At the annual meeting of the Association of Third World Studies (ATWS), Inc. in Jacksonville, Florida, in October, 1995, a group of African scholars participated in a panel discussion on Constraints to Policy Reform: The Continuing Struggle for Democratization in Africa. The primary objective of the panelists was to examine the continent’s post-independence struggle to build transparent, accountable, and participatory governance structures. Several panelists also discussed efforts in the continent to provide economic infrastructures that maximize the people’s participation in national development. It was the general belief of the panelists that such academic exercises promoted individual professional careers, but did not appear to contribute significantly to positive change in the continent. Thus, it was suggested that a formal structure be put into place to make certain that the results of professional forums such as this one be made available to as wide an audience as possible. In response, participants made the following resolutions:

  • To put into place a formal structure that would facilitate the publication of research conducted on Africa by members;
  • To encourage African scholars resident in the continent to join the group;
  • To provide assistance to African scholars located at universities and research institutions in the continent to attend professional meetings in the West;
  • To increase interaction and research collaboration between Africans in the Diaspora and those in the continent;
  • To help African scholars working in the continent find publishing outlets for the results of their research;
  • To produce at least one volume per year on Africa;
  • To start and sustain a journal on African political economy;
  • To encourage African scholars in the Diaspora to maintain regular contacts with scholars and research institutions in the continent;
  • To encourage African scholars in Diaspora to spend their sabbaticals at universities and research institutions in the continent;
  • To encourage African scholars to conduct policy relevant research and make the results of that research available to policy makers in the continent; and
  • To begin the process of decolonizing scholarship in the continent.

Participants at that foundational meeting came to a sobering and empowering consensus that many of our colleagues in the continent work under extremely difficult conditions and face a multitude of challenges. First, they must struggle to overcome the impediments placed on the investigation of Africa by earlier scholars who studied the continent as part of Europe and used primarily models developed in Europe and for the investigation of Europe. Second, they must deal with a society that still does not understand or appreciate the importance of research and scholarship to the policy process.

Third, they continue to face an educational system that was designed by the colonial government to meet European objectives in Africa and not those of the African people. Unfortunately, since gaining independence, few African countries have made an effort to reform their educational systems to produce structures that reflect the aspirations, needs, and expectations of the people. Fourth, they must conduct research within constraints placed on them by external organizations, most of which are responsible for funding scientific investigation in and about the continent. Few African countries consider research important enough to make it a budget priority and thus, provide the funds for it.

Fifth, they must work within a severely inadequate educational infrastructure: meager computer and library resources; inadequate staff support; poor technological environment; and the absence of funds for participation in scholarly and professional activities within Africa and abroad. Finally, many of these scholars face heavy teaching loads and large classes on a daily basis and live under threat of government censorship. In response, the group also decided that it would make it a priority to help scholars in the Diaspora learn more about the condition of higher education in Africa, and about the constraints faced by colleagues in the continent. The hope is that such knowledge will motivate Africans outside the continent to help improve education and research in the continent.

Before leaving the meeting, panel members met and formerly launched the African Studies and Research Forum (ASRF). Founding members included Julius O. Ihonvbere (University of Texas at Austin and the Ford Foundation, NYC); John Mukum Mbaku (Weber State University and the African Educational Foundation, Inc.); Kwaku Danso-Boafo (Clark Atlanta University); George Klay Kieh, Jr. (Morehouse College); Pita Ogaba Agbese (University of Northern Iowa); Basilida Anyona Mutoro (Moi University, Kenya); Joseph Takougang (University of Cincinnati); Humphrey J. Ojwang (University of Nairobi); E. Ike Udogu (Francis Marion University); Bennett Ade Odunsi (Jackson State University); Kingsley E. Esedo (Southern University in Baton Rouge); and Tunga Lergo (Florida State University). Julius O. Ihonvbere and John Mukum Mbaku were asked to put together the panel discussion on Africa for the 1996 meeting of the ATWS, Inc. in Montgomery, Alabama.

Following the Jacksonville meeting, Ihonvbere and Mbaku informed members that the 1996 meeting would be used to launch the ASRF’s first book project. Accordingly, participants in the panel were instructed to prepare papers that could later be edited and published in book form. The topic chosen for this panel was Multiparty Democracy and Political Change: Constraints to Democratization in Africa. This was in line with the ASRF’s effort to conduct policy relevant research and make its results available to policymakers in the continent. Multiparty Democracy and Political Change: Constraints to Democratization in Africa was the first in a continuing effort to bring to students of African studies and policymakers in the continent policy relevant research.

Since the founding members of the ASRF undertook and expanded that first visionary initiative, the association has since launched numerous other publication projects and established additional programs to support the work and growth of African scholars in the continent and Diaspora. Under the leadership of former President George Kieh, the Executive Committee undertook the herculean task of revising the constitution, which was duly approved by the Forum in 2008; it effectively developed the revision of awards criteria recommended by former President Mojubaolu Okome; and completed the process of successfully filing all the articles of incorporation with the State of Michigan. By 2014, the executive committee of Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, Fredline McCormack-Hale, Christine Mathenge, George Kieh and William Ehwarieme had established the first major online presence of the African Studies and Research Forum through its web portal at: www.asrfonline.org. Members can now easily process membership payments and donations using a paypal cart and post information pertinent to the association on the website or via the ASRF google groups listserve. The team also moved successfully on a key goal of the association: to consolidate institutional partnerships with African Universities and encourage regional workshops and meetings of the association. It is anticipated that the ASRF will be hosting its first major Africa-centered conference in 2015.

As the founding members noted, we continue to look forward to the time when scholarship on Africa will be dominated and controlled by Africans themselves. We are all beneficiaries of that first courageous venture into the unknown by the founding members of the ASRF. Along with them, we invite you to join the African Studies and Research Forum and help prepare Africa for the new century and beyond.

Prepared by Prof. John Mukum Mbaku and Prof. Julius Omozuanvbo Ihonvbere, and updated by Prof. Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, 2014.

To view the complete ASRF Charter download the: Ratified African Studies & Research Charter




John Mukum Mbaku (Weber State University), President

Julius Ihonvbere (University of Texas, Ford Foundation), Vice President

Pita Ogaba Agbese (University of Northern Iowa), Executive Secretary

Bennett Odunsi (Jackson State University), Treasurer

Ike Udogu (Francis Marion University and Appalachian State University), Director of Research and Publications



Mojubaolu Okome (Brooklyn College, City University of New York), President

Vice-President, Ishmael Munene (Northern Arizona University), Executive Secretary

Theodora Ayot (North Park University), Treasurer

Abdul Karim Bangura (American University and Howard University), Director of Research and Publications



George Kieh (University of West Georgia), President

Richard Yidana (Grand Valley State University), Vice President (2008-2009)

Ishmael Munene (Northern Arizona University), Executive Secretary

Theodora Ayot (North Park University), Treasurer

Kelechi Kalu (The Ohio State University), Director of Research and Publications



Nurudeen Akinyemi (Kennesaw State University), President

Ike Odimegwu, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria, Vice President

Fredline M’Cormack-Hale (Seton Hall University), Executive Secretary

Christine Mathenge (Austin Peay State University), Treasurer

Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, Director of Research and Publications



Peyi Soyinka Airewele (Ithaca College), President

William Ehwarieme (Delta State University, Nigeria), Vice President

Fredline M’Cormack-Hale (Seton Hall University), Executive Secretary

Christine Mathenge (Austin Peay State University), Treasurer

Peter Dumbuya (Fort Valley State University), Director of Research and Publications (2012-2013)

George Kieh (University of West Georgia), Director of Research and Publications (2013-2014).


Ishmael Munene, Northern Arizona University, President

Fredline A. M’Cormack-Hale, Seton Hall University, Vice-President Diaspora

Ike Odimegwu. Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Vice-President Africa

Emmauel Oritsejafor, North Carolina Central University, Executive Secretary

Christine Mathenge, Austin Peay University, Treasurer

Samuel Zalanga, Bethel University, Director of Research

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