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Africa U. to celebrate 20 years of progress

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3:00 P.M. ET March 19, 2013 | MUTARE, Zimbabwe


United Methodists from around the world literally built a world-class university from the red Zimbabwean clay in a little more than 20 years, and it is time to celebrate.

“Twenty years, this is just the beginning,” said Jim Salley, who has been raising his voice — and millions of dollars — to tell the people of The United Methodist Church that a dream dreamed in the 1800s is still coming true in 2013 at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

Salley, associate vice chancellor of the Africa University Development Fund, and dignitaries, bishops, pastors, students, faculty, donors and well-wishers will celebrate the milestone on the campus, March 22-24.

For Salley, the success of Africa University is in the graduates.

More than 4,000 young people from 23 African countries have graduated since the first 40 students started at Africa University in 1992. The first graduating class in 1994 had 27 students who received degrees in theology and agriculture and natural resources.

Today, Africa University offers academic programs in six faculties (departments) as well as an institute focusing on peace, leadership and governance.

Students such as Rui Sant'ana Afonso, a Mozambican and 1997 graduate from the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is just one example of leaders making a difference on the continent of Africa. Afonso is the general manager of the Port of Beira, Mozambique. The Port of Beira is part of a four-port consortium of privately managed ports that includes Durban, South Africa, and Port of Dubai.

“The present-day reality of Africa University matches the vision and expectations I had for its ministry as an institution of higher learning for the African peoples,” said Bishop Emilio de Carvalho. A passionate advocate and a leader from Angola, he helped the worldwide United Methodist Church to embrace the idea of founding Africa University as a connectional ministry in the early 1980s. Now retired, de Carvalho was the founding chancellor of Africa University.

He said Africa University is "inclusive, pan-African and responds to the main concerns of the African continent." He cited a few critical “unfinished tasks — academic programs in medicine, pure sciences and technology, further infrastructural development aimed at reaching more students in Africa and making the university financially self-sustaining.”

“Some said it could never be done … it’s never been done before,” Salley said. “For 21 years, we have kept the lights on and are not one penny in debt.

It speaks volumes to the commitment of the church. The church has been faithful.”


United Methodist-related Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, has graduated more than 4,000  students from 23 African countries. A 2002 UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
United Methodist-related Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe, has graduated more than 4,000 students from 23 African countries. A 2002 UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
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Where are they now?

One of the goals of Africa University has been for its graduates to go back into their communities and use their education to improve the lives of as many as possible. Like a single tree providing fruit for many, Africa University graduates are able to “pay it forward” with the knowledge they’ve gained. The following provides a sample of many Africa University graduates having a positive impact on the continent.

The Rev. Joao Sambo (Mozambique), pastor of Liberdade United Methodist Church in Maputo, Mozambique, and recently appointed as The United Methodist Church Mozambique’s Flood Relief Task Force coordinator. Bachelor of divinity, 2007.

Dr. Tshiani Kasombo (Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC) is the medical superintendent at the Nyadire Mission Centre in rural Zimbabwe. Master’s degree in public health, 2007.

The Rev. Tolbert Thomas Jallah, (Liberia) secretary general of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches of West Africa. Master’s in peace and governance, 2006.

Alima Hussein, (Mozambique) principal adviser, Government Relations for Rio Tinto Coal, Mozambique. Bachelor of business studies (Management), 2005.

Martha Mutisi, (Zimbabwean but based in Durban, South Africa) Manager of the Interventions Department of ACCORD (African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes). Master’s in peace and governance, 2004.

The Rev. Mazvita Margaret Machinga (Zimbabwe) is engaged with mental health support, pastoral care and counseling services at the community level and active in prison ministry. She is an ordained deacon and earned her doctorate in pastoral care and counseling at Claremont School of Theology in 2010. Bachelor of education degree, 2000.

Steven Mutsongodza (Zimbabwe) founded First Class Academy, a school for high school seniors in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Bachelor of education degree, 1999.

Zivayi Nengomasha (Zimbabwe) is director of programs and planning for ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) Africa Regional Office. She is the former country director of ADRA Zimbabwe and took over the regional post in April 2012. Bachelor’s degree in agriculture and natural resources, specializing in animal science. She is one of the pioneering graduates in 1994.

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn. She is part of a team traveling to attend the March 22-24 celebration and will be reporting on those events in the coming weeks.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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