Dr. Kandeh Yumkella is an accomplished Sierra Leonean with a deep passion for energy and environment-related causes who has built an exceptional career in working to advance sustainable energy for all, poverty alleviation, and reducing the impact of climate change. A recipient of scholarships from The Africa-America Institute, Dr. Yumkella earned a Masters of Science in Agricultural Economics from Cornell University in 1986, and was awarded a second scholarship for a Ph.D in Agricultural Economics in 1991 from the University of Illinois.
AAI’s 60th Anniversary Awards Gala on September 25 will honor Dr. Yumkella with the 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award for his outstanding achievements in contributing to sustainable development, particularly in the area of sustainable energy, in Africa and around the globe. He is a firm believer in the linkage between “energy poverty” and “income poverty” in developing countries, and promotes the use of renewable energy to improve the productive capacities and welfare of rural communities.
Dr. Yumkella has served as Director General of UNIDO since 1995, after previously working in various high-level policy positions at the international organization. Prior to UNIDO, he was the Minister for Trade, Industry and State Enterprises of the Republic of Sierra Leone. Additionally, he held academic positions at Michigan State University and the University of Illinois.
In 2012, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Dr. Yumkella as his Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All. Bringing a renewed and vital focus to global energy issues as chair of UN-Energy, he is charged with coordinating the efforts of all United Nations organizations to address these critical global issues. In his leadership capacity on sustainable energy issues, he has pressed for sustainable industrial and agribusiness development as a means of wealth and job creation and the economic empowerment of the poor.
Dr. Yumkella has credited AAI for his career development.
“Thanks to the AAI, I received the biggest break in my personal and intellectual development – a scholarship for higher education in the United States,” said Dr. Yumkella. “As a result of that unique blend of sound theoretical and analytical training and applied policy research of the Land –Grant System, I am able to serve humankind and Africa, in particular, in a practical and solutions-oriented manner.”