Who is Kandeh Yumkella?
Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella is best-known for his post as Under-Secretary-General and as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All. He is also CEO of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. Yumkella has worked in the field of international development for over 20 years. After studying agriculture in Sierra Leone and agricultural economics in the United States, Yumkella took various posts related to agriculture and economy, in both the private and public sector. In addition to serving as the Minister of Trade, Industry and State Enterprises in Sierra Leone, he has held academic positions at American universities and various key policy positions within UNIDO. Yumkella is regularly called upon by experts for his opinions on foreign and domestic policy as well as themes of international cooperation, in light of current economic conditions. Yumkella has served as the Special Representative for the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative since September 2012, when he was appointed to the post by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Yumkella is known for his passionate commitment to issues of sustainability and global energy use. His projects regularly focus on ensuring universal access to energy as well as more efficient, sustainable and responsible methods of energy production. Yumkella’s work involves international coordination and collaboration, as well as giving support to developing countries within the UN system.
Childhood & Early Life
Kandeh Yumkella was born on July 5, 1959, in the town of Kychom, in the Kambia District of Sierra Leone’s Northern Province.
In 1982, Yumkella received his bachelor’s degree in General Agriculture from the Njala University College of Sierra Leone.
In 1986, Yumkella completed a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics at Cornell University, United States.
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In 1991, Yumkella received his doctorate in Agricultural Economics at the University of Illinois, where he would later hold academic positions.
From 1987 through 1996, Yumkella held various academic posts at the University of Illinois and at Michigan State University.
In 1994, just three years after receiving his doctorate from the University of Illinois, Yumkella was named the Minister for Trade, Industry and State Enterprises in Sierra Leone. He held the post until 1995.
In 1996, Yumkella was named the Special Advisor to the UNIDO Director-General, then Mauricio de Maria y Campos, and began his work for the United Nations International Development Organization.
Between 1996 and 2000, he served within UNIDO as the Director of the Africa and Least Developed Countries Regional Bureau.
Between 2000 and 2003, Yumkella became the UNIDO Representative and Director of the Regional Industrial Development Centre, in Nigeria.
Between 2003 and 2005, Yumkella served as Senior Advisor to the then UNIDO Director-General, Carlos Alfredo Magariños.
In 2005, Yumkella was named the Director General of UNIDO, a post which he held until 2013, largely focusing on issues of climate change, poverty, job and wealth creation.
In 2008, Yumkella was appointed the Chair of UN-Energy by the present UN Secretary-General, making him responsible for the oversight of all UN organizations involved with energy issues.
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In 2008, Yumkella also became an active member of the UN Development Group, a group devoted to determining and coordinating the United Nations’ top global development priorities.
In September 2011, Yumkella was appointed by the UN Secretary-General to co-chair the High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All.
In 2012, Yumkella continued to lead the High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All during what the UN General Assembly established as the International Year for Sustainable Energy.
In September of 2012, Yumkella was appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as the Special Representative for the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.
Awards & Achievements
In June of 2006, Yumkella was awarded the ‘Prix De la Fondation’ for his work in global leadership and development. He was presented with the prize by Prince Albert of Monaco.
In 2008, Yumkella was awarded the Champion of Youth Award at the 4th World Youth Congress in Quebec City, Canada.
In 2008, the University of Madras awarded Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella with an honorary degree in recognition of his public services.
The Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade has named Yumkella as an Honorary Distinguished Visiting Professor.
In March 2011, Yumkella was awarded a Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) from Njala University in Njala, Sierra Leone.
In 2012, Yumkella was awarded the United Nations Association Global Leadership Award as well as the South-South and Triangular Cooperation Visionary Award.
In April 2012, Yumkella was awarded an honorary professorship at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
In 2013, Yumkella received the Energy Efficiency Visionary award for his commitment to finding sustainable energy sources through investment, education and modernization.
On April 17, 2013, the Green, White and Blue Commission announced Yumkella as the recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award, to mark the 52nd anniversary of Sierra Leone’s independence.
Personal Life & Legacy
Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella is married to Philomena Yumkella and has two daughters. The family lives in Vienna, Austria, where Yumkella works for the UNIDO at the Vienna International Centre.
Yumkella has referenced the innovation and determination of Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela as examples that “one man can indeed change the world”.
Yumkella has described himself as “a child of globalization”, as evidenced by his access to education in foreign countries.
Opinion pieces by Dr. Kandeh K. Yumkella have appeared in various major international media outlets, including The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune and The Guardian.