Our Team


Dr Nicholas Westcott



Dr Nicholas Westcott has been Director of the Royal African Society since November 2017, having worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and European Union for 35 years, and been involved with Africa for over 40 years. After completing a BA in History and PhD in African history at Cambridge University, he joined the FCO in 1982 and has served in Brussels, Washington DC, Tanzania (as Deputy High Commissioner) and from 2008-2011 as British High Commissioner to Ghana and Ambassador to Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo. Prior to that, from 2002-2007, he was the FCO’s Chief Information Officer. In 2011 he moved to Brussels to work for the EU's External Action Service as Managing Director for Africa, and from 2015 as Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa. He is a Research Associate at SOAS’s Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, sits on the Editorial Board of African Affairs and the Board of the African Centre for Economic Transformation (Accra), and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of Chatham House. He was awarded the CMG in 1998. He has published a number of articles on African history, European foreign policy and international economic relations, and maintains an active interest in contemporary African and Middle Eastern politics, business, music and culture.

Sheila Ruiz

Deputy Director


Sheila Ruiz is Deputy Director at the Royal African Society, having formerly been Head of Programmes, Partnerships and Operations and Events Programme Manager. In her current role, Sheila is responsible for implementing the strategic plan, managing the team and overseeing the different projects and programmes. Sheila also acts as the cultural head for the organisation, leading on the biennial Film Africa and Africa Writes festivals. Prior to joining the RAS in September 2011, 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 from SOAS - University of London, and a BA in History from UCL. She is of Spanish and 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.

Caitlin Pearson

Fundraising Manager

Caitlin Pearson is the Society's Fundraising Manager for Trusts & Foundations, Public Funding, Impact Partnerships and Individual Membership. She started at RAS as the Public Events Programme Manager and producer of Africa Writes festival. Her background is in public engagement, higher education and scholarships – she previously worked at the Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust and the Centre for African Studies, based at SOAS. Caitlin studied at the University of Birmingham and SOAS, University of London. Her research interests include film and television, representation, class and disability.

Lizzie Orekoya

Administrative Manager

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 Royal African Society provides a perfect opportunity for her to further develop her passion for Africa's past, present and future.

Melmarie Laccay

Membership Administrator

Melmarie Laccay is the Society's Membership Administrator. Mel joined the Society 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 Royal African Society has given her a completely new insight into Africa's culture, diversity, politics and people.

Hoda Dahir

Corporate & Public Events Manager


Hoda Dahir is the Society’s Corporate and Public Events Manager. Prior to joining the Royal African Society, Hoda spent the last eight years working as a Strategic Communications Specialist in humanitarian and peace-keeping operations in East Africa with organisations including the Norwegian Refugee Council, the African Union and the United Nations. Directly dealing with governments, civil society organisations and international donors, Hoda helped establish effective communication channels and coordinated successful working relations for the UN and the AU missions across the Horn of Africa. Hoda holds a BA in Broadcasting Journalism from Middlesex University and an MA in Social Anthropology from SOAS - University of London.

Hetty Bailey

Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, All Party Parliamentary Group for Africa

Hetty Bailey works as the Policy & Advocacy Coordinator at the Royal African Society. Hetty splits her time between Parliament and the Royal African Society’s offices and manages the secretariat for All Party Parliamentary Group for Africa, which aims to further a positive and mutually beneficial relationships between the UK and Africa. Hetty works closely with colleagues at the Royal African Society to ensure that the wider work and values of the charity feed into effective advocacy and policy approaches. Prior to joining the Royal African Society, Hetty held a number of roles within Parliament working on international development policy, including working as a Parliamentary Researcher for a former DFID Minister and as a Senior Parliamentary Aid for an International Development Committee member where she managed parliamentary delegations to Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Hetty has a Law LLB degree from Cardiff University and an MSc in Migration, Mobility and Development from SOAS - University of London.

James Wan

Editor, African Arguments


James Wan is Editor of African Arguments, the Royal African Society's pan-African news and analysis site. 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.

Marcelle Mateki Akita

Producer, Africa Writes


Marcelle Mateki Akita is Producer of Africa Writes, the Royal African Society's literature festival at the British Library. She is a published fiction writer and was shortlisted for the 2018 Morland Writing Scholarships. She also produces Tottenham Literature Festival at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, Apples & Snakes' SPINE Festival and creatively produced 'Toni Morrison: A Celebration' at WOW – Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre. She previously worked with the Caine Prize for African Writing and co-founded Afrikult. Her two children’s books are forthcoming with Hodder Education in September 2020. She holds an MA in African Studies from SOAS - University of London, majoring in literatures in African languages. She tweets @matekiwrites. Photo credit: Beulah Davina

Ayodeji Rotinwa

Deputy Editor, African Arguments


Ayodeji Rotinwa is the Deputy Editor of African Arguments. Previously, he was a freelance reporter covering visual art & culture, social justice, sustainable development across West Africa. He has been published in titles such as New York Times, Financial Times, Wallpaper*, VOGUE, Art Forum, Mail & Guardian, CNN Africa and The Africa Report. Recently his work was the cover story in Harper’s Bazaar Arabia ART and OOF magazine, UK. In 2015, he was selected for the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop held and mentored by award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In 2017, he was selected for the inaugural BudgIT Data and Investigative Journalism Fellowship where he produced deep-dive reportage on public health, social justice and politics. Ayodeji is passionate about his home city, Lagos, where he was born and raised; the people and potential of his country, Nigeria; and the place of his continent in the world. He is based in Abuja but also calls Lagos and Accra, home.

Olivia Danso

Education Programme Manager


Olivia Danso is the Education Programme Manager for the Poetry in the Primary Classroom Project. She has been a Project Manager in London and Melbourne, working across the government, charity, education and arts industries for over a decade. She works with Blueprinted, an organisation created to improve racial diversity in communications and PR, and in 2019 she launched and ran the BookTrust Represents project, supporting and promoting British children’s authors and illustrators of colour. She also uses her Ghanaian name to write fiction as Maame Blue, and in June 2020 her debut novel ‘Bad Love’ was published by Jacaranda Books. Photo credit: Abi-Oshodi.