Pope Francis Appoints Nigerian Professor of Cultural Anthropology to Pontifical Academy

Nigerian-born Professor Kokunre A. Agbontaen-Eghafona who was appointed 10 July 2020 to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences as an Ordinary Member.
Credit: Public Domain

A Nigerian Professor of Cultural Anthropology with research interests in oral literature and ethnography as well as peoples and cultures in her native country of Nigeria and Africa in general among other specific areas of study has been appointed as an Ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Pope Francis appointed Professor Kokunre A. Agbontaen-Eghafona Friday, July 10 to the Vatican-based establishment created to foster “the study and progress of social sciences” alongside Professor Pedro Morandé Court from Chile and Professor Mario Draghi from Italy.

Established by St. John Paul II on 1 January 1994, the Academy seeks to primarily promote the academic fields of “economics, sociology, law and political science, thus offering the Church those elements which she can use the development of her social doctrine, and reflecting on the application of that doctrine in contemporary society,” the entity’s leadership has documented.

“My research interests include oral literature and ethnography; peoples and cultures of Nigeria and Africa; anthropology of marriage and the family; cultural resource management; indegeneous knowledge systems and qualitative research methodology,” Prof. Agbontaen-Eghafona has summarized her areas of study.

She has added in her summary report published on the website of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences,  “I have over sixty academic publications mainly in the area of Benin (Nigerian) culture and tradition and have been working in the field of irregular migration since 2003.”

The 60-year-old Professor has also made known her interest in combating human trafficking in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria. 

“My current scientific activities include measures to combat trafficking in women and girls in Benin City, Nigeria, and counter-trafficking initiatives in Nigeria,” she has documented and highlighted the numerous empirical studies she has undertaken, examining family role in trafficking of girls and women, trafficking perception, “post-trafficking psychosocial package,” and trauma healing among other specific topics of research.  

The Nigerian University Don has been a lecturer at the University of Benin in southern Nigeria since 1992. 

She graduated with a degree and later a Master of Arts in History, from the University of Benin. She also holds a Master of Science in Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

In 2014, Professor Agbontaen-Eghafona participated in the Walk Free Foundation Research on Modern Slavery Landscape in Nigeria. 

She has also consulted with several United Nations agencies including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the United Nations Interregional Crime, and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI). 

The Nigerian-born Academician is also a member of the Archaeological Association of Nigeria, the International Society for Benin Studies, and the Nigerian National Museum Society, among other national and international academic entities.


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]