African Development Bank President Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina reminded an audience of Africa’s knack for unique home-grown innovation as he was honored by one of the continent’s oldest and most respected universities last Friday.
Adesina joined graduates at a ceremony in Uganda, where he received an honorary doctorate from Makerere University. He recounted how a phone call from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni some 20 years earlier had led to one of the country’s most famous inventions.
Back then, Adesina was associate director at the Rockefeller Foundation. Museveni had sought his advice to deal with the country’s banana glut. That conversation eventually led to a relationship with Makerere University’s food technology department, which developed a method to transform bananas into shelf-stable flour that could be used to prepare the local staple dish, matooke.
Adesina told the audience that in his home language, Yoruba, “makerere” meant “megaphone of good news.”
The African Development Bank president told students and faculty: “It is such good news to join the roster of your distinguished honorary graduates of Makerere. Makerere is close to my heart. Makerere University is known for innovation.”
The honorary doctorate recognized Adesina’s “distinguished contribution to science, research and academic leadership, reform and thought leadership”.
Ahead of the ceremony, the Bank president met with the university’s Chairperson of Council, Lorna Magara, and university management. “University education is the most critical thing that any society should do, and when it comes to Africa, you find that not more than 9% of our population has access to tertiary education,” Adesina said at the meeting.
He called for more investment in science and technology to cope with the fourth industrial revolution, marked by advances in artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology.
Professor Barnabas Nawangwe, Vice-Chancellor of the university, said the African Development Bank had helped Makerere modernize laboratories and build new ones. As a result, he said, the university could produce vaccines and medicines, including the anti-tick vaccine and diagnostics to manage Covid-19 and other diseases, as well as the low-cost medical ventilator, Bulamu.
Nawangwe said the increased research and innovations by Makerere would help Uganda reduce dependence on imports, provide an alternative source of revenue for the university, and create jobs for unemployed youth.
“Makerere University has also benefited from your visionary leadership in the various positions you have held in different organizations,” Nawangwe told Adesina.