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The Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders Alumni Portraits Series will trace back the stories of impactful young leaders of the ADEL alumni community. More than a biography, this journalistic approach will capture these success stories, helping us understand the roots of their leadership and pursuit of positive impact. From Morocco to South Africa, Germany to Canada, Brazil and the United Statesl, these young leaders from diverse backgrounds came together in Marrakech for the common goal of rebalancing Atlantic relations to include Southern Atlantic states. As the ADEL Alumni community keeps on growing, we will highlight some of their singular stories here in the spirit of intergenerational dialogue that lies at the heart of the Policy Center for the New South.

Patricia Ahanda

This young French entrepreneur cannot be reduced to a single side of herself. To describe her as the founder of Lydexperience, a training platform focused on leadership coaching, is certainly not enough. She is also into politics and has held an electoral mandate, with expertise on equality, training and female entrepreneurship.

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In her case, the same applies to geography. Born in France, Patricia Ahanda partly grew up in Cameroon, her parent’s country. When her father was posted in Yaoundé, his family followed. Between the age of 6 and 10, Patricia observed and absorbed her new environment. She dreamt of becoming a school headmistress. “I realized the importance of education in Cameroon. My father was helping a lot of children in need, to finance their studies. He thought it was unacceptable to let kids work on the fields or walk for kilometers to attend class. He told me to always help somebody to go to school, as much as I could”.

Cameroon has taught her life lessons : “People always fight in difficult circumstances, finding strength and inspiration”, she says. In France, “things are not easy either but this is a Revolution country with important values such as freedom and equality, and that also grants its citizens the right to protest . One can always criticize the French society, but the struggle against inequalities is deeply rooted. I find this reassuring, because it is not the case in other countries”.

Double culture, double curriculae

Her double curriculae in Politics and Communication is another facet of her personality. She has a Master’s Degree in Modern Litterature and Communication and another one in Geopolitics (Université Paris III). At first, she wanted to be a diplomat like her father. But she changed her mind after a traineeship at the French Embassy in Niamey (Niger) in 2010. “A troubled time, with French nationals being held hostages and a general context of financial restrictions in diplomatic institutions”, she explains.

She decided to study further at La Sorbonne (Paris I), with a Master’s Degree mixing Law, Political Science and preparation to the well-known National School of Administration (ENA). She never made it to this elitist school, now doomed to disappear under a decision of the President Emmanuel Macron. She nonetheless managed to get the needed skills to pursue her political carreer.

At 16, she started fighting for youth participation in politics with the Socialist Party (PS). In 2011, she joined the direction of the campaign team of François Hollande, elected in 2012. She became a member of the press relations’ team in the cabinet of the Minister of Economy and Finance.

Crying out for change

Between 2014 and 2020, she held an electoral mandate as a Deputy Mayor of Champigny-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris with 76,000 inhabitants. She was in charge of the “digital development, training and professional insertion” for the youth and the unemployed. 

Patricia Ahanda has a smooth voice, but everything about her is crying out for change. Her coaching firm, called Lydexperience, was launched in 2017 to fill a gap. “Everybody’s talking about governance and leadership, but nobody is teaching those subjects. My work experience has shown me that leadership is a skill you can acquire. It’s all about certain codes and customs that some people are not raised with. When knowledge and tools are shared, it becomes possible to democratize leadership, without thinking it belongs to the elite”.

She organizes trainings in the public sector, and gives advice to SMEs or people looking for leadership skills. What is the best asset to become a true leader? “Quality, the desire to do and share something, serve a cause, solve a problem, respond to questions or expectations of a group”.

Self-assertion as a young woman

Her customers are mostly women, looking for a self-assertive outlook that is often lacking. “There isn’t one model of leadership, and it does not necessarily look like a man in a suit. Leadership is also represented by strong women like Mother Teresa or Wangari Maathai. More and more women want to get trained after reading positive pieces about female success stories in the press”. She operates in France and Africa, offering a Women Leadership Workshop and a Brunch Women Leadership Business. Both initiatives were given in 2020 a label by UN Women and the Ministry of Gender Equality, during the forum called “Génération égalité”.

She is still working on the political front, and has launched in 2021 a new NGO called POLEADHER, focusing on the participation of young women in politics. Patricia Ahanda, a leader in her own right, has been a member of many programs - Globsec Young Leaders, the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD), the Forbes Under 30 Summit and the World Bank Youth Summit, to name a few.

She was also an Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leader (ADEL) in 2018, a program she thinks is “different, because I am still in touch with fellow young leaders from across the Atlantic”. She applied because she was longing to meet people “like me, living in other countries but sharing my aspirations and a will to have a positive impact on the world, with more exchange and cooperation”. In Marrakesh, she shared experiences with “people eager to learn and other young women finding it sometimes difficult to impose themselves”. Patricia’s future seems bright, rooted in questions of equality, education and development that won’t go away.

Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr

This young woman comes across as a striking beauty, body and soul. Born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria, she shines. She’s not only a voice for others, but first and foremost her own person.

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She founded She ROARs in 2016, a platform dedicated to unleash the potential of young female leaders in Africa and the diaspora. It really took off after an important gathering of more than 300 African women in August 2017 in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania. The “Women Advancing Africa” conference was organized by the Graça Machel Trust, named after the former First Lady of Mozambique and widow of Nelson Mandela.

