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Africa University leaders pledge to serve continent

Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda (left), Democratic Republic of Congo, celebrates as Bishop David Kekumba Yemba, Central Congo, becomes the third chancellor of Africa University. UMNS photos by Sharai Nondo.


By Sharai Nondo*
Dec. 14, 2009 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)

The Rev. Jerome King Del Pino (far left) and Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, Zimbabwe, (far right) watch as Yemba (second from left) and professor Fanuel Tagwira were both inaugurated Dec. 5.

The new leadership of Africa University pledged its continuing commitment to the cause of higher education on the continent in a moving installation ceremony attended by more than 500 dignitaries from around the world.

Bishop David Kekumba Yemba and professor Fanuel Tagwira were inaugurated Dec. 5 as the third chancellor and vice chancellor of the university founded in 1992.

Guests included members of the Africa University board of directors, Zimbabwe government officials, partner agencies of The United Methodist Church, partner institutions to Africa University and representatives from sister universities in Zimbabwe and within the region.

In remarks, officials both celebrated the Africa University story and looked ahead to plans to make an even larger impact in Africa.

“As a dream turned into reality, Africa University has become a seed of the higher education tree on the African continent,” Yemba said. “Africa shall no longer be left behind in higher education.”

Christopher Mushowe, governor of Manicaland Province in Zimbabwe, affirmed in his congratulatory message that Africa University plays a special role on the continent.

“Africa University is not only there to impart knowledge and skill to Zimbabwe, but to the rest of Africa as well,” he said. “You are also a church-related institution. Here, students do not just earn an academic qualification, but gain valuable spiritual life and education.”

Seeking Diversity

Moving forward, the university plans to make even greater efforts to become a Pan-African institution, officials said.

The Rev. Jerome King Del Pino, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said the challenges for the new leadership of Africa University were expansion of the institution in terms of international student representation, infrastructural development and the consolidation of the university’s distance learning project. “Africa University is now firmly planted, but we are still experiencing all of the growing pains that come to any institution over time.”

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“This institution won’t achieve its mission until it is fully and authentically Pan-African,” Del Pino said.

Twenty-eight nationalities are represented in the student body at Africa University, and foreign students make up 39 percent of the student population. According to the university charter, international student representation should stand at 60 percent.

Lokamba Otshudi, a third-year Congolese student at the university, said the school’s leadership needs to do more to attract students from other African nations.

“We want everyone from Africa to be here, and that is our challenge to them,” Otshudi said.

As part of that effort, Africa University has a distance learning center in Mozambique and hopes to expand to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and Liberia.

The university also is working on establishing new departments, including a faculty of science and technology.

“This work is important in making Africa University the anchor institution of The United Methodist Church in higher education in Africa," Del Pino said.

Praise for New Leaders

Several people said Africa University chose the right people for its new leadership.

“Yemba’s selection as the third chancellor of Africa University indicates that the board of directors has chosen wisely in having a man who understands both the church and academy. He loves them both, and is critical in both ministries,” Del Pino said. “I have the highest regard and utmost confidence in Chancellor Yemba’s ability to work closely with the vice chancellor and forge together the next stage of excellence in this university’s development.”

The new chancellor holds a degree in systematic theology from the Free University of the Congo and a doctor of philosophy degree for the University of Strasbourg in France. He has published extensively in the area of systematic theology and ecumenical studies and is a member of the Ecumenical Association of African Theologians and the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians.

Yemba became a bishop of the Central Congo Conference of The United Methodist Church in 2005. He is serving his second term, having been re-elected in 2008. He also serves as moderator of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches and vice president of the All Africa Conference of Churches.

Tagwira holds a doctorate in soil chemistry and fertility from the University of Zimbabwe and Michigan State University. His research interests have focused on improving soil productivity in the small-holder farming sector. Tagwira is also an ardent supporter of environmental issues.

He is a board member of the Research Council of Zimbabwe, a fellow of the Zimbabwe Academy of Life Sciences and a member of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture.

*Nondo is program officer in Africa University’s Information and Public Affairs Office.

News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.


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