Nigerian professor Kokunre Adetokunbo Agbontaen-Eghafona has been named as an Ordinary Member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. She was appointed a member of the prestigious Academy alongside Mario Draghi, a former European Central Bank chief, and Pedro Morandé Court, a professor emeritus at the Pontifical University of Chile by Pope Francis last month.
The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences was established by Pope John Paul II on 1 January 1994, with the aim of promoting the study and progress of the social sciences, primarily economics, sociology, law, and political science. The Academy helps offer the Church those elements, which she can use in the development of her social doctrine, and reflects on the application of that doctrine in contemporary society, according to The Vatican News.
Born in London on 1 October 1959, Agbontaen-Eghafona studied at the University of Benin, in Benin City, Nigeria, graduating with an undergraduate degree and later a Master of Arts in History. She is also a Master of Science in Archaeology and Anthropology degree holder from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
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Agbontaen-Eghafona, as an Ordinary Member of the Academy, she would be expected to attend plenary sessions every two years, propose subjects for scientific meetings and take part in their organization, suggest topics that could be examined by the Academy and nominate outstanding social scientists for membership in the Academy.
Speaking to the Association for Catholic Information in Africa (ACI Africa), Agbontaen-Eghafona said her appointment to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences was a “miracle of God.”
“It came as a big surprise to be admitted into the prestigious academy. To me, this elevation is a miracle of God, I cannot explain it otherwise,” Agbontaen-Eghafona said.
Apart from attending plenary sessions every two years, the Nigerian-academician would also participate in other scientific meetings organized by the Academy which are of relevance to her field of sociology and anthropology.
“There is so much to do in the area of African anthropology and history. There is the need to continually promote African indigenous knowledge and technology as a way of social, economic, and political growth, development, and independence,” she told ACI Africa.
Agbontaen-Eghafona believes that it was essential to adopt a model of development based on the principle of self-reliance from indigenous knowledge, noting that “knowledge generated to address the problems of one civilization may be problematic in another part of the world.”
Thus as Africans, “we have to sometimes look for indigenous knowledge for our own development. We must stop searching for solutions to our problems in terms of what we can copy from other people. We should move away from a developmental paradigm of unproductive imitation to that of productive innovations,” noted Agbontaen-Eghafona who is an Anglican with a Catholic background.
Prior to her appointment to the Academy, Agbontaen-Eghafona has been a lecturer at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Benin, since 1992; senior lecturer in 1996, Associate Professor in 2003, and full Professor in 2008. She has also held a number of administrative positions including Head of the Department of Sociology (2009-2013) and Director of part-time programs (2016).
She was also responsible for sustainable development within the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network between 2012-2017.
Agbontaen-Eghafona is the author of numerous academic publications and her current scientific activities include measures to combat human trafficking in Nigeria.