Elisabeth Rios-Brooks is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Florida. She is currently double majoring in Anthropology and International Studies with a focus on Africa. Her involvement throughout her time at UF has consisted of a myriad of leadership positions related to African studies. Her most noteworthy, being Showcase Director for the African Student Union. In this position, Elisabeth is tasked with putting together ASU’s biggest event of the year which is themed “Umoja: The Threads of Africa.”

Elisabeth is also a University Scholar currently conducting fieldwork on African American Vernacular English at UF. She is hoping to not only travel to Florida Undergraduate Research Conference but also get published in UF’s Journal of Undergraduate Research. Elisabeth is also a student intern at the Harn Museum of Art under the African Curatorial Department. In the future, she hopes to continue conducting research on African studies and developing as a student of African studies.


CAS News Bulletin- Week of February 26, 2018

Ayobami Simeon Edun is a first-year master’s student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Florida. He graduated from Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria in the top 3% of his class having succeeded in a wide range of courses. He also engaged in diverse projects ranging in focus from networking, telecommunications, and power, which spurred his interest in gaining industry experience in these areas before commencing graduate study. He worked as an Engineer first in the Telecoms industry and later in the Power sector. The experience he had in the industry coupled with the inefficiencies and lack in these sectors in his country and Africa motivated him to begin his graduate study at the University of Florida.

One of his professional interests is addressing the widening technology gap between developed and developing countries. He currently works with Dr. Ann Gordon-Ross who is actively engaged in areas of embedded systems and reconfigurable computing with experience of over a decade. His current research project, “Dynamic Scheduling of user applications on heterogeneous/homogeneous cores ensuring minimal energy consumption and maintaining the quality of Service,” revolves around computer architecture and caches, which are used to speed up computer performance.


In his Ph.D., he aims at bringing a synergy to networks, IoT, embedded systems and machines, learning to develop solutions to the problems in Africa’s IT sector.  His goal is to use knowledge learned to implement change in Nigeria and Africa at large, where the advancement of technology has not been prevalent. His current research will prepare him for the future where he plans to delve into embedded systems and build a base in Africa where smart devices will be developed for our own use and inculcated into our networks. He is also looking into smart farming with wireless sensors, smart grids and cyber-physical systems especially in Nigeria where the power sector has been a major issue.

CAS News Bulletin- Week of February 19, 2018

Dan Eizenga is a PhD Student in Political Science focused on the Sahel. During his first two years as a PhD Student, Dan benefitted from Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships to study Arabic, which also enabled him to spend the summer of 2012 at the Arabic Language Institute in Fez. He then became a Research Assistant for the Sahel Research Group as part of the Minerva Initiative grant which funded the “Institutional Reform, Social Change, and Stability in Sahelian Africa” project led by Leonardo Villalón. With support from this project, as well as pre-doctoral fieldwork grants from the Department of Political Science and Center for African Studies, Dan was able to conduct roughly two years of fieldwork for his dissertation in Chad, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. His dissertation examines how different configurations of institutions (political parties, the military, and traditional institutions) create various pathways for political elites to manage pressures for political liberalization from the opposition and civil society, following the adoption of multiparty elections.

Thanks to generous support from Center for African Studies, the Sahel Research Group, the Department of Political Science and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dan has presented his research at multiple academic conferences in the United States, Canada, France, and Senegal including multiple African Studies Association annual meetings and a European Conference on African Studies. He has also given presentations to incoming U.S. Ambassadors to Burkina Faso and Chad at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C.

Dan notes that one of his most memorable presentations took place here at the University of Florida as part of the 2017 Gwendolen M. Carter Conference, “On the Edge: What Future for the African Sahel?” During that semester, he taught his first independent course, “Sahelian Challenges,” based on the topics covered at the Carter Conference. This proved to be what Dan considers one of the most rewarding professional experiences he has had at UF, confirming his desire to teach students in African Studies and connect with other scholars working on the Sahel.

Dan has also begun to contribute to the public discourse on democratization in Africa with publications appearing in The Monkey Cage, Africa is a Country, Centre FrancoPaix, and the OECD’s West African Papers series. In the latest OECD West African Paper, Dan and the UF Sahel Research Group look at the short and long-term outlook for security and political stability in Chad. Read it here.

