AFSC’s advocacy work for the rights of native Africans began in the 1930s, when a group of British and American Quakers visited South Africa “to enquire into the relations existing between white and native races’, and “the methods by which the conditions of those suffering from racial discrimination may be alleviated.” Upon their return home, the delegation declared its support for institutions and individuals who sought to address injustices, strengthen mutual understanding, and create economic and educational opportunities for native African citizens. In 1957 AFSC sent George Loft as a permanent representative to build relationships between racial and political divides. As more African nations began to gain their independence in the early 1960s, AFSC supported these new nations through leadership training, educational programs, and economic empowerment.
The fight for Algerian independence displaced hundreds of thousands of Algerians to neighboring Morocco and Tunisia. AFSC assisted these refugee populations by providing food, clothing and medical supplies. Schools and sewing centers (where refugee women could learn skills and acquire an income) were also established. In 1962 when peace was finally restored and the Algerian refugees were able to return home, AFSC continued to work with the Algerian population engaging in programs of public health, community development and capacity building. Projects in Zambia focused on education and self-help housing while another project worked to assist the drought stricken communities of nomads in Mali’s Tin Aicha area. AFSC’s Quaker International Affairs Representative (QIAR) Daniel Ntoni-Nzinga worked behind the scenes in Angola to develop relationships, gain trust and open dialogues that led to peaceful settlements of disputes within those countries. Bill Sutherland, QIAR for South Africa from 1975 to 1982, shaped AFSC’s response to the needs of countries struggling to break free of colonial rule. His highly publicized speaking tours across the United States drew attention from across racial and ideological lines, fostering solidarity with South Africans working to end apartheid.
Today AFSC has active programs in Zimbabwe, Burundi, Somalia, and Kenya working with people who have survived violence as they heal from trauma, overcome political and ethnic divisions, and find ways to support themselves with dignity.