Professor Mahiri Mwita

Mwita is a lecturer of Swahili and African studies at the Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) at Princeton University. He is also the Director, Princeton in Kenya – a summer study abroad program that offers Elementary Swahili Instruction and the Global Seminar on: Kenya – The Evolution of the Capital of Western Capitalism in Eastern Africa. Mahiri’s teaching and research interests focuses on contemporary relations and interactions between Africa and Western (European and American) imaginaries through the lenses of post-colonial theories. He is interested in how historical events such as colonization, the cold war conflicts, 9/11 and the politics of “global war on terror” has been and continue to define how the West (and now the East led by China) sees, defines, and relates with Africa. This determines not only the political, economic, and cultural interactions between African states and the rest of the world, but also why and how Kiswahili and African languages have become an important part of the “critical” international education in the American/Western academy and political policy. Before joining Princeton, Mwalimu Mahiri grew up and went to school in Kenya and Tanzania and taught at Moi University and Egerton University in Kenya, and more recently at St. Lawrence University in New York. His teaching philosophy challenges students to confront the Euro-centric knowledge bases that molded the West’s trajectories towards Africa, relearn, and seek new paradigms of re-engaging with Africa and its role, relation, and interactions with the rest of the world.

Our History

In 1999, a group of Princeton alumni, faculty, and staff launched Princeton in Africa as an independent affiliate of Princeton University inspired by the University’s informal motto, “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations.” In 2010, the program opened up to include graduates of any US accredited university in order to meet the growing demand from host organizations and allow more young professionals access to the unique opportunities afforded by PiAf. During the past 20 years, we have placed over 600 Fellows with more than 100 organizations in 36 countries, while developing more strategic partnerships across Africa and creating more opportunities for our alumni community to engage with the continent and with one another.


The International Rescue Committee has been so fortunate to have had a longstanding relationship with Princeton in Africa since our very first Fellows landed in Rwanda in 1999.  Whether it was Emily or Renee in 1999 or the 110 Fellows across 14 IRC countries over the years, we have been blessed by the relationship, the quality of the Fellows and the impact on what IRC does on the ground every single day.

Brian Johnson
Chief Human Resources Officer
International Rescue Committee

My fellowship has been the most impactful personal and professional development opportunity of my life. I wanted a post-college experience that would push my limits, expand my comfort zone, and help me discern the next steps in my career journey. And this has been the case.

Ryan Elliott
2014-15 Fellow
Baylor Pediatric AIDS Initiative in Lesotho

I can honestly say that this year has changed my life and my view of what’s possible for the future. Princeton in Africa isn’t just a one-year fellowship, it’s an introduction to a particular way of life and a new way of thinking about the world. I feel like so many doors are open now that I never would have considered before.

Katie Fackler
2010-11 Fellow
UN World Food Programme

My Princeton in Africa fellowship was everything I could have hoped for and much more. The myriad of experiences makes my head swim, and it has strengthened my desire to help underserved populations worldwide.

David Bartels
2006-2007 Fellow
Baylor Pediatric AIDS Initiative

Princeton in Africa was an invaluable experience for me. I learned an infinite amount through my work and through living in Uganda. I also realized that I want to continue working on African issues as long as I can.

Alexis Okeowo
2006-2007 Fellow
The New Vision

The International Rescue Committee’s experience with Princeton in Africa has been exceptional. Each Fellow brings excellent writing and analytical skills as well as unique interests and passions that enrich the program and the field office environment. We were so pleased we expanded the program to more field offices.

Susan Riehl
Human Resources, IRC

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation has been working in Africa for over 11 years through its Secure the Future program.  One common theme in all aspects of program implementation is having passionate, energetic individuals on the ground who can think outside the box and then transfer the skills for sustainability.  The Princeton In Africa Fellows have been a huge asset in this regard and our programs and patients have been better for it.

John Damonti
President, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation