Very first batch: Roukayatou Zimmermann

Roukayatou Zimmermann was a researcher of ZEF’s first batch of doctoral students (starting 1999, graduating 2004). Read about her impressive career after graduation. Currently she is working with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Germany.

“The emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration fostered at ZEF has equipped me with the ability to integrate diverse perspectives and methodologies into my work, facilitating innovative problem-solving during my career”.


Fact sheet

  • Roukayatou Zimmermann comes from Cameroon.
  • PhD at ZEF: 1999-2004
  • PhD topic: Biotechnology and Value-added Traits in Food Crops: Relevance for Developing Countries and Economic Analysis
  • PhD funding agency: Foundation fiat panis and GIZ
  • Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Joachim von Braun and Prof. Dr. Matin Qaim
  • Current position: Senior Policy Officer, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)


Q&A with Roukayatou

Why did you choose ZEF for pursuing your doctoral research?

My motivation for conducting doctoral research at ZEF was driven by a strong desire to engage in interdisciplinary research aimed at addressing global challenges. ZEF’s reputation for innovative approaches to sustainable development, its interdisciplinary framework, a vibrant academic community and a collaborative research environment were key factors that attracted me. I believed that ZEF provided the ideal platform to pursue my passion for contributing meaningfully to addressing pressing global issues through rigorous research.

How has your doctoral education at ZEF impacted your career?

The doctoral training at ZEF has been instrumental in shaping my career at the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in several ways: the research environment at ZEF sharpened my analytical skills and critical thinking, enabling me to approach complex development issues with depth and clarity. Additionally, the emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration fostered at ZEF has equipped me with the ability to integrate diverse perspectives and methodologies into my work at BMZ, facilitating innovative problem-solving. Moreover, the exposure to global perspectives and challenges during my time at ZEF broadened my understanding of development issues beyond my specific research focus, enabling me to contribute meaningfully to a wide range of initiatives at BMZ. Lastly, the supportive mentorship and guidance provided by ZEF faculty have been invaluable in shaping my professional growth and confidence, enhancing my effectiveness in my current position at BMZ. Overall, the comprehensive training and experiences gained at ZEF have not only deepened my expertise but also broadened my perspective, enabling me to make significant contributions to development initiatives at BMZ.

What are you most proud of, in terms of career-wise achievements?

In terms of my career achievements, I am most proud of my role as a Senior Policy Officer at BMZ. In this capacity, I lead policy formulation and implementation across various critical areas of international development, such as poverty reduction and sustainable development. My responsibilities include engaging diverse stakeholders to align their efforts with BMZ’s objectives, overseeing program implementation, monitoring progress, and offering recommendations for improvement. Advocating for Germany’s development priorities both nationally and internationally, I collaborate with others to ensure policy coherence and provide expert analysis on emerging issues. Through these efforts, I am able to contribute meaningfully to advancing global sustainable development goals and making a positive impact on the lives of people in BMZ’s partner countries. Additionally, my previous work experience in research centers, e.g. as a postdoc at ZEF and development organizations in Africa and Asia, as well as serving as a project leader in many projects, have provided me with valuable insights and skills that further enhance my effectiveness in my current role at BMZ. Overall, I am content with the contributions I have made so far on my career journey.

What is your best memory of your time at ZEF?

One of my most cherished memories at ZEF was the successful defense of my doctoral dissertation. It marked the culmination of years of hard work and collaboration, symbolizing personal growth and academic achievement. This moment was deeply meaningful not only for me, but also for my family and friends who supported me throughout. Their presence during the defense echoed the pride and joy we all felt, underscoring our shared accomplishment. Moreover, this experience highlighted the strong network of support at ZEF, where colleagues evolved into friends and collaborators. Overall, the defense represented not just an academic milestone but also a personal and communal triumph, reinforcing my dedication to making meaningful contributions to development initiatives.

ZEF and its doctoral program celebrate their 25th anniversary this year. Any wishes from your side?

As ZEF and its Doctoral Program celebrate 25 years, my wishes for their future include continued commitment to interdisciplinary research and fostering a diverse academic community. Strengthening partnerships with stakeholders can enhance the relevance of their work, while investing in students’ professional development nurtures future leaders in development studies. Additionally, maintaining adaptability to address evolving global challenges effectively is crucial. I also suggest exploring innovative research methodologies and technologies to further enhance their impact. Overall, my hopes are for ZEF and its Doctoral Program to sustain their tradition of excellence and continue making meaningful contributions to global development.

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