Dan hopes to graduate this summer, but is certain that graduation will not mark the end of his collaborations with the thriving community of Africanists supported by the Center for African Studies.

CAS News Bulletin- Week of February 12, 2018

Kehinde Ojo is a second-year master’s student in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Florida. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) Tallahassee, Florida in the year 2016. She came to the United States in 2015 as an exchange student to finish her bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness at FAMU after which she commenced her master’s degree program in Fall 2016 at University of Florida.

During her undergraduate degree, she did an internship with a cocoa firm in Nigeria. Through this experience, she became interested in Nigeria’s cocoa industry, especially since Nigeria is the fourth largest producer of cocoa in the world and third largest exporter of cocoa, exporting about 96% of its cocoa production. She views the cocoa industry as a viable avenue of growth for Nigeria’s economy—cocoa is a non-renewable resource and in the 1960s, cocoa production aided the agricultural sector in becoming the main source of the country’s economic growth before the discovery of petroleum in the early 1970s. Following Nigeria’s discovery of petroleum, the agricultural sector exists in a dilapidated state; more so, most of the agriculture producers live in the rural areas of the country and therefore, lack basic infrastructural amenities. Based on the dismal situation of the cocoa industry, Ojo became deeply interested in researching ways to improve the level of agricultural production in Nigeria. Consequently, in her senior year in college, she conducted a project on “Estimating the Economic Implication of Expanding Cocoa production in Nigeria.”

In 2016, when she started her master’s program, she was selected as an African student in Food and Resource Economics Department to work with a Dr. John VanSickle on a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded grant to Rwanda and Nepal on Cost of Production and Competitiveness of Production of Milk in each of the countries. She traveled to Rwanda and Nepal for data collection in summer 2017, where she and her advisor had several meetings with agricultural stakeholders in each country to build a consensus cost budget and identify the risks that are involved in milk production. She is currently writing her Master thesis on “Cost of Production and Competitiveness of Production of Milk in Nepal” addressing one of the major factors limiting Nepal milk production—the no-slaughtering policy. Currently, dairy farmers are not allowed to slaughter cattle due to religious and political reasons. In addition, they are not permitted to export cattle; anyone caught exporting cattle is subject to 20 years imprisonment. Ojo hopes research results will help Nepal Government in providing policy changes to benefit Nepalese dairy farmers. She hopes to commence her Ph.D. program in Fall 2018 where she can be fully engaged in Agricultural production and development related research.


CAS News Bulletin- Week of February 5, 2018

Laurin Baumgardt is a first year PhD student in Anthropology. His prospective PhD research centers on questions of urban innovation, humanitarian design, and urban planning strategies. The research will be based on fieldwork in urban South Africa, in which issues of inequality, race, and social change are widely and publicly discussed. Laurin’s research interests and focus on South Africa began with his Master’s research. It investigated people’s future projections and aspirations in light of particular infrastructural conditions and assemblages. Of particularly fascination to him was the co-occurrence of the constant deterioration of basic services in conjunction with non-governmental attempts to research and upgrade infrastructure. In 2016, Laurin briefly worked on a non-governmental solar-panel project in a semi-urban informal settlement in the Cape Town region. This project gravitated around the idea of providing sustainable energy for people while they were waiting for a more reliable grid-connection to be provided by the government. Laurin lived in South Africa for a year in order to pursue additional graduate studies at Stellenbosch University, for which the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD awarded him funding.

In his PhD research, Laurin proposes to analyze the lived experiences of experts such as government planners, engineers and employees of private and non-governmental design agencies. These experts and employees have become involved in the life of infrastructure and play a great part in the story of how hopes, fears, innovation, violence, and future aspirations were and are inscribed into and mediated by particular infrastructures and built environments. Laurin hopes to carry out new fieldwork and in-depth interviews in Johannesburg and Cape Town. His conceptual focus will be on “design” and its valued norms of future making, innovation, functionality, and creativity as  “design” has come to be a powerful political driving force that is adapted by policy makers, planners and governments. New design solutions and innovative approaches are promoted by governments in order to disguise, speed up, or eclipse more serious decision-making processes and to seemingly provide a quick “fix” for long-term issues of inequality, service delivery, and policy planning. Major advantages of the adoption of design into politics is that it attracts attention, comes with an aura of progress, optimization and improvement, and also appears to have no history and no precursors due to its eternal newness.

