Richard Dowden is the Director of the Royal African Society. He was formerly the Africa editor for The Economist newspaper. Richard became director of the Royal African Society in 2002, following a long career as a journalist with a focus on Africa. His first two years on the continent, as a volunteer teacher in Uganda, coincided with the first two years of Idi Amin's rule. He has visited and written about almost every country on the continent. He is the author of Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles




Sheila Ruiz is the Head of Programmes, Partnerships and Operations, following five years as the Society's Events Programme Manager between 2011-15. Prior to joining the RAS, Sheila was the Communications and Programming Consultant for the Africa Centre and previously worked as a freelance events producer for various arts projects in London. Sheila holds an MA in African Studies and a BA in History from SOAS. She is of mixed Spanish/Equato-Guinean heritage and is bilingual in Spanish and English. With a passion for dance and music, Sheila has performed with a number of groups, including the London Lucumi Choir. She tweets at @SheilaRuiz



Lizzie Orekoya is the Society's Administrative Manager. Having worked in various project coordination and administrative roles in the healthcare and property industries, she provides support to the Director as well as ensuring the smooth running of the office. With an active interest in the arts and culture, the RAS provides a perfect opportunity for her to further develop her passion for Africa's past, present and future.

Melmarie Laccay is the Society's Membership Administrator. Mel joined the RAS in July 2011. She was previously a Data Analyst for professional services and insurance firm, Marsh and McLennan Companies, as well as a Membership Officer at the Energy Institute. She has a BA in Digital Media and Mass Communications from London Metropolitan University. Working with the RAS has given her completely new insight into Africa's culture, diversity, politics and people. 



 Lailah Nesbitt-Ahmed is the Policy & Research Coordinator for the Africa APPG, which the RAS administers. In addition to her work with the Africa APPG, Lailah works for Muslim Aid as a UK Programmes Officer managing the INGO’s UK based education, livelihoods, healthcare and advocacy programmes. Prior to joining RAS she worked with the Stabilisation Unit deploying experts into fragile and conflict affected states, as well as a number of International Development organisations and NGOs focused on improving outcomes for the poor and marginalised in the developing world. She has a Degree in Politics and Economics from the University of Kent and a Masters in International Development from the University of Birmingham.
James Wan is Editor of African Arguments, the Society's pan-African news and analysis site. A journalist and editor focusing on Africa, James was previously Acting Editor of African Business magazine and Senior Editor of Think Africa Press. He has written for the likes of AlJazeera, BBC, IRIN and the Guardian and was recently listed as one of the leading journalists on aid and development. James is a fellow of Wits University China-Africa Reporting Project and was shortlisted in the Guardian's International Development Journalism Competition in 2013. He tweets at @jamesjwan

Shushan Tewolde-Berhan is the Society's Corporate Partnerships Manager. Shushan has worked in administrative and events roles in small charities in London focusing on issues such as community development, homelessness and breast cancer care. Shushan holds a BA in Chinese and Politics from the University of Leeds and an MA in Post-war Recovery Studies from the University of York. She carried out field research in Afghanistan’s national peace and reintegration program for her dissertation, and is interested in peace-building infrastructures in African contexts. Shushan speaks Tigrinya and Mandarin. 


Caitlin Pearson is the Society's Events Programme Manager, working on the general public events programme as well as the annual Africa Writes festival. Her background is in higher education and scholarship - she previously worked in communications and events at the Centre for African Studies, based at SOAS, and at the Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust. Caitlin holds a BA from the University of Birmingham and an MA from SOAS, both in African Studies. Her research interests include film and television, representation, class and disability. Caitlin is originally from South Africa. 

Joanna Brown is the Society's Education Programme Manager. After six years as a primary teacher in Haringey, specialising in Literacy and Reading Enrichment, she is now developing streams of work to support cultural organisations in their delivery of educational programmes. Prior to working in education, she co-ordinated community projects in the housing sector, with a focus on performing arts. Previously she worked as an events co-ordinator at the British Film Institute and the BBC. She is of Sierra Leonean and English descent. Joanna holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Cambridge and trained to teach at the Institute of Education.


Rachael Loughlan is the Festival Producer for Film Africa, the Society's annual festival celebrating the best African cinema. Rachael is a freelance film festival consultant and project manager. She has worked in the film industry for 10 years, providing strategic support, event production, programming and venue management to a range of venues and film festivals, including Glasgow Film Festival, TIFF and EIFF. Rachael has an MLitt in Film Journalism from University of Glasgow and has been producing Film Africa since 2014.