Robtel Neajai Pailey is a Liberian academic, activist and author with more than 15 years of combined personal and professional experiences in Africa, Europe and North America. Having worked across a broad range of fields supporting universities, governments, media institutions, multilateral, regional, non-governmental and community-based organisations, she has practitioner-based proficiencies in qualitative research, capacity development, policy design and analysis, programme management, report and grant writing, journalism and strategic communications.
Robtel has held positions in a number of different capacities, which include: speechwriting for the president of Liberia, as well as diaspora policy formulation and bilateral scholarships streamlining at the Liberian Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs in Monrovia, Liberia; covering “new” news out of Africa as assistant editor of The Washington Informer Newspaper in Washington, DC, USA; research, teaching and curriculum development at the University of Oxford in Oxford, UK, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), in London, UK, the University of Liberia and Stella Maris Polytechnic in Monrovia, Liberia, the Robben Island Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, and the Buduburam Refugee Camp School in Accra, Ghana; marketing and communications development for the American University in Cairo, Egypt; podcast interviewing/editorial writing for Fahamu Trust/Pambazuka News in Oxford, UK; and providing editorial guidance for the Sea Breeze Journal of Contemporary Liberian Writings as a board member and non-fiction editor. She has also consulted for ActionAid; the African Development Bank Group (AfDB); the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid)/Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Ford Foundation; Search for Common Ground; the Social Science Research Council (SSRC); the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI); and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), amongst others.
Robtel has been recognised as a 2019 Mary Chirwa Award for Courageous Leadership finalist; a 2016 Women4Africa International African Woman of the Year finalist; as one of ‘25 Africans to Watch’ by the Financial Times in 2015; a 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation; a 2013 ‘99 under 33’ influential foreign policy leader by Diplomatic Courier; a 2010 Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow by the African Leadership Institute; and a 2004 USA Today All-USA College Academic Second Team finalist. She completed BA degrees in African Studies and English Literature at Howard University, an MSc in African Studies at the University of Oxford, and a doctorate in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, as a Mo Ibrahim Foundation PhD Scholar.
Previously an Ibrahim Leadership Fellow at the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, Robtel currently serves as Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Oxford's Department of International Development (ODID) in Oxford, UK, where she conducts research on race, citizenship, ‘South-South’ migration and development cooperation in Liberia and Sierra Leone.