African House

African House gathers together members of Christ Church from several academic disciplines all of whom have worked in different African countries. They share a common vision of supporting the transformation of Africa for Africans. They meet regularly to develop plans for collaboration, knowledge exchange, a programme for visiting scholars and researchers from Africa, debate and initiatives on African issues based in the House.

African house event 16th September 2019Previous Events

Balancing social and environmental capital for sustainable development in Africa

The African House at Christ Church and the Africa Oxford Initiative co-hosted a seminar 'Balancing social and environmental capital for sustainable development in Africa' on 16 September 2019. Three AfOx Visiting Fellows spoke at the event chaired by Dr Johanna Koehler (Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment | Christ Church).

Prof Salome Bukachi from Kenya, Dr Rebecca Asare from Ghana, and Dr Aymar Bisoka from the Democratic Republic of Congo discussed the roles of government, private sector, and communities in advancing rural development to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (including universal water services, poverty reduction, and gender inclusivity). They discussed questions around inclusive water service delivery in water-stressed environments, how decisions are made in complex social-ecological systems and how conflict interferes with the basic provision of services as well as the development of rural public policies to advance the SDG agenda.

Video podcasts of the talks are available here:

Dr Rebecca Asare (Nature Conservation Research Centre, Ghana): Social ecology of cocoa farming in Ghana

Dr Aymar Bisoka (Catholic University of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo): Fighting against Poverty in the African Great Lakes Region: a question of Power and Resistance

Prof Salome Bukachi (University of Nairobi, Kenya): Gender and water access- leveraging on social capital for inclusive access

The Venerable Martin Gorick, Archdeacon of Oxford, gave an illustrated talk entitled ‘Contemplative-Compassionate-Courageous: Stories of Hope from South Africa’, following his recent visit to the country.

Given in conjunction with Christian Aid, the talk took place on 26th April in the Sir Michael Dummett Lecture Theatre..

As the plans for African House evolve, the first event was a public lecture and discussion combined with the Faith and Politics Lecture Series on ‘What Keeps Countries Poor?’ which took place on Friday 1 February 2019 in the Sir Michael Dummett Lecture Theatre. The speaker was Nick Lea, Deputy Chief Economist to DFID. He focused on Africa and was joined by Professor Malcolm McCulloch and Dr Johanna Koehler to open the discussion.

Nick Lea - Why do some countries stay poor?

Johanna Koehler - The paradox of and progress towards rural water sustainability in Africa


Some members of the African HouseUndergraduate and Postgraduate students interested in finding out more about African House and being involved in its future plans should contact Dr Johanna Koehler.


Here are some of the areas we work in:


Malcolm McCulloch
Tutor in engineering

The energy and Power Group (EPG) are mainly focused on energy access in Africa. In particular we have been awarded a ~£1M project on looking at low cost grids in Africa. We also have a project examining the rehabilitation of the grid in Sierra Leone.
Our website is undergoing a major overhaul. There is a holding page here:


Sarah Rowland-Jones
Professor of Immunology, Nuffield department of Medicine, honorary consultant in adult Infectious Diseases
Christ Church Research Student (since 1997)

I lead a research programme in the Nuffield Department of Medicine that focuses on the role of cellular immune responses in protective immunity to viral infections, particularly HIV infection. My first studies in Africa were in the MRC Laboratories in The Gambia in the early 1990s, where we found that sex workers with a considerable HIV exposure often had circulating T-cells that could recognise HIV-infected cells, even though they tested HIV negative and there was no virological evidence of HIV infection. This led to studies in Nairobi in sex workers who at the time had the highest reported HIV exposure anywhere in the world, with infection rates close to 90%. We found similar results in the small group who appeared to be resistant to HIV infection, leading to vaccine developers to focus on strategies that stimulated similar T-cell responses. Between 2004 and 2008 I was seconded from Oxford as Research Director for the MRC Laboratories in The Gambia, where I worked particularly on infection with the second strain of HIV, HIV-2: for some infected people the clinical course is indistinguishable from HIV-1, but there is a much larger group than seen in HIV-1 who live to old age without any signs of immune system damage, and we showed that immune factors (rather than different virus strains) were the main causes of non-progression. Since returning to Oxford, my main research focus has been with collaborators in Zimbabwe who have identified cohorts of older children and adolescents with perinatally-acquired HIV infection. These young people often develop serious long-term complications and we are trying to identify potentially treatable underlying causes: recently we reported that reactivation of the common virus cytomegalovirus (which African children acquire in infancy) is associated with stunting and impaired lung function in these cohorts. We are also working with our collaborators to help build capacity for laboratory-based research in Harare, where there is a real shortage of modern, functioning equipment.

Robin Thompson
Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church
Based in Mathematical Institute and Department of Zoology

My research involves mathematical modelling of infectious disease epidemics, including a number of epidemics in an African context. For example, my most recent publication - in collaboration with policy-makers from the World Health Organization - involved developing a mathematical framework for determining when policy-makers can declare Ebola epidemics over with confidence ( I am also interested in HIV, and we have just published a manuscript in which we examine differences between transmitted viral variants in different populations ( I am keen to form new collaborations, so if you are too then please get in touch!

