SOAS Honorary Doctorate His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II discusses Africa’s future at SOAS graduation

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The former banker and anti-corruption campaigner, His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II, CON (Sarkin Kano) received an Honorary Doctorate from SOAS University of London President, Dame Graça Machel, at the 2019 SOAS graduation ceremonies. In his address, His Highness discussed the future of Africa and the role graduates had to play.

His Highness said to SOAS graduates: “You’re going into a world that is full of promise but also full of challenges. Many of the values that have made the world a peaceful and happy place are under threat. And for those of you working on Africa, it is important to recognise the grave existential threat facing the continent.”

He noted the challenges the continent faced and reflected on the role of the African elite: “Jean-Paul Sartre noted that ‘in the colonies the truth stood naked but in the fatherland they preferred it clothed in robes’. Let us assume that as Africans and Muslims that we locked ourselves in a room with no American or Europeans looking in and spoke to ourselves the naked truth…Is Africa not projected to have 85% of all those living in extreme poverty in the world by 2050?…Have the African elite, who took over from the colonisers and settlers, not done more damage to the poor in their countries through corruption and bad policies than the imperialists?”

His Highness shared his belief in the impact the graduates could have on Africa and noted that change was possible: “We always blame the victims. When we do not build schools we say the poor do not want to educate their girls. The poor people of Africa are not responsible for their poverty. We are responsible. If this is true then you know what you have to do. You have no choice. You are the future and the future is in your hands. Step out, take control of it, change and stop waiting for us to do it for you. Because sadly, we have failed.”

He added: “The good news is that change is possible. We do have a number of good examples. Rwanda, Botswana, Ethiopia. A few other countries are on their way: Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco. They have to varying degrees shown an appreciation of the need for sound economic policy, and social policy and investment in human capital. There’s also room for impact. Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt together account for 50% of Africa’s GDP. Getting these countries right will go a long way towards averting the future we now predict.”

He opened his address by acknowledging the links between SOAS and Kano and noting prominent SOAS alumni who had an impact on the region including Professor M.K.M. Galadanci who received their PhD from SOAS and was an expert in Hausa Studies.

His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II became the 14th Fulani Emir of Kano, Nigeria in June 2014. His Highness was appointed Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2009. He led a campaign against high level corruption in government in Nigeria and pioneered the introduction of Islamic banking into the Nigerian banking sector. Alongside his anti-corruption work in the financial industry, His Highness pursued his scholarship in Islamic history, thought, and law. He continues to bring his wealth of expertise to resolving significant development challenges including public health, girl-child education and reforms of Muslim family law as well as the systems of zakat and auqaf (endowments). His Highness has received many awards including the Global Central Bank Governor of the Year 2011 from the Financial Times and the Nigerian National honour of ‘Commander of the Order of the Niger’ (CON). His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II received an Honorary Doctorate from SOAS.

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