There is something very heart-warming, humbling and scary about being asked to be a partner in a major project. There was also a sense of bemusement when during the past month, we were presented with fourteen requests to collaborate on projects. Ten of these were requests from organisations or people that neither I nor the organisation had previous experience of having worked with or even been aware of.

The most powerful, and often the only, way marginalised organisations or people can have impacts disproportionate to their size, is through working in partnership. Every significant achievement that Africans have had in the past 200 years has come about by harnessing physical, human or spiritual resources. Africans have always made the most telling contributions to their own development and emancipation.

There is no sector in which collaboration and partnerships are more profoundly impactful than in culture. Collaboration enables the pursuit and achievement of excellence and facilitates the intercultural exchanges and subsequent sharing which is the basis of enduringly significant art, heritage and culture.

However, power dynamics in partnerships can be problematic. Many organisations fall foul of decrying dysfunctionalities and systemic inequities, only to replicate these when in positions of relative power. This is especially pronounced on a geopolitical level. Global South organisations face disadvantages and paternalism from Global North partners, exacerbated by funding structure that presume superiority in governance and competence in the Global North. As for the prospect of Global South organisations working with each other while funded by Global North based money? One is more likely to see a pink moon.

While advocating the power of partnerships and collaboration, the underlying rationale needs to be sound. While funding access is a tempting driver, it should never be the sole reason for seeking partnership. This is especially true for the marginalised organisation, as they have more to lose in unequal partnerships. This does not exonerate the larger or Global North organisations of their responsibilities for seeking respectful and genuinely equitable partnerships. 

The Africa Centre, uniquely positioned in the Global North while being very much of the Global South, focuses on equitable partnerships. We have been developing a network of Affiliate Organisations. Unsurprisingly, our preferred collaborations from the requests for partnership that we recently had were with organisations from within that Network, as we already agreed an alignment of mission, values and ways of working.

This month has been a month of renewed partnerships. 40 years ago, The London School of Samba was born while located at The Africa Centre. As we both celebrate significant anniversaries this year, we embrace ourselves again. This has resulted in a very popular programme of work at The Centre, including a series of dance and drumming masterclasses. (Apparently, I was so enthused during our conversations, I volunteered to be in their Carnival float this year!). Similarly, we have been delighted to partner with Operation Black Vote and Black Equity Organisation to develop a Black British Mandate for the 2024 UK national elections. This is now made even more pressing by the recent announcement of an early election date.

We are also proud of our strategic partnership with Africa Soft Power. We have written the piece HERE in time for discussions at their forthcoming summit.

Working in partnership is the only way that we have been able to develop the rich and exciting programme of activity that we are now seeing at The Africa Centre. We will still love to hear stories of great partnerships and collaborations that have been formed at The Africa Centre over the past 60 years. Please drop me a line with any such memories or reminiscences. As a great friend and new partner of ours, Ze Kouyate says, “We are what we share!”

Olu Alake


Other Big Moments of the Past Month:


Last month, our Chief Marketing Officer Belvin Tawuya resigned from the organisation to pursue other opportunities. Belvin served us for 7 years, 4 as a staff member and for 3 years prior as a Trustee. He is responsible for the awesome branding of the organisation amongst many other significant achievements that he should be rightly proud of. Good luck for the future, Belvin, and stay a friend!


This month is a year on from the last International Federation of Arts Council and Cultural Agencies global summit. I had the honour of serving as the Chair of the Summit’s International Programme Advisory Committee.  My congratulations and best wishes to the recently announced IPAC for the next summit in Seoul 2025.

Thrill of the Month

Hat-trick hero Lookman takes winding road to Europa League triumph | Reuters

Congratulations to Ademola Lookman of Atlanta FC, who became the first African to score a hat-trick in a major European competition final.