I was invited as one of the core moderators to anchor the event, Chidiogo Akunyili remembers. I thought it was a shame to come all this way and not take advantage of the capacity of so many women gathered in the same place, besides the regular talks. I thought : what if we did something different, something bolder ? We had a moment of 300 women sobbing after sharing some very personal stories, opening up to different types of violence they had endured. The need to connect, take time to breathe and realize that you are not alone was overwhelming.”

She was so inspired by the gap between that need and what a few organizations can do to support entrepreneurial women that she decided to take further her action. “There is no organization promoting wellness and the acknowledgement of pain – from sexual atrocities to pressures at work, from sexual abuses to struggling with a husband, or to have a husband.

The association works through coaching, workshops, seminars and conferences. With a light team of 5, three women in different areas in the world and two technicians in Casablanca, Morocco, helping with the online side of the activity, it has already reached 2000 women, mostly young professionnals aged 27-37. The seminars and one-to-one coaching sessions address the impact one can have, the relation between personal and professional life, vision and goal setting methods and work on leadership qualities.

Her dream is to reach out to millions of women in Africa, North America and the Caribbean. The mission is not focused on therapy, but self development. « You can’t give what you don’t have, she says : your own strength, peace of mind, trust to your intuition and discernment. Young women are constantly shutting themselves down because they are told they’re not good enough ».

After all, Chidiogo knows her subject inside out. Her late mother, the multi-awarded pharmacist Dora Akuniyli (1954-2014), is an icon in Nigeria. She was the uncompromising head of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control  (NAFDAC) between 2001 and 2008. As the Director-General of this regulatory agency, « she wouldn’t take bribes and did what no man could ever do : she changed the rules of the game for operators in the food and drugs industry in Nigeria ». Recipient of the Integrity Award of Transparency International in 2003 and named “One of the 18 heroes of our times” by Time Magazine in 2006, she was the Minister of Information and Communications from 2008 to 2010 in Nigeria. Chidiogo, who has five siblings, is currently writing a book about her, to inspire others.

As for her own trajectory, it is already telling. She decided to study International Relations & Economics at SAIS, John Hopkins, and French. These two subjects were “broad enouth to figure out later” what her options could be. She was eager to understand the world and human interactions, and get the skills she felt insecure about not having. That’s why she chose International Relations instead of Law, recommended by her parents. But why French ? A big revenge on life: she had a negative experience with a French teacher who slapped her in class when she was 11. “I internalized the story I was not smart enough for French and put up a wall, thinking this is not for me. When I was 17, my sister had this crazy idea for me:  spend the summer learning French in Vichy. I was excited, and two months later I came back speaking French, because the teacher focused on me when I was crying in class, and I was living in a family whose children didn’t speak English.” She  spent a year in Germany and learned the language, and then moved to China, where she worked on her undergraduate piece on China and Africa. She came back speaking Chinese, which she believes is an “important language to understand, so that colonization doesn’t happen again”. Now aware of her gift at learning languages, she went for a year to Bologna, Italy, for her Masters, and then to Mexico for six weeks, adding Italian and Spanish to her skills.

She has already been named among the “100 most inspiring women in Nigeria” by The Guardian, an aknowledgment of her commitment towards the African woman’s cause. She is also World Economic Forum Global Leadership Fellow, and an Associate Fellow of the Nigerian Leadership Initiative.

Now based in Canada, she travels a lot and keeps going to Nigeria. When asked about her home town, Enugu, located in a region formerly known as Biafra, she immediately answers: “We never talk about the impact of the Biafra war, that killed 2 millions people between 1967 and 1970. A lot of the challenges in Nigeria have their roots in this unadressed aftermath of the civil war”. One more good reason to work on the rise of strong women “not allowing anyone to tell them who they are”. Chidiogo Akunyili is convinced that female leaders have the ability to change the world.

Ana Paula Barreto

« Passionate, Black, visionary »

Ana Paula Barreto talks about serious matters with great calm, taking time to reflect before answering questions, from New York. Born in Jardim Angela, a poor area of São Paulo, considered as the most dangerous neighbourhood in the world by the United Nations in 1996, she remembers the violence of the favelas. She doesn’t want to reduce her childhood « in a joyful family » to « the ugly », but one of her strongest memories is seeing the bodies of people murdered during the week-end, on her way to school on Monday mornings. At a young age, Ana Paula Barreto realized that her « community was lacking the conditions and opportunities to have a dignified life ». She decided that she would be an « agent of change,  promoting social and racial justice ». In one of the most unequal societies in the world, she reminds that « 54 % of the population is of African descent, but we are very invisible in decision-making circles, universities and politics ».

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Promoting equality and equity, « meaning that the people with less access to education, health and resources will achieve the same », soon became her raison d’être. After school, she was able to attend University. A « historical accident », as she calls it. It was still impossible for Black students coming from a poor background to study in the early 2000’s, because of a historical systemic racist and elitist selection process. « Some of the best universities in Brazil are public, thus free, but the middle-class and rich people send their children to private schools. For people like me who went to public schools, the exam to enter University was impossible to pass. Its level was too high for the quality of my education ».

