Historical overview

In 1959 the Academy received its name and current functions, since which date it has continuously adjusted its sphere of activities to the changes — and at times the upheavals — undergone by countries overseas.

For several decades the activities of the Academy concentrated essentially on Africa, to which it has remained traditionally attached. Nevertheless, over recent years it has diversified its focus of attention and the Academy has gained a more international character by forging bonds with a wide range of scientific organisations, as witnessed by the co-operation agreements signed with UNESCO, the "Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen" (The Royal Institute for the Tropics — The Netherlands), the "Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical" (the Institute for Tropical Hygiene and Medicine) and the "Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical" (The Institute for Tropical Scientific Investigation) (Portugal), the "Third World Academy of Sciences" (Italy), the "Chinese Academy of Sciences" (China) and the "Academia Nacional de Ciencias" (The National Academy of Sciences — Bolivia).

The Academy also takes an interest in knowledge about the past and prides itself on its role in maintaining the memory of the past in the light of the present, including the colonial period during which it was founded.

In fact, it was under the name of "Institut Royal Colonial Belge" (Royal Belgian Colonial Institute) that the present Academy was founded in 1928 and inaugurated in 1929 by the Minister, Henri Jaspar. At that time the area over which it carried out its mission was restricted exclusively to the Belgian Congo. In 1931 the Institute gained greater liberty of action, thanks to its civil status which subsumes an autonomous existence, the ownership of a patrimonium and the possibility to receive gifts and legacies.

Renamed as the "Royal Academy of Colonial Sciences" in 1954, our Institution changed its name to the present "Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences" in 1959.