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Sanginga bows out of IITA

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
02 December 2022   |   9:31 am
The outgoing Director-General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State, Dr. Emmanuel Nteranya Sanginga has been lauded for developing a strategy that turned around the narrative of the Africa’s biggest research organisation.

Sanginga

The outgoing Director-General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Oyo State, Dr. Emmanuel Nteranya Sanginga has been lauded for developing a strategy that turned around the narrative of the Africa’s biggest research organisation.

According to a tribute written by the Nigeria Country Director, Sasakawa Africa Association, Dr. Godwin Atser, the strategy was people-oriented, which prioritised research, partnership, capacity building, and impact on the farm level.

He said: “From the outside, this approach was criticised as taking IITA to the realm of development, but to us, in IITA, this was certainly what Africa needed—a de-emphasising on research pilots to delivery at scale.

“Through this strategy, IITA supported countries such as Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, etc., to transform their agricultural sectors. The institute was able to increase its annual budget by more than threefold from $40m plus.”

Atser noted that when Sanginga took over as the first African-born Director General of the institute, the appointment came with mixed feelings — on one side, “there was the fulfillment that, alas, one of our own — an African — is a director general, but on the other side, there was the apprehension on whether an African will lead and deliver without sinking the ship.

“It is worth noting that at the time Dr. Sanginga took over leadership, the world had just come out of the 2008 food crisis, and global attention was in the direction of fighting terrorism. Donor funding to agriculture dropped, and the agenda was on how to track down Osama bin Laden—a key plotter of the attack.

“In the days that followed his assumption in office, most of us cautiously watched how this new director general would navigate this difficult terrain.

“On the domestic front, Dr. Sanginga faced a staff strength with low morale —most of whom came to the office because they had no other source of livelihood. On their faces, one could perceive the handwriting with the inscription: “I am just buying time. I will soon quit”.  The next thing that would follow was the massive resignation of scientists, signifying all wasn’t well. As the number of voluntary resignations swelled, Dr. Sanginga passed the task to his subordinate. Of course, this wasn’t cheery,” he said.

Atser said Dr. Sanginga changed the narrative with his reassuring message to staff and a morale booster. “The key takeaway from the message was that things would be better if we all worked for the common good of IITA. He also opened doors to staff and was willing to take advice from both the high and low.

He said: “I must say that while there were issues with staff morale; infrastructurally, IITA was not better. The institute had not caught up with the rapid advancement of science in terms of infrastructure. In addition, some of the research facilities had depreciated – the buildings inclusive….

“Dr. Sanginga kept his promise of rewarding staff, increasing remuneration within the framework of current realities, and promoting exceptional brains. Today, IITA is on a better footing in research, delivery, and infrastructure.”
Appointed on November 1, 2011, Dr. Sanginga, he concluded his tenure few days ago.