To carry out its mandate the Academy organizes a wide range of activities covering themes of direct interest to overseas territories or which handle more global subjects (such as water, desertification, global warming, etc.).
One essential quality of these preoccupations and which distinguishes the Academy from other scientific bodies and which is part of its originality, is the interdisciplinary nature of its activities.
Activities organized by the Academy may be either open to the general public (in the form of congresses, conferences, symposia, seminars, exhibitions,…) or reserved only to its members.
Members of the Academy meet on a monthly basis within their Sections at which lectures and reports on missions abroad are presented, either by the members themselves or by guest speakers. The texts of the lectures are published, on approval of the members belonging to a specific Section, in the Bulletin des Séances/Mededelingen der Zittingen.
Commissions constituted on a permanent basis consist of members according to their field of speciality. An example is the Commission for Belgian Overseas Biography, with the task of publishing a collection of biographical notes devoted to Belgians and people of other nationalities who worked overseas and have contributed to Belgium’s reputation. Another commission is the Fontes Historiae Africanae Committee, devoted to the publication of works of a historical nature on Africa. Other commissions, such as the Environment and Development Commission or the Strategies and Development Commission address the major issues of the contemporary world, including sustainable development, poverty, desertification, urbanization, tropical forests or nutrition.
Besides the above publications, the Academy publishes Proceedings and Memoirs. The Proceedings are the result of public colloquia, congresses and conferences. The Memoirs are monographs including particularly those works that have been awarded acclaim within the framework of annual competitions or have received a prize granted by the Academy.
The Academy awards several scientific prizes. Each Section annually draws up two question topics within its field of interest. The winners of a work that has been acclaimed receive the title of “Laureate of the Royal Academy of Overseas Sciences”.
Six prizes are currently awarded by the Academy.
The Lucien Cahen Prize, intended to reward the author of a high-quality study on a topic dealing with overseas geological sciences, the Jean-Jacques and Berthe Symoens Prize, awarded to a study dealing with tropical limnology, the Fernand Suykens Prize, rewarding a work devoted to port economy, management or technology in developing countries, the Yola Verhasselt Prize, awarded to a field work dealing with tropical geography and consisting of a travel credit for financing a stay overseas. The Professor Romain Yakemtchouk Prize is intended to reward the author of a doctoral thesis related to international relations or peace issues with a special emphasis on overseas countries. Recently set up, the Marthe Engelborghs-Bertels Prize for Sinology will be awarded every 5 years to the author of a high-quality scientific work on a topic related to China in the broader sense of the word.
The Floribert Jurion Fund is aimed to contribute to the training of future agronomists or veterinary specialists by helping them spend a training period in a Third-World country. Grants are annually awarded on the basis of projects.
The Academy also has a Reference Library open to the public.
This library contains periodicals and reference works dealing with the main overseas regions. The collections cover several decades of exchanges with more than 150 Belgian and foreign institutions with regard to the past and the future.