Johannes Kinfu: The professor who trained generations of accountants (1936-2017)

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By Professor Minga Negash

The academic accounting network is saddened by the news of the passing away of Professor Emeritus Johannes Kinfu of Addis Ababa University. He died on March 14, 2017 at the age of 80.

The late Prof. Johannes Kinfu

Born in Axum in 1936 from Woizero Wagaye Gebre Michael and the legendary Axumite goldsmith Dejazmatch Kinfu Kidane, Professor Johannes taught accounting graduates of Addis Ababa University (formerly Haile Selassie I University) well over a period of forty years. He served the University in the capacities of Chair, Dean, Vice President, Planning Officer and Director of the Institute of Development Research.

Armed with quality education and adherence to strict academic discipline, Professor Johannes was an exemplary teacher. He was tireless in the classroom and in the timely grading of scripts and examinations. He was successful in sculpting young scholars that now work in American, Australian, European, Middle Eastern and African universities, and as wells as in commerce, industry and government. Outside the classroom, he was a professional. He was one of the founders of the Ethiopian Professional Association of Accountants and Auditors. He was part of the African ethics network.

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To the best of my knowledge, Professor Johannes Kinfu was the first Ethiopian to obtain a doctorate in accounting and publish in prestigious journals like the Accounting Review. His puzzles with Ethiopian accounting started in 1963 and continued until his death. His dissertations were on government accounting and accounting and the commercial law, respectively, prepared at the University of Utah and Michigan State University. His publication track record has been sound in that he managed to pass the odds of the research environment. He was the source of information for those who braved to write on the nationalized now privatized state-owned enterprises. In addition to his publications in journals, in 2009 he was able to author the much-awaited textbook on auditing in the context of Ethiopia which I had the privilege of reviewing the draft.

While our colleagues in history and sociology are remembering one of the jewels of Ethiopian history scholars, Dr. Richard Pankhurst, the accounting community is also remembering another kinder and gentler scholar. Johannes Kinfu was the first Ethiopian in the spreading of modern “bean counting” at university level to an old nation, a constant source of research information, with great survival skills across three very different political and economic “systems”. His legacy will be useful to the new generation of Ethiopian accountants. I hope Addis Ababa University will accord him the recognition he deserves by naming one of its lecture rooms in his name. May the Almighty give the strength to his family, his sister Woizero Azeb Kinfu of Harare and his former students and colleagues who are saddened by the loss.

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Minga Negash, Professor of Accounting
Metropolitan State University of Denver and the University of the Witwatersrand

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