senegal and the French presence was limited to trading outposts along the coast. The pioneers of photography in Senegal worked within, across, and beyond the borders of colonial empire, expanding the medium’s possibilities and contributing to a global visual language. Portrait and Place explores these unique encounters, providing an in-depth and nuanced look at the images made at the intersection of Black Atlantic, Islamic, and African cultures.

Giulia Paoletti takes readers on a visual journey from the 1840s, when the oldest-surviving daguerreotype from West Africa was made, to the 1960s, when photography became the most popular medium as Senegal achieved its independence. She discusses some of Africa’s most celebrated modernists, such as Mama Casset, and also offers insights into lesser-known photographers like Oumar Ka and once-anonymous figures such as Macky Kane. Paoletti examines both professional and amateur artists in genres ranging from portraiture to landscape and across media such as glass painting and lithography.

Featuring a wealth of breathtaking images published here for the first time, Portrait and Place brings to life the important histories of photography on the African continent.

Source: Publisher (Princeton University Press).

Paoletti, Giulia. Portrait and Place 

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Featuring a wealth of breathtaking images published here for the first time, Portrait and Place brings to life the important histories of photography on the African continent.

Aesthetic

K. Ulrich Hounyo

Associate Professor of Economics, State University of New York at Albany

Email: khounyo@albany.edu

Hounyo K. Ulrich

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Associate Professor of Economics, State University of New York at Albany

Economic
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