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Photo of Richard Mkandawire

Richard Mkandawire

Vice President African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP)


What most impressed the professional colleagues who nominated this role model?

Richard Mkandawire has worked tirelessly to bring Africa’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) to life.  At its inception, he played a critical role in engaging support for NEPAD’s focus on agriculture, in conceptualizing and drafting the initial CAADP plan and in advocating for its acceptance by African heads of state and donor agencies.  During CAADP’s critical initial decade, he served as CAADP’s heart and soul, as well as its public face.  Throughout his career, he has applied his exceptional energy and motivational skills to promote investments in African agriculture.  Long before the world food crisis of 2008, his CAADP team waged a committed campaign urging priority investments in agriculture. 

Despite enormous demands on his time, he has consistently found ways to motivate and mentor students into productive careers in agriculture. Although Richard did not start off studying agriculture in college, as a student of development economics he quickly realized agriculture’s importance as an engine of development in Africa.  So he began threading together agriculture with his social science background to build his career as a champion of the rural poor, of farming communities and agribusinesses and as a powerful advocate for pro-poor economic development in Africa. 

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture?

  • A lecturer whom I admired motivated me to take a career in the social sciences, poverty and development.
  • After completion of social studies, I realized the importance of agriculture and decided to enroll for post-graduate study in Agricultural Extension, Rural Sociology and Development Studies.

How can agricultural education institutions more effectively prepare African students for successful agribusiness careers? 

  • Lecturers must be there for their students, playing a guiding and mentoring role.
  • Investigate the possibility of partnerships between universities, agribusinesses, professional research institutions, including joint appointments, visiting lectureships and student internships and research.
  • Help young agricultural professionals to build professional networks.  I have spent my life building networks.

Career highlights

  • Worldwide Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award, 2014. 
  • Vice President African Fertilizer Agribusiness Partnership Inc. (AFAP): 2012 to present. 
  • Director Partnerships Resources Mobilization and Communication – NEPAD Agency: 2010 – 2012.
  • NEPAD Advisor for Agriculture and head of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), 2002 to 2010
  • Honorary doctorate, University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2009.
  • Drivers of Change Award for leadership in advocating for convincing leaders and the international community that Africa can master the ability and the political will to overcome hunger and poverty through an African agricultural led growth as embodied in the CAADP framework, 2008.
  • Chair of multiple international bodies: TerrAfrica Executive Committee: 2005 – 2009, Advisory Board of Research Into Use (RIU): 2006 – 2009, Modernizing African Food Systems (MAFS) Advisory Board, 2012 to 2014.
  • Professor and Founding Director: Centre for Youth Studies, University of Venda, South Africa: 1991 – 2002.
  • Associate Professor in Rural Development, University of Malawi, Bunda College, Malawi: 1987 – 1992.
  • Regional Director: Commonwealth Youth Program, Africa Centre (CYPAC), in 20 commonwealth countries: 1991 – 1998.
  • Head of Rural Development Department and Senior Lecturer, University of Malawi, Bunda College of Agriculture, Malawi: 1984 – 1987.
  • Lecturer in Extension and Rural Sociology, University of Malawi, Bunda College of Agriculture, Malawi: 1977 – 1980.

Educational background

  • Primary school:
  • Secondary school:
  • University:                 
    • BA Social Science (with distinction): Chancellor College, University of Malawi, Malawi: 1974.
    • MS Agricultural Extension: University of Missouri, USA: 1977.
    • MA Rural Sociology: University of Missouri, USA: 1977.
    • PhD Development studies: University of East Anglia, UK: 1984.