Experts on Africa-focused topics

The University of Helsinki has published its Africa programme for 2021–2030. The programme is based on long-term partnerships, promotion of international activities of students and researchers, and application of multidisciplinary research. In this list you can find our experts in topics related to African countries, societies and other issues around Africa.

You can find contact details for all the University of Helsinki staff in our People Finder. The University’s communications specialists are also happy to help look for our experts.


  • Sarah Green, Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology: the anthropology of borders, space, place and location, Mediterranean, gender and sexuality, environment, transportation of nonhuman animals; livestock; zoonotic disease.
  • Elina Oinas, Professor of Sociology: vaccine trial, HIV politics, gender, youth, activism and political engagement in Africa. Regions: Benin, South Africa and Ethiopia
  • Auli Vähäkangas, Professor of Practical Theology: marginalised groups, HIV-positives and childless people, palliative care, African feminist theology. Regions: Tanzania, South Africa.
  • Franklin Obeng-Odoom, Associate Professor of Sustainability Science: political economy of development, cities and natural resources. Regions: Africa in Africa/Africa in the world, Africa and the World, and Africa and Asia.
  • Eija Ranta, University researcher: development cooperation, societal activism, civil society, politics. Regions: Kenya.
  • Salla Sariola, Academy Research Fellow: social study of microbes, antimicrobial resistance, fermentation, Global Health, COVID-19, intersectionality, community engagement. Regions: Benin and South Africa.
  • Katja Uusihakala, Academy of Finland Research Fellow: Settler societies, diaspora, child migration, social memory, silence and silencing. Regions: Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, UK
  • Tuulikki Pietilä, University lecturer in Social and Cultural Anthropology: economy, marketplaces, food markets, value chains, gender, moral values, music industry, fashion industry, youth music. Regions: Tanzania and South Africa.
  • Risto Marjomaa, University lecturer on history: conflicts and warfare, global history, African history. 
  • Gutu Wayessa, Postdoctoral researcher: land dispossession, marginalisation, displacement, environmental justice, migration. Regions: Ethiopia.
  • Faith Mkwesha, Researcher: African literature and culture, Education, and ethnic relations and nationalism, decolonial and postcolonial, and black feminism and African feminism. Regions: Zimbabwe and South Africa.
  • Paola Minoia, University Lecturer and Adjunct Professor: Global development, environmental politics, socio-ecology of water, land rights, knowledge and intercultural education, post-coloniality and decoloniality, indigenous peoples, community-based conservation, tourism platforms. Regions: Sudan, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco.
  • Päivi Hasu, University lecturer in Global Development Studies: African Christianity, charismatic Christianity, religion and development, civil society, faith-based organizations. Regions: East Africa, Tanzania.
  • Andrea Butcher, Postdoctoral researcher: AMR research in the context of international development alongside associated health, food, and environmental impacts (OneHealth approach); social study of microbes. Region: West Africa, Burkina Faso and Benin.  
  • Jose A. Cañada, Postdoctoral researcher: global health policy, antimicrobial resistance policy, policy implementation, scientific production, pandemic preparedness, social study of microbes. Regions: Burkina Faso and Benin.
  • Pablo Manzano, Postdoctoral researcher: pastoralism, sustainability indicators, societal collapse, conflict, gender empowerment, land degradation. Regions: Maghreb, Sahel and East Africa.
  • Tea Virtanen, Senior researcher in Social and Cultural Anthropology: Sub-Saharan Islam and Sufism, cultural values, ritual and performance, dance, indigeneity, pastoralism. Regions: West and Central Africa, Cameroon.
  • Raakel Inkeri, Postdoctoral researcher: urban development, neighborhoods, spatial segregation, social integration, post-apartheid society, race relations. Regions: South Africa, southern Africa.
  • George Forji Amin, Visiting scholar: Bilateral investment treaties, international law, third world economic sovereignty.
  • Saara Kuoppala, PhD Researcher of Study of Religions: heritage politics, female initiation, festivalization, Christianity in Africa. Region: Namibia.
  • Saana Hansen, PhD Researcher on Social and Cultural Anthropology: anthropology of state and development, family and kinship, migration/displacement, care and welfare. Regions:  Zimbabwe, southern Africa
  • Jenni Mölkänen, Doctoral Student: Environment, environmental conservation, natural resource management and development schemes, place making, knowledge production, nature relations, vanilla, kinship, values, Tsimihety. Regions: Madagascar
  • Jeremy Gould, Professor Emeritus: power, law & politics; African legal profession; Presidentialism; pro-democracy activism; politics of constitution-making; popular democracy; post-liberal constitutionalism; legal pluralism, rural lives & livelihoods; customary authority; state intelligence apparatus; climate litigation. Regions: Southern Africa, esp. Zambia


