The Berkeley's Center for African Studies was established in 1979 as an interdisciplinary research center to support basic research and training of scholars. From 1979 to 2014, it collaborated closely with the Center for African Studies at Stanford as a Joint Title VI NRC and FLAS Center. It has been a University of California Organized Research Unit on the Berkeley campus since 2000

Before 1979, there was a Committee on African Studies organized through the Institute of International Studies. Faculty members would regularly present papers over dinner.  Members of that committee among others included:

Throughout UC Berkeley's history, faculty and students have pursued the study of Africa. Julius Gikoyno Kiano, the first Kenyan to earn a PhD received that here at UC Berkeley in 1956 in Political Science, studying with Robert Scalapino. Harry Kreisler interviewed Dr. Kiano for his Conversations with History in 1989.