REMEMBERING PROF CALESTOUS JUMA
Memories and Reflections of Calestous Juma’s influence and inspiration
“Those who had the pleasure of meeting him—or communicating with him online and off—will testify to his warmth, his love of learning, and his great generosity.”
Tribute by H. E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya
Alison, Eric, and Professor Juma’s family,
Professor Juma’s Harvard family,
We meet here to console and encourage all those who loved Professor Juma, and to celebrate his life and achievements.
Our words of commemoration and consolation cannot match his achievement; but they can assuage grief and remind us to emulate the example he set.
Calestous Juma enjoyed an exemplary career as teacher and technologist, and as
author and authority on innovation. His journey may have ended in Boston, but it
began in Busia, right here in Kenya.
The first act of his career was probably his graduation from Egoji Teachers’
College: he went on to teach, and to impart his love of learning to many. Before
long, he had moved into policy work, founding the African Centre for Technology
He was later to become Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on
Biological Diversity; before making his way to Harvard, where he taught
development and innovation, and mentored a generation of students.
That, in bare outline, is the formal career of the scholar we celebrate today. But
what can we learn from his life? What lessons has he left us?
The first is perseverance. Professor Juma’s formal teaching career began at Egoji
and ended at Harvard. That is the power of persistence: he simply kept going,
improving himself and his students along the way. We ought to take that lesson to
The second virtue he taught us to treasure is innovation. If something didn’t work,
Professor Juma was willing to try something different; and if it could be done
better, he would show how it could be done.
Anyone who has read his book on innovation and its enemies will know that he
understood resistance to innovation; and he knew that it could be overcome by
patient education and institutional change. His clear-eyed devotion to innovation
is now more important than it was when he began his career. Let us learn from
We ought also to learn to love learning as he did. I said earlier that his appetite for
knowledge, and his generosity in sharing it, were astonishing.
We celebrate Professor Juma’s achievements. We pray for peace and courage for
his family, and for the consolation that comes from knowing that his was a life of
scholarship, and of service to his country and continent; it was a life exceptionally
May God rest the soul of Professor Juma in eternal peace. And may He comfort
and console all those who loved him, and learned from him.
Thank you and God Bless you.
Tribute By H. E. Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, C.G.H., President And Commander In Chief Of The Defence Forces Of The Republic Of Kenya
“We have lost a brilliant mind who was dedicated to innovation, education and Africa’s prosperity.”
Tribute by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda
It's humbling and yet heart warming that Cj's friends have put his dreams to fruition as his last message to me on the 13.12.2017 reads:"At this stage the best is to remain positive while God takes over to guide the journey. Our priority is to make it smooth as we implement the legacy plans." I am working on diminished energy levels. This indeed shows how greatly Cj impacted positively on people's lives. The fruits of his work as a champion for economic development in Africa are being realised all over i.e the Calestous Juma science leadership fellowships by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and the inroads made Through CJLF in his home area of Bunyala. I know he is smiling with a congratulatory smile as he always did when things looked good or challenged with a bright idea! His spirit lives on as dreams are true while they last. On a personal note:- we are still walking together slowly in a special dream. Thank you and God Bless you!.
Roselyda Nanjala Juma
“For a whole generation, and maybe for future generations of leaders, he was an exceptional teacher and thinker as well as one of the shining lights of Africa in the intellectual sphere.”
Tribute by Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency
“Prof. Juma, leading a team from Harvard, worked closely with the Committee of Chancellors of Public Universities of Kenya for the first convention on University Education in Kenya in January 2017. He gave a powerful presentation from his hospital bed through video call. Science, technology, innovation and his humanistic nature blended through the presentation. He was a global citizen, and wished university education in Kenya and Africa to acquire a global nature. The collaboration between African universities and Harvard, which he tirelessly worked on, will remain his signature. May Calestous continue to inspire the academic fraternity by his simplicity, humility, selflessness and the spirit of daring to dream the impossible.”
Tribute by The Committee of Chancellors of Public Universities of Kenya
Calestous Juma, a Kenyan-born Harvard Kennedy School professor remembered for his contributions to the study of technology and innovation in Africa and for his “boisterous laugh,” died Friday due to prolonged health issues. He was 64.
