‘Words are sacred. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.’ (Tom Stoppard)

I am an independent writer, researcher and policy consultant, working on public health, access to justice, intergenerational equity, youth employability and other global issues for clients including Harvard School of Public Health, New York University Center on International Cooperation, the Brookings Institution, UNICEF, Manchester United Football Club, Save the Children and FCDO.

I am also a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4, BBC World Service, The Continent, Roads & Kingdoms, Africa is a Country and Daily Maverick, and the author of the West Africa travelogue The Ringtone and the Drum, the satirical novel African Beauty, and The Saviour Fish: Life and Death on Africa’s Greatest Lake, a Daily Telegraph Travel Book of the Year in 2022.

Recent projects:

2023 Report on Access to Justice in Ibero-America
Consultancy and editorial assistance for the first ever comprehensive assessment on the state of access to justice in Ibero-America.

Social Contracts: Towards more Child- and Future-Centred Framings
Briefing for UNICEF on why children need to feature more prominently in social contracts and how these framings might take on a more child- and future-centric form.

Child Rights Situation Analysis
Report on child rights in Sudan for Save the Children Sudan, including discussion of the impacts on children of the country’s revolution and the conflict that broke out in April 2023.

Communications strategy development
Development and implementation of a communications strategy for FCDO’s What Works Hub for Global Education pilot project.

The Rise and Fall of the Nile Perch
Article on Lake Victoria’s biodiversity crisis for The Continent.

Young People and the Social Contract
Issue brief for UNICEF Global Insight on how to rebuild the trust of young people.

From Our Own Correspondent
Broadcast on illegal fishing in Lake Victoria for BBC World Service (starts after 8 minutes).

Why Lake Victoria’s “saviour fish” is now the one that needs saving
Report on Lake Victoria’s fishing crisis for African Arguments.

The Benefits of Access to Justice for Economies, Societies and the Social Contract: A Literature Review
Literature review conducted for Open Government Partnership’s Skeptic’s Guide to Open Government.

The Saviour Fish: Life and Death on Africa’s Greatest Lake
New book on Lake Victoria published by Earth Books. Described by Simon Allison as “a charming, compelling exploration of Lake Victoria and its people.”

Boom and Bust on Lake Victoria: Q&A with Author Mark Weston
Q&A on Lake Victoria’s fishing crisis with leading environmental magazine Mongabay.

Democracy in Sudan
Interview with BBC World Service Newsday program on Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy:

The Case for Access to Justice

Talk on the social and economic impacts of access to justice for the Open Government Partnership Academy.

The Saviour Fish: Life and Death on Africa’s Greatest Lake
Publication date set for my third book. The Saviour Fish – described by South Africa’s Mail & Guardian as a “charming, compelling exploration of Lake Victoria and its people” – will be published by Earth Books on 29 April 22.

Justice for All and the Social Contract in Peril
Third in a series of briefings for the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies. Justice actors, we argue, can either strengthen or trash the social contract. Which path they choose will be critical to whether societies build back better after the pandemic.

Preventing Violence in Informal Settlements in the Age of COVID-19
Briefing for the Impact:Peace initiative at the University of San Diego.

An Africa-Centered conversation with a Brit
Interview with Chika Oduah on living in and writing about Africa.

Justice for All and the Economic Crisis
Briefing for the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies with recommendations for justice leaders grappling with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sudan’s Revolutionaries Turn their Attention to the Coronavirus
Broadcast for BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent:

Justice for All and the Public Health Emergency
Briefing for the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies on how justice systems can assist global and national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long-term solutions to food crises: Building credit institutions that can finance agriculture value chains
Op-ed for Global Dashboard, co-written with Peter Dirou, with ideas for preventing food crises via local banks, flexible credit models and new delivery channels.

How to tackle COVID-19 in informal settlements
Op-ed for the Mail & Guardian, South Africa, with 8 ideas for combating coronavirus in the world’s slums.

Coronavirus reaches Sudan, one of the countries least equipped to cope with it
Report from Khartoum for the Mail & Guardian, South Africa, on Sudan’s response to COVID-19.

