For the last twenty years, Amini Kajunju has been utilizing her experience in entrepreneurial and economic development to improve Africa’s economy. Because of her dedicated work, she was selected to receive the Kennedy Center’s Distinguished Service Award last fall.
Kajunju cares deeply about the African continent, and affecting meaningful change has been challenging. One of her priorities is to educate people who are eager to help Africa with its needs. “Many Americans think that whatever there is in America, we need to transport it to Africa and then life will just be better,” Kajunju said in a KSL interview. But the continent’s problems are complex and specific to its cultures and environments, and solutions must accommodate those variables.
Kajunju also strives to communicate that Africa is a strong continent capable of supporting international business. She says that this knowledge will increase as more people come to understand the African people and see that they aren’t that different from the rest of us: they wake up, send their kids to school, go to work, and seek after dreams and aspirations. Also essential to understanding these people is knowing Africa’s geography. Most people see Africa as a single entity, despite the fact that it consists of fifty-four countries, and they often apply news about one country to the entire continent. (One recent example is the Ebola outbreak, which was present in only three African countries.)
Another way Kajunju seeks to promote economic growth in Africa is by increasing access to higher education throughout the continent. She believes more scholarships should help and encourage Africans to attend college within Africa, not outside of it. Increasing college attendance within the continent will help colleges grow in finances and reputation, provide professional training, and produce educated leaders.
Kajunju hopes that by accomplishing these and similar goals, the world will come to know Africa as a place of entrepreneurship, international business, advanced education, and prosperous living.
Amini Kajunju is the president and CEO of the Africa-America Institute, a nonprofit organization based in the United States and dedicated to strengthening human capacity in Africa.