The Harvard Crimson
“He became an extremely well-known international figure in academic and development circles but in the early days it was arguably his years as a student at SPRU (University of Sussex) that helped to form the basis for his later work.”
Tribute by Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex
It was with deep sadness that we heard the news of the death of Professor Calestous Juma in Boston on 15 December 2017. He had been unwell for some time but his passing away was still a shock to his many friends and colleagues.
He had become an extremely well-known international figure in academic and development circles but in the early days it was arguably his years as a student at SPRU (University of Sussex) that helped to form the basis for his later work. Although SPRU had from its inception been involved in ancillary teaching to other parts of the University, it had only just begun to establish its own Graduate Studies Programme in the early 1980s. Calestous was one of our first applicants to that programme, supported at the time by a scholarship from IDRC in Canada.
SPRU – Science Policy Research Unit
“Prof. Juma established at ACTS a culture of thought leadership, ground-breaking research, and a passion to ensure science, technology and innovation policies accelerate achievement of Africa’s economic, social and environmental sustainability targets. Humanity was at the core of his high level scientific and policy dialogues. ACTS has built on this foundation to maintain a leading position among African and global development think-tanks.”
Tribute by African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS)
COLLEAGUES said he tweeted more than any professor they knew, and Calestous Juma’s tweets covered a swarm of things. Income inequality, and a free-trade area for Africa, you might expect. Those were the subjects he taught at Harvard: getting poorer countries, especially in Africa, to grow and thrive was the obsession of his life.
“Africa,” Calestous Juma wrote to me in 2015, “is diverging between those who want to talk and those who want to do something practical.” Juma was one of the latter. An international-development scholar, he championed the harnessing of science, technology and innovation for development. He founded Africa’s first science-policy think tank, led major United Nations science initiatives and wrote influential books. Juma, a Kenyan professor at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 15 December, at the age of 64.
Nature.com, International Journal of Science
“Calestous was a tireless champion for economic and social development in Africa. His legacy will live on through the fruits of his many years of work as an impassioned scholar, fearless advocate and mentor to students and policymakers around the world.”
Tribute by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
“Gifted with immense wit, charm, courage, humour and modesty—a rare combination, Professor Juma was a trusted advisor to Heads of State and Government throughout the world on critical issues affecting humankind today.”
Tribute by The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
“To ministers and heads of state, he was a sought-after adviser, pointing the way toward reforms that boosted farm yields, educational standards, and economic prosperity. To the scientific community, he was an unstinting champion of innovation and rigorous evidence. To his students, he was a passionate teacher and mentor.”
Tribute by Ash Carter, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, United States Secretary of Defense (2015-2017)
The Kenya-born Harvard scholar Calestous Juma saw innovations and opportunities bubbling up in African economies where others saw only poverty and despair.
Juma, who died this month in his Cambridge, Massachusetts, home, directed the Belfer Center’s Science, Technology and Globalization Project at the Harvard Kennedy School and spent his life advocating for new technologies in the developing world. He was 64.
A consummate storyteller, he liked to begin university lectures with a slide showing scrawny goats grazing in the Somali bush. The goats sported big, hand-painted numbers scrawled on their ribs.
“The [Somali] owners of the goats write their mobile phone numbers on their goats,” Juma explained in a video from a 2015 lecture at Boston University. “So if you like the goat, you actually send the money to the owner straight away, and then you go and collect the goat. Or if the goat gets lost, you read the number and then you just call the owner and say, ‘I’ve got your goat.’ Very practical.”
Juma, himself, was practical, and able to see how to use new tools in new ways.
“Calestous would see the potential in technological breakthroughs and connect the dots to translate its use in areas where it had not been connected,” remembers Harvard history professor Emmanuel Akyeampong. “That was Calestous’ genius.”
Akyeampong says Juma was among the first to ask how Kenyans could turn their cell phones into a revolutionary banking tool, using a local mobile phone-based money transfer service called “M-Pesa.”
The innovation would spread across the continent, reaching hundreds of millions of people who didn’t have access to a bank account. It was just one way Juma saw how latecomers to technology could outpace front-runners.