« Racial and Social quotas » at University

Fortunately, the Lula administration, with the historical support of Black movements, created affirmative action programs in the mid-2000’s, at the time she was finishing High school. Thanks to a Law of Racial and Social Quotas passed in 2012, no less than half of the admission spots benefit pupils who attended public schools, most of them being indigenous and Black. « If I was born 20 years before, my possibilities would have been very low. President Lula showed how public policies can change a country. Today, there is a whole generation of Black Brazilian professionals and this is changing Brazilian society ». A system of scholarships was also introduced to give more access to private universities. That is how Ana Barreto could study International Affairs with a full bursary at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica of São Paulo. « We were 30 in my class, and two of us were coming from a black and poor background ». 

After college, she applied to the United Nations and went to Brasilia, a 90 minutes flight from São Paulo, for a six month internship. This was the last « critical investment » she asked her family to make for her, as her internship would be unpaid and she would have no time to work alongside her office hours. Her parents took a loan, to cover all her expenses for six months. When she moved back to São Paulo, she worked for UNICEF, while participating in human rights projects in her community with local organizations, and volunteering as a popular educator.

New York, Addis Abeba, Marrakesh

She then was selected by the Atlas Corps for a one-year fellowship in New York in 2015 with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a global NGO launched in Mumbai (India) in 1952 and headquartered in London. « They bring professionals from the global South to get experience contributing in U.S. organizations », she explains. In New York, she assisted staff by managing the portfolio of sexual and reproductive health programs related to youth, gender-based violence, and HIV/STIs. It went so well that she stayed for six more months, before moving back to Brazil and prepare her next step : a Master’s degree in International Affairs, which she started in 2017 at the New School University of New York, with a focus on racial justice and global health.

With a group of students, she went to Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, for a research project on Women Economic Empowerment through loans. There, she worked with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on internally displaced communities, doing advocacy with the African Union. Also in touch with the Brazilian Embassy, she organized a Film Festival in 2018 in Addis Abeba, on Black Brazilians in cinema. Her experience in Ethiopia was “powerful”, she says, as she was able to “see the similarities with people of African descent, not only physically but with food and dances that have not been lost throughout the centuries, the transatlantic slave trade and colonization”.

The same year, she was selected as a Fellow of the OHCHR in Geneva for the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), and by the Policy Center for the New South, for the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders program in Morocco. “The Atlantic Dialogues were an amazing experience in that very special year for me. I was on the last panel of the conference representing my cohort and talking about youth, transformation and creating a more just society. It was an honor, and I was able to connect to so many people doing great work !"

Racial justice and global health

She has now completed her masters about health outcomes of Black Brazilian women, « in the only country in the world having a public health policy focused on the African descent community ». Currently working as the Director of Programs with Afro Resistance, a small NGO launched in 2010 in New York, she deals with racial justice, human rights and democracy in the Americas, with a focus on Black women, notably from the Caribbean and Latin America. The NGO provides online conversations, research projects and conversations bringing local community voices to international decison-making spaces.

Her dream is “to make a difference in the Americas by uniting global health, racial justice and ancestral knowledge of our people”. She hopes to make innovative and impactful work, as well as becoming a reference in this unique approach. “I also hope to work in government, a critical strategic space if we want to really promote systematic change through public policies”. Her role models are an exact reflection of the way she describes herself : “Passionate, Black, visionary”… Among them, the US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, 38, born in Somalia, and Vilma Reis, 51, sociologist and activist from Salvador de Bahia, whom she describes as a “historical figure that did a lot on the intersection of civil society, government and human rights for the most marginalized people”. One of her favorite readings is Lelia Gonzalez (1935-1994), a Brazilian anthropologist, professor, politician and activist, “for her complex analysis of the world we live in”.

Hanae Bezad

Hanae Bezad, an entrepreneur with a cause 

At 31, this Moroccan “impact tech” entrepreneur already has an impressive track record. She is not only the founder of Douar Tech, an inclusive tech hub that helps empowering young people and women with digital skills in rural and peri-urban areas in Morocco, but also spent 2020 in Kigali, working as a Project Manager on startups and ICT ecosystems for Smart Africa.

This pan-African initiative of Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, has 30 member countries working on a common digital market. Hanae Bezad helped define the strategy to create favorable conditions for startups on the continent, talking to governments, development agencies and the private sector. She left after a final Blueprint came out with the state of play in each of the 30 member countries, an ecosystem mapping for all countries, a final draft for Rwanda and Benin Startup Acts, a strategy outline for updating and enacting the Ivory Coast Startup Act, and last but not least, the launch of the pan-African Startup Act initiative, endorsed by Heads of States in December 2020.

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The digital revolution in Africa

Hanae Bezad learned a lot in Rwanda, a “fascinating country with a strong will, a clear direction and strong potential”, she says. She found similarities with her country in “the mobilization of the diaspora and the hard work on infrastructures”, but also differences in the fact that growth is “still driven by the State and foreign aid, while a more vibrant private sector would help accelerate the development”.

