Africa Food Prize Committee

H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo

Olusegun Obasanjo served as President of Nigeria from May 1999 to May 2007, the culmination of a life spent on the front line of African politics.

In 2008 he was appointed by the United Nations as a special envoy for Africa and has since overseen democratic elections on behalf of the African Union.

H.E. President Obasanjo is also a passionate advocate of Africa´s agricultural development and is himself a farmer. As President, he launched ´Operation Feed the Nation´ and has been a prominent advocate for agribusiness in Nigeria and across Africa.

He is especially committed to creating new opportunities in agriculture for youth, an aim he pursues through the Feed Africa Initiative launched by the Olusegun Obasanjo Foundation.

Dr. Joachim von Braun

Dr. Joachim von Braun is von Braun is an economist, with a Doctoral degree in agricultural economics from University of Göttingen, Germany.

He joined ZEF as Professor and Director of the Department for Economic and Technological Change in December 2009. He was also Director of ZEF during its foundation phase 1997-2002.

He was Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) based in Washington, DC, U.S.A. 2002 to 2009. His research addresses international and development economics topics, including markets and trade; poverty; health and nutrition; agriculture, and science and technology.

Dr. von Braun served on the Yara Prize Committee from 2012-2015.

Dr. Eleni Z. Gabre-Madhin

Dr. Eleni Gabre Madhin created the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) and is scaling the model to other food insecure countries, empowering millions of farmers by linking them to the global economy.

An internationally recognized economist, Dr. Gabre-Madhin has held senior positions with the World Bank, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

She founded and served as CEO of the Ethiopian Coffee Exchange (ECX), which boosted trade and incomes for smallholder producers, an achievement that earned her the 2012 Yara Prize.

Dr. Gabre-Madhin has a PhD from Stanford University in the USA, where she received an Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Agricultural Economics Association.

She has authored numerous publications, including a major book on market reform in Africa, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg

Dr. Kamau-Rutenberg is the Executive Director for African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD). Prior to joining AWARD, Dr. Kamau-Rutenberg founded and served as Executive Director of Akili Dada, an award-winning leadership incubator that invests in high-achieving young women from under-resourced families, who are passionate about driving change in their communities.

Wanjiru also served as an assistant professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and a lecturer in International Relations at Hekima College, a constituent college of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Her academic research and teaching interests centered on African politics, gender, international relations, ethnicity, and democratization, and the role of technology in social activism.

Dr. Kamau-Rutenberg has received widespread recognition for her work investing in women, including being honored as a White House Champion of Change, named one of the 100 Most Influential Africans by New African magazine, recognized as a Ford Foundation Champion of Democracy, awarded the  United Nations Intercultural Innovation Award, and named one of Kenya’s Top 40 Women Under Age 40 among others.

She is a member of the Malabo Montpellier Panel, a high-level panel of independent experts that supports African governments and civil society identify and implement policies that enhance agriculture, food and nutrition security across the continent. Kamau-Rutenberg also sits on the Board of Twaweza, East Africa’s largest public and policy engagement platform, and the African Democratic Institute, which works to enhance democratic values across the continent.

Born in Kenya, Wanjiru holds a PhD and a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, and a BA in Politics from Whitman College, Washington, U.S.A.

Ms. Sheila Sisulu

Ms. Sisulu is the former Special Envoy for Food and Nutrition Security of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Republic of South Africa. Ms. Sisulu also served as Deputy Executive Director for Hunger Solutions in the Office of the Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP).

From 2003, Ms. Sisulu served as WFP’s Deputy Director for Policy and External Affairs Department. Prior to joining WFP, Ms. Sisulu was South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States. Her diplomatic career began in 1997 as Consul General in New York and as Ambassador to Washington two years later.

Ms. Sisulu has 25 years’ experience in South African politics and government. As a special adviser to the national minister of education and a member of the team assigned for drawing up new legislation, she was responsible for policy on gender equity, youth development and early childhood care and education.

She holds a BA degree from the University of Botswana Lesotho and Swaziland (UBLS) in Lesotho and a post-graduate degree as Bachelor of Education (University of Witwatersrand, 1990). Ms. Sisulu also holds honorary doctorate from the University of Maryland and the City University of New York.

Mrs. Sisulu served on the Yara Prize Committee from 2013-2015.

Dr. Vera Songwe

Dr Vera Songwe was recently appointed as the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) based in Addis Ababa.

Prior to this new role, Dr Songwe had joined the World Bank Group in 1998 as a Young Professional. She worked in the Middle East and North Africa region covering Morocco and Tunisia in the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) unit. She later joined the East Asia and Pacific region, PREM unit where she played several roles including Regional PRSP Coordinator, and Country Sector Coordinator and Senior Economist for the Philippines. She has also worked Cambodia and on Mongolia as Country Economist managing different World Bank programs and the economic and growth policy dialogue.

Prior to joining the Bank, Dr Songwe was a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California and at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, USA. She has published several articles on governance, fiscal policy, agriculture and commodity price volatility and trade and new financial infrastructure.

Dr Songwe holds a PhD. in Mathematical Economics from the Center for Operations Research & Econometrics from the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium. She holds a BA in Economics and a BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.