We believe that somewhere across the globe an African does something remarkable daily, one of such individual is 53-year-old Nigerian Professor Funmi Olonisakin, who recently delivered an Inaugural Lecture in King’s College London, the fourth oldest university in England, since it almost 190-year history.
This feat makes her the first black woman to deliver attain such. This is an outstanding achievement and we celebrate her.
Born to Nigerian parents in South London, Professor Olonisakin spent her formative years in Nigeria where she obtained a BSc in political science at Obafemi Awolowo University in 1984. Returning to London, she received an MA in War Studies (1990) and a PhD also in War Studies (1996) from King’s College.
At King’s she is currently Professor of Security, Leadership and Development at the African Leadership Centre (ALC) in the School of Global Affairs, and Vice-President/Vice-Principal (International).
‘Not before now has a black woman grown and risen through the ranks at King’s to become a professor and to give an Inaugural Lecture for the first time in its esteemed history,’ she made this known in university’s auditorium.
The Lecture is usually given by ‘newly-promoted or appointed professors to inform colleagues in the university and the general public, about their research career so far; and update colleagues on their current and future research directions’.
She established and acted as the founding director of the ALC in 2010, which aims to build the next generation of African scholars and analysts generating cutting edge knowledge for conflict, security and development in Africa.
A number of Ghanaians have been students at the ALC, which offers a Masters course in London and a Women’s Fellowship programme in Nairobi.
For over 20 years, Prof Olonisakin researched issues at the intersection of security and development, positioning her work to serve as a bridge between academia, policy and practice.
She has contributed to efforts to tackle the structural roots of armed conflict in developing countries, particularly in Africa.
In the last decade, Prof Olonisakin led multi-country research projects on reframing narratives of peace and state building in Africa and on leadership and peacebuilding in Africa.
Her current research is on ‘Future Peace and the role of the State in Africa’.
Professor Olonisakin worked at the UN between 1999 and 2003 before returning to King’s.
In January 2015, she was appointed by the then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, as one of seven members of the Advisory Group of Experts on the Review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture.
She is currently a member of the UN Group of Experts for the Global Study of Youth, Peace and Security.The University of Pretoria in South Africa appointed her as an Extra-Ordinary Professor in 2016, following an earlier award as a Mellon Foundation Distinguished Scholar on Peace and Conflict in 2013.
The Geneva Centre for Security Policy also appointed her as a Distinguished Fellow in April 2014.She was Director of the Conflict, Security and Development Group at King’s from 2003 until 2013.
Prof Olonisakin worked in the Office of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, overseeing the Africa programme. In this role, she facilitated the establishment of the National Commission for War-Affected Children in Sierra Leone and the Child Protection Unit in the Economic Community of West African States.