Births and deaths must be registered in Africa
Comment piece for The Lancet, co-authored with Osman Sankoh, calling for African countries to match the progress made in recording births with a concerted effort to register deaths.

Youth urban employability in Sudan
Strategy development for British Council Sudan, aiming to integrate a focus on improving the employability skills of urban youth into British Council programming.

Living in the Midst of Revolution
Long read article for the Mail & Guardian, South Africa, on Sudan’s revolution: https://mg.co.za/article/2019-06-21-00-living-in-the-midst-of-revolution-a-homage-to-khartoum

Task Force on Justice
Consultancy, research and report writing for the Task Force on Justice, an initiative convened by New York University’s Center on International Cooperation to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 16. The Task Force Report – Justice for All – is available here: https://www.justice.sdg16.plus/report

Social Enterprise Sudan
Strategy development for the British Council’s Social Enterprise Sudan project.

Next Generation Africa
British Council
Overview study of the Next Generation youth research studies conducted in Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa and Kenya. Report available here: https://www.britishcouncil.org/research-policy-insight/research-reports/next-generation-africa-overview

Mental Health in Africa
Comment piece for The Lancet Global Health, co-authored with Osman Sankoh and Stephen Sevalie, calling for more research into mental health in Africa and predicting that the topic will become of increasing importance as the pressures on Africa’s youth intensify.

Manchester United corporate social responsibility strategy
Client: Manchester United Football Club
Development of a new corporate social responsibility strategy for Manchester United, including background desk research and interviews, stakeholder workshops and strategy design.

Research Director, Next Generation Kenya
Client: DFID/British Council
Designing and overseeing a research programme comprising a literature review, qualitative research and a nationally representative quantitative survey, and writing the final report of the project. The report summarises the main research findings and presents recommendations for policies to harness the potential of young Kenyans. The project follows similar work in Tanzania, Nigeria and Pakistan. Reports of the latter studies are available here: http://www.britishcouncil.org/society/governance-civil-society/next-generation. Video of two of our Youth Task Force members and me discussing the project on Kenya’s Citizen TV here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evucQkEq2Bw

Sport as a means of preventing violence against women
British Council, Kenya
Policy briefs describing the British Council’s Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls through Football programme, which operated in western Kenya between 2014 and 2017.

Knowledge Generation for Better Health
INDEPTH Network, Ghana
Co-writing a paper describing how the 49 health and demographic surveillance system sites that make up the INDEPTH Network contribute to evidence-based decision making in low-income countries. Published in the International Journal for Population, Development and Reproductive Health, December 2017.

Earlier projects:

Tongue-tied: How English-medium education hobbles Tanzania’s children
Client: Daily Maverick
Think piece arguing that Tanzania should ditch English-medium schooling.

Next Generation Tanzania
Client: British Council, Tanzania
Research report discussing findings from quantitative and qualitative surveys of young Tanzanians.

Discovering Places: Senegal
Client: Royal Geographical Society
Talk and panel discussion on Senegal.

On the Frontier of Islam: The Maverick Mystics of Senegal
Client: Daily Maverick
Long read on the Baye Fall Sufis of Senegal.

Jihadis of the Soul
Client: BBC Radio 4/BBC World Service
Radio broadcast for ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on Senegal’s largest Muslim brotherhood, the Mourides.

Next Generation Tanzania: Literature Review
Client: British Council, Tanzania
Review of the academic literature as a background document to the British Council’s ‘Next Generation Youth Voice’ project, which aims to develop policy recommendations to help Tanzania make the most of its burgeoning cohort of young people.

Tackling Malnutrition: A Systematic Review of 15-year research evidence from INDEPTH health and demographic surveillance systems
INDEPTH Network, Ghana
Review paper published in Global Health Action, November 2015.

Will Africa’s Industrial Revolution be Made in China?
Think piece for Africa is a Country.

Why Africa’s Largest Lake is in Grave Danger
Report for Slate.com.

British Council Skills Centre, Ghana
Client: British Council, Accra, Ghana
Consultancy and development of a business plan for the British Council’s new innovation, skills and employability centre in Accra, Ghana.

