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Keynote: Is African Agency for sale, for hire or self-renewal? How can Africa shape the UN Summit of the Future?

Bush House, Strand Campus, London


The topic of the inaugural event of this year's Africa Week is intended to open the door to interrogation of what Africa’s agency is all about, outside the tight intellectual prism in which it is currently held. It will also discuss how the opportunity of the UN Summit of the future might be seized to reframe African agency.

The event is co-hosted by the Kenyan High Commission in London and the African Leadership Centre at King's.

HE Ambassador Manoa Esipisu, EBS, the High Commissioner of Kenya to the UK, and Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice-President International, Engagement and Service at King’s, will give the opening keynotes. An eminent panel of diplomats, academics and practitioners will respond to the issues raised by the keynotes before the audience joins the debate.

The keynotes and panellists will open a debate by critically discussing how Africa’s agency can be reconsidered, what it will take to deploy this agency in the bid to redefine and establish Africa’s place in the world as a pillar of global action.

Dr Eka Ikpe, Director of the African Leadership Centre, will welcome participants to this opening event.

This is a hybrid event; participants can register to attend in-person or online. A link to join the online webinar will be emailed to participants on registering.

This event is part of the African Leadership Centre's Africa Week 2024 celebrations taking place 4-8 March 2024.


HE Ambassador Manoah Esipisu, EBS

Amb. Manoah Esipisu EBS is the High Commissioner Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kenya to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization. He is also Kenya's chief diplomat to the Commonwealth intergovernmental family of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth of Learning.

As Kenya's top diplomat in the UK, he leads a team dedicated to strengthening bilateral relations around the key pillars of security and defence; mutual prosperity encompassing trade, investment, climate change; Sustainable Development; People-to-people relations covering tourism, health and social care, education and Diaspora Affairs.

Amb. Esipisu has overseen a significant upturn of Kenya’s fortunates to become the go-to country in sub-Saharan Africa and a significant player in UK-based intergovernmental communities. Prior to his current role Amb. Esipisu served as Head of Communications and Spokesperson to the President, leading a team of nearly 100 professionals responsible for Presidency and government communications.

Amb. Esipisu, one of Kenya’s best known media public figures, has had a long and distinguished career first as a journalist, journalism trainer and mentor, before growing into an astute Communications and Public Affairs personality and diplomat as an international public servant. He also served as special Assistant to the President of the African Development Bank.

Amb. Esipisu started his public life with the Standard Group, where he worked before joining the global news and information group Reuters, covering the African continent and working in bureaus in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa interacting with African financial and political figures.

As a Commonwealth Deputy Spokesperson he worked directly with Presidents or Prime Ministers, to successfully deliver the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings in Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago, and Australia; and with former leaders on Commonwealth Observer Groups at a numbers of general elections.

Throughout his career, Mr. Esipisu has been a formidable mentor of journalists and public servants on the African continent and beyond and is credited with the training of some of Kenya's best known business journalists.

Having travelled to more than 80 countries in his various roles, Mr. Esipisu is an acquaintance of many African and global leaders and has leveraged this to lift the image of Kenya and its leadership throughout the continent and the world.

Amb. Esipisu is a frequent speaker on global issues and the author of “Eyes of Democracy: the media in elections”, which chronicles the experiences of journalists and observers in covering elections. In 2022, Kenyan President HE Dr William Ruto CGH bestowed on Amb Esipisu the civilian honour of Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear EBS for his distinguished services to Public Affairs and Diplomacy.

Professor 'Funmi Olonisakin, FKC

Professor ’Funmi Olonisakin is Vice-President International, Engagement and Service (IES) at King’s College London. She is also Professor of Security, Leadership and Development at the African Leadership Centre in the School of Global Affairs at King’s. In her role as Vice-President IES, Professor Olonisakin seeks to facilitate the deployment of King’s assets (including knowledge, scholarship and talent in service of society) locally, nationally and internationally, to enable transformative and lasting impact. She is committed to building inter-disciplinary and intersectoral collaboration, and sustaining equitable partnerships to realise positive and lasting impact within and beyond King’s.

Producing knowledge that influences change beyond the academy has been at the heart of Professor Olonisakin’s research work and life as an academic. She has positioned her work to serve as a bridge between academia and the worlds of policy and practice. Her research has been shaped by her interest in deepening understanding of why civil wars relapse, and the drivers of youth vulnerability and exclusion in the developing world. More recently, she has sought to explore the interface between leadership, peace, and security as a basis to unpack and understand the big transnational problems that confront the world today. She has led a number of major research projects including most recently on “future peace, society and the state in Africa”, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Professor Olonisakin founded the African Leadership Centre (ALC) both at King’s and in Kenya, as a collaboration between King’s and the University of Nairobi in 2010. The ALC aims to develop a new community of leaders generating cutting edge-knowledge for peace, security and development in Africa. Professor Olonisakin has focused on inclusive postgraduate research training at the ALC, combining field-building with community-building while working with inter-generational research teams to translate knowledge generated into multiple forms of collaborative engagement regionally in Africa, and globally.

Previously, Professor Olonisakin worked in the United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in New York, between 1999 and 2003. From 2003 until 2013, she was Director of the Conflict Security and Development Group at King’s College London.

In January 2015, United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, appointed Professor Olonisakin as one of seven members of the Advisory Group of Experts (AGE) on the Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture; and in 2016, as a member of the Advisory Group of Experts for the United Nations Progress Study on Youth, Peace, and Security. In 2018, she was appointed to the Council of the United Nations University, on which she currently serves as Chair. She was awarded the Fellowship of King’s College in 2020.

University of Pretoria (UP), where she was appointed as an Extra-Ordinary Professor in 2016, conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) on Professor Olonisakin in May 2022 in recognition of her significant contributions to the promotion of peace, security, justice, and international solidarity in Africa, with special reference to women and youth.

Professor Olonisakin was educated at the University of Ife, Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and King’s College London, graduating with a BSc. Honours in Political Science (Ife, 1984) and MSc and PhD in War Studies (King’s 1996) respectively. She was a post-doctoral Fellow at the Department of Political Sciences in UP in 1998, and was awarded a McArthur Foundation post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of War Studies from 1998-1999.

Dr Eka Ikpe

Eka is Director and Reader (Development Economics in Africa) at the African Leadership Centre at King's. Her research offers a critical understanding of socio-economic transformation processes which advances concept-building that centres spaces in Africa and parts of the Global South across the fields of economic development and peace and security. Current themes of interest include, developmentalism, industrial development and structural transformation, peacebuilding, post-conflict reconstruction and the economic costs of conflict and creative economies.

At this event


Vice President (International, Engagement & Service)

Eka Ikpe profile photo 160 160

Director, African Leadership Centre

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