  • Friederike Lüpke, Professor of African Studies: small-scale multilingualism, rural multilingualism, descriptive and documentary linguistics, description and documentation of West African languages in their cultural contexts, sustainable multilingual ecologies. Regions: Senegal, Mali, and Guinea.
  • Hannu Juusola, Professor of Middle Eastern studies: Democratization, identity and religion. Regions: North African Arab counties
  • Mulki Al-Sharmani, Associate Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies: Islamic jurisprudence and Muslim family laws, Quranic ethics and hermeneutics; Islamic feminism, transnational migration and family wellbeing, modern Somali diaspora. Regions: Egypt, Finland, Somalia/Somali Diaspora
  • Lotta Aunio, University Lecturer: Bantu languages, specifically phonology and tonology, Swahili language, descriptive and documentary linguistics, multilingualism. Regions: East and South Africa
  • Thera Crane, Academy of Finland Research Fellow: Bantu languages, especially language documentation, semantics, pragmatics, multilingualism, and language policy. Regions: primarily Zambia, Namibia, and South Africa, with work on other Bantu languages across the continent
  • Liban Ali Hersi, University Instructor of Somali language
  • Jonna Katto, Postdoctoral researcher: gender and women’s history in Africa, African landscape history, history of Mozambique, oral history, gender studies. Regions: Mozambique.
  • Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares, Postdoctoral researcher: Indigenous Peoples, ethnobiology, storytelling, biocultural diversity, conservation, Indigenous and Local Knowledge, environmental justice. Regions: Kenya, Madagascar.
  • Sylvia Akar, University Lecturer: Islamic studies and Arabic language, North Africa
  • Maria Khachaturyan, University Researcher: language in interactional context, language and religion, multilingualism and language contact, bilingual language acquisition, language description and documentation, linguistic typology. Region: Guinea.


  • Jari Lavonen, Professor of Physics and Chemistry Education: science and technology education, teacher education, curriculum development, and the use of ICT in education. Regions: South Africa, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire.
  • Arto Kallioniemi, Professor in religious education, UNESCO Chair in Values, Dialogue and Human Rights in Education: religious education, values, diversity in schools, integration of pupils with migrant background, curriculum development of teacher education in Somalia. Regions: Somalia, Kenya.
  • Seija Karppinen, University lecturer: holistic crafts education, interdisciplinary teaching, innovative education and design education, multi-artistic approaches of teaching, collaborative learning, Training Trainers for Teacher Education and Management in Kenya, Regions: Kenya. 
  • Kaisa Hahl, University lecturer: foreign language education, interculturality, multicultural education, and early teaching of foreign languages, teacher identity, curriculum development of teacher education in Somalia, and mentor training in South Africa. Regions: Somalia, South Africa.
  • Heidi Krzywacki, University lecturer: teaching and learning in primary school mathematics, teacher education, teacher professional development, teacher identity, curriculum resources, development of teacher education (curriculum and professional development) in Somalia. Regions: Somalia.
  • Sai Väyrynen, University Lecturer: inclusive education, education policies in developing countries, lifelong learning, distance learning, eLearning pedagogy: Regions: Eastern and Southern Africa
  • Hanna Posti-Ahokas, University Lecturer. Global education, education and development, higher education pedagogy, international higher education cooperation, collaborative professional development. Regions: Tanzania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Ghana, South Africa
  • Franklin Nyairo, Doctoral Student: curriculum development, teacher education, foreign language education, instructional design, ICT in education, 21st century competencies. Regions: Kenya


