• Claire Avisar

Remembering Professor Calestous Juma


The new year has left the international development community without one of their most prominent voices and widely renowned scholars, particularly for those with a focus in using science, technology, and innovation programs as catalysts for development. On December 15th 2017, Professor Calestous Juma passed away after losing his battle with cancer (1). While his name is too-often overshadowed by those like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, the late professor was just as much a 21st century pioneer of science and technology, and philanthropist. Particularly, he saw government participation, training, and investment in technology as the most sustainable solutions to issues of poverty, disease, and food security in African communities.

As Professor Juma’s work honed for many what is known in expressed in development discourse as “African solutions to African problems,” the Kenyan-born scholar was influential in asserting the rightful place of African ideas in successful development initiatives (2). He did this by urging national leaders to invest in science and technology programs, motivated by his firm belief in “integrated frameworks”, a development strategy based on the incorporation of African nations into global flows. With statistics from UNESCO which expose just how little monetary support countries such as Nigeria, who spend only 0.22% of their GDP, dedicate to associated programs, Juma’s concerns were certainly warranted. With hopes for Nigeria, the continent’s most populated and one of its most resource dense countries, Juma saw this investment and the discoveries it would bring as the first to creating long-term growth (4). Justly praised for his understanding that creating sustainable environmental policies, first and foremost, begins with education, his approach grounded these development goals in local contexts, moving away from the clutches idealism.

Although no stranger to poverty himself, Professor Juma graduated from Egoji Teachers’ College in 1974, and eventually received his PhD in international development from the University of Sussex (5). His leadership in the creation of the United Nations convention on Biological Diversity and the African Center for Technology Studies stemmed from a personal discontent with Africa’s paradoxical existence as a resource rich continent unable to find self-sufficiency. His subsequent involvement with the Common Market For Eastern and Southern Africa’s (COMESA) virtual University network, which created the “intellectual underpinning” for the organization after science and tech was chosen as its academic core, secured him as not only a beloved scholar but a much admired teacher (6). Yet in spite of his revered place within institution, the professor did not see these fields as limited to a scholarly context. Bringing his desire to “foster distinctly African perspectives on science”, Juma was uniquely active on social media, opening up important doors and popular dialogue on the matter (7).

Professor Juma, who is fondly remembered as a "bright star of Africa,” was an adamant voice for diversity in development initiatives (8). He imagined a world where African innovations were not only key in managing African resources, but could revolutionize approaches to diverse challenges that affect communities across the globe. When his achievements, “immense wit, charm, courage, and humour” are chronicled as they appear above, one is left to question the lack of media coverage his death has received outside African sources, and ultimately with sadness for the loss of an inspiring leader (9).

  1. Adeel Hassan, “Calestous Juma, 64, Dies; Sought Innovation in African Agriculture.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/science/calestous-juma-african-agriculture-dies.html.

  2. ISSAfrica.org. “African Solutions to African Problems.” ISS Africa, 18 Sept. 2008, issafrica.org/iss-today/african-solutions-to-african-problems.

  3. “This Is How We Should Honor Calestous Juma’s Vision for an Africa of Innovation.” Quartz, Quartz, 7 Jan. 2018, qz.com/1174191/harvards-calestous-juma-saw-nigeria-as-potential-innovation-powerhouse/.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Adeel Hassan, “Calestous Juma, 64, Dies; Sought Innovation in African Agriculture.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/science/calestous-juma-african-agriculture-dies.html.

  6. “COMESA Loses a Thinker and Advisor in Prof. Calestous Juma.” Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa, www.comesa.int/comesa-loses-a-thinker-and-advisor/.

  7. Adeel Hassan, “Calestous Juma, 64, Dies; Sought Innovation in African Agriculture.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/science/calestous-juma-african-agriculture-dies.html.

  8. “COMESA Loses a Thinker and Advisor in Prof. Calestous Juma.” Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa, www.comesa.int/comesa-loses-a-thinker-and-advisor/.

  9. Sindiso, Ngwenya, “The Indelible Footprints That Prof Calestous Juma Left.” The Indelible Footprints That Prof Calestous Juma Left, 9 Jan. 2018, www.busiweek.com/index1.php?Ctp=2&pI=6092&pLv=3&srI=8&spI=6&cI=10.

References:

“COMESA Loses a Thinker and Advisor in Prof. Calestous Juma.” Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa, www.comesa.int/comesa-loses-a-thinker-and-advisor/.

Hassan, Adeel. “Calestous Juma, 64, Dies; Sought Innovation in African Agriculture.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/science/calestous-juma-african-agriculture-dies.html.

ISSAfrica.org. “African Solutions to African Problems.” ISS Africa, 18 Sept. 2008, issafrica.org/iss-today/african-solutions-to-african-problems.

Ngwenya, Sindiso. “The Indelible Footprints That Prof Calestous Juma Left.” The Indelible Footprints That Prof Calestous Juma Left, 9 Jan. 2018, www.busiweek.com/index1.php?Ctp=2&pI=6092&pLv=3&srI=8&spI=6&cI=10.

Ochieng , Giblert. “Prof Calestous Juma Eulogised as Intellectual Worth Emulating.” The Star, Kenya, 7 Jan. 2018, www.the-star.co.ke/news/2018/01/08/prof-calestous-juma-eulogised-as-intellectual-worth-emulating_c1694162.

“This Is How We Should Honor Calestous Juma’s Vision for an Africa of Innovation.” Quartz, Quartz, 7 Jan. 2018, qz.com/1174191/harvards-calestous-juma-saw-nigeria-as-potential-innovation-powerhouse/.


22 views
Stay connected!
  • Grey Facebook Icon

The Grassroots Journal is sponsored by:

Web Design by Anjelica Tizon