INTRODUCTORY SPEECH BY Nikolaj A. Hejberg Petersen, Danish Ambassador to Uganda, DANIDA ALUMNI PRIZE 2020

Ambassador Nikolaj A. Hejberg Petersen and Peter Okwoko

Peter Okwoko, (the Special Guest for today), representatives of the Danida Alumni Network, all invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

A very warm welcome to you all on this occasion when I, on behalf of the Danida Fellowship Centre, present the Danida Alumni Award for 2020 to Peter Okwoko, one of the Danida Alumni and MSc from Aalborg University 2017. This year, the award is presented under the theme “No challenge comes without an opportunity” In this respect, Peter is getting the award in recognition for his quick, highly innovative and sustainable response to the Covid-19 crisis in Uganda.

Under normal circumstances, the alumni prize-receiver would travel to Denmark, where Danida Fellowship Centre would have organised an event ceremony. He or she would get a chance to meet with new and old friends and colleagues in Denmark – and stay once more at Danida Fellowship Centre.

Due to Covid-19, this year it is unfortunately not possible to have it in Denmark due to travel restrictions. However, it has given us the opportunity to host the alumni prize award ceremony here at the Danish Embassy in Uganda - and also to have an audience with us online. 

About Danida Fellowship Centre & the Danida Alumni Network

Danida Fellowship Centre offers learning opportunities to Denmark’s partners in developing and growth countries prioritized by Denmark’s development cooperation. Danida Fellowship Centre also administers Danida’s grants to development research. Every year (under normal circumstances), the centre hosts more than 1,000 fellows.

Since the 1960’s over 25,000 individual have received a Danida fellowship as either as a participant of the centre’s capacity building development courses or as a PhD students or researcher. Some fellows are also master students like Peter Okwoko – and many of them, like Peter stayed at Danida Fellowship Centre and called it their home away from home.  

Around the world Danida alumni hold important positions in different capacities. From researchers and teachers to government ministers and CEOs, they drive development across a broad spectrum of sectors.

To celebrate the Danida alumni’s achievements, Danida Fellowship Centre inaugurated the annual Danida Alumni Prize in 2016.  The first prize was awarded in 2017 to Dr Tedros, the Director-General of the WHO. Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the world, he has become an international face, and probably all of us know him.  Dr Tedros was a Danida fellow in 1988 and one could refer to him as a senior alumnus.  Four years later, the prize goes to a less senior alumnus - Peter Okwoko, a Ugandan who is playing his part in the fight against Covid-19 right here in Uganda.

About Denmark in Uganda

Before I go further into Peter’s achievements let me say a few words about Denmark’s collaboration with Uganda.

The Country Programme for Denmark in Uganda hinges on the necessity to promote a truly inclusive and sustainable economic and political development in Uganda with focus on sustainable social and economic inclusion. Among the areas for focus, are interventions targeting youth employment and climate sustainability especially in Northern Uganda.  

Peter Okwoko and his team at Takataka Plastics are very much in line with the objectives of the country programme. The core of the social enterprise Takataka Plastics, that Peter Okwoko (and Paige Balcom) are the founders of, is to recycle plastic waste and create employment for vulnerable youth in Northern Uganda.

As I said in the beginning. No challenge comes without an opportunity. Peter realised that plastic waste is a challenge to Uganda – as it is everywhere. He then made a virtue of it by recycling it to something useful. First to tiles – and then when Covid-19 hit, to plastic shields to combat the pandemic. He thereby not only assisted the health clinics that were in lack of protective equipment but also took the advocacy for recycling to a level where everyone in Uganda can see the benefits.

I am therefore very proud to present the prize to Peter Okwoko, - a young, entrepreneurial-minded Ugandan – an inspiration to other youth both in terms of playing a part in solving Uganda’s substantial youth unemployment challenge and providing viable and sustainable solution to the plastic waste management.

Congratulations Peter Okwoko