  • Olli Vapalahti, Professor of zoonotic virology: emerging and reemerging infections, particularly viral zoonoses, including arboviruses, Zika virus, ebolavirus, COVID-19. Regions: Morocco, Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, and Kenya.
  • Anu Kantele, Professor of infectious diseases: vaccine trial, diarrhoea, infectious diseases, COVID-19, influenza. Regions: Benin and Niger.
  • Olli Peltoniemi, Professor of Animal Reproduction Science: domestic animal reproduction, reproductive health, reproductive biology especially in the pig, cattle and dogs, animal welfare, one health, relationship between humans and animals.
  • Marko Virta, professor of microbiology: antibiotic resistance in various environments in global scale including Asia and Africa.
  • Tarja Sironen, Associate professor of emerging infectious diseases: zoonotic pathogens, pathogen discovery, ebolavirus, COVID-19. Regions: South Africa, Kenya, Cameroon and Senegal.
  • Annamari Heikinheimo, Associate professor of zoonotic antimicrobial resistance: zoonosis, antimicrobials, one health approach, food safety. Regions: Botswana, Nigeria, and Niger.
  • Kaisa Haukka, University Researcher: Microbiology, antimicrobial resistance in human impacted environments, enteropathogenic bacteria, One Health, capacity building in higher education. Regions: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali.
  • Essi Korhonen, Postdoctoral researcher: emerging infectious diseases, viral zoonoses, vector-borne diseases, mosquito-borne viruses. Regions: Kenya 
  • Pia Fyhrquist, Researcher: African plants as sources of antimicrobial extracts and compounds. Regions: Tanzania, Sudan, Nigeria.


  • Mikael Fogelholm, Professor of Nutrition Science: food science, nutrition science, food chains, health. Regions: South Africa and Kenya.
  • Kristina Lindström, Professor of Sustainable Development: sustainable food production, legumes, biological nitrogen fixation, rhizobium, soil microbiology and nutrient flows. Regions: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Ghana, Benin.
  • Laura Alakukku, Professor of Environmental Technology of Agriculture: agronomy, agrotechnology, soil management, environmental technology in agriculture and agricultural engineering. Regions: Kenya.
  • John Sumelius, Professor in Production Economics and Farm Management: Business and management, agronomy, production economics, food security, agricultural economics, and development studies. Regions: Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya.
  • Liisa Korkalo, University Lecturer: undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, dietary diversity. Regions: Mozambique
  • Ndegwa (Henry) Maina, University Lecturer: food science, agriculture and forestry, carbohydrate chemistry and enzymology and grain technology. Regions: Kenya and Burkina Faso.
  • Noora Kanerva, University Researcher: human nutrition, dietary diversity and patterns, public health, socioeconomic and regional differences in food consumption. Regions: Mozambique and Kenya.
  • Tino Johansson, Research Coordinator: geosciences, development geography, climate change adaptation, climate-smart agriculture, human-wildlife interaction, agronomy, food security. Regions: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Namibia.
  • Aregu Amsalu Aserse, Postdoctoral researcher: soil microbiology, molecular microbiology, rhizobia, bacterial genomics, soil fertility management, sustainable food production, legume/pulse cultivation, biological nitrogen fixation, symbiosis agricultural biotechnology; biofertilizer/rhizobium inoculant field application. Regions: Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia.
  • Rose A. Ingutia, Postdoc visiting scholar: Agricultural economics, food security and development studies. Regions: Sub Sahara Africa in general, focus in Kenya.


