Wrighton appoints Benjamin Akande as leader of new Africa initiative

| Senior News Editor

Benjamin Akande, former president of Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., was appointed by Chancellor Mark Wrighton as a senior advisor to the chancellor and director of Washington University’s new Africa initiative.

Akande has been hired to lead the initiative, designed to enhance opportunities for further academic engagement on the African continent. This is a priority for Wrighton, who notes that many faculty are already engaged in long-term projects across several African countries including Uganda, Ghana and Kenya.

“[Akande] has been recruited to help us assess how to enhance the scope and impact of our engagement in Africa,” Wrighton wrote in a statement to Student Life.

Akande is excited to be at the University and eager to begin his work with the Africa Initiative.

“To know that Washington University wants to be a part of that effort is just heartwarming for me and I’m excited about that,” Akande said.

During the initial stages of the initiative, Akande will work with departmental faculty and staff across the University with existing programmatic engagement in African countries. During these meetings, he will take inventory of what is already being done and will work on new ways for all of these programs to work collectively in establishing a strategic plan to strengthen existing programs and encouraging new initiatives.

Akande believes that his own personal experiences as well as his academic research in the area of economic development of Africa, will help him in leading the initiative.

“As a Nigerian-born individual, I advocate awareness and understanding and appreciation for the opportunity as well as the challenges that Africa faces,” Akande said. “I also bring to the table almost 30 years as a professor, a dean of academia, which allows me to have an appreciation and understanding of the value of academia and research in transforming society.”

Wrighton agrees that Akande’s professional background, which includes a Ph.D. in economics and postdoctoral studies at Harvard University and Oxford University, makes him a great fit for the position.

“Dr. Akande has rich experiences academically…and has a good understanding of what might be possible in connection with new partnerships in Africa,” Wrighton wrote. “I am thrilled to have recruited him, and I look forward to our work together.”

Although Akande will be leading the project, he hopes to engage as many Washington University students and faculty as possible.

“This is not a one-person initiative; this is going to entail many, many others across the University landscape who will join with me,” Akande said. “Our students are going to be key participants in this in terms of their ideas, their contributions, their participation…that for me is probably one of the more exciting parts of this job: enabling each student to be a part of this dynamic experience.”