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Robtel Neajai Pailey

Ibrahim Fellow, African Development Bank

Robtel is currently an Ibrahim Fellow at the African Development Bank.

At IMI she was a senior researcher on the project ‘Migrants in Countries in Crisis’ which examines the migration implications of crises in six case studies, namely: Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Lebanon, Libya, South Africa and Thailand.

Her core areas of research expertise include migration, citizenship, diasporas, transnationalism, conflict, post-war recovery, governance, and the political economy of aid, trade and remittances, all with respect to Africa. She has conducted multi-sited fieldwork in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Denmark, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, the UK and US. 


Robtel is a Liberian academic, activist and author with over a decade of combined professional experiences in Africa, Europe and North America. She has consulted across a broad range of fields while supporting universities, governments, NGOs, media institutions, regional and multilateral agencies. She has practitioner-based proficiencies in qualitative research, capacity development, policy design and analysis, programme management, report and grant writing, journalism and strategic communications.

Before joining IMI, Robtel was a researcher at the Centre for Development Policy and Research, SOAS, University of London, as well as a graduate teaching assistant on SOAS' Migration & Development core course. Prior to that, she worked at the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, Republic of Liberia, first as a communications advisor and speechwriter to the President of Liberia and then as a migration and bilateral scholarships policymaker. During this time, she also served as an adjunct faculty member of the University of Liberia and Stella Maris Polytechnic.

Robtel obtained BA degrees in African Studies and English Literature from Howard University in 2004, an MSc in African Studies from the University of Oxford in 2007 and a PhD in Development Studies from SOAS, University of London, in 2014. Her doctoral thesis, entitled ‘The Love of Liberty Divided Us Here? Factors Leading to the Introduction and Postponement in Passage of Liberia’s Dual Citizenship Bill’, is a transnational study of constructions and practices of Liberian citizenship across space and time and their myriad implications for development. 

An increasingly sought after thought leader and public scholar, Robtel has provided expert commentary for radio, television, print and online media across the globe.



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Recent Publications

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