When asked if there is a real digital revolution in Africa, considering the limited access to Internet (22% in Subsaharan Africa and 55% in North Africa according to the World Bank), she replies: “We can still talk of revolution in many aspects. People have access to resources, knowledge and networks that impact their lives, and perceptions in a more obvious way than TV. With some 650 hubs on the continent, I do see a digital revolution, not only in terms of skills transfers but also with many attempts to reshape the narrative. Fintech is working towards mobile banking and digital inclusion… It’s fair to say there is a revolution, as the continent is boiling with ideas.”

Getting more skills

Born and raised in Rabat, Hanae Bezad speaks almost as fast as she thinks. She comes from a family where education means everything. Her father was a medical doctor, her mother a teacher and one of her grandmothers a school principal. “Both my parents have launched social projects to play their part, as citizens. The context of my childhood was a transforming Morocco, still carrying a post-independence dream of autonomy and excellency, yet already altered by the slowness of progress and the privatization of the health and education sectors. I was raised being told that my life would not be simple as a woman, and that I would have to fight. In short, I grew up with contradictory paradigms: belief in the values of socio-liberal progress inspired by the West, and appreciation of the complexity of my multi-layered conservative society”.

Her excellent results at the Lycée Descartes in Rabat and her Scientific “Baccalauréat” (A Levels) led to the French government granting her a Scholarship for Excellence, covering five years of studies in France. Besides a Dual Master’s degree in Corporate and Public Management (Sciences Po Paris & HEC Paris) obtained in 2014, she has three Bachelor’s degrees, one in Law (Paris I – Panthéon Sorbonne), the other on Social Science (Sciences Po Paris, 2010) and the third on Mathematics and Physics (Université Pierre et Marie Curie).

Her idea was to “explore as many fields as possible, in the pluridisciplinary spirit of the American way of educating”. Something she experienced herself during a year of exchange at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009-10. With no precise idea of her future, she just knew she didn’t want to “embrace the fragilized jobs” of her parents, and that she wanted “as many skills as possible to work in the development field”.

Back to Morocco

She could easily have had an interesting career in France, where she worked for two years and a half for Eleven, a consultancy group specialized in digital transformation for big companies. “This universe, remote from my studies, added value for me, she recalls. Eleven was my day job as I was also writing a tribune for the think tank Fondapol (Fondation pour l’innovation politique), was interested by the MENA region, and also became a member of the board of directors of Led by HER, a social incubator for women entrepreneurs who are victims of violence”.

All of this nurtured her reflection on development, technology, inclusion and what she could do in Morocco, where she felt like going back in 2016 – the right time for her. “I was always questioned about the terrorist attacks of 2015 in Paris, something tiring, as I was also appalled by this violence that roots itself in systems of exclusion. I decided to go get more skills, learn how to code and launch Douar Tech.”

Empowering women

This tech hub is targeting youth and especially women, in order to train them to skills that will help them professionally. Among its partners, Douar Tech counts Unicef and the American Embassy . In 2019 and 2020, Douar Tech reached out to 70 beneficiaries, with 43 mentors and 10 staff members. In the first quarter of 2021, it has trained 275 women already, out of which 200 Afropreneurs in  partnership with Afrilabs.

Hanae Bezad applied successfully to the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders (ADEL) program in 2019, motivated by the quality of the program and community. She is still an active member of the ADEL community, writing pieces on building an Atlantic community for the Policy Center for the New South and inviting her peers to hold sessions for the Douar Tech programs.

The extra-ordinary Hanae Bezad, spotted by Voice of America, The Arab Weekly and Femmes du Maroc, is still busy getting more and more skills. She is currently getting trained to become an aero yoga teacher – one of her hobbies. As we spoke, she was reading “You Belong: A Call for Connection” (2020) by the Ethiopian author Sebene Selassie, around spirituality and anti-racism and “My Sweet Orange Tree” (1968), the best-seller by the Brazilian novelist José Mauro de Vasconselos. She also belongs to the House of Beautiful Business, and launched the Kigali Chapter of this global platform with an event focused on “Gukira”, healing and abundance. Her writing project, “Un abécédaire d’une vie moderne”, has been published online with the help of a young professional trained by Douar Tech.

Hanae Bezad won’t say what is her next move, but here’s a clue: “The idea of coming back home has nothing final. Mobility is important for me, in order to thrive in more fluid identities.” Sabine Cessou  

Fatim Zahra Biaz

She was 31 years old and had just set up the New Work Lab, a coworking and start-up accelerator space, in Morocco in 2013, when she was selected as one of the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders. Fatim Zahra Biaz already had an extensive professional background, which reflected her quest for meaning in work: a graduate of Edec, a business school in Lille, she had worked in Paris in "change management" consulting.

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"I couldn't sense the impact I was looking for in my work, be it economic, social or educational. I resigned and went around the world for nine months. She traveled throughout Latin America, from Australia to Asia, learning to overcome her fears and meeting "digital nomads", young people who set up their businesses on the Internet.

"When I came back, I wanted to start a business, but I didn't really know what it would be. I trained myself in the digital world of start-ups, which has a different state of mind from what is taught in school". She set up a business selling designer shoes between Paris and Casablanca but changed course quite quickly. She noted that the co-working spaces she used in Paris were sorely lacking in Casablanca - as was all the support dedicated to start-ups, incubators and training programs. "I told myself that I had to provide entrepreneurs in Morocco with everything I couldn't find for myself, and that anyone who wanted to start up a business could come, to train and upgrade their skills, to be put in touch with companies, the press, clients, public authorities, etc."