He advocated for this sort of “leapfrogging” in anecdotes he shared with his students.
“Calestous was full of stories,” Akyeampong says. “To grow up in rural Africa is to be a storyteller and no one told stories the way Calestous did. It was not just stories about his life. When Calestous gave a lecture [his brilliance was] where he got his images, and his animation and his illustrations. It was a delight to see Calestous’ brain at work.”
Juma championed technology and innovation in Africa and beyond. He advised African heads of state and founded the first all-African think tank on sustainable development. He wrote the influential book, “The Gene Hunters,” which helped to create the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity. He then served as its first director.
“He was fond of making the argument that the world’s biodiversity is a vast genetic library in which we have not yet even catalogued most of the books — never mind read — and are nonetheless engaged in burning down the library, wing by wing,” says John Holdren, senior adviser to former President Barack Obama on science and technology. “Juma did it in Africa, he did it in the United States, he did it in the United Nations.”
The rural Kenyan town near Lake Victoria, where Calestous grew up in a family with 13 siblings, wasn’t on the cutting edge. In fact, just getting there was a feat.
“The village had one dirt road in, one dirt road out,” says Ken Kobe, a Peace Corps volunteer who taught in Juma’s local school in the 1950s. “It was the farthest, most western point in Kenya, 80 miles from the nearest town of any consequence. No electricity, no running water, mostly mud housing, a few that had tin roofs. But my memory of it is a place where family was paramount, where an appreciation for the value of education was very much appreciated.”
Kobe remembers Juma as a stellar student, who entertained classmates with impressions of his teacher’s American accent. Juma became a teacher himself, and then a science journalist for Kenya’s leading newspaper, The Daily Nation.
Juma earned a scholarship to the University of Sussex in England, where he received a doctorate in science and technology policy studies. At Sussex, he met his wife, Alison Field, then a graduate student.
Juma will be buried in January after a state funeral in Port Victoria, Kenya. He is survived by his wife, Alison, and a son, Eric, of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Scholar Calestous Juma leaves behind a legacy of ‘leapfrog’ technology – PRI’s The World
Calestous Juma meant so much to so many people. I only knew him for a brief time, and yet, he had a profound impact on my life and career. I only wish I'd had a chance to know him better. It's the honor of a lifetime to work to continue his legacy.
For the longest time, I thought that despite his incredibly busy schedule and a never ending list of commitments, Calestous somehow finds time to mentor me. Little did I know that I was among thousands of others who were being mentored, guided and supported. I once asked Calestous, how does he do that? How is he able to help so many. He laughed his hearty laugh in response. He didn’t know, he said. That was just who he was. Indeed, that was who Calestous was. Honest, frank and above all generous with our most prized possession: time.
Calestous was a bright light for me from the moment we met. Regardless of circumstances, he maintained the same infectious smile and appetite for discovery that he had from the start. His influence cannot be measured. Eternal thanks to my mentor and friend!
"Thinking of my dear friend Calestous Juma on the fourth anniversary of his passing. Calestous continues to have a very profound impact on my life and the lives of so many. There is rarely a month that goes by when I don't find myself appreciating his generous gift of making so many connections for us, his optimism in a troubled world, and the advice, mentorship and time he so freely gave to us. Most roads and many friendships in my life lead back to CJ. I miss his wonderful stories, infectious laughter and wisdom every single day. Rest in Power my mighty Friend - Your legacy lives on through us. We owe you so very much and strive to continue what you started!"
Calestous' vibrant personality and passion for technology, innovation and sustainable development and his teachings at HKS both to MPP students and Executive Education was legendary. I was blessed by being a participant in this and I miss his presence greatly. He was a tireless champion in sustainable development, especially in bringing the power of science and technology for human betterment. In the coming years I expect significant progress in sustainable development goals the foundations of which were laid by Calestous .
Calestous focused our attention on the grand challenges of engineering and thus inspired our students to work on solving real world problems. His legacy of innovation and optimism will help shape a more hopeful future.
You will always be remembered for your continued support towards Education.
