Alumnus profile: Prof Umar Kakumba

Posted on February 15, 2021

His PhD studies at UP greatly assisted him to reach the pinnacle of formal academic achievement. Currently serving as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs) and Professor of Public Sector Management, with speciality in Leadership, Human Resource Strategy and Public Policy Management, at Makerere University, Uganda, esteemed EMS alumnus, Prof Umar Kakumba, is now set to make his mark in establishing effective leadership and governance systems that offer public sector career mentorship and a strong employee value proposition. Read more about his sterling academic career, his professional goals and his hopes and aspirations for the African continent.


Q:  Briefly summarise your studies and your professional career, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: I pursued and obtained a PhD in Public Affairs from the School of Public Management and Administration (SPMA) at UP in a record three years (2006 - 2009). I am the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic Affairs) and Professor of Public Sector Management, with speciality in Leadership, HR Strategy and Public Policy Management, at Makerere University, Uganda.
I serve as Chairperson and Member on several Boards of Governance and Councils’ Committees of reputable governmental and non-governmental institutions, including the Uganda Business and Technical Education Board (UBTEB); Olukiiko lwa Buganda (Buganda Parliament); Makerere Joint Aids Programme (MJAP); the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI); Buganda Royal Institute of Business and Technical Education (BRIBTE); FoM Foundation; Kawempe Muslim Secondary School, etc.
I am an external examiner and visiting professor at the University of Fort Hare; the University of Pretoria, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Rwanda, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and the Uganda Management Institute.
I am an alumnus and visiting research fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK, where I completed a post-doctoral programme in Public Sector Human Resources Management in 2014. I have researched, published and consulted extensively in the broader realm of Management Studies and have presented papers locally and internationally.


Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: The doctorate studies and award from UP have been greatly rewarding in my professional career growth and achievements in many ways. My studies exposed me to high-level research, scholarly endeavour and intellectual analytical rigour.
They enabled me to learn and master how to publish scholarly works; to offer high-level training and mentorship to graduate students, and to be promoted to higher academic ranks. I was appointed Head of the Department of Management for two years and eventually as Dean of Faculty, Business and Management Sciences for eight years (2011-2018) at Makerere.


Q: Can you single out a special mentor/trusted advisor who played an indispensable role in your life/studies/career?
A: I can mention two people at the University of Pretoria: Professor Emeritus Chris Thornhill and Professor Johannes David Fourie.


Q: Given your academic experience at UP, what advice can you pass on to current students?
A: Academic success entails perseverance, hard work, inspiration and aspiration. Students need to be focused on completing coursework assignments with distinction and should be passionate about research and publication.


Q: What really inspires and motivates you personally?
A: The need for achievement and continuous improvement.


Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful business/company/consultancy/organisation?
A: Successful organisations rely heavily on effective governance and leadership that should cultivate a vibrant and competitive organisational culture and effective employment relations.


Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person – in any domain – who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it be and what would you like to discuss?
A: Barak Obama, former US President. I would like to get a feeling on how he managed to stay focused and steadfast on his goal achievements amidst the historical tribulations and cultural inequalities ravaging black people across the world.


Q: Going forward, what are your professional/business/personal goals?
A: Making a mark in establishing effective leadership and governance systems that offer public sector career mentorship and a strong employee value proposition.


Q: In 2020, COVID-19 turned the world upside down...and continues to do so. What is the biggest ‘lesson’ you’ve learnt from this pandemic and to what extent did it change your mind-set?
A: COVID-19 has taught us the importance of creativity and innovation in work and business processes; the need to invest in diverse business opportunities. The mind-set change is to be flexible, while keeping hope alive, for there will always be opportunities in the midst of a catastrophic situation.


Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for Africa and its people for the rest of this decade...and beyond?
A: Africa has great prospects in terms of human capital development, knowledge management and agricultural value addition (processing) that can be cultivated, with good governance and str
- Author Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
Published by Nonkululeko Kubeka Moyo

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