UCT's internationally-recognised anthropologist, Professor Francis Nyamnjoh was named African Hero of the Year for 2013 by the African Student Union of Ohio University, US, in March. The student union's annual African Hero Day celebration honours one person from the continent who has made a significant contribution to improving the lives of its inhabitants.
Anthropologist Nyamnjoh follows a long line of distinguished African Heroes, the first of whom was formera South African President Nelson Mandela, in 1993. Nyamnjoh's honour recognises his "outstanding contribution to the advancement of Africa through your scholarship as well as teaching practice", as the winner's plaque reads.
"The award means a lot to me, for the simple fact that it comes from students who have followed my work from a distance and are able to appreciate it," says Nyamnjoh. "This is most humbling and encouraging. I hope I am able to live up to the challenge they have thrown my way." Nyamnjoh chairs the Social Anthropology section of UCT's School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, and boasts a prolific publications profile. His impressive bibliography includes work on media and democracy; mobility and citizenship; and the social shaping of information and communications technologies.
Rated as B2 by the National Research Foundation, the scholar's career began at the University of Yaounde, Cameroon, where he earned a BA (1984) and MA (1985) before completing his PhD at the University of Leicester in the UK in 1990. Prior to joining UCT in 2009, Nyamnjoh served as head of publications at the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa from 2003 to 2009. In October 2012 he received a University of Cape Town Excellence Award for "Exceptional Contribution as a Professor in the Faculty of the Humanities" after being inducted as a fellow of the Cameroon Academy of Science in August 2011.
Nyamnjoh declined offers of permanent teaching posts at American and European universities, maintaining that he would rather plough his expertise directly back into Africa, and taught at various universities around the continent. Nyamnjoh was awarded the Senior Arts Researcher of the Year prize in Botswana. He displays great confidence in Africa's continuing contribution to academia.
"There are African scholars and scholarship of global stature in all disciplines, and Africa is increasingly the continent to turn to for new ways of theorising and understanding our world. It offers fascinating everyday examples of the complex, nuanced and accommodating negotiation and navigation of myriad influences by ordinary people."
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