​Dr ​Alex Awiti

​Vice Provost, East Africa​​​​


Prior to assuming the role of Vice Provost, Professor Awiti was the Founding Director of the East Africa Institute (EAI) of Aga Khan University, a regional platform for policy research, performance and public engagement, which focuses on the consequential drivers of socio-economic, environmental and institutional change.​

Prior to joining the Aga Khan University, Professor Awiti was a postdoctoral fellow at the Earth Institute at Columbia University in the City of New York. He was also an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. At the Earth Institute he worked under the mentorship of Jeffery D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development and Health Policy and Management, and Professor Cheryl Palm, leading soil scientist and agronomist.

Professor Awiti began his research, academic and policy career over 25 years ago at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi. Professor Awiti and colleagues pioneered novel approaches for rapid diagnosis of land health. As the head of GIS/Remote Sensing, he set up the Decision Support laboratory at ICRAF, with a focus on diagnostic surveillance of land health problems. His early work at the watershed scale was critical to delineating hydrological watersheds the define the Lake Victoria basin and using digital terrain models to derive soil erosion hotspots from flow accumulation models. He is also one of the leading thinkers on Africa’s agricultural transformation, advocating for a people-and-ecology-centred transformation. He is a peer-reviewer for leading international journals like Ecology and Society, Geoderma and Environmental Management.

Professor Awiti is a transdisciplinary scholar, whose research intersects agriculture, ecology, education, society, population health policy and the economy. As a public intellectual he has written over 730 opinion articles published in leading Kenyan newspapers and international publications, including the International Policy Digest and The Conversation. He was also speaker at the TEDx Nairobi 2013 and is a regular and commentator on public policy issues on news networks in East Africa and international media such as CNBC, CGTN, Bloomberg News and Al Jazeera TV. 

Under his leadership, the EAI conducted one of the most authoritative, widely cited studies on East African youth. Country reports for Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania released between January and October 2016 have generated unprecedented engagement, with over 400 news stories, feature articles, and opinion commentary in both print and electronic media. This study has brought the youth issue to the centre of discourse about East Africa’s present and future.

Using population census, economic survey, demographic health survey and population and household census data Prof Awiti is currently using multivariate statistical methods such as tree classification and cluster analysis and principal components analysis to uncover the underlying pattern of spatial inequality in Kenya. This work builds on previous work done by colleagues on spatial and fractal poverty traps.

Professor Awiti is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at University of the Fraser Valley in BC, Canada. He is a Governor of the Board of Governors of the of IDRC (International Development Research Centre), a Crown corporation of the Canadian government that funds research in developing countries. He is a member of the steering committee for the Public Service Fellowship Program in Kenya. He is also a member of the Biodiversity Advisory Panel for the Kenya Joint Venture (KJV) comprising Africa Oil and Maersk that is carrying out oil and gas exploration and appraisal activities in Northwestern Kenya.

Professor Awiti is an alumnus of the CSC Leaders program, a global leadership program for exceptional senior leaders. He holds PhD in Ecosystems Ecology from University of Nairobi.