Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai is Chairman of UNESCO's Executive Board
As a specialist in African languages, literature, alphabetization, oral poetry and the culture of African diasporas, Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai has held professorships in Benin, Nigeria, Brazil, Japan and the United Kingdom. He participated in the development of UNESCO’s programmes in the field of African languages and culture and is Ambassador of Benin to UNESCO as well as a member of numerous international boards, committees and juries in the field of culture.
Mr Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï was elected in November 2007 as Chairman of the UNESCO’s Executive Board.
At the time of his election Mr Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï was Ambassador Permanent Delegate of Benin to UNESCO, Member of the Executive Board of UNESCO and President of the Finance and Administrative Commission of the Executive Board.
During his mandate as Ambassador, Mr Yai was a Member of the World Heritage Committee, the Committee of the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture (IFPC), the International Scientific Committee of the Slave Route Project, the Jury for the designation of Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage as well as for the Melina Mercouri and Simon Bolivar Prizes, a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Africa World Heritage Fund (AWHFD), President of the Culture Commission of UNESCO G77, of Commission IV (Culture) of the 32nd Session of the General Conference (2003) and Vice-President of the Executive Board (2001-2003).
Before his appointment as Ambassador, he was a Consultant for culture and language policy in Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Togo and Mozambique in the 1970s and 1980s. He taught as Professor at the Universities of Benin, Ibadan and Ife (Nigeria) and Florida (USA). He also acted as Director of the Institute of Cultural Studies, University of Ife, Nigeria and as Chair of the Department of African and Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Florida, USA.
Mr Yai holds a BA from the University of the Sorbonne (France) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Linguistics from the University of Ibadan (Nigeria). He was a visiting scholar at the Federal University of Bahia (Brazil), at the University of Birmingham (England) and at the Kokugakuin University in Tokyo (Japan).
A specialist in African literatures and languages, literacy, oral poetry and the cultures of the African diaspora, Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï, was born in 1942 in Benin where he received an African traditional education with sages and elders in his village.