She keeps a special memory of the 2013 ADEL program: "It was the first time that an organisation in Morocco trusted me with my project. It was a very nice form of support, training and learning". Since then, she has been invited as an Alumni to the Atlantic Dialogues conferences and lists among the most memorable encounters of her life a lunch with a former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, who introduced himself as the former "CEO of Nigeria".

The New Work Lab, located on Anfa Boulevard, a main thoroughfare in downtown Casablanca, has since grown and matured, remaining true to its original philosophy. Its founder is adamant: "We need to rethink the world of work, in which employees feel disconnected and often underuse their potential". The Pitch Lab has become a benchmark competition for start-ups in Morocco, which has distinguished 150 entrepreneurs since 2013. Fatim Zahra Biaz has launched another "laboratory" called “Future of Work” to rethink innovation products in large companies, corporate culture, propose events, "bootcamps", trainings, give practical toolboxes to learn how to change and do work that matters. It offers customized services, tailored to demand, as part of a change-driven program.

In seven years, the New Work Labs have welcomed 20,000 people and hosted nearly 400 entrepreneurs for training, events and acceleration programs. Among the success stories she likes to highlight is that of Anou, which allows craftspeople to sell their products directly to consumers in the United States. "This company has developed a solution enabling people who can't read or write to use the Internet... It's great!”

The New Work Lab, supported by the Office chérifien des phosphates (OCP) Foundation, contributes to the creation of an ecosystem conducive to start-ups, "in a market that is not easy to create, by inventing models with the means at hand". She dreams of scaling up and seeing the impact of her work grow, moving from the micro-economic sphere to a more "macro" impact in the world of start-ups, with increasingly ambitious projects.

Fatim Zahra Biaz continues to travel, hike and enjoy the sea, while nurturing a spirit of excellence far from mediocrity - the thing she hates the most in life. Her dream? She takes time to reflect, before explaining, with calm enthusiasm radiating from her words and her person: "That work in Morocco should no longer be seen as an obligation, a livelihood, but as our best way of participating in the development of our country, with a collective and civic impact. For me, work is a way of expressing values, a contribution that we can leave behind, a way of writing a story together. How to make people want to work differently and to see their work as a tool for collective progress, this is the very reason for New Work Lab's existence, whether you are a salaried employee, a student or a civil servant.”

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Prince Boadu

Born and raised in Accra, Prince Boadu thrives on love and self-confidence. His role models are no other than his wife and two pastors in Ghana, Prophet Edem Julius-Cudjoe and Pastor Isaac Oti Boateng, founder of “Love Economy”, a mix of management and Christian spirituality. Prince Boadu’s own selfless dream is to “create pathways for others to succeed”.

Since 2016, he has settled in Darmstadt, a city close to Frankfurt. He works as a distribution requirements manager for P&G Health Germany GmbH. “I have no background in pharmacy”, he explains, “but it’s a matter of mindset, of always learning and adapting”.

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How did he land in Germany? It’s a lifelong story. Prince Boadu grew up in police barracks in Accra. His mother was a police officer and his father a small entrepreneur, operating a few buses to feed his family. He first studied Building Technology at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), thinking this was “not pure science” and could be useful. He then developed a strong interest in supply chain management, and got an MBA in Logistics and Supply Chain Management (2011-13).

For one year, in 2010-11, he was a teaching and research assistant at KNUST School of Business (KSB). There, he worked on the implementation of the Agricultural Skill Development Program, a partnership between KNUST, the World Cocoa Foundation, the US chocolate producer Archer

Daniels Mildland (ADM Cocoa, subsidiary of Olam International) and Safmarine, a South African shipping company. He also assisted the Department in proposals leading to the establishment of the West Africa Institute for Supply Chain Leadership (WAISCL), to help businesses grow their markets and find competitive solutions.

After his MBA, he joined for a few months in 2014 the social entreprise Clean Team Ghana Ltd, providing affordable toilets facilities for the urban poor. He then became a fellow of Africa kommt!, a German program that brings together the “most visionary young leaders from Africa and leading German companies”. He was among the 30 selected from a pool of 3900 candidates to do a nine months internship, and was chosen by Merck KGaA. He worked in the consumer health division called Merck Selbstmedikation GmbH (MSM). His performance led him to get hired and promoted. After MSM got acquired by P&G, Prince took on the role as Manager for Distribution Requirements Planning and currently the distribution of pharmaceutical products to central, eastern and southern Europe, Latin America, Asia, Middle-East and Africa, leading a team of five distribution planners.

Helping others with The Kumasi Hive

His feet may be in Germany, but his heart still beats for the continent. His dream of “creating pathways for others to succeed” has everything to do with solidarity and a sense of sharing. Somewhat overrated qualities of African societies? He finds a need to go against “a general attitude of not making sure our fellow-citizens succeed”.