  • Markku Kanninen, Professor of Tropical Silviculture: tropical forestry, climate change, forest ecology, environmental policy, forest management. Regions: Burkina Faso, Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya and Tanzania.
  • Petri Pellikka, Professor of geoinformatics, director of University of Helsinki’s Taita Research Station in Kenya: geosciences, environmental sciences, remote sensing applications on land cover, land use and land cover change and their consequences to water resources, biodiversity, climate, and livelihoods, human-nature interactions effect on the environment, sustainability and development Regions: Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso.
  • Maria Brockhaus, Professor of International Forest Policy: forest policy and governance in climate change mitigation and adaptation, political economy, policy and institutional change, inequality in forest sector. Region/Country: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania.
  • Jouko Rikkinen, Professor of Botany: ecology, botany, lichens, fungi, symbiosis, fossils, plant biology, virology. Regions: Tanzania and Kenya.
  • Markku Kulmala, Academician, professor: air quality monitoring, climate research, atmospheric new particle formation, Welgegund research station. Regions: South Africa.
  • Tuukka Petäjä: professor: air quality monitoring, climate research, atmospheric new particle formation, Welgegund research station. Regions: South Africa.
  • Timo Vesala, Professor of meteorology: meteorology, biogeochemistry, forestry, vegetation, soil greenhouse gas emissions. Regions: Kenya.
  • Mar Cabeza, University lecturer in Conservation Science: Tropical ecology, interdisciplinary conservation, Biodiversity, Human-Wildlife conflict, Environmental justice, Climate change. Regions: Kenya, Madagascar
  • Eshetu Yirdaw, University lecturer in tropical forestry: forest ecology, agroforestry, restoration ecology and forest biodiversity. Regions: Ethiopia, Mozambique and Tanzania. 
  • Mawa Karambiri, Postdoctoral Researcher in International Forest Policy: Forest policy, community forestry, local democracy, gender, rurality, inequality. Regions: Burkina Faso, Mali, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo. 
  • Risto Vesala, Postdoctoral researcher: ecology, stable isotopes, termites, plant-fungal-insect interactions, savanna carbon and nitrogen cycling. Regions: Kenya.
  • Pedro Cardoso, Curator of Zoology, Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus: ecology, conservation biology, biogeography, spiders. Regions: Cape Verde, Ghana and Tanzania.
  • Pasi Sihvonen, Director, zoology unit, Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus: insect systematics, moths, biodiversity, conservation. Regions: southern Africa, Kenya
  • Gunilla Ståhls-Mäkelä, Laboratory Manager, PI, Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus: insect systematics, hoverflies, biodiversity, biogeography, molecular systematics. Regions: sourhern Africa, Kenya.
  • Sergei Tarasov, Curator, Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus: evolutionary biology, species diversification, extinction, evolutionary radiations, biogeography, nature conservation, beetles. Regions: Madagascar.
  • Mika Siljander, University Researcher: geosciences, geospatial applications on land use and land cover change, biodiversity, species distribution, human-wildlife conflicts, conservation, savanna fires, vector-borne diseases, sustainability and development. Regions: Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania, Namibia.
  • Hari Adhikari, Postdoctoral researcher: biomass, forest structure, forest heterogeneity. Regions: Kenya, Tanzania
  • Janne Heiskanen, University Researcher: remote sensing of vegetation, land cover and land cover changes. Regions: Kenya, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso
  • Matti Räsänen, Postdoctoral Researcher: ecohydrology, micrometeorology, savanna carbon and water cycling. Regions: Kenya and South Africa
  • Tuomas Aivelo, Postdoctoral researcher in ecology and evolutionary biology: parasitology, disease ecology, primatology, rodents and Malagasy mammals, One Health, biology education. Regions: Madagascar.
  • Anne Duplouy, Academy of Finland Research Fellow: Microbiome, symbiosis, microbial genomics, entomology, Lepidoptera. Regions: Cameroon, Madagascar


  • Mikael Fortelius, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeontology: Palaeontology, environments and climates of the geological past, macroevolution, fossils, mammals, African prehistory. Regions: Kenya.
  • Arto Luttinen, Adjunct professor of geochemistry and petrology, senior curator: Geochemistry; Petrology; Mineralogy; Composition, origin and evolution of volcanoes, magmas and mantle. Regions: Mozambique, South Africa.
  • Jussi S. Heinonen, Adjunct professor of geochemistry and petrology, Academy Research Fellow: Geochemistry; Petrology; Mineralogy; Composition, origin and evolution of volcanoes, magmas and mantle. Regions: Mozambique, South Africa
  • Sanni Turunen, Doctoral student in geology: flood basalts, large igneous provinces, elemental and isotope geochemistry, Earth’s mantle, mantle plumes. Regions: Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana.
  • Laura Arppe, Curator: stable isotope research, termite ecology, termite greenhouse gas emissions, dry savannah ecology and paleoecology. Regions: Kenya.
  • Miikka Tallavaara, Assistant professor of hominin environments: archaeology, palaeoanthropology, human evolution in Africa. Regions: General.
  • Juha Saarinen, Postdoctoral Researcher, Docent: palaeontology, evolution of grasslands and herbivory, evolutionary history of elephants. Regions: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda.
  • Indre Zliobaite, Assistant professor of Life Science Informatics: macroevolution, fossil data, predictive modeling, machine learning, NOW database of fossil mammals, palaeontology. Regions: Kenya.
  • Kari Lintulaakso, Collection coordinator, Luomus: co-operation for creating a collection management system of fossil specimens with National Museums of Kenya. Regions: Kenya.