Richard Dowden to retire as Executive Director of the Royal African Society in 2017

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Richard Dowden is to retire as the Executive Director of the Royal African Society (RAS) after 15 years leading the organisation.

He became Director of the Society in 2002 and initiated a deep and broad expansion of the Society’s work and programmes, which now promote Africa globally across four main areas: academia, business, politics and the arts. 

The Council, led by Chair Zeinab Badawi, has begun the process of finding a new Director. Richard will remain in post during this transitional period, stepping down later in 2017. 

Zeinab Badawi said: “Richard will be a hard act to follow. He became engaged with Africans and Africa many decades ago and has never lost his passion, commitment and admiration for the continent and its people. His knowledge of Africa is tremendous and he writes about it in a clear and compelling style.

In 2003, when Richard became Director of the Royal African Society, he supported the establishment of the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group, which has ensured that Africa and Africa-related issues are high on the parliamentary and government agenda. 

Richard also introduced the Society’s business programme that hosts leading figures from the world of business and politics both in the UK and Africa. In 2011 and 2012, the Society launched the annual and hugely popular Film Africa and Africa Writes festivals. Both of these are a showcase for the immense talent in the continent. The Society continues to host an exciting programme of events on a variety of topics for audiences with an interest in Africa and attracts big names from the continent as speakers.  

Richard has moved the Society forward in a great many ways and leaves it in robust health to progress to a new level. We all have so much to thank him for. But we will try to ensure that the Society he has so assiduously nurtured will continue to benefit from his wisdom, expertise and knowledge in the future.” 

Richard Dowden said: "Creating a clearer perception and a deeper understanding of Africa has been our global mission. RAS has been blessed with an enthusiastic young staff as well as wise academic advisers, African writers and filmmakers, positive business people, politicians who take Africa seriously and many other people who love and celebrate Africa. They have flocked to our meetings and websites. I am blessed to have been part of it. It has all been very rewarding and great fun and I am confident that RAS will continue to grow and flourish."  

Correction: This press statement mistakenly indicated that Richard Dowden was the first Director of the Royal African Society and overlooked the fact that he was preceded by Jonathan Lawley from 2000 to 2003. During 2002-2003 there was a short period in which the Society had both a Director (Jonathan Lawley) and an Executive Director (Richard Dowden). 

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Editor’s notes

Richard Dowden is the Executive Director of the Royal African Society, a post he took up in 2002, following a long career as a journalist with a focus on Africa. He was previously the Africa Editor for The Independent and The Economist newspapers and his has written about and visited almost every country on the continent. His first two years in Africa was as a volunteer teacher in Uganda during the first two years of Idi Amin’s rule. He is the author of Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles published by Portobello Books. 

The Royal African Society is Britain’s leading Africa organisation. It was founded in 1901 and is headquartered in London. Our goal is to promote Africa globally in the spheres of business, politics, academia, arts and education. As a membership society, we disseminate knowledge and insight, enable networks and celebrate culture. We work to promote understanding and equitable relations between Britain, Africa and the rest of the world, developing platforms for dialogue and interaction.