He co-founded in 2016 the Kumasi Hive, a coworking multipurpose innovation space based in the second biggest city in Ghana. He is still a director of this structure, proposing working spaces for entrepreneurs who cannot afford to pay rent, and organizing incubator programs to identify young entrepreneurs and lead them to potential funding. “The aim is to focus on hardware innovation, such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing, a radical shift from the traditional focus on software across the continent. We want to help a lot of the young innovators to really do their prototyping in a cost effective way”. The Hive has gathered the impressive support of 58 partners, including the Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT), the MasterCard Fondation and Merck KGaA.

“We started putting our own money in Kumasi Hive, because in Ghana, you have to pay two years of rent in advance when you want a contract. My co-founder and I do not get paid yet, but we gave employment to 47 people, our current staff”. Over 3000 entrepreneurs have been helped since 2016, 200 events organized around skills with 4200 attendees, and about 6000 women trained for longer than six months.

The future : producing cheaper devices in Africa

Selected by the American magazine Forbes among the “Africa 30 under 30” in 2016, Prince Boadu is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and a TEDx organizer. He was also selected to be part of the fourth cohort of Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders (ADEL) in 2015. Applying

was a “no brainer” for him, but he was surprised to be selected.

“A fascinating program. If we are able to convene people of similar mindset and generate conversations, new solutions are born which inevitably spark innovation”. Impressed by the “Red City” architecture, he kept strong connections with the people he met in Marrakesh, through a WhatsApp group. In Marrakesh, he was not only invited to speak on stage and build a new narrative. Prince was also a beneficiary of the support of the Policy Center for the New South, for a project named “Girls in Biotech”.

The question is not if he will ever go back to Africa, but when: “If you pay attention to the global trends, the focus is now on the continent”. In the meantime, he is reading on innovation (he mentions The Prosperity Paradox by Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon), and broadening his network in order to get “huge leverage” when he goes back home.

His “repat” move is linked to MapTech, a company based in Ghana he created in 2015 to elaborate mapped-based solutions for its clients, using location data. “We want to build a network of base stations instruments to collect data for agriculture, map areas with deforestation or air pollution, in collaboration with the Technology University of Delft in the Netherlands”. The next stage is to manufacture devices in Ghana that would be more affordable than their current market price (10 000 dollars), and work with governments to build national geodetic reference framework via base stations across the countries, to collect more data and map

out geographical assets. Considering the lack of data still hindering decision makers in Africa, this business is on a promising pathway to succeed. As Prince Boadu puts it, “wherever huge problems exist, huge opportunities also lie”. Sabine Cessou

Julian Colombo

Aged 24 in 2011, he was already Chief of staff for Daniel Scioli, the Governor of Buenos Aires - the most populated province of Argentina, counting for 40 % of the total population with 16 million inhabitants. His main challenge then was “to be young in a relevant position”. He had to fight to get recognized and accepted by his elder peers, and succeeded with “the support of the Governor, through hard work and careful analysis”, he recalls.  

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He also remembers fondly one of his main achievements of his beginnings. He was part of a team that elaborated and implemented a reform, making free the fertility treatments for couples in his province. “Before the law passed in 2010, it was very difficult for couples to have access to these expensive treatments. Some families sold their cars and put a mortgage on their houses. My governor put up a team and we negotiated with the stakeholders in the insurance sector and the health system, to make sure the fertility treatments became free in the province”.

The launch of a new consultancy firm

Born in Buenos Aires in a middle-class family, he was supposed, as the eldest and only son, to take over his parents’ business, a small manufacture of oil and products for cars. He chose another path. After studying Political Science in Argentina and obtaining a Masters Degree in Public Policy at Georgetown University (Washington D.C.), he worked as a civil servant and a political advisor for congressmen in Argentina for 10 years.

Now, his father holds no grudge nor disappointment whatsoever. In December 2019, this 33 year-old young professional launched TANT, his own consultancy firm. “I was working for several people at once, he explains, so I decided to set up my own firm, so that there would be no conflict of interest”.

One of his main areas of expertise is the relationship between Argentina and Brazil, alongside with legislative and political affairs. “Brazil is our main trade partner. Brazil and Argentina are twin countries both in trade and politics, and we need to strengthen the ties in the productive sectors between politicians in both countries. We advise on how to overcome the political differences between the two current presidents”.

Another important side of his specialization is the Fintech sector. His firm is advising government officials in Argentina on how to deal with companies willing to develop digital wallets and online banks, in order to adapt the current regulations to the market trends in that sector.  

A passion for politics

How did he fall in love with politics ? “Both of my parents are not involved, he says, but my geography professor in highschool made us take part in Model United Nations (Model UN or MUN). That’s how I started to get interested in international relations and politics.”

Julian Colombo can get “very upset”, when he sees “how some politicians from all parties manipulate the most disenfranchised people in order to get their votes, providing food and medicine during electoral campaigns”. But his head stays cool when it comes to the crucial topic of the rise of populism in Latin America. He makes his point clear : “I do not agree fully with the way Western professors talk about populism. Being in a country that has had many populist governments, I know the word might have a negative meaning, but some of these administrations have applied some of the most progressive social policies. There is a swing across Latin America between the left and the right : in the years before 2013 the trend was left, and between 2013 and 2018, it was going to the right. The region can swing again to the left, and I am not sure that the populist phenomenon is that simple”.

