At the 30th annual Conference of the Association of Third-World Studies, Weber State University economics professor John Mukum
Mbaku was honored with the 2012 Topp’s African-Centered Scholars of the Decade Award. The awards ceremony convened at Berry College in Rome, Ga.
Mbaku, along with nine others, received the award that is given once every 10 years to 10 individuals who have inspired communities of scholars and investigated African issues. He said he knew two of the other recipients, a professor at the University of Western Iowa and a professor at Ohio State University.
Mbaku is also a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit organization that conducts public policy research in the United States and other countries. Mbaku does research for them in Africa as part of the Africa Growth Initiative.
In addition to his work with Brookings Institute, Mbaku has been teaching at WSU’s Goddard School of Business and Economics since 1991, and currently teaches three classes. Mbaku also speaks four languages — French, Moghamo, Mughaka and English.
“I also work with this group in Africa called the African Economic Research Consortium located in Nairobi, Kenya,” Mbaku said. He said he travels to Kenya at least twice a year for a biannual workshop. “I have worked with them for 10 years.”
According to Mbaku, the AERC group monitors the training of people who want to become economists at the master’s and Ph.D. levels at universities throughout Africa.
“What I do is they bring some of these students to Nairobi twice a year, and I go there and we try to advise them on their training,” Mbaku said.
He said the main reason for the program was to ensure these students receive the same education they would from a foreign university. Many of these students go on to become professors and researchers. Mbaku said they work for the government or private industries.
He said he plans on going back to Africa in January to attend a conference put on by the Brookings Institute in Uganda about the management of natural resources.
“I enjoy teaching all the classes that I teach,” said Mbaku, but he said his favorite would have to be economic development. He said he hopes his students at WSU will “go out and make the world a better place,” even if they don’t stay in economics and go into different professions such as law or public service.
“The important thing is that they make a difference,” he said.