Currently, Laurin is working on a new manuscript for publication, provisionally entitled “In/visible Infrastructure: Thinking (along) with Martin Heidegger about Infrastructural Breakdowns in South Africa.” It brings together his philosophical training, as well as anthropological interests, with South Africa’s conflictual politics that are centrally fought and debated over on infrastructural terrains, such as crumbling or failing housing projects, lacking sanitation facilities and water shortages, or unwanted prepaid electricity supply.


CAS News Bulletin- Week of January 22, 2018

Emmanuel Akande is a 3rd year Ph.D. student in the Department of Food and Resource Economics (FRE). He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Economics from University of Lagos, Nigeria, in 2008 where he graduated at the top rank of his class. He obtained a Master of Arts (M.A) in Economics in 2012 from Florida State University (FSU). As a master’s student, he published a paper titled “The Investment ShockSources of Fluctuations in a Small Open Economy” and also worked as a researcher/project manager at the Florida State University Center for Economic and Forecasting Analysis (FSU-CEFA) for 2 years. His research interests in the Ph.D. program include applied econometrics, resource and environmental economics and production economics. These research interests relate to his professional goal of explaining the relationship between production activities and the preservation of our natural resources and environment.

In 2017, Emmanuel was nominated by his college to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences’ (CALS) Council for Teaching Enhancement and Innovation.  This council serves in an advisory capacity to the Dean of CALS on the topics and issues related to enhanced and innovative teaching. More importantly, the council provides recommendations to the Dean and IFAS Faculty Assembly. In 2016, Emmanuel was elected Mayor of Tanglewood village, a graduate housing community. In this role, he organized a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) symposium for children, among his other duties. This position also obligated him to reach out to graduate students of different cultures and nationalities. Emmanuel has been involved in leadership positions in many other organizations during his time at UF.

In the future, Emmanuel hopes to become part of the president’s economic team in Nigeria. As an office holder in that capacity, he will seek to embrace costless but reliable polices that would provide economic tools in resource development and sustainability.


CAS News Bulletin- Week of January 15, 2018

Sarah Meyers is a Center for African Studies graduate student in Anthropology. She is a first year student and holds a FLAS Fellowship with the Center. Her research examines the use of Artemisia annua for the prevention and treatment of malaria and corruption and a lack of transparency within the World Health Organization (WHO).  Her research examines the unofficial reasons for the WHO’s opposition to the use of this plant, and why they so adamantly prevent countries that want to incorporate the plant into their public health campaigns and systems from doing so.

Her research project builds off of her time as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana, where she witnessed that limited access to the leading malaria medicine, the Artemisinin combination therapy (ACT), and a strong traditional use of herbal medicine was a core issue in the fight against malaria. When local herbalists requested information on the most effective herbal treatment for malaria, Sarah began working with Artemsia annua, a safe and more effective herbal medicine than what was being used.


The WHO has stated the necessity of incorporating herbal medicines into public healthcare systems, yet they continue to prevent countries that want to promote this specific plant from doing so. Nearly half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria and efforts to control malaria in sub-Saharan Africa have largely failed. For over a decade the WHO has prevented countries from using this widely studied, safe and effective plant. Academics, NGOs and researchers have voiced outrage over the WHO’s opposition, sent peer-reviewed reports and literature reviews, and pleaded for them to discuss the plant they so adamantly oppose but the WHO has stated that they will not discuss the plant at their Malaria Policy Advisory Committee meetings nor create an Evidence Review Groups to review the peer-reviewed research.

Her project builds on findings that have exposed past corruption within the WHO, and the common discourse that the WHO’s change to its financial policy in 2005 allowing private money into the system resulted in strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry and fostered an institution of corruption. Sarah aims to show that opposition towards this plant has no scientific support and is based on financial and political reasons. She will work with a small NGO in Ghana to identify and assess a sustainable method of introducing the plant on a community wide scale and monitoring its introduction, use and spread, and rates of malaria.


