List of African Universities that Have Produced Nobel Prize Winners

kofi annan nobel prize winner from knust
Kofi Annan

The Nobel Prize is an international prize awarded annually since 1901 for achievements in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace.

Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 800 individuals.

Out of this number, African universities have also contributed to a number of Nobel Prize-winning former students. As usual, South African universities have produced a number of them.

Here, we look at the African universities which have produced Nobel Prize winners – from students to researchers and professors.

1. Alexandria University

Ahmed Hassan Zewail
Ahmed Zewail

Ahmed Zewail: Ahmed Hassan Zewail was an Egyptian-American scientist, known as the “father of femtochemistry”. He was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry and became the first Egyptian to win a Nobel Prize in a scientific field.

See Also: 10 Oldest Universities in Africa

He received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Chemistry from Alexandria University before moving to the United States to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.

2. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, KNUST

kofi annan nobel prize winner from knust
Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan: Kofi Annan studied economics at the Kumasi College of Science and Technology, now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana before moving on to study abroad.

In 2001, the Nobel Committee decided that the Peace Prize was to be divided between the UN and Kofi Annan.

They were awarded the Peace Prize “for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world,” having revitalized the UN and for having given priority to human rights.

Kofi Annan became the first West African to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

3. University of Cape Town, UCT

Max Theiler
Max Theiler

UCT has produced the most Nobel Prize winners in Africa.

Five of the University’s graduates have become Nobel Laureates:

Ralph Bunche: American political scientist and diplomat awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for his role in the 1949 Armistice Agreements.

Max Theiler: virologist awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1951 for developing a vaccine against yellow fever. Max Theiler was the first White African to win a Nobel Prize.

Professor Allan McLeod Cormack: physicist awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1979) for his work on X-ray computed tomography.

Sir Aaron Klug: chemist and biophysicist awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1982) for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of the Witwatersrand and studied for his Master of Science degree at the University of Cape Town.

Professor Emeritus J. M. Coetzee: He became a winner in Literature, in the year 2003, making him the fourth African writer to be so honored and the second South African after Nadine Gordimer.

4. University of Algiers

Albert Camus, Nobel prize winner
Albert Camus

Albert Camus: He was a French philosopher (born in Algeria), author, and journalist. His views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism.

Albert Camus won the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44 in 1957, the second youngest recipient in history, and the first White African to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.

5. University of South Africa

nelson mandelaNelson Mandela: The South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

He studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of the Witwatersrand. He continued his higher education at the University of South Africa, UNISA.

6. University of Ibadan

Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka: Soyinka was the first African writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986. The Nigerian playwright, poet, and essayist began his higher education at University College Ibadan (1952–54), affiliated with the University of London, where he studied English literature, Greek, and Western history.

7. Cairo University

Mohamed ElBaradei
Mohamed ElBaradei

Cairo University has also produced some Nobel Laureates.

Naguib Mahfouz: Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. He became the first Egyptian and North African to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Yasser Arafat: Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Mohamed ElBaradei: Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

8. University of the Witwatersrand

Nadine Gordimer
Nadine Gordimer

Wits University has produced 3 Nobel laureates.

Sir Aaron Klug: As mentioned above, he was the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes.

Nadine Gordimer: 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was the first White African woman to win a Nobel Prize. She was recognized as a woman “who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity”.

Gordimer’s writing dealt with moral and racial issues, particularly apartheid in South Africa.

Sydney Brenner: 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Brenner made significant contributions to work on the genetic code, and other areas of molecular biology while working in the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.

Nelson Mandela, who attended but did not graduate from the university.

9. The North-West University

Frederik Willem de Klerk
Frederik Willem de Klerk

Frederik Willem de Klerk: His role in dismantling apartheid and introducing universal suffrage to South Africa brought him international recognition and praise, including the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize in 1991, the Prince of Asturias Award in 1992, and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Between 1954 and 1958, de Klerk studied at Potchefstroom University, graduating with both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Law.

The Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education was a South African university located in Potchefstroom. In 2004, the university was merged with other institutions to create the North-West University.

10. University of Nairobi

Wangari Muta MaathaiWangari Maathai: Wangari Muta Maathai was a Kenyan environmental political activist and Nobel laureate. She was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace”.

She became the first black African woman, and the first environmentalist, to win the prize.

Wangari Maathai was educated in the United States at Mount St. Scholastica (Benedictine College) and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

11. University of Burundi

Denis MukwegeDenis Mukwege: Denis is a Congolese gynecologist who was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with Nadia Murad (October 2018) for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.

He graduated with a medical degree from the University of Burundi in 1983.

12. Addis Ababa University

Abiy Ahmed Ali:  Abiy Ahmed Ali(born 15 August 1976) is an Ethiopian politician serving as the 4th Prime Minister of Ethiopia of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Abiy was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in ending the 20-year post-war territorial stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Abiy received his first degree, a Bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the Microlink Information Technology College in Addis Ababa in 2001.

Abiy, who had started his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) work several years ago as a regular student, completed his Ph.D. in 2017 at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, Addis Ababa University.

He also holds a Master of Business Administration from the Leadstar College of Management and Leadership in Addis Ababa in partnership with Ashland University in 2013.


How many Nobel Prize winners are in Africa?

26 Nobel Laureates have been born in Africa. Of those, 10 have been from South Africa, and another six were born in Egypt. The other countries to have produced a Nobel Laureate are (French) Algeria, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria, and Congo.

Who is the first African to win a Nobel Prize?

The first Black African recipient, Albert Luthuli, was awarded the Peace Prize in 1960 and the first White African who received the prize was Max Theiler in 1951 for Physiology or Medicine.

Who is the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize?

Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She was also the first female scholar from East and Central Africa to take a doctorate (in biology), and the first female professor ever in her home country of Kenya.

Is Nelson Mandela a Nobel Prize winner?

Yes! The Nobel Peace Prize 1993 was awarded jointly to Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”

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