New leadership steers ISS on Africa’s future challenges


Pretoria, South Africa – The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has started the year under the leadership of new Executive Director, Fonteh Akum. He takes the organisation into its 2021-2025 strategy, building on three decades of growth and success that have seen the ISS footprint extend from Southern Africa to East, Central and West Africa.

‘Fonteh takes over as leader of one of the most reputable civil society organisations in Africa, a pillar of research-based analysis and technical support to governments and regional institutions, respected by international peers and partners,’ said Ambassador Saïd Djinnit, former United Nations Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and President of the ISS Advisory Council. ‘His appointment demonstrates the ISS’ institutional stability and capacity for recruiting and developing the best African talent.’

Fonteh is a true pan-African with international experience. He hails from Cameroon and was educated in Africa, Europe and America. Fluent in French and English, he was head of the Lake Chad Basin programme and a senior researcher in the ISS Dakar and Pretoria offices respectively.

Before joining the ISS, Fonteh worked at the International Monetary Fund head office in Washington DC, and managed research programmes at the Dakar-based Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). He has also been a researcher at the United Nations University for Peace Africa Programme in Addis Ababa and has conducted research in Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali and Sudan.

‘I am inheriting an experienced team, with 120 staff from 18 African countries. We make up an agile and sustainable organisation recognised for its commitment to human security in Africa as well as its tradition of transparent and accountable governance,’ Fonteh said.

Fonteh is a true pan-African with experience and skills in strategic planning, fundraising and research

He has a PhD in politics and international studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, a Masters degree in international peace and conflict resolution from the School of International Service at the American University in Washington DC, and journalism qualifications from the American University in Cairo and the University of Buea in Cameroon.

Fonteh is a strong strategic planner and fundraiser, and a decisive and accountable leader committed to consultation with colleagues and partners. He is a thought leader and researcher, with professional experience in poverty, gender, development, governance, post-war reconstruction and violent extremism.

Among challenges facing Fonteh and the ISS team are Africa’s recovery from the health and human impacts of COVID-19, and its political and economic consequences.

‘ISS staff are not strangers to crisis and adversity,’ he said. ‘Africa’s challenges and opportunities have been our raison d’etre since we were founded 30 years ago. We will continue to work for improved human security underpinned by good governance, the rule of law and responsible leadership.’  

The new ISS strategy aims to help Africa deliver on its promise of peace and prosperity, acknowledging that its prospects are accompanied by grave challenges to human security. Many parts of the continent face ongoing threats, exacerbated by inequality, poverty, corruption and organised crime.

Under Fonteh’s direction, the ISS aspires by 2025 to have helped make Africa more adaptable to external impacts and better equipped for climate change. It will be a continent where young Africans, particularly women, guide transformation from potential to positive change.

Fonteh takes up the leadership role from Anton du Plessis who left the ISS in July 2020 and was recently appointed Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions in South Africa. Du Plessis headed the ISS from 2014 when he took over from the organisation’s founding executive director Jakkie Cilliers.

For further information and interviews, please contact:

Fonteh Akum, ISS: [email protected]

Photo: Amelia Broodryk / ISS

feature-5icon-printerPSC REPORT