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News & Blog > News > Remembering Obakeng 'Alfonso' Sethamo

Remembering Obakeng 'Alfonso' Sethamo

Tragically, IDS/UoS alumni and Chevening Scholar Dr. Obakeng Sethamo passed away recently. He did fantastic work in climate change and was a role model to many. He will be sorely missed.
14 Dec 2021
Written by Zoe Windsor
Obakeng (first left) and friends at IDS in 2016 at the IDS 50th Anniversary Party in Stanmer House
Obakeng (first left) and friends at IDS in 2016 at the IDS 50th Anniversary Party in Stanmer House

It is with deepest sadness that we announce the terrible news that Obakeng Sethamo recently passed away and our heartfelt condolences go to his friends and family.


Obakeng ‘Alfonso’ Sethamo graduated from IDS/UoS with an MSc in Climate Change and Development in 2016 and went on to complete his PhD at Fudan University in China between 2017 and 2020 focusing on bringing shared-values approaches into development studies as a new-generation participatory method. Obakeng was much loved within the IDS community and will be sadly missed.

IDS Students September 2016 (end of academic year 2015/16) including Obakeng. Photo compliments of Mahmudul Hoque Moni.

Obakeng was a committed student but what really stood out was his personality. He was such a friendly and engaging person who was well liked by all his peers. He had a ‘can do’ mentality and an infectious enthusiasm and dynamism in his approach to life.

Professor Martin Todd, University of Sussex Chair in Climate Change and former teacher of Obakeng


He was an extremely positive and committed person and a great student to have on the course. He brought a lot of energy and ideas to the classes demonstrating his future enormous potential, he was well on track to be a leader in his field.

Dr. Lars Otto Naess, Institute of Development Studies Research Fellow and former teacher of Obakeng


Obakeng published three papers based on his PhD in top journals, and is the first author on a paper being prepared for Nature Sustainability on values-based approaches in adaptation planning. Alongside his publications, Obakeng created a Seminar on Climate Change and Climate Information Services for Developing Countries and received the 2015 International Chevening Scholarship Award along with the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship.


He was a role model for the many students who joined the team behind him, African and Chinese.

The team here at Fudan misses him already.

Professor Marie Harder, University of Brighton and China National Thousand Talents Professor, Fudan University. Mentor and colleague of Obakeng.


Prior to studying at IDS, Obakeng worked as a Deputy District Commissioner for Botswana and a Disaster Coordinator for the Red Cross. After setting up a number of his own climate related initiatives, including the Climate Exploration Hub, he began working at the Southern Africa Science Service Centre for Climate Change (SSASCAL) as a Programme Officer and later became a Programme Coordinator.

Dr. Obakeng 'Alfonso' Sethamo and I meet at the University of Sussex in 2015 after being awarded with the International Chevening Scholarship Award to undertake an MSc in Climate Change and Development at the Institute of Development Studies/ University of Sussex. We were the only two Chevening Scholars in that programme. Even though we were from worlds apart, we instantly connected. We not only exchanged thoughts and ideas on climate change related issues impacting Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries but also engaged in cultural exchanges in the realms of music, cuisine and national traditions. More often than not, I regarded him as Mr. Sussex for his innate ability to instantly connect with people from different walks of life as we ventured to various events on the University campus and off campus. Obakeng was magnetic. Even after our time at the University of Sussex, we still maintained contact up to the week before his passing. We recently competed against each other under the COP Goal 2: Adaptation in the Chevening Climate Change Hackathon Group Stage at COP 26 in Glasgow, United Kingdom. My Condolences to his family and friends the world over! Obakeng, you will truly be missed but we will cherish your legacy at the Institute of Development Studies/University of Sussex amongst the network of friends that you maintained over the years!

Carol-Anne Blenman, MSc Climate Change & Development, 2016. Friend of Obakeng.

 Please feel free to share your own memories using the comments below or you can email us at to be included in this article.

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