The Slow Boat to Ukerewe
Travel article for Roads & Kingdoms.

The Big Squeeze: Nigeria on the Brink
Book chapter in The New Politics of Strategic Resources, published by the Brookings Institution, November.

Prevention, Treatment and Future Challenges of HIV/AIDS: A Decade of INDEPTH Research
INDEPTH Network of Demographic and Health Surveillance Systems, Ghana
Review paper published in HIV & AIDS Review, August 2014. Follow-up to The History and Impact of HIV/AIDS: A Decade of INDEPTH Research (published June 2014, see below), with a focus on efforts to tackle the virus.

On Brewing Banana Beer
Travel article for Roads & Kingdoms.

The History and Impact of HIV/AIDS: A Decade of INDEPTH Research
Client: INDEPTH Network of Demographic and Health Surveillance Systems, Accra, Ghana
Review paper published in HIV & AIDS Review, June 2014. Health and demographic surveillance systems have been at the forefront of global efforts to understand and help halt the spread of HIV/AIDS. This paper reviews 540 studies of the history and impact of HIV/AIDS conducted by HDSS sites between 1999 and 2012,  draws out policy lessons gleaned so far, and identifies future research challenges.

The Witches of Ukerewe
Report on witchcraft in East Africa, published by Roads & Kingdoms.

Strategic consultancy, British Council Tanzania
Strategic consultancy for the relaunch of British Council Tanzania, including background research on the market in which the Council operates and strategy development workshops with senior management.

Rwanda Twenty Years On: The Dangers of Demography
Think piece for African Arguments, the blog of the Royal African Society.

They’ve Never Heard of Cheese
Travel article on Ukerewe Island, Tanzania, published on Roads & Kingdoms.

Can English Medium Education Work in Pakistan? Lessons from the Punjab
Client: British Council, Pakistan
Research report and policy recommendations on the quality of education in Punjab, Pakistan, based on a literature review, a quantitative survey of 2000 teachers, focus group discussions, and testing of teachers’ level of English language.

Bubaque, Far Away
Travel article on the Bijagós Islands of Guinea-Bissau, published on Roads & Kingdoms, Society of American Travel Writers’ travel journalism website of the year 2013.

INDEPTH communications strategy
INDEPTH Network of Demographic and Health Surveillance Systems, Accra, Ghana
Consultancy on new communications strategy of this global network of demographic and health research sites.

West Africa on the Edge
Talk at School of Advanced Studies, London University, 17 January.

The Ringtone and the Drum: Travels in the World’s Poorest Countries (published in the US, UK and as an e-book, October 2012)
Zero Books 
See http://www.markweston.net/?page_id=138 for details.

How Technology is Changing Africa
Talk at Social Responsibility Forum, IE Business School, Madrid. 23-24 November.

The Ringtone and the Drum: West Africa in Transition
Talk on West Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. 7 November.

Global Approaches to Domestic Violence Prevention: Ending Men’s Violence Against Women
Client: Sonke Gender Justice Network, South Africa
Paper to be published by University of Minnesota. Focuses on the broad social triggers of domestic violence, and on means of shifting harmful cultural norms.

Book review of ‘Men and Development: Politicizing Masculinities’
:  Sonke Gender Justice Network, South Africa
Book review for Gender & Development journal.

Research study on violence against marginalised women in India, Bangladesh and Nepal
: CREA, India
Co-writing multi-country quantitative and qualitative research report on violence against sex workers, lesbian women and disabled women. Published in Reproductive Health Matters, December 2012.

Forgotten Conditions Roundtable, House of Commons, June
Client: 2020health
Lunch meeting with UK health policy-makers to discuss ways of ensuring greater prominence in the policy agenda for rare conditions. Report of the event here.

Working Together: Devolved Nations
Research study into what the devolved nations can teach England about reducing sickness-related worklessness. Includes a literature review, interviews with key policy-makers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, site visits to case study projects, and a report of the findings. The project is a follow-up to the 2011 study, Working Together: Promoting Work as a Health Outcome as the NHS Reforms.