Information for Authors
Please note that the journal now encourages authors to complete their copyright licence to publish form online
African Affairs is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal, which aims to appeal to a wide audience. It welcomes submissions from all over the world, in particular from Africa. It accepts articles not just from professional academics, but from authors in a variety of occupations. Because only a small percentage of submitted articles currently meet all the required standards for publication, as editors we thought it would be helpful to provide some guidelines to originality, structure, and style.
Guidelines for submission
- All articles and correspondence should be sent to email@example.com; if electronic submission is not possible, please send to:
- Rita Abrahamsen
- Graduate School of Public and International Affairs Faculty of Social Sciences
- 120 University
- Social Sciences Building
- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
- K1N 6N5
- Articles should be accompanied by an abstract of not more than 200 words, typed on a separate page, indicating the major argument of the article and its significance as an addition to existing knowledge or analysis.
- Articles should not be more than 8,000 words in length, including footnotes, and typed in double spacing, preferably in Microsoft Word or a compatible format. Contributors without access to electronic mail should submit three double-spaced copies on A4 paper, plus a copy on computer disk. Manuscripts are not usually returned to authors. They should be original contributions and should not be submitted to another publication simultaneously.
- Manuscripts should be anonymized, please do not include any information or contact details for authors on the submitted article.
Some limited information may be attached in a cover letter or email, if desired. It is helpful if authors can provide an additional email addresses or a phone number in case of difficulties in communication.
- African Affairs has a preference for reviewing works of scholarship. Personal memoirs, unless by persons of great historical significance, are unlikely to be sent to review. We regret that we are unable to return un-reviewed books to the sender.
- For our comprehensive style guide please click here
The editors prefer to publish articles based on original research. Originality is usually achieved in one or both of two ways:
1) By generating new empirical data.
This implies investigating an issue or phenomenon using a research methodology based on one or more of the following: a) systematic and scrupulously referenced study of primary material, such as archives, newspapers, governmental or non-governmental reports, b) surveys or questionnaires, c) interviews or d) participant-observation.
Take for example an article by Ayodeji Olukoju, "Never Expect Power Always: Electricity consumers' response to monopoly, corruption and inefficient services in Nigeria" published in African Affairs 103 410 (2004), pp. 51-72. Not only does this article refer to several academic studies of the energy sector in Nigeria, it also contains numerous references to articles in local newspapers and magazines, such as The Vanguard, The PUNCH and The Nigerian Tribune. These are supplemented by observations drawn from the author's long residence in Lagos and his experience as an electricity consumer, plus interviews with key officials in the power sector.
2) By advancing a distinctive conceptual or theoretical argument.
Such arguments are typically well grounded in existing, up-to-date literature, which usually implies access to a well stocked academic library or scholarly database. Take for example an article by Crawford Young, 'The end of the post-colonial state in Africa? Reflections on changing African political dynamics' African Affairs 103 410 (2004), pp. 23-50. This article advances a distinctive argument which can be paraphrased thus: 'After Independence Africanist political scientists found the concept of the "post-colonial state" (a form of organisation that shared many features with the colonial state) to be useful; however, because of a variety of historical changes, African states no longer share these features, so the concept is increasingly redundant'. The argument is supported by examples from an impressive range of African countries, referring to 83 different academic publications.
Before submitting your article, ask yourself: 'Does my article contain substantial new empirical data?' or, 'Am I making a genuinely distinctive scholarly argument, grounded in contemporary academic literature?' If not, your article is very unlikely to be published. Each year African Affairs rejects a great many articles; the most common problem is that they are not based on in-depth original research.
Another thing: African Affairs has moved away from publishing articles of purely historical interest. Articles with a historical focus should be clearly relevant to contemporary concerns.
Articles should begin with an introduction. There is no standard format, but here are some questions you might think about as you write yours:
What is this article about? In what way is it original? On what kind of research is it based? Why is it important to contemporary observers? Who is it going to interest? How will the argument of the article unfold?
Then you have to decide on a structure for your article. There are various possibilities, but here are some examples:
The chronological structure:
The article takes the form of a description of a historical process or period, with analytical insights along the way. The structure unfurls like a series of events in time. A good example is the article by Solofo Randrianja, '"Be not afraid, only believe": Madagascar 2002' African Affairs 102 407 (2003), pp. 309-330.
The comparative case-study structure:
The author identifies a phenomenon of general interest, describes the way in which the phenomenon has been discussed in the academic literature, and then explores it further through presenting a case study or studies. Deborah Brautigam does this for the phenomenon of ethnic business networks, using case studies from Mauritius and Nigeria, in her 'Close encounters: Chinese business networks as industrial catalysts in Sub-Saharan Africa' African Affairs 102 408 (2003), pp. 447-468.
The thematic structure:
The author identifies a phenomenon of general interest or concern, and then explores the phenomenon in a variety of different manifestations. For example, in his article on AIDS and governance in Africa, Alex de Waal examines sequentially, 'demographic', 'economic' and 'governance' implications of the pandemic, before moving on to discuss some current attempts to combat the problem, as well as its increasing political salience. See Alex de Waal, 'How will HIV/AIDS transform African governance?' African Affairs 102 406 (2003), pp. 1-24.
The keyhole structure:
The author looks into a small scale process in order to gain a perspective on a wider social landscape. Tim Kelsall, for example, looks into a local tax revolt in Tanzania in order to shed light on wider processes of governance, liberalization and democratization in that country. See his, 'Governance, local politics and districtization in Tanzania: the 1998 Arumeru tax revolt' African Affairs 99 397 (2000), pp. 533-552.