CAS News Bulletin- Week of December 4, 2017

Fezile Mtsetfwa is a PhD student at the School of Natural Resources and Environment enrolled in the Interdisciplinary Ecology Program. She also works for the Center for African Studies as the Managing Editor of the African Studies Quarterly (ASQ) journal. Over the summer Fezile traveled to Swaziland to conduct field research that was partially sponsored by CAS through the Jeanne and Hunt Davis Summer Research award. Her research in Swaziland focuses on determining the effects of climate change and land use change on the distribution of the savanna biome. Her approach uses a suite of functionally diverse big trees: Marula, leadwood and knobthorn tree species to investigate the factors that could inhibit or promote the ability of large savanna tree species to move within their suitable climates.

The northeastern region of Swaziland is part of the Maputo-pondoland-Albany hotspot, which is an expanse of land shared by these three countries covering about 274,136 km2 and harboring 1,900 endemic plant species. Swaziland has a wide range of temperatures and rainfall gradients within its bounds thus allowing for different forms of savanna biomes: variations in bushveld and grassland. This makes for an ideal place for a natural experiment looking at how vegetation composition transitions in savannas as climate changes across the landscape.

Over the summer Fezile traveled throughout the country identifying field sites across the climate gradient of Swaziland and collecting data for her research. Additionally, she took five days off from her fieldwork in Swaziland to teach a field project for the Organization for Tropical Studies at the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Fezile will talk more about her research and preliminary findings of the summer field survey at the SASA lunch on November 29 from 11:45 -12:45 pm.

CAS Weekly Bulletin November 20, 2017

Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim is a PhD candidate in political science and a research associate with the Sahel Research Group. His dissertation, “Political Contestation and Islamic Discourses in the Sahel: Global ideologies, local contexts, and individual motivations,” addresses the specific questions of why have Islamic political contestations in the Sahel taken different forms: jihadist insurgencies, violent riots, and peaceful protests? What role do structural and ideological factors play in determining these forms? In an attempt to answer these questions, he explores the processes by which global Islamic political ideologies are being appropriated by Sahelian Muslim activists who use them to frame discourses that tap on local grievances and facilitate mobilization of popular support for their activism. Ibrahim argues that the form that Islamic activism takes is the result of the interrelation between global Islamic political ideologies, the local context in which Muslim activists operate and the varying motivation of individuals who are willing to join the activism. Funding for this research is provided by the Minerva Research Initiative.

The Muslim world has recently witnessed an expansion of Islamic political contestations as Muslim activists, from the Maghreb to the Mashreq and from Southeast Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa have shown increasing willingness to defend Islamic values and promote an Islamic agenda in the public sphere. Islam, as a result, has become a source of inspiration and motive for social and political activism in contemporary Muslim societies. Yet, while the use of Islamic discourse has been a shared characteristic of Islamic political contestations, the form of expression that these contestations have taken has varied greatly, ranging from peaceful protests to violent riots and insurgencies. The expansion of episodes of Islamic political contestation around the world as well as the varied forms that they have taken raise an important question: why and how have political contestations on behalf of Islam proliferated in the contemporary Muslim world? This dissertation focuses more specifically on episodes of Islamic activism in three Muslim majority countries of the Sahel region of West Africa, including the jihadist insurgency by the Movement of Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) in Gao/Mali, the anti-Charlie Hebdo riots in Zinder/Niger and the anti-slavery protests in Nouakchott by the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA-Mauritania).

CAS Bulletin Week of November 6, 2017

Sheila Maingi, a 2nd year student in the Masters of Development Practice (MDP) program, conducted research in Gauteng Province, South Africa this past summer. She partnered with Gender Links for Equality and Justice, a Southern Africa based organization, in their ‘Sunrise Campaign’. The program seeks to empower women who are survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV) with life skills, digital literacy skills and entrepreneurship training. Sheila assisted in conducting baseline project monitoring and assessment against findings from the pilot phase. She attended trainings, engaged in participatory observation, and collected interview and focus group data. The final report will be submitted to Gender Links to help facilitate program strengthening. Her research will contribute to the broader issue of mitigating the prevalence of GBV in the region. She presented her preliminary findings at the International Conference on Sustainable Development (ICSD) held at Columbia University this September.

While in South Africa Sheila also authored a chapter ‘Gender and Peacebuilding in Southern Africa’ for the ‘SADC 2017 Gender Barometer’ and got the opportunity to visit Swaziland and Zimbabwe for other work-related activities.

Sheila Maingi
MDP Program


CAS News Bulletin- Week of October 23, 2017