Office of International Affairs

At his inaugural address in October 2013, University President Peter Salovey vowed to bring research and teaching about Africa at Yale “into sharper focus.” Almost five years later, he became the first sitting Yale president to travel to the continent, marking a major step toward that goal.

Over spring break, Salovey, along with several other University representatives, traveled to Ghana and Kenya to develop partnership programs with African institutions and cultivate relationships with the University’s alumni community in Africa. Yale has long-standing connections with institutions in Ghana and Kenya, and most years, the two countries send more students to Yale College than any other African country, Salovey told the News.

“Kenya and Ghana and other countries in Africa are investing right now in research, in education, in startups,” he said. “It really provides an opportunity for Yale to collaborate as an equal partner where both parties help and educate each other — where both parties bring something significant to the table.”

On the second day of the trip, Salovey delivered the opening remarks at a forum focused on the next generation of female African leaders that also featured previous participants in Yale’s Leadership Forum for Strategic Impact. There, he interacted with female cabinet secretaries and members of parliament who told stories about the challenges they overcame to attain their leadership positions. Nouzha Skalli, a cabinet minister from Morocco, discussed losing an election not once, not twice, but seven times before she finally won a seat in her government.

The day concluded with a Yale alumni reception that included graduates from across Ghana and Nigeria. Eddie Mandhry, the director for Africa at the Office of International Affairs, said Yale now has close to 500 alumni across the continent. He added that developing a Yale Club can create opportunities for networking events and help identify potential students. Late in the trip, Yale alumni from Kenya also announced plans to relaunch of the Yale Club of Kenya.

According to Mandhry, the trip’s theme was building partnerships to develop reciprocal research and scholarship with African institutions. Yale formally renewed partnerships with the University of Ghana through the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, the Fox Fellowship Program and the University of Ghana Medical School.

At a small reception at the United States embassy in Ghana hosted by the Deputy Chief of Mission Melinda Tabler-Stone, Salovey socialized with administrators in education and public health.

The following day, Salovey made a courtesy call to Vice President of Ghana Mahamudu Bawumia at the president’s home, known as Flagstaff House, before attending a town hall at the University of Ghana. The event, which featured the president of Ashesi University — the foremost liberal arts university in Africa — and the vice chancellor of the University of Ghana, as well as others, drew hundreds of people and two million online viewers.

After traveling to East Africa, Salovey visited a manufacturing facility for Sanergy, a company started by two Yale College alumni that creates eco-friendly sanitation services for communities in Kenya. In addition to providing sanitary hygienic conditions to poor informal settlements, Sanergy also franchises its facilities, which can provide viable businesses.

In Kenya, Salovey attended a reception hosted by the U.S. ambassador to Kenya and met with business leaders. Building on faculty collaboration, Yale forged a formal partnership between the University and the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization and the Kenyan Wildlife Service. Salovey also visited the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, where he made a few new friends at the Giraffe Center. The fund rehabilitates animals that have been harmed or orphaned so they can return to the wild.

Yale hosted several symposiums featuring the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Education, the governor of the Central Bank of Kenya and others. Salovey emphasized that public sector officials were key to developing Yale’s relationship with institutions of higher education on the continent.

“In both Ghana and Kenya, the major sponsor of university education and university-based research is the government,” Salovey said. “So, for us to build partnerships around research or education, we really need the support of government. They are key to making these collaborations.”

Michael Cappello, the co-director of the Yale Africa Initiative, said Salovey’s trip was affirming for Yale alumni working in Africa. He added that the University has already been contacted by people and organizations inquiring about potential partnerships. School of Medicine professor Christine Ngaruiya said she met with potential colleagues in Kenya to advance projects focused on noncommunicable diseases.

Cappello added that Salovey has already requested a meeting with him and MacMillan Center Director Ian Shapiro to discuss the next steps.

According to University statistics, Yale currently has 133 students from Africa.

Hailey Fuchs | hailey.fuchs@yale.edu