President Ruto appoints Professor Patrick Verkooijen as Chancellor of the University of Nairobi

We are confident that by leveraging his extensive global network of thought leaders and applying his deep expertise in educational development, climate adaptation and the green economy, Professor Verkooijen will aim to realize the University’s full potential as a centre of excellence and pathfinder for Africa’s journey to sustainable prosperity.

Commenting on the announcement, the president said: “I am thrilled that Professor Verkooijen will be leading the nation’s premier educational institution. He brings unrivalled experience in key areas and leadership in confronting critical issues that define the most important challenges for states, societies, economies and institutions of our time. I trust that Prof Verkoojien will prove invaluable in the task ahead of all of us: today Africa’s agenda must be the actualisation of its tremendous promise as the home of the largest population of the world’s youngest and brightest citizens, and the green continent of the future. Human capital is our greatest resource. This generation of young people deserves the opportunity to realize its dreams, and education is a cornerstone of the resilient future that we all aspire to, and  are actively building. Professor Verkooijen has a proven track record in many domains, not least in the hundreds of thousands of new jobs that adaptation and other positive climate action initiatives have already created in Africa. We know where our destination lies and I have confidence that he will be a steadfast navigator in our journey into the future we want.”

Professor Patrick Verkooijen said “It is an extraordinary honour to be appointed by the President to join the University of Nairobi as Chancellor. I am acutely aware of the burden of responsibility this seat carries with it. The University is an academic powerhouse, a glittering thread in the tapestry of Kenyan society. I am inspired not only by the university’s commitment to excellence but also by the passion of its staff and community for tackling the continent’s most pressing issues and challenges. The scale and urgency of these challenges, foremost among which is the climate emergency, requires all of us to harness resources for the public good and to realize the opportunities they provide for economic growth and sustainable jobs creation. I am determined that the University of Nairobi will continue to be an outstanding exemplar of this goal. The University of Nairobi is and will be, during my watch, the pre-eminent incubator for African talent.”

Professor Amukowa Anangwe, Chair of the University of Nairobi said: “It is great to have Professor Patrick Verkooijen as the new Chancellor of the University of Nairobi. He brings on board solid experience that should take the university to the next level in its quest to become a world-class institution. To be able to achieve such a status there is need for a new mindset to embrace international partnerships for the greater good of scholarship. The university community looks forward to realizing that ambition.”

Professor Stephen Kiama, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi said: “I want to thank Professor Verkooijen for accepting to serve as the Chancellor of the University of Nairobi. The University is privileged to have a person of his stature as the head of the institution. I look forward to working with him to make the University of Nairobi globally competitive to meet the demands of the new age. I also want to thank His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya Dr. William Ruto, who’s also our alumni, for honoring the University with such a strategic appointment. A great gift for the new year.” 

Professor Patrick Verkooijen’s appointment as Chancellor of the University of Nairobi has been well received globally.

Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations said: “For more than two decades Professor Verkooijen has been on the frontline of the fight against climate breakdown. I have seen at first hand on many occasions his Herculean dedication to the mission of building a sustainable and resilient future. The University of Nairobi is a proud and successful institution which will go from strength to strength with Professor Verkooijen at its helm.”

Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group said: “Professor Verkooijen has worked relentlessly to support  the African continent adapt to the growing impacts of climate change. He has brought tremendous creative leadership to bear on some of the continent’s most pressing challenges. His knowledge, experience and passion for sustainability and capacity building will help transform lives and the environment through qualitative, inspiring, and relevant real world education.”

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund said: “I have worked with Professor Verkooijen over many years and know that he will bring to this exciting new role all the passion, drive and leadership for which he is already well known. Above all, Patrick connects with young people; his input will help to inspire the next generation of Kenyan leaders in many fields to go on to do great things for Kenya.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-general of the World Trade Organization said: “Professor Verkooijen is a well known international figure, trusted for delivering on sustainability issues especially creating opportunities for developing countries to handle the challenges of climate change. He is innovative, energetic and intellectually strong. I have no doubt that he will bring his enormous talents to bear in a manner that advances the interests of the University of Nairobi.”


Additional Background

Professor Patrick Verkooijen is CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, the foremost international organization dedicated to the challenge of adapting our world to the global climate emergency. As founding CEO of the GCA, Professor Verkooijen has built a global organization supporting active adaptation projects in over 30 countries. 

He is one of the architects of the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program, the world’s largest climate adaptation programme of its kind which has already shaped over $6 billion of resilient investments on the world’s most climate-vulnerable continent in just three years. 

Working with heads of state and government from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, Professor Verkooijen has convened multiple summits to advance the cause of climate adaptation. He also managed the Global Commission on Adaptation chaired by Ban Ki-moon and co-led by Kristalina Georgieva and Bill Gates which led to widespread awareness of the benefits of climate adaptation.

He was the driving force behind the first ever Climate Adaptation Summit, hosted by the Netherlands in January 2021 with the participation of the newly appointed U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry. This led to the creation of the annual Africa Adaptation Summit held in Rotterdam every September with the participation of Heads of State and global leaders and the Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi in September 2023.

Professor Verkooijen also spearheaded the Groningen Science Declaration which saw five Nobel Laureates and over 3,000 global scientists call on world leaders, decision- makers and investors to overhaul the way we understand, plan and invest for a changing climate. 

Professor Verkooijen has extensive leadership experience in higher education. He was appointed as the Distinguished Chair of The Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies by the University of Nairobi in September 2022. He was also awarded a Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa, of the University of Nairobi in recognition of his long career and achievements in championing climate action globally and shaping bold action at scale in Africa. 

He also serves as Ban Ki-moon Chair on Climate Adaptation Governance at the University of Groningen and was the Professor of Practice of Sustainable Development Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University from 2012 to 2018. 

A Dutch national, he holds a PhD from Wageningen University, an MPA from Harvard, a master’s in philosophy from the University of Amsterdam, and an environmental engineering degree from the University of Utrecht Applied Sciences.

Prior to founding the Global Center on Adaptation, Professor Verkooijen served as the World Bank Group Special Representative on Climate Change, and previously as its head of climate-smart agriculture. In these roles he established the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, the world’s largest coalition for putting a price on carbon; organized more than 10 IMF-World Bank Climate Ministerials for ministers of finance and planning, and set up the $1.6 billion Forest Investment Program, the largest indigenous people and local communities grant mechanism in the world at that time.

He was Special Advisor to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Sudan, Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a Senior Advisor at the economic affairs, nature and agriculture ministry of the Netherlands.