Members of the Board of Trustees,
Members of the Government,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Deans, Faculty and Staff,
Parents, Supporters and Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen, and most especially those graduating today:
It is an honour and a great pleasure to be here to share this important occasion with you.
First, I would like to congratulate each and every graduand. This is a defining moment for all of you. It is a day of a celebration – a day when you look back on the many challenges you have overcome, and look forward to those that lie ahead, knowing that you have the skills and knowledge needed to meet them. It is a day that you never forget.
I remember my own graduation quite well, and I can assure you that I could not have guessed I would go on to my current position as Deputy Governor of the Bank of Tanzania. No doubt the time will come in your own careers when you think back to today and are amazed at how far you have travelled, and how much you have achieved. That is the power of a great education: by turning you into a lifelong learner, it makes it possible to adapt, to grow and to do what you once would have thought inconceivable.
Graduands, I know that you have made many sacrifices in order to earn your degrees. But I believe it is important on this occasion to recognise not only your own efforts but the efforts of those who have supported you on your journeys. I have in mind your family members. The opportunity to pursue higher education rarely comes without a cost to the student’s family – whether that cost be financial, or whether it involves sacrifices of time, or the accumulation of responsibilities that allow the learner to focus on his or her studies.
Similarly, I would note that none of us would be here today were it not for the faculty and staff of the University. You too should feel proud today.
Ladies and gentlemen, the importance of higher education to the future of Tanzania and the rest of East Africa can hardly be overstated. In 2007, shortly before he became Governor of the Bank of Tanzania, Dr. Benno Ndulu authored a report with several colleagues at the World Bank on “The Challenges of African Growth.” [https://tinyurl.com/hha52em]
The report identified four areas where investment was critical to accelerating economic growth and improving people’s well-being. One of them was innovation, and within that area, higher education was identified as especially important. In its essence, the argument was simple: the more educated and skilled a person, the more productive and innovative they tend to be, and hence the greater their contribution to economic growth.
The amount of knowledge and technology that we can draw upon today in order to solve the many challenges we face is staggering. The smartphones we carry in our pockets are more powerful devices than the supercomputers that were in use when I was studying for my MBA.
Yet we still face a dilemma: if we don’t have enough people to act on the basis of that knowledge, or to use that technology, very little will change. As Dr. Ndulu’s report stated: “Like a big book in the sky, technological knowledge and inventions are a global public good. But one can only use them if one can reach the book, turn the pages and read from it.”
Hence, the report called for an expansion in university enrollment (and, interestingly, it cited former AKU Trustee Calestous Juma!). And it urged that the growth in the number of private universities continue.
Graduands, you are the kinds of individuals that Dr. Ndulu’s report envisioned: those who have the ability not only to turn the pages of that big book in the sky, but to add a chapter to it of your own, which others might learn from and put to good use.
And, similarly, the Aga Khan University is the kind of institution we need more of: globally connected, focused on quality and striving to make a difference in people’s lives. When I think of what AKU has accomplished and invested in Tanzania – and the fact that it plans to invest even more – I think we are quite lucky. That commitment shows great faith in our country and its future.
Above all, though, graduands – we need you. We need every one of you, and all of your energy, passion and talent. As nurses, doctors and teachers, you are some of the most valuable professionals that we have.
To those of you who are educators: the future is quite literally in your hands. We will be counting on you to develop the future scientists, engineers, economists, lawyers, writers, artists, entrepreneurs, policymakers and politicians that we need. It is a weighty responsibility that rests on your shoulders. But I have no doubt that you are equal to the task. You would not be sitting here today if that were not the case.
To those of you who are doctors and nurses: we need you not only to heal the sick who present themselves to you, but – as you have learned in your time at AKU – to educate the public so that people can avoid illness in the first place. If you can do that, the contribution you will make will be truly enormous.
“Education,” Nelson Mandela famously said, “is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Now it is up to you to prove to it.
Congratulations again, and God bless you!