His fellow ADELs as role models

When asked about his role models, this keen reader of political biographies has only one name in mind : John F. Kennedy, for his approach to politics, youth and fresh ideas. Otherwise, he quotes his peers, “the African guys I’ve met in the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders programme (ADEL), because of their fight to provide basic needs, such as access to water, for instance. They are more prominent in my view than people with an actual seat at the table.”

When he joined the ADEL community in Marrakech in 2018, he was mostly interested in starting a network with Emerging Leaders from a broader horizon than his contacts, with people from Europe, North America and Africa. “I enjoyed the possibility of travelling to Africa and broaden my vision of public policies applied on the continent”.

He came to Marrakech with his two dreams, strongly intertwined. “One is personal and one is national : I would like to achieve being president of Argentina, in order to overcome the inequalities, especially for the youth. The current state of affairs affects educational opportunities, and I hope I will be able, one day, to solve this problem in my country”. In his opinion, and in his own candid words, he notes that what is really missing across Latin America is a “bigger commitment from the political and business elite to solve our issues. We have lots of people working on different matters, the same guys for 30 or 40 years, with no real political will”. Julian Colombo, a strong personality, is a name to remember.

Sabine Cessou

Bushra Ebadi

Bushra Ebadi speaks fast, in an even tone and a very articulate way. This social innovator, a strong personality raised in Mississauga (Canada) by parents who fled their country, Afghanistan, has a lot to say and even more to do. Since July 2021, she is a Network Coordinator for Amnesty International. Her mission: “Establish through a collaborative process a global civil society network on data-surveillance technologies to promote the rights of displaced persons and migrants in the digital age”.

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This is far from being her only activity. In March 2020, she co-founded the Health and Information Literacy Access (HILA) Alliance. Her organisation is in contact with key groups around the world including the WHO and UNESCO, developing strategies and programs to address infodemics, including disinformation on COVID-19.

“We apply decolonial, intersectional, and intergenerational approaches to improve access to credible and timely information on COVID-19 for systematically marginalized individuals and communities, including Indigenous and racialized people. Many communities lack meaningful and timely access to credible information and are hindered from making informed decisions on issues that impact their wellbeing.  Young people have been especially mischaracterized throughout the pandemic and are wrongly seen as apathetic.” Besides conducting research and developing accessible information guides, HILA has organized webinars with diverse experts around the world on issues related to the pandemic, including mental health and empathy.

Transforming systems

Focused on “transforming systems and promoting human rights, peace, equity, justice, and sustainability through strategic foresight, interdisciplinary research, design and systems thinking, policy analysis, and storytelling”, Bushra Ebadi is a specialist in yet another list: “gender and youth mainstreaming, refugee rights, media and information literacy, technology ethics and futures”.

She is also, since October 2019 a Youth Ambassador for the UNESCO Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Alliance. Her experience includes being a Global Advisor in 2020-21 to the 33 year old Tunisian activist and diplomat Aya Chebbi, member of The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, once again engaging with youth, refugees, and marginalized communities.

As a Research Associate at the UNICEF Office of Global Insight and Policy (OGIP), she worked on “ensuring insights from youth leaders, activists, and experts were mainstreamed into UNICEF’s report on Prospects for children : a global outlook through 2025”. She was also a consultant with Algora Lab and Mila Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, in 2020, co-leading deliberative consultations (Global Youth, Global Indigenous Peoples, and Subregional African) to ensure diverse communities were engaged in the development and review of UNESCO’s draft principles on Artificial Intelligence Ethics.

Human rights at heart

But who is Bushra Ebadi, beyond all the multitasking? She describes herself as a “dedicated, empathic, and creative” soul. An analytic mind finding in poetry “a joy that is rooted in my own Persian culture”.

Bushra Ebadi was always interested in peacebuilding. “Growing up as a first-generation Afghan Canadian, I was exposed to and learned about global affairs from a young age. Politics, Bollywood movies, and religion were all discussed at the dinner table. I grew up with an understanding that injustice and gender inequity exist in many different contexts. These issues transcend borders and are not relegated to one part of the world or a select group of people. They are systemic and represent a global challenge that we must address collectively”.

As a child, she wanted to become a human rights lawyer. She studied Political Science and Philosophy at McGill University, then Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. She is critical of “the tendency to romanticize refugees’ journeys after they have been resettled and not create the conditions to support and protect displaced people from the outset.

When asked about the current situation in Afghanistan, she goes straight to the point. This is “complex and frustrating, with history repeating itself and so many groups providing opinions on topics they don’t have expertise on – creating false perceptions. She worries that in the face of converging crises, politicians around the world will increasingly scapegoat marginalized communities, to draw attention away from corruption and ineffective governance systems and policies”.

« Co-learning and creating, instead of competition »

Bushra Ebadi found out about the ADEL program through another alum. Leornado Parraga, one of her friends who she met at the 2017 UNESCO Youth Forum, recommended that she apply in order to mobilize people for collective action. It immediately interested her, as she is convinced that “solutions are rooted in communities and shifting and reimagining power so that it does not stay concentrated in the hands of a select group of people or industries”.

In the field of peacebuilding, she adds, “competition is not useful, whereas co-learning and creating are core values that ought to be nurtured and promoted. I loved meeting people in Marrakech and having interesting conversations with them on the bus or at dinners. This wider dialogue across the Atlantic is raising critical questions on whose existence, presence, knowledge, and experiences we value. It is really important to be supported and honoured in meaningful ways, and not tokenized”.

