Having completed a PhD in African History at Cambridge University, he joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1982 and served in Brussels, Washington, Tanzania and latterly as British High Commissioner to Ghana and Ambassador to Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso,Togo and Niger (2008-2011). In the FCO, London, he filled a number of roles, dealing with the EU as European Correspondent, with the G8 as Head of Economic Relations Dept, and for 5 years was the FCO's Chief Information Officer. From 2011-2017 he worked at the European Union in Brussels, firstly as Managing Director for Africa and then as MD for the Middle East and North Africa in the EU's External Action Service.
He is on the Editorial Board of African Affairs, is a member of Chatham House and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
He has been Director of the Royal African Society since November 2017.