The Nordic Africa Institute

Who we are

We are a close-knit, international team, with a shared belief that a deeper understanding of the issues that shape contemporary Africa will contribute to making development truly sustainable.

Based on the three pillars of research, communication and library services, the Institute builds, disseminates and promotes knowledge about contemporary Africa.

The Nordic Africa Institute shall be a centre of excellence for knowledge on Africa.

The Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) houses a combination of high-quality research, skilled communication and an extensive library collection on contemporary Africa, all under one roof. At NAI, cutting-edge research intersects policy dialogue and a full-service library, resulting in a unique setting for Africa studies in the Nordics.

As a Swedish public authority, and the beneficiary of several Nordic governments as well as of the international community, NAI offers an unmatched position in its field in terms of contributing to the Africa policy agenda of the Nordic countries engaged in the Institute.

The Nordic Africa Institute Strategy 2017–2021 (PDF) Pdf, 5 MB, opens in new window..

The Nordic Africa Institute shall:

  • promote, support and encourage academic and policy relevant research on contemporary Africa
  • aim to support positive development in African countries based on North–South and South–North dialogue
  • contribute to the Africa policy agenda in the Nordic countries.
  • contribute to building capacity in the production of knowledge about Africa
  • secure and diversify its resources
  • be a values-based organisation

The Strategy 2017–2021 identifies the research agenda presented below, responding to current and future trends in Africa, including global dynamics and development agendas such as the SDGs. In addition to its focus on trends and development in Africa, NAI offers easy entry points to strengthen the achievement of global development agendas and the SDGs. In effect, within the framework of the Strategy, research programmes and other related activities will be designed to address the following broad areas of concerns in African development discourse.

Also se our Topics page and browse our research and library resources based on specific topics.

Inclusive growth, poverty and inequality in urban and rural Africa

Significant strides towards eliminating poverty have been made in the past decades, and extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990. This trend is also notable in Africa; statistics show how African poverty has been on a declining trend over the past 15 years. However, poverty reduction is slower in Africa than on any other continent, and the high level of economic inequality implies that the poverty-reducing impact of growth is less straightforward than what was believed, due to the poverty and inequality traps. There is thus no automatic one-to-one relationship between economic growth and poverty alleviation. Alleviating poverty and reducing inequality in Africa are essential to ensuring sustainable livelihoods on the continent.

Climate change and sustainable development

The challenge of climate change has no borders. Human activities worldwide entail consequences for the way we all live and for the future of our planet. The effects of climate change are not a matter of speculation; people’s lives are being affected by rising sea levels and extreme weather. The UN has called for urgent action to tackle climate change and its impacts in the sustainable development agenda. The impacts of climate change are likely to strike Africa more severely than any other continent. Many African countries and regions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, given their limited adaptive capacity, due to their geographical location, widespread poverty and low development levels. Water stress is projected to affect between 75 million and 250 million people on the continent by 2020. The high dependency on agriculture also implies that a large share of the African population risk malnourishment in the face of global warming.

Gender equality

The sustainable development goals aim to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Gender inequality is a global problem, causing social progress and economic growth to stagnate worldwide. Inequalities for girls and women can follow them through life, entailing deprivation of access to health care, proper nutrition, education and job opportunities. For Africa, gender inequality slows down the process of poverty alleviation both through the loss of potential growth that could have come from women who are excluded from the growth process; and by excluding women from education and health care, hindering their rise out of poverty. Despite many successes for African women and girls in the past decades, women still constitute the majority of the continent’s poor, are more likely to drop out of school than boys and are less likely to be employed in the formal sector. Furthermore, maternal mortality rates remain high in many African countries and many women are victims of domestic violence. Ending all forms of discrimination against girls and women, and ensuring equal access to health care, education and participation in political, economic and public life is key to Africa’s development.

Conflict, security and democratic transformation

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, of which the SDGs are a part, is dedicated to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, the provision of justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. Societies affected by violent conflict often suffer from flawed democratic institutions and processes, human rights abuses and low levels of economic growth, as well as lack of access to education and health care. Furthermore, there is a dominant international agenda to find solutions to the threats of terrorism and organised crime. Armed interstate and intrastate conflicts, civil wars and terrorism are major challenges in many African regions. Understanding the driving forces behind conflicts, and exploring the many challenges of post-conflict transformation are imperative to promoting security and sustainable development in all aspects of life.

Mobility and migration

Understanding Africa’s migratory movements is equal to the challenge of understanding the social, economic and political developments on the continent. Migration can take many shapes and forms: internal movements such as rural–urban migration (and in some regions urban–rural); and cross-border and intercontinental migration due to conflict, ecological or economic downturns. As part of their goal to reduce inequality, the SDGs call for orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies. In the face of increasing intercontinental mobility, African migration has become a global concern, not least for the EU and the Nordic countries. It is becoming increasingly clear that the need to understand the complexity of migration has increased at the same time as numbers of migrants have grown. However, international research on migration-related issues as regards the African continent has been unable to provide adequate and sufficient analysis of the whole spectrum of issues that need to be addressed.

  • A Swedish public agency founded in 1962
  • Jointly financed by Sweden, Finland and Iceland
  • Research with emphasis on social sciences
  • Library specialized in modern Africa
  • Publications more than 600 titles on development, human rights, conflict etc.
  • Conferences and public events
  • Scholarships for Nordic and African scholars


The Nordic Africa Institute is a Swedish public agency, jointly financed by the Nordic countries Sweden, Finland and Iceland. As an authority it is led by a director, who is ultimately responsible to the Swedish government for the decisions taken.


Programme and Research Council

At her side, the Director has the Programme and Research Council, whose task is to monitor and advise the Director. The members of the Council are appointed by the Swedish government. It is composed of two members and one deputy member from each of the contributing Nordic countries.

Regulation documents and reports