She sees the Policy Center’s initiative as “the beginning, as more needs to be done to create a space that is conducive to dialogue. It should be a priority on the African continent that discussions be led and addressed by people from the continent. Similar to my experiences with Afghanistan; many people talk but lack a nuanced understanding and don’t have to live with the consequences of misguided ideas and policies!”

Idia Irele

“Towards a more impactful leadership”

Fluent in English, Yoruba, Portuguese, and Spanish, this US and Nigerian citizen, holding both passports, now lives in Medellin, Colombia. A perfect candidate for the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders program, she was selected in 2017 to follow the program

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Born in the USA 27 years ago, Idia Irele grew up between Nigeria and the U.S. and moved to Boston when she was 10. Her family followed her father, Professor Francis Abiola Irele, a Nigerian academic who taught African and French literature at Harvard University. When asked about her studies, she states very factually that she was an undergraduate in Government and International Relations (Smith College), and has a Masters in International Education Policy (Harvard University). She works with social and emotional learning, and has experience in human rights education in the USA and Africa, with Boston Mobilization and UPLift Liberia. 

 

Training young leaders in Latin America

Since 2017, she has worked as  Director of Curriculum and Manager of Strategic Relations at the Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA). This is the South American version of the African Leadership Academy, she explains. So far, approximately 620 young leaders have taken part in intensive leadership bootcamps in different Latin American cities, with around 30 young leaders in each program at a growing rhythm of eight bootcamps per year and one residential program in Colombia  

We focus on the potential of the continent and help build compassionate leadership to find solutions to persisting problems. The students are amazing young leaders. We support them in coming into their roles as community leaders and leveraging their stories and wisdom to gain  access to wider platforms, both locally and globally. ” For instance, one student from Rio who created a nonprofit organization to work with incarcerated women in Brazil  mastered the art of fundraising through participating in LALA. After raising $3,000 USD to come to LALA,  she harnessed her newfound skill to launch a global campaign for her cause and raised  $7,000 USD in only two weeks during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

2020 has been a tough year, with the toll of Covid-19, a coup in Peru, a massacre in Lagos at the height of the #EndSARS movement against police brutality, as well as the death of Miguel da Silva in Brazil and Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless other Black Americans in the United States. 

A five-year-old,  Black Brazilian was killed shortly after George Floyd. During the pandemic, we have seen interconnectivity between all these events and transnational dialogue like never before. Women everywhere used their social media accounts to raise awareness about violence against women in Mexico and Turkey. Friends from around the world have used the EndSARS hashtag without ever having gone to Nigeria. This new, COVID-era globalization rests on true shared humanity.

Idia is not just an observer. She is focused on action. “I started to explore the parallel between racial narratives across regions. The history of violence and enslavement in the US finds nearly identical parallels in Latin America. Just like in the U.S.,  the same racialized populations that were previously enslaved still lack opportunities to fully participate in society today. This is especially present in Colombia and Brazil, where despite  narratives of  ‘racial paradise,’ regions populated by Afro-descended and Indigenous communities face widespread poverty and barriers to fully representative leadership. I hope to continue advancing cross-continental dialogue through  teaching history from the vantage point of multiple communities and organizing for social change. I teach young people to become closer to both themselves and the world, situating themselves in the issues around them and developing creative solutions to solve them.”

 

Africa on her mind 

Idia’s vision is very clear: she plans to eventually become a U.S. diplomat in order  to achieve “a more direct, impactful leadership in the future, working in international development, human rights, and responsible governance more broadly.” 

Africa is on her mind. She hopes that the continent will play a more “prominent role globally, not only exporting raw materials, but also more products and services. As a producer of cocoa, coffee, rubber and coltan in addition to music, art, and other cultural influences, African countries play an important role in the global market, but this essential role is not widely recognized in the international community.” She believes in South-South relations and the collective development of the Global South. “There are more Afro-descended individuals  in Brazil than anywhere else in the diaspora, this legacy provides an enormous opportunity for stronger connections between the two regions.” 

Among her role models, she mentions her mother, who grew up through decades-long political strife  in Calabar, a coastal town that played a pivotal role in the conflict between Nigeria and what was once the secessionist Republic of Biafra. She also admires Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “a woman who has paved her way in literature, writing stories about everyday Nigerian people not to explain, but to seamlessly immerse people in her characters’ worlds, whose universally human struggles and considerations are ones that everybody can identify with.” The Nigerian writer is the author of one of Idia’s favorite books, Half of a Yellow Sun, a story that enabled her to discover more about her own family’s history.

 

 

Seleman Kitenge

As a Project Assistant responsible for Speech Writing in the Office of Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, Seleman Kitenge, born in 1989 in Tanzania, is now based in Johannesburg. He was first a volunteer for the African Union (AU) in the same role for one year, before being hired in August 2020 by the AU Development Agency.

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I’m enjoying it, he says, some of my mentors are really good”. Among them, Togolani Mavura,  Private Secretary and Speech Writer for the former President of Tanzania H.E Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, and Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki himself, who has been taking time to mentor him personally. “Since I joined AUDA-NEPAD, my