Water & Climate

Neil Hart
Departmental Lecturer and Career Development Fellow, School of Geography and the Environment and Christ Church

Neil grew up Cape Town, South Africa and studied atmospheric science through to a PhD at the University of Cape Town. Much of his work focuses on the weather of central and southern Africa, how it varies year to year and what the future holds for the region’s climate. Recently, this research has turned to organised thunderstorms, their impact on rainfall, and the way they modify regional climates. This work underpins efforts to improve the skill with which we can predict African rainfall.
Neil is part of UMFULA, a NERC and DfID funded project designed to improve the climate information available for African partners who are making large infrastructure investment decisions. We work closely with UK and African climate scientists, hydrologists, engineers, social scientists, and climate resilience specialists

Johanna Koehler
Researcher and Programme Manager, Water Programme, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Christ Church

My research examines the interplay of water risks and institutional change in terms of political and institutional transformations in the water sector as well as new market-based water service delivery models emerging across sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, I investigate how risks and responsibilities can be re-conceptualised and re-allocated in pluralist arrangements between the state, market, and communities. I have conducted extensive fieldwork in East Africa, with a focus on Kenya and Ethiopia. I work closely with policymakers at national and subnational levels on the uptake of the water service mandate. My work as part of the Smith School Water Programme has also contributed to developing a business model for maintaining drinking water infrastructure in marginalised areas of Kenya (FundiFix). In 2017, my research appeared in The Economist, and in 2018, I was joint winner as part of the Smart Water Systems’ group of the inaugural University of Oxford’s Vice Chancellor’s Innovation Award for the ‘smart handpumps’ project. The projects I work on include the REACH Programme on Improving Water Security for the Poor, the UPGro programme on Groundwater Risk Management for Growth and Development, and The Oxford Martin Programme on African Governance.


Emma Riley
Junior Research Fellow
Department of Economics

My research looks at how to improve the lives of women in East Africa through helping women expand their livelihoods and through raising their level of empowerment. I do this through running randomised experiments alongside NGOs. The experiments are aimed at improving the programmes of NGOs and developing a deeper understanding of the problems their target populations face. On-going projects involve working with a microfinance provider in Kampala to understand how the addition of mobile banking services into their product offering can improve the business performance of their clients; looking at how social norms restrict the kinds of business activities women can do; and examining ways to reduce domestic violence in rural villages in Western Kenya.

Education and Ethics

Ashley John Moyse
McDonald Postdoctoral Fellow in Christian Ethics and Public Life
McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life

I am a theologian and ethicist with particular interest and expertise in bioethics and medical humanities. As a father of a Mosotho boy, I have an intimate connection to the Kingdom of Lesotho and an interest in Southern African countries. At present, I do not have an active research programme or collaborations with fellow scholars and practitioners in these countries,  yet I am interested in the narratives of disease and illness that are familiar among the Basotho people, for example, as well as the corresponding and competing narratives that might be introduced by the churches and external (Western) agencies. How do such narratives influence persons and inform particular responses to the health crises in Lesotho? Put differently, in general terms, how do particular African ways of living in and attending to the crises differ from Western-dominant modalities of moral reasoning when confronting disease and illness? Such questions, among others, are essential as bioethics education and development in Eastern and Southern Africa has become a UNESCO 2030 sustainable development goal. Additionally, I am interested in the philosophical and theological interpretations of ubuntu [the quality of being human; I am because we are], including its moral and political significance as well as its correlation to the Russian idea of sobornost [a gathering together; an integral unity] and the relational anthropology (Ich bin indem du Bist [I am by the fact that you are]) of Swiss theologian Karl Barth.

Graham Ward
Regius Professor of Divinity, Faculty of Theology and Religion
Canon of Christ Church Cathedral

I am an Extraordinary Professor of the University of Stellenbosch and spend around 3 months each year in South Africa engaged on various educational projects related to Christian theology. I work with Black Theologians on issues to do with racism and decolonisation, but also with theology and religion students across the country on training and intellectual development. Each year I invite for a term's stay either an established scholar to be a member of the Oxford Faculty or a student who can become a Faculty Recognised Student and accommodate them in Christ Church.

Charitable work

Martin Gorick
Archdeacon of Oxford
Residentiary Canon of Christ Church and member of Governing Body

Oxford Diocese has a longstanding link with The Diocese of Kimberly and Kuruman in South Africa, and the Cathedral supports the Cathedral School there. I visited Kwazulu-natal with Christian Aid in 2018, giving support to the Church Land Programme and local community activists in urban informal settlements around Durban and in rural areas facing intimidation from developers and extractive industries respectively. Several activists have been assassinated in recent months.
More generally the Anglican Church has a presence throughout Africa, with organisations such as the Mother’s Union a surprisingly strong force for communal change.

Clare Hayns
College Chaplain and Welfare Coordinator

Clare Hayns is a trustee of ZANE (Zimbabwe, a National Emergency), a charity which supports vulnerable people in Zimbabwe.
The charity was established by her father, Tom Benyon, in 2002 and was originally set up to support elderly pensioners who had lost everything in the economic collapse and now provides aid, comfort and support to 1,800 elderly people. Alongside this the charity runs educational and rehabilitation projects in the high density areas, funds a club foot correction programme and provides prosthetic limbs for victims of landmines. Clare has travelled to Zimbabwe many times and her husband also works for the charity as Deputy CEO.


View selected photographs of projects submitted by members of the group