African Engineers: Dr E Evans-Anfom

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The second Vice-Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana, was not an engineer or a scientist, he was a distinguished medical practitioner. Dr Emanuel Evans-Anfom, who served from 1967 to 1973, was appointed by the military regime that overthrew Kwame Nkrumah on 24 February 1966, to replace Nkrumah’s friend, Dr R P Baffour. The new Vice-Chancellor was not well received in a university of science and technology that had no medical school. The general view amongst the academic staff was that the Vice-Chancellor should relate to one of the existing faculties of the university. Nevertheless, it was generally agreed at the end of his term of service that Dr Evans-Anfom had been a successful leader, not least because he took the decision to establish the Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC) before he had any assurance from the government or international development agencies that funding would be provided.

Dr Evans-Anfom hailed from a prominent Accra family of mixed blood, as signified by the Welsh name Evans. A suave light-skinned, softly spoken gentleman with a high-class English accent, Dr Evans-Anfom matched many people’s perception of a successful Harley Street specialist. It may have been his appearance and manner that prolonged his unpopularity, but there was no doubt that Dr Evans-Anfom had more than the usual difficulty chairing the Academic Board and winning its support for his various initiatives. In fact his rule might have been almost impossible had it not been for the support of a strong minority of expatriate members.

Dr Evans-Anfom believed strongly that a university should not only teach and research; it should also have a ‘third role’ in service to the community. He wanted KNUST to be not an Ivory Tower but a dynamic force in national economic development. Soon after taking office he asked Dr E F Schumacher’s Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) to send a mission to Kumasi to advise on 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 Consultancy Centre. Then in 1971, Professor Harold Dickinson of Edinburgh University spent six months at KNUST talking to local businessmen and entrepreneurs to gain community support for the initiative.

Having a medical man in charge of KNUST exacerbated a long held grievance in Ghanaian academic circles. Professors and lecturers at the Medical School of the University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, were paid a salary supplement to compensate for lack of opportunity to undertake consultancy work. Engineers at KNUST felt that they too should either be paid the supplement or allowed to do paid consultancy for outside agencies. The dispute led to a crisis in 1970 with the resignation of 13 engineering teachers.

With the aid of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, London, short and long-term replacements were recruited from the UK and elsewhere, arriving in Kumasi early in 1971. Now the university had a corps of willing young foreign academics anxious to engage in the new field of intermediate (appropriate) technology, as well as a band of Ghanaian engineers equally anxious to gain paid outside consultancy contracts. The time seemed right to go ahead with the TCC, which might fulfil both needs, but no funds were available for this purpose. It was then that Dr Evans-Anfom decided to release funds from the university’s slender reserves and asked the first director to open the TCC office on 11 January 1972.

Two days later, the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Kofi Busia was overthrown by the military coup that brought Colonel I K Acheampong to power. Changes at the top were expected to herald changes lower down in national institutions and Dr Evans-Anfom must have felt that his days as Vice-Chancellor were numbered. He was able to hold on for over a year, however, and sometime after his departure in 1973 he reappeared as the government’s Commissioner for Education. It was in this capacity that he visited KNUST in his ministerial Range Rover luxury 4×4 saloon car, and called at the TCC to review progress. It was with some pride that he referred to himself as ‘The Father of the Technology Consultancy Centre.’

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