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Barnabas Nawangwe: Africa’s only Professor of Architecture

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In Uganda’s academic circles mention of the name Barnabas Nawangwe elicits anxious gazes, as almost everyone around struggles to come to terms with the possibility of an encounter with Africa’s only Full Professor of Architecture.

Similarly, mention of Prof. Nawangwe’s name attracts similar reactions in amphitheaters and conference rooms across the globe. A soft-spoken and erudite gentleman, Prof. Nawangwe is a global icon whose academic and social exploits know no bounds.

Born in 1956, the 61-year old Professor Nawangwe is the current Vice Chancellor of Makerere University in charge of Finance and Administration, having risen to that position five years ago. Previously, he served as the founding Principal of the College of Engineering Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT), at the introduction of the collegiate system at Makerere University.

The scholarly product of the Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture, Prof. Nawangwe earned his Doctorate in 1989, after presentation of a thesis paper titled: ‘Mass Urban Housing in Third World Cities’.

Before that, between 1976 and 1983, he had earned a Master’s of Architecture Degree from the same university, presenting a thesis titled: ‘Environmental characteristics of Uganda’s middle income residential houses: a case of Jinja’.

Since then, Prof. Nawangwe has carried out several high-profile academic engagements that include signing of cooperation memoranda with various universities around the world, and also held a number of responsible positions in the academia, globally.

Indeed, with a 28-year experience working with top universities in Africa and around the globe, Prof. Nawangwe has intellectually contributed to the development of over 40 policies in governance, financial and human resource management, teaching and student affairs at Makerere University, adopted by the university in December 2014.

Little wonder then that in 1987 when he joined Makerere University, Prof. Nawangwe, despite being a ‘Teaching Assistant’ then, was assigned the task of commencing preparations for the establishment of the Department of Architecture, and also to ensure the University developed a degree programme for Architecture.

In 1989, the year in which the Department of Architecture was established, Prof. Nawangwe was appointed full lecturer and also tasked to head the new department. True to his conviction, in just under five years, he managed to have the department validated by the credible and influential Commonwealth Association of Architects (CAA), making it just one of the five departments accredited in Africa at the time.

His star did not dim; between 2002 and 2013, he rose through the ranks to become the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration (DVC/FA), a position he has gainfully used to further hundreds of cooperation links between Makerere University and the rest of the academic and non-academic world.

For example, during his tenure as DVC/FA Prof. Nawangwe spearheaded the establishment of Makerere University Holdings, an undertaking that was intended at streamlining the operations of the various commercial ventures the university was involved with. Indeed, Prof. Nawangwe’s ‘Marshall Plan’ is so enormous, that it also involves the construction of a five-star hotel on one of the university’s prime land in Kampala.

Other huge projects include the establishment of the Makerere University Endowment Fund, and the successful negotiations with the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), for the expansion of the Makerere Hill road, a development that has changed the outlook of the university, through which all sidewalks have been revitalized, while the street lighting at the campus has also improved tremendously. Most importantly the partnership with KCCA with see the authority construct a perimeter wall fence along the 350 metre stretch along Makerere Hill Road, from the Jjunju Road junction to the Apollo Kaggwa road junction. Unsurprisingly, for all his negotiating skills the KCCA tagged Prof. Nawangwe ‘The Best Uganda Negotiator’!

But Prof Nawangwe’s prowesses are not only academic; the man has a social life that has endeared him to both his villagemates at his ancestral home in Busia, and in Kampala where he has lived almost all his working life.

Bach home and in his private capacity as a responsible citizen, Prof. Nawangwe has held a number of responsibilities in the community, among them being a board member of Busia Holdings and Busia Millers Ltd.

He also sits on the boards of Barclays Bank; the Makerere University Multi-purpose Cooperative Society, the Gatsby Trust/Microfinance and his brainchild, the Makerere University Holdings Ltd.

A devout Protestant, Prof. Nawangwe is a member of the Church of Uganda Busia Archdeaconry Synod, and also, as an eminent ‘son of the soil’ he sits on various boards of local primary schools in the district.

Needless to say, Prof. Nawangwe’s illustrious academic profile which involves supervising 6 Phd students, 10 Masters and 5 post-graduate diploma students, cannot be complete without mention of the 44 Publications he has authored, and the various external examination assignments he has carried out in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

Against such a background, and coupled with the hundreds of social, professional and academic engagements he has carried out, Prof. Nawangwe might just easily turn out to be the 15th Vice Chancellor of Makerere University.

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