WASHINGTON (December 16, 2019) — World Resources Institute (WRI) is pleased to name Wanjira Mathai as the Regional Director for Africa, and Vice President. In this role, Mathai will be responsible for the design and implementation of WRI’s Africa overall strategy. She will lead WRI’s growing portfolio across the continent, building on projects and initiatives in over 20 countries. She will lead WRI’s work in its regional hub in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but will be based in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Wanjira is a dynamic leader, who brings deep expertise and skills and a vast network that will be invaluable to advancing our work in Africa. With its rapid growth and wide-spread challenges, Africa is a critical region at the frontlines of the environment and human development,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, President & CEO, WRI. “Building on her work with our global restoration team, Wanjira will help us develop a more highly integrated strategy in Africa, working with partners to deliver strong, inclusive and sustainable growth.”

Mathai has served on WRI’s Global Board, and as a Senior Advisor for WRI’s Global Restoration Initiative since 2018, providing strategic guidance for AFR100, an Africa-wide initiative to bring 100 million hectares of land into restoration by 2030.

“I am deeply honored to take on this position and to expand WRI’s growth and impact in Africa,” said Mathai. “WRI’s work in Africa addresses many of today’s pressing issues, such as deforestation, land degradation, energy access, water risk and sustainable urban development. I look forward to building on WRI’s foundation and setting a vision and strategy to address environmental challenges, while creating a more equitable and sustainable future.” 

Mathai has more than 20 years of experience focused on social and environmental change at the grassroots, national and international levels. Most recently, she served as the Executive Chair of the Wangari Maathai Foundation, which works to advance the legacy and vision of her mother, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai. Mathai will continue to serve as the Chair in a non-executive role.

Mathai also led the wPower (Partnership for Women’s Entrepreneurship on Renewables) Project at the Wangari Maathai Institute and served as the Executive Director of the Green Belt Movement International. She holds master’s degrees in Business and Public Health from Emory University.

“There is no doubt that Wanjira will help further WRI’s impact on sustainable development in Africa,” said Janet Ranganathan, VP for Science and Research, WRI, who has been serving as WRI’s acting Regional Director for Africa. “Wanjira’s knowledge and expertise will benefit our work immensely, and I am excited to see how we can increase our impact in Africa under her leadership.”

WRI works on projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Ghana and Liberia. Its work focuses on topics including forests and restoration, climate change, water, cities, urban mobility, environmental democracy, land rights and energy.

“Wanjira brings uniquely rich experience and passion to lead our work in Africa,” said Haileselassie Medhin, WRI’s Ethiopia Country Director based at the Africa Regional Office. “The next decade will be critical to steer Africa’s development toward a more sustainable pathway, and WRI has a lot to offer to make this happen. I look forward to working with Wanjira to capitalize on the momentum we have in Ethiopia and across the continent to further enhance the impact of WRI’s work on people and the environment.”

Learn more about WRI’s Africa work here.