The Center for African and Oriental Studies was established in 2007 initially as the Institute of African Studies. It was established in response to the increasing demand to have within Addis Ababa University an interdisciplinary academic Center that focuses on the study of Africa and undertakes related research on the continent. Underlying this is recognition of the fact that there are no blueprints or readymade formulae to disentangle those variegated network of problems and opportunities Africa is faced with in a globalized world. Africa. Nor is the key to the solutions to be found in any one of the neatly compartmentalized knowledge or disciplines. Hence, there is a need for an integrated knowledge generated through infusion of interdisciplinary discourse and multidisciplinary approach that defies all those jealously guarded academic frontiers. Being the only academic unit in Addis Ababa University, and elsewhere in the country, that is dedicated to the study of the continent, the Center provides an academic forum through which the various disconnected pursuits on African topics will gain intellectual cohesion and interdisciplinary reinforcement. By so doing, the Center acts as a think-tank and house of knowledge by providing a multidisciplinary approach to the study of historical and contemporary Africa. It also aims at forging links with Pan-African organizations, Africanists, African Academics, institutions, agencies and international and regional organizations working in Africa.

Moreover, based on the recognition of Ethiopia’s role and concern to participate and contribute in the academic endeavor pertaining to Middle Eastern issues, and the expressed demand from the FDRE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Program of Middle Eastern Studies was launched in 2014/15 academic year with the aim to train and graduate students with a profound knowledge of the Middle East region. The measures taken to establish the MA Program in Middle Eastern Studies is of paramount importance not only for the university’s academic research contribution but also for policy makers to the Ethiopian Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, Mining, Energy and Water Resources, Economic and Cultural Cooperation, Migration and Social Affairs and also for other non-governmental stakeholders.

It is following the launching of the Program in Middle Eastern Studies that the Center has been renamed as the Center for African and Oriental Studies (CAfOS) consisting of two graduate programs, namely, the graduate program in African Studies and the Graduate Program in Middle Eastern Studies. Having these two programs aligned to the mission and vision of AAU, the Centre for African and Oriental Studies aims to create, nurture and promote an educational and intellectual culture that provides opportunities for graduate students to acquire knowledge and develop interdisciplinary skills that enables a deeper understanding of Africa and the Middle East in both historical and contemporary contexts and their role in and contribution to humanity and the global community.

So far, the Centre has been working towards the realization of the University’s mission through offering a specialized interdisciplinary Master’s Program in African Studies (regular and extension programs) and Middle Eastern Studies (regular program) and produced graduates with knowledge and interdisciplinary skills to engage in problem solving, teaching, research and professional careers in African and international affairs. In response to recently growing demand for deep engagement with Africa’s problems, challenges and opportunities that Africa is confronted within the new globalized world and to quench the thirst for interdisciplinary and evidence-based knowledge at an advanced level in the continent and beyond, the Center has launched a PhD program in African Studies in 2017/18 academic year. The PhD Program would serve the mission of Addis Ababa University in particular and the nation at large to produce highly qualified and skilled expertise that would engage in academics, research and development in national, regional and continental organizations, and other such political, cultural and economic institutions in various positions and sectors and boost its standing in regional and international arena.


Within the context of the aforementioned broad mission, the Center envisages three interrelated divisions.

 Vision and Mission

In line with the vision of AAU, the Center for African and Oriental Studies (CAfOS) is dedicated to the production and dissemination of knowledge about Africa and the Middle East through the promotion of research, teaching and outreach activities with the widest possible freedom of inquiry. In the context of the current growth of AAU’s graduate programs, the Center provides an academic forum through which the various disconnected pursuits on African and Middle Eastern topics will gain intellectual cohesion and interdisciplinary reinforcement. In collaboration with the other higher learning institutions and centers of African studies, CAfOS envisions to work towards developing:

  • Theoretical framework and consensual perspective about the ways in which the African and Middle Eastern experiences are to be conceptualized retrospectively and prospectively;
  • Inbuilt cultural whole and political union rich enough to accommodate pluralism in dealing with issues of relevance to Africa and the Middle East.

By making use of the opportunity to draw on the pool of expertise and documentations from AU and ECA, the Center envisages providing a venue and fellowship to African and Middle East scholars to carry out research works, share their experiences thereby enhance the missing culture of African scholarship at AAU. In so doing, the Center helps to meet the growing demand for the African as well as Middle Eastern scholars to reconstruct a body of knowledge relevant to their environ, and to generate their own theories, models, analytical tools that can ultimately lead to creating a space of understanding solid enough to identify, problematize and solve the outstanding problems of Africa.

Academic division

This division is in turn composed of three Programs consisting of specialization streams each.

MA Program in African Studies

  • African Intellectual History and Cultural Studies
  • Human and Economic Development in Africa
  • Citizenship and State in Africa

MA Program in Middle Eastern Studies

  • Geography and Politics in the Middle East
  • History, Culture and Identity in the Middle East
  • Social and Economic Development in the Middle East

        PhD Program in African Studies

  • Mobility and Citizenship Studies in Africa
  • Culture, Art and Media Studies in Africa
    • Research division

The research division provides a space of free inquiry where interested scholars and students explore a multiplicity of issues emanating from or revolving around the continent historical, political, developmental, religious and cultural concerns. The division is interested with the duty to:

  • organize periodic seminars, workshops/symposia on seminal ideas on topical issues of continental and regional importance, such as Biodiversity, Environmental and Climate Change, African Literature and Creative Arts, Religious and Cultural Tolerance, etc.;
  • develop research proposals on contemporary African issues and submit to potential funding sources;
  • solicit linkages and networking with Centers of African Studies within and outside the continent. This is mainly facilitated through the University/College of Social Sciences as well as through using the experts participating in the periodic seminar, hosting student and staff affiliations and visiting scholars, using the individual networks of the faculty and alumni; and directly contacting the relevant stakeholders such as AU, IGAD etc.; and
  • offer short-term training and refreshing courses on contemporary African issues and methodological aspects, as well as language and consultancy services. For the purposes of short-term training and refreshing courses, curriculum will be developed and communicated to relevant stakeholders and advertised.

Support division

The two major tasks of this division are to:

  • carry out administrative and financial services in an efficient manner
  • provide technical support in terms of documentation and publication; building up modest library, dissemination of research findings.