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Kandeh Yumkella

Kandeh Yumkella

Mr. Kandeh K. Yumkella is the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). With over 20 years experience in international development cooperation, he has provided leadership for various initiatives and promoted increased international cooperation in the area of sustainable industrial development, trade capacity-building, renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In addition, Mr. Yumkella has served in various other capacities within the United Nations system including as Chair of UN-Energy, a system-wide coordination body of the United Nations dealing with energy-related issues and as Chair of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC). More recently he was appointed as Co- Chair of the High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All and he also serves as a member of the Rio+20 Principals Group as well as the United Nations Development Group (UNDG). Mr. Yumkella has also authored and co-authored several publications.


In December 2005 Mr. Yumkella was appointed as Director-General of UNIDO, having previously worked in various high-level policy positions in UNIDO, including as Special Adviser to two previous Directors-General and as Director of the Africa and Least Developed Countries Regional Bureau as well as Representative and Director of the first UNIDO Regional Office in Nigeria. He was re-appointed as Director-General of UNIDO for a second four-year term in December 2009.

Prior to working for UNIDO, he was the Minister for Trade, Industry and State Enterprises of the Republic of Sierra Leone from 1994-1995. Between 1987 and 1996, while furthering his studies, he held various academic positions at Michigan State University and the University of Illinois.

United Nations international development experience

  • In recognition of his leadership and his passion for energy and environment-related causes, Kandeh Yumkella was appointed as Chair of UN-Energy in 2008 by the United Nations Secretary-General. UN-Energy brings together all the United Nations organizations dealing with energy issues. As its Chairman, Mr. Yumkella brought a renewed and vital focus to global energy issues and he helped to coordinate the United Nations response to energy issues.
  • In September 2011, Kandeh Yumkella was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General as Co-Chair of the High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All. This followed a decision by the United Nations General Assembly to designate 2012 as the International Year for Sustainable Energy for All. As Co-Chair of this High-level Group, Kandeh Yumkella helps to guide the initiative aimed at highlighting the need for universal access to energy as well as increased energy efficiency and enhanced deployment of renewable sources of energy.
  • As Chair of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC) from 2008 to 2010, Kandeh Yumkella played a leading international role in identifying the lack of access to energy as a crucial constraint for development efforts. The Group’s report, which was issued in April 2010, confirmed the need to increase energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy options in order to deal with the climate change challenge and realize the Millennium Development Goals.
  • More recently, Kandeh Yumkella has been appointed as a Member of the Rio+20 Principals Group, which is playing a crucial role in the preparations for the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. Since 2008 he has also been an active member of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), which helps to set and coordinate the global development priorities of the United Nations.
  • Under his leadership as Director-General, UNIDO has maintained a role as the largest provider of trade-related technical assistance to developing countries in the United Nations system. This assistance has enabled many developing countries to produce and export goods meeting international standards. Mr. Yumkella has also consistently championed the cause of cleaner production and strengthened the role of UNIDO as the second largest implementing agency in the United Nations system in helping countries to phase out ozone depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol. He also continues to provide leadership in deepening the programmatic and management reforms that have made UNIDO a model of reform in the United Nations system.
  • As special adviser to two former UNIDO Directors-General, he provided advice, leadership and strategic guidance on managing multilateral programmes, multicultural teams and interdisciplinary advisory services in fields such as institutional capacity-building, trade capacity-building, poverty reduction, industrial development dialogue and country-level donor coordination.
  • Prior to his appointment as Director-General, Kandeh Yumkella provided conceptual and operational leadership at national, subregional and regional levels and managed staff at UNIDO Headquarters and field offices related to Africa and LDCs. He also facilitated high-level policy dialogue, consensus-building, advocacy and diplomatic negotiations at conferences of Heads of State, including the African Union, the Conference of African Ministers of Industry (CAMI), and United Nations global conferences.
  • Kandeh Yumkella also has specialized executive and advisory experience in programme formulation, management and implementation and funds mobilization in fields such as private sector development, public-private sector dialogue and partnerships, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) support systems, capacity-building in industry and business associations, trade capacity-building, agro-industry and rural development.
  • In his experience he has facilitated international cooperation and strategic partnerships with bilateral and multilateral development agencies, including other United Nations agencies, and throughout his career he has consistently promoted interregional cooperation as well as South-South cooperation.

Role in global advocacy and public policy

  • Mr. Yumkella is a strong believer that the most effective way to fight poverty is to strengthen the productive capacities of countries and peoples. He has advocated for pro-poor sustainable industrial and agribusiness development as a means of wealth and job creation and the economic empowerment of the poor. With his commitment to multilateralism and consensus-building, he has visited all regions during his period as UNIDO Director-General and he has travelled to over 50 countries to listen to regional political and private sector stakeholders. Mr. Yumkella is a firm believer in the linkage between “energy poverty” and “income poverty” in developing countries, and promotes the use of renewable energy to improve the productive capacities and welfare of rural communities.
  • Mr. Yumkella has participated in and/or delivered key policy speeches at numerous major international forums and events concerning global trade, development and climate change issues.

Ministerial and political leadership experience

  • Minister for Trade, Industry and State Enterprises in Sierra Leone, with experience in trade, commerce and industrial policy formulation, implementation and monitoring as part of economic reform programmes. The portfolio also included deregulation, public enterprise reform and divestiture, promotion of cooperative societies and establishment of programmes for private sector and small and medium enterprise development.
  • Promoted market reforms and signed Sierra Leone's accession to the African Regional Standards Organization (ARSO).
  • Launched initiatives to promote private sector development, establishment of public-private sector partnership and dialogue mechanisms. Organized consultative processes between the government and the private sector for discussing constraints and obstacles to private sector growth with support from UNIDO, International Trade Centre (ITC), African Project Development Facility (APDF) and UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa (UNDP/RBA).
  • As co-chair of the Public Enterprise Reform and Divestiture Commission (the privatization council), supervised an internal review of the privatization programme and promoted local awareness-building and domestic private sector participation in the programme.
  • Served as a member of the ministerial-level structural adjustment monitoring committee which provided oversight on policy reforms dealing with rationalization of the civil service work force, judicial reform, petroleum product pricing, and monetization of the rice subsidy.

Research, teaching and technical expertise

  • Development expert and former assistant professor with extensive research and teaching experience in agribusiness management and international agricultural development and trade. Published various articles, book chapters, staff working papers and policy briefs on crucial development issues related to economics, the international commodity trade, structural transformation in African agricultural and industrial sectors, as well as rural development, poverty alleviation, and environmental sustainability.
  • Mr. Yumkella has maintained links with various academic and research institutions, such as the Center for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University, and has given lectures to students and faculty at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom; the United Nations University in Tokyo; the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade; the Vienna Diplomatic Academy; Xavier Institute of Labor Relations (XLRI) in India; Seoul National University in Korea; Corvinus University in Budapest, Hungary; Michigan State University and University of Illinois of the USA.

Awards and Honors

Mr. Yumkella has received the following awards and recognition:

  • United Nations Association (UNA-USA) Global Leadership Award for 2012 for the leadership he has provided to strengthen the United Nations( to be conferred in New York in October, 2012);
  • Award of “Honorary Professor” by the Mongolian University of Science and Technology, Ulan Bator, Mongolia (April 2012);
  • Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria in recognition of his contribution to global industrial development and poverty alleviation in the world, (March 2012);
  • Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) from the Njala University, Njala, Sierra Leone in March 2011;
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Honoris Causa) from TERI University, New Delhi in October 2010 in recognition of his achievements and his contribution to society;
  • Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa) at the 150th Year Special Convocation and Valedictory Function, September 2008, University of Madras, India;
  • 2008 Champion of Youth Award at the 4th World Youth Congress, August 2008, in Quebec City, Canada;
  • Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement, April 2008, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC);
  • Presented by Prince Albert of Monaco the award of the "Prix De la Fondation" of the Crans Montana Forum for his global leadership and work in development, June 2006, Monaco;
  • Honorary Distinguished Visiting Professor by the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade, March 2006, China;

Global leadership and consensus building

  • Member, World Economic Forum, Global Agenda Council on Climate Change, 2010-current.
  • Member, China International Council on Cooperation for Environment and Development (CICCED), Chaired by the Vice Premier of China, 2010-current.
  • Member, Advisory Group on the Human Development index, 2012.
  • Member, Advisory Group of the International Peace Institute, Vienna Branch, 2011-current.
  • Member of the European Resource Efficiency (ERE) Platform, 2012.


  • Ph.D. Agricultural Economics, University of Illinois, USA - 1991
  • M.Sc. Agricultural Economics, Cornell University, USA - 1986
  • B.Sc. Division One (Cum Laude) in General Agriculture, Njala University College, Sierra Leone – 1982

Date of Birth

5 July 1959

Employment Record

  • December 2005: Director-General of UNIDO; re-elected December 2009
  • 2003-2005: Special Adviser to the Director-General of UNIDO
  • 2000-2003: UNIDO Representative and Director, Regional Industrial Development Centre, Nigeria
  • 1996-2000: Director, Africa and LDCs Regional Bureau of UNIDO
  • 1996: Special Adviser to the Director-General of UNIDO
  • 1994-1995: Minister for Trade, Industry and State Enterprises, Republic of Sierra Leone
  • 1991-1996: Assistant Professor and Lecturer, Michigan State University, (leave of absence 1994-1995)
  • 1989-1991: Assistant to the Dean, College of Agriculture, University of Illinois
  • 1987-1989: Research and Teaching Assistant, University of Illinois
  • 1982-1986: Marketing Officer, Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board (leave of absence for M.Sc. degree 1983-1986
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