The funnel structure
The article begins with a wide focus which then narrows to a specific point, event or process. (In some ways this is a reverse of the keyhole structure). To take an example, Ogbu Kalu, in his article 'Safiyya and Adamah: Punishing adultery with sharia stones in twenty-first-century Nigeria' African Affairs 102 408 (2003) pp. 389-408, begins by explaining the emergence of sharia law in Northern Nigeria, and then narrows the focus to discuss the adultery case involving Safiyya Husseini, just one of the controversies associated with sharia. (The structure is not a perfect funnel, since at various points along the way the focus widens out again, to discuss characteristics of sharia in general).
Other types of structure, and combinations of the various types, are certainly possible. The important thing is to choose a structure that fits your argument, and that will be easy for the reader to follow.
It is common also to add a conclusion, which picks up the various threads of the argument and pulls out their wider, analytical significance. A final tip: articles often require some brief historical background. If this doesn't come in the introduction itself, it often makes sense to put it immediately after the introduction.
African Affairs is a scholarly journal, and though it occasionally carries 'comment' or 'interview' pieces, the majority of its articles are written in scholarly style. There follow a number of tips on academic writing.
However you decide to structure your article, try to make the sections flow together, forming a coherent whole. The reader should be aware that a new section has arrived, and why, but the transition should be smooth.
Remind the reader, at appropriate points, why the section they are reading is integral to the wider argument. This is often called 'signposting'. By signposting, you should aim to direct the reader back and forward through the structure of your article, rather than making a simple repetition of points.
Points which are essential to your argument need to be emphasised. It can be helpful to let the reader know when such points are coming up, by telling them that they are coming up. This is sometimes called 'telegraphing' or 'flagging'.
Although complete academic 'objectivity', or even even-handedness, is an impossible ideal, it is still something to be aimed at. Normative or ideological positions ought to be argued for, or at least acknowledged.
Issues of 'objectivity' are also pertinent to articles that grow out of consultancy work. Much research in contemporary Africa is funded by consultancy. Such work can often be transformed into academic articles, but changes will probably be required. Consultancies are often undertaken to provide justification for projects that have already been decided upon by donors. Frequently, they make liberal use of the 'buzzwords' currently fashionable in donor circles. This style is usually inappropriate to academic work. While consultancy data can form the basis for an article, the style ought to be critical: existing debates should be referred to; policy options need to be scrutinised; buzzwords ought to be interrogated, even if the final conclusion is the same.
African Affairs is read by a wide audience, which demands an easily accessible style.
The journal welcomes articles containing complex ideas, but in our view a good academic writer is able to express such ideas simply. Sadly, too many submissions contain simple ideas expressed complexly. An argument, in our view, is not made better by the addition of more words.
Try to write clearly, and avoid jargon. Theoretical language is acceptable, but if it is unlikely to be widely understood, it ought to be explained. A good example of a clearly written, theoretical article, is Rita Abrahamsen, 'African studies and the postcolonial challenge' African Affairs 102 407 (2003), pp. 189-210.
Particularly if English is not your first language, before submitting your manuscript you may wish to have it edited for language. This is not a mandatory step, but may help to ensure that the academic content of your paper is fully understood by journal editors and reviewers. Language editing does not guarantee that your manuscript will be accepted for publication. If you would like information about one such service please click here. There are other specialist language editing companies that offer similar services and you can also use any of these. Authors are liable for all costs associated with such services.
African Affairs prefers not to publish long footnotes of a substantive nature. Points important to the argument should come in the text; notes should be for references, or brief disclaimers.
Upon receipt of accepted manuscripts at Oxford Journals authors will be invited to complete an online copyright licence to publish form.
Please note that by submitting an article for publication you confirm that you are the corresponding/submitting author and that Oxford University Press ("OUP") may retain your email address for the purpose of communicating with you about the article. You agree to notify OUP immediately if your details change. If your article is accepted for publication OUP will contact you using the email address you have used in the registration process. Please note that OUP does not retain copies of rejected articles.
Offprints can be ordered using the Oxford Journals Author Services site.
African Affairs authors have the option to publish their paper under the Oxford Open initiative initiative; whereby, for a charge, their paper will be made freely available online immediately upon publication. After your manuscript is accepted the corresponding author will be required to accept a mandatory licence to publish agreement. As part of the licensing process you will be asked to indicate whether or not you wish to pay for open access. If you do not select the open access option, your paper will be published with standard subscription-based access and you will not be charged.
Oxford Open articles are published under Creative Commons licences. Authors publishing in African Affairs can use the following Creative Common licence for their articles:
• Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC-BY)
• Creative Commons Non-Commercial licence (CC-BY-NC)
• Creative Commons non-Commercial No Derivatives licence (CC-BY-NC-ND)
Please click here for more information about the Creative Commons licences.
You can pay Open Access charges using our Author Services site. This will enable you to pay online with a credit/debit card, or request an invoice by email or post. The open access charges applicable are:
• Regular charge - £1750 / $2800 / €2275
• List B Developing country charge* - £875 / $1400 / €1138
• List A Developing country charge* - £0 /$0 / €0
*Visit our developing countries page (click here for a list of qualifying countries).
Please note that these charges are in addition to any colour charges that may apply.
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Author Self-Archiving/Public Access policy
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