#UPGraduation2023: UP confers honorary doctorate on agricultural development doyen Prof Richard Mkandawire

Posted on May 16, 2023

The University of Pretoria (UP) has awarded Professor Richard Mkandawire with an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the transformation of Africa’s agricultural food systems and for empowering youth on the continent.

Prof Mkandawire is Africa Director of the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP), a consortium of 10 African universities (including UP), Michigan State University (MSU) and other international collaborators that work to transform institutions and livelihoods in Africa.

He has held numerous senior positions on the continent and internationally, and has been instrumental in effecting positive change in a variety of areas, including food policy, land tenure systems and agrarian development, gender and development, and youth empowerment.

“I accept this honorary doctorate on behalf of the institutions, universities and organisations that I’ve been associated with in pursuit of African development pathways,” said Prof Mkandawire, who also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal. “This honour is dedicated to the people of Africa. I’d like to thank my colleagues, including members of UP, particularly those in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development, and my AAP colleagues at MSU. I have benefitted from these associations and from the high quality of research conducted by academics at UP and many other remarkable universities in the region and globally.”

“Prof Mkandawire’s intellectual contributions and practical work in transforming African institutions in promotion of the socio-economic development of Africa embody UP’s vision to be a leading African global university that makes a difference to the development of South Africa, Africa and the rest of the Global South,” said Prof Frans Swanepoel, Director of Strategic International Partnerships at the CAS.

UP has had a long-standing relationship with Prof Mkandawire, having appointed him as an Extraordinary Professor in 2012.

“When it comes to expertise on African agriculture, UP is one of the leading universities globally,” said Prof Barend Erasmus, Dean of UP’s Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. “Part of this leadership is not just about engaging with the fundamental science, but also the policy domain – Prof Mkandawire’s high profile and obvious policy expertise made him an obvious partner with which to work to achieve the agricultural transformations needed.”

Before joining the AAP, Prof Mkandawire was Vice-President of the African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), where he led a team of experts in driving innovative interventions for the efficient delivery of fertilisers among smallholder farmers in Africa. Under his leadership, the AFAP reached 7.3 million farmers in three years through rural-based agro-dealers, thereby increasing production and yields and stimulating trade. He is currently Co-Chair for the policy team that is supporting the African Union 2023 Summit on Fertiliser and Soil Health.

Prof Mkandawire is recognised as being the principal architect of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which has become Africa’s blueprint for agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security, nutrition and economic growth. The CAADP model of country-owned, country-led agriculture and food security plans buffered Africa from the inflated food prices and other shocks emanating from the 2008/2009 financial crisis. He is also recognised for encouraging African heads of state and donor agencies to accept the CAADP model, and was rewarded for his efforts with the Southern Africa Development Trust’s Drivers of Change award.

Throughout his career, Prof Mkandawire has worked to forge collaborations across geographic boundaries to support the transformation and strengthening of African institutions that drive sustainable development. His contributions to African agricultural development processes have built bridges between African institutions and development partners in the Global North, including universities.

“Building these types of partnerships among policymakers and researchers is one of the major pillars of the AAP, and we have been fortunate to be able to leverage Prof Mkandawire’s strength of being a networker of note,” the AAP said. “Prof Mkandawire’s contribution to development initiatives across Africa is embodied through his extensive, practical and impactful work at a Pan-African level, linking public policy and academia.”

In his almost decade-long role as Regional Director of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, he facilitated the establishment of national youth commissions and networks in six Commonwealth countries in Africa to support youth employment, youth reproductive health, and youth policy analysis and development. He was also the founding Director of the Centre for Youth Studies at the University of Venda for Science and Technology in the late 1990s. The centre was instrumental in contributing to policy discourse on youth empowerment in Africa.

Prof Mkandawire has served on several international and Africa-based advisory boards, and continues to be a leading voice on African development issues who is called upon to shape and design policy. He is currently Chairperson of the Malawi National Planning Commission, a role that allows him to fuse his scientific and academic experience with political leadership.

Prof Steven Hanson, Associate Provost and Dean for International Studies and Programmes at MSU, praised Prof Mkandawire’s commitment to improving lives and livelihoods in Africa and beyond.

“Prof Mkandawire has spent his career addressing Africa’s most pressing challenges, and this honorary doctorate is a much-deserved recognition of his dedicated work,” Prof Hanson said. “MSU and the AAP are fortunate to have his leadership as we pursue a shared vision for equitable global prosperity.”

“The transformation to just, sustainable African agricultural food systems is a global challenge that needs committed networks and partners,” UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof Tawana Kupe said. “The University is proud to recognise Prof Mkandawire for his commitment and contribution to this challenge. Championing African-led development is a core value at UP. We are delighted to have bestowed this honour on Prof Mkandawire and we look forward to the next steps in our journey.”

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