African Engineers: Dr E Evans-Anfom

African Engineers: Dr E Evans-Anfom

The Second Vice Chancellor of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana was not an engineer or scientist, he was a distinguished medical doctor. dr Emanuel Evans-Anfom, who served from 1967 to 1973, was appointed to succeed Nkrumah’s friend Dr. RP Baffour appointed. The new vice chancellor was not well received at a science and technology university that had no medical school. The general view among academic staff was that the rector should be assigned to one of the university’s existing faculties. However, by the end of his tenure, it was generally agreed that Dr. Evans-Anfom had been a successful leader, not least because he made the decision to found the Technology Consultancy Center (TCC) before he had any assurance from government or international development agencies that funds would be made available.

dr Evans-Anfom came from a prominent mixed-race Accra family, as the Welsh name Evans suggests. dr A suave, fair-skinned, soft-spoken gentleman with a high-class English accent, Evans-Anfom fitted many people’s perception of a successful Harley Street specialist. Perhaps it was his looks and manners that prolonged his unpopularity, but there was no doubt that Dr. Evans-Anfom had more than usual difficulties chairing the Academic Board and gaining its support for its various initiatives. In fact, his rule would have been almost impossible had it not been supported by a strong minority of expatriate members.

dr Evans-Anfom firmly believed that a university should not only teach and research; it should also have a “third role” in service to the community. He wanted KNUST not to be an ivory tower, but a dynamic force in national economic development. Shortly after taking office, he asked the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) of Dr. EF Schumacher to send a delegation to Kumasi to discuss the university’s “third role”. The mission of Sir John Palmer and Mr. George McRobbie took place and a plan was drawn up for a Technology Advisory Center. Then, in 1971, Professor Harold Dickinson of the University of Edinburgh spent six months at KNUST speaking to local business people and entrepreneurs to gain community support for the initiative.

Having a medic in charge of KNUST exacerbated a long-held grievance in Ghanaian academic circles. Professors and lecturers at the University of Ghana School of Medicine, Legon, Accra were paid a salary supplement to compensate for the inability to engage in consulting work. The engineers at KNUST felt that they too should either get the job or undertake paid consulting services for outside agencies. The dispute led to a crisis in 1970 with the resignation of 13 engineering teachers.

With the help of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, London, short and long-term replacements were recruited from Britain and elsewhere, who arrived in Kumasi in early 1971. Now the university had a corps of willing young foreign academics anxious to get involved in the new field of intermediate (appropriate) technology, as well as a group of Ghanaian engineers equally anxious to secure paid outside consulting contracts. The time seemed right to proceed with the TCC, which could meet both needs, but no funds were available for that purpose. At that time, Dr. Evans-Anfom to release funds from the university’s meager reserves and asked the first director to open the TCC office on January 11, 1972.

Two days later, the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Kofi Busia was overthrown in the military coup that brought Colonel IK Acheampong to power. Changes at the top were expected to herald changes in national institutions, and Dr. Evans-Anfom must have felt his days as Vice-Chancellor were numbered. However, he was able to hold out for over a year, and some time after his departure in 1973 he reappeared as the Government’s Education Commissioner. In this capacity, he visited KNUST in his ministerial Range Rover luxury 4×4 sedan vehicle and called the TCC to review progress. Not without pride, he called himself the “father of the technology consulting center”.

Thanks to John Powell | #African #Engineers #EvansAnfom


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