My husband Amin and I had the pleasure of hosting Calestous,Alison and Eric at Imperial Hotel Kisumu. We, Calestous and I chatted and chatted for hours and at the end of the conversation we decided together we would save the whole world….! That’s what had us in stitches. That’s the last time I saw him. I do think about him…. a lot.
CJ was my teacher, mentor and a friend. He shaped my stay at the Harvard Kennedy School, he i) was instrumental in my choice of career trajectory to shift from the Ministry of Education and join the Presidency, as an Advisor/Secretary, Strategic Initiatives, Cabinet Affairs in the Executive Office of the President. ii) declined a Cabinet position in Government but promised to help in policy formulation and practice design interventions, a promise he kept by shifting our focus in peace building from security profiling to community dialogues, resilience interventions through smart agriculture as well as deploying science, technology and innovation for sustainable and productive entrepreneurship iii) taught me leadership matters so does execution iv) His passionate desire in designing programs that have IMPACT continues to inspire and shape my public advocacy and engagement v) In Climate change, I teach, mobilize, organize, connect communities so as to catalyze climate action, this as a critical part of a LEGACY of people whose vision and effective ACTION led to inspiring, scalable and transformative IMPACT and environmental victories that have not only transformed their operating environments but also prompted rural activism for the BETTER in rural Kenya . We have concretized this through the localized use of renewable energy, the reintroduction of extinct species into restored ecosystems, inspiring and prompting a informed individuals, people/communities determination , commitment, collaboration and INNOVATIVE practices. All this in guiding memories and light of CJ. I heroically participated in the burial of his mother , at his personal call, behest and trusted request… a month later, his burial too. ❤️ My since condolences to Alice, Eric,Roselyn and extended family,ALL his trusted friends, students colleagues across the globe. Fare thee well, MENTOR. You hearty laughter still rings in my ears ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Mukhtar Abdi Ogle
Brother Calestous Juma is forever alive with the rich knowledge contribution that we still value and cherish and all our students continue to be learners,creators, in mentors, innovators and entrepreneurs.We both finish our DPhil in 1986 in University of Sussex .I had the honour to be supervised by the renowned Scholar Chris Freeman and we had a great time together in U.K. https://assistsarchi.wixsite.com/assist & www.sarchi.org & www.nesgloval.org &https://sarchi.org/?p=1527 Looking very much to join the Designing the African Sustainabke fully Developed Future with the Innovation and Entrepreneurial Contributions from the rich work of Calestous Juma.
Calestous was, and always will be for me, the 15-year-old kid in the first row on my right. It was 1969 and I was a new Peace Corps teacher assigned to a brand new secondary school in the remote, lakeside village of Port Victoria. He was a Form 2 student, younger and smaller than most of his classmates, who nevertheless excelled in every subject and competed hard on the athletic fields. He was curious about everything – science and math, history and public affairs, the traditions of his people and the wider world beyond his village. As the years went by, family and career intervened and I lost touch with Port Victoria. So I was surprised beyond belief when, in 1996, I received an email from Calestous.Juma@Harvard.edu. Thus began a renewed friendship that I will always cherish. My family visited Alison and him in Boston and he and Eric visited us in Indianapolis. Several years ago, I got a text from him that was sent from (you guessed it) Port Victoria. We both marveled that the little fishing village without electricity or phones at the end of a dirt road, where we met so many years ago, was at last connected to that wider world. That curiosity about everything and his eternal optimism about the transformative possibilities of technology changed so many lives – including mine.
"Calestous was one of the most down-to-earth, thoughtful, and inspirational people I have known, and I still miss him every day. One of the things I loved most was his sense of humor. As some of you may know, the true boss of Calestous’s office at HKS was a stuffed okapi. Whenever we needed to make a difficult decision, we would turn to the “Great O” for guidance. Okapi now sits in my office, a constant reminder not to take things – or myself—too seriously."
I will always remember my friend Calestous’ visits to Rockport, Massachusetts and how much he enjoyed them. After months of rehab, we walked along the very rocky shoreline from Andrews Point to the Cathedral Rocks. With a huge smile, he said it was the best therapy he has had! In July of 2017, Calestous was not as strong anymore but he was so happy to be able to walk in Halibut Point, where this photo was taken!
In 2016, I was a visiting Professor at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Japan, at the Innovation Institute. I had shared a few beautiful inspirational messages with Prof Juma and he had told me to stay on the edge and challenge convention. I have kept this approach and it is always refreshing to be innovative... I have kept those words in my heart since.
I spent a day in the exclusive company of Professor Juma in London on his last trip to the UK. I learnt more in that day about Africa and its future than could be conveyed in many months and years of study. His experience was astonishing and his ideas inspirational.
I travelled from Uganda to Port Elizabeth to attend the burial of Prof. Calestous Juma. I witnessed the traditionally style the Luhya people send off their loved ones. I had to travel to attend the burial because a few days prior to his passing on, he had invited me and Ugandan top government officials to his Executive Program at Harvard University. Juma had given me copies of his books, the New Harvest and the Innovation and its enemies'. Most of the messages that I had used and continue to use after his death come from the two books of Juma. I continue to use this literature and all other literature available in public databases to advocate for use of innovation in Uganda.
Clet Wandui Masiga
I got the privileged to meet face-to-face with Prof CJ during one of his African presentations held at KICC, Nairobi Kenya where I really got connected with his research work and way of looking at Africa not only most vulnerable but a rich and resource endowed continent hence requires integration of STI into sectors and activities in order to deliver on transformative development agenda for all Africans. I started using systems approach in STI application in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Africa. Our academic giant Prof CJ is with us to date!
Le Prof Juma, demeure la source intarissable de l’Innovation Technologique. La nouvelle génération des scientifiques et innovateurs africains, doit s’en inspirer pour perpétrer ce que cette intelligence hors commun, avait commencé.
PROFESSOR CALESTOUS JUMA: IN MEMORIAM The lives of great men are celebrated not in song and dance, but in the silence of the people they touched and helped across the bay. Such a life was that of Professor Calestous Juma. I first met him in 1980 when he was working for the Environment Liaison Centre as an Editor of their magazine. He had come to the National Council for Science and Technology (where I was working then) to find out about the Council’s initiative in developing fuel efficient charcoal stoves (jikos). In that first meeting, we discovered that we both hailed from Bunyala on the shores of Lake Victoria. Before this encounter I had read many of his letters to the Editor of The Daily Nation Newspapers. Juma was probably the most prolific writer of letters to the Editor of The Daily Nation Newspapers in late 1970s. After this initial meeting, we met socially many times thereafter and I got to know him better. He then left for Sussex University to pursue his masters and doctorate degrees. He came back in 1986 having successfully completed his doctorate degree. In 1988 he established an interdisciplinary research organisation – The African centre for Technology studies (ACTS). He invited me to join the founding board of ACTS. In 1989, he and his wife Allison Juma established a consulting and publishing firm called Initiatives Limited. Again Juma invited me to join the board of this company. Professor Juma was a highly gifted person. He had an exceptional creative imagination. Fascinated by ideas and always looking for ways these fertile ideas could be translated into projects and activities. In Africa and Kenya in particular, he saw a world of great opportunities that waited to be tapped to create wealth and tackle poverty and social inequality. He was keen to inspire youth, friends and colleagues to see this world of possibilities. In short he was a development visionary. In many respects, Professor Juma was a man ahead of his time in thinking and creative imagination. He imagined a world of socially, economically and politically transformed communities in Kenya and Africa. I will forever remember the sobriety and sincerity with which he handled issues. I was always amazed at his enormous intellect for which I will always remember him. As I look back at Juma’s life, there are so many things that could be said. To talk to his family and close associates is to realize that Juma was so much more than a powerful intellectual. To them he was an ever reliable and responsible anchor, a loving and loyal confidant. It is a time like this, (as we commemorate the 4th anniversary of Prof Juma’s death) that one realises how privileged he/she was to know, work, interact and learn from him. He was God’s gift to us. Professor Juma was without doubt the most internationally recognised person who hailed from Bunyala. The Abanyala (people from Bunyala) are proud to have produced him and shared him with the rest of the world. In his death, we the Abanyala and indeed Kenyans as a whole lost a brilliant, gifted, dedicated and honest person, and a dear friend.