History of LSE and Africa

LSE has been deeply involved with Africa and African issue from its foundation in 1895.

For many South Africans, LSE also meant the opportunity for learning that apartheid denied them in their own country.

Seven post-independence African heads of state have studied at the school: including three presidents of Ghana – Kwame Nkrumah, Hilla Limann and John Atta Mills; two presidents of Kenya – Jomo Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki; the president of Mauritius Sir Veerasamy Ringadoo; and Sylvanus Olympio former president of Togo.

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In 1957, LSE students were amongst the first in the UK to protest the apartheid regime in South Africa. In the 2000s, LSE became a frequent destination for African leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan, to deliver public speeches and share their thoughts about global issues. Professor Thandika Mkandawire launched LSE’s Africa Initiative in 2009, the Programme for African Leadership was established in 2012, and the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa was created in 2015, and the Institute was established in 2021.

LSE has hosted some of Africa’s most prominent politicians and thinkers.

In 2000, Nelson Mandela came to London and spoke at LSE. He praised the school for it’s anti-apartheid stance and its role in educating generations of Africans.

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LSE, as part of the University of London, was in the vanguard of the great army of men and women across the world who responded to the call to isolate the apartheid regime. They insisted that human rights are the rights of all people everywhere. I feel greatly honoured to have an honorary degree from the University of London. Today brings an opportunity to thank LSE in person and with all humility for the part it played in that tribute to the South African people for their achievement in turning from conflict to the peaceful pursuit of a better life for all.

For many South Africans, LSE also meant the opportunity for learning that apartheid denied them in their own country. Those who were students are now working in all sectors of our society, leaders of a nation, leading a bright and common future. We continue to draw upon you for training and knowledge in fields that are critical to the development of our country. May your practical solidarity and our partnership long continue. Your invitation to me to reflect with you on the challenges facing Africa speaks of your continuing commitment to our shared goals and I thank you most sincerely.

- Nelson Mandela

In 2002, the then-UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan spoke at the school. He delivered a public lecture entitled “From Doha to Johannesburg by way of Monterrey: how development can be achieved and sustained in the 21st century”. He returned in 2012 to promote his book Interventions: A Life in War and Peace.


And in 2023, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, addressed students, staff and other audience members at LSE when she was awarded with an honorary doctorate in Economics by Baroness Shafik, who cited her pioneering work in gender and international development policy and her historic appointment to WTO Director-General

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala