Wanjiru Kamau-RutenbergWanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg PhD




Occupational Information

Job Title: Executive Director at Rise

Professional History

Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg is the inaugural Executive Director at Rise. Rise is an initiative of Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust – the anchor program of a $1 billion philanthropic commitment by Eric and Wendy Schmidt. Rise is a talent programme designed to increase opportunities for exceptional young people. She is also the founder of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), which is working towards inclusive, agriculture-driven prosperity for the African continent by strengthening the production and dissemination of more gender-responsive agricultural research and innovation.

A committed change agent, Wanjiru has received widespread recognition for her work, including being honored as a White House Champion of Change by the Obama Administration; named one of the 100 Most Influential Africans by New African magazine; recognized as a Ford Foundation Champion of Democracy; awarded the United Nations Intercultural Innovation Award, and named one of Kenya’s Top 40 Women Under Age 40.

She is a member of the selection committee of the prestigious Africa Food Prize. She also serves on the Malabo Montpellier Panel, a high-level panel of independent experts that supports African governments and civil society by identifying and implementing policies that enhance agriculture, food, and nutrition security across the continent. Wanjiru also sits on the Board of the Wangari Maathai Foundation, and Twaweza, East Africa’s largest public and policy engagement platform.

Prior to joining AWARD, Wanjiru founded and served as Executive Director of Akili Dada, an award-winning leadership incubator that invests in high-achieving young women from under-resourced families who are passionate about driving change in their communities. She was an assistant professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and a lecturer in International Relations at Hekima College, a constituent college of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. Her academic research and teaching interests centered on African politics, gender, international relations, ethnicity, and democratization, and the role of technology in social activism.


B.A. in Politics; Whitman College, Walla Walla, Washington
M.A. in Political Science; University of Minnesota
Ph.D. in Political Science, International Relations, Gender Studies, African History; University of Minnesota
Honoris Causa; Whitman College University, Virginia


2018 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow

 Additional Tags: Politics, Political Science, International Relations, Gender Studies, African History, Agriculture


About AFLI




The African Leadership Institute (AFLI) focuses on building the capacity and capability of visionary and strategic leadership across the continent. Developing exceptional leaders representing all spheres of society, the Institute’s flagship programme is the prestigious Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship. Offering a multifaceted learning experience and run in partnership with Oxford University, it is awarded annually to 20-25 carefully chosen candidates, nominated from across Africa. Alumni of the African Leadership Institute form a dynamic network of Fellows passionately committed to the continent’s transformation, bridging the divide between nations and ensuring that Africa is set centre-stage in global affairs.