International Studies & Programs

About the African Studies Center

The African Studies Center is one of a suite of highly respected international studies programs at MSU, whose purpose is to offer a truly global education while engaging in cutting edge research on the world's most pressing challenges.


Our Priorities

With 160 core faculty members in 54 different departments, we have the capacity to look at Africa from many perspectives.

Supporting Future Experts

One of our consistent priorities is to bring into being the next generation of African experts, be they academicians, policy makers or applied practitioners on the continent of Africa itself.

Teaching African Languages

It’s our job to develop, disseminate and to teach African languages. We have established one of the largest African language programs in this country, teaching on average about 12 African languages per year, with the capacity to take students from beginning level to advanced level.

Disseminating Information to the Public

We have an obligation to present to the public information that is clear, concise and contextualized about the social, political and economic dynamics of the African continent. Toward that end, we have a full-time PhD outreach director that works with local teachers to incorporate African material into our local school curriculum, as well as pedagogy in teaching faculty members how to use that curriculum.

Working with the Community

We work with local community organizations that have an African focus. We work with our partner institutions across the state of Michigan, as well as nationally.

Creating New Knowledge

We create new knowledge through our support for research, our support for print publications, and our support for digital media presentations. In keeping with our land grant tradition, we have the obligation to apply the knowledge that we generate toward solving the complex interlocking and global problems that confront the African continent today.


A Global Context

We believe that it is impossible to understand any one area of the world in isolation, so our approach to the study of Africa is rooted in a global context. As an African Studies Center, we do not isolate Africa as one geographical region that deserves special treatment in and of itself. Rather, we place Africa within the world.

MSU is a university where we continually try to bridge the gap between the intellectual and the pragmatic, between community and classroom, between academic excellence and social activism. Those are the hallmarks of an MSU education, and likewise the foundational principles of the African Studies Center.


MSU’s History in Africa

Michigan State has been connected with the African continent since the founding of the University in 1855, at first through the work of individual professors and later through formal institutional engagement. More than fifty years ago in 1960, MSU cooperated with the first president of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe, to establish a new African university at Nsukka based on MSU's land-grant model. The core values of African partnership and cooperation have characterized our approach to African Studies ever since.

Images courtesy of The Decorum.

Statement on the Passing of Ahmed Kathrada

Ahmed K. Kathrada, 87, passed away on March 28, 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ahmed Kathrada led a remarkable life dedicated to the achievement of equality, human dignity and freedom for all South Africans. He was a leader of South Africa's struggle for freedom for more than 65 years, starting in his youth when he joined the passive resistance movement and extending into his 80s as he continued to work towards a multi-racial South Africa through the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. He was a highly respected international voice for reconciliation and human rights, and the impact of his life's work is felt throughout the world.

Placed on trial by the apartheid government in 1964, along with Nelson Mandela and other leaders, Ahmed Kathrada was sentenced to life in prison and served for 18 years on Robben Island before being transferred to Pollsmoor Prison and finally released in 1989.

From 1989 to 1999 Ahmed Kathrada was a leader in creating the peaceful transfer of power and the creation of a democratic government in South Africa. He was elected to the South African Parliament during South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. He later served as parliamentary counselor in the Office of the President for Nelson Mandela's presidency before retiring from active politics in 1999.

Ahmed Kathrada was granted an honorary doctoral degree from Michigan State University in 2005, and Michigan State University Press published his first book, "Letters from Robben Island". He donated copies of the prison letters to the MSU Libraries. Over the last fifteen years of his life, Kathrada supported many diverse MSU programs and activities, from meeting with Study Abroad students to speaking on the MSU campus. Ahmed Kathrada will be remembered and greatly missed by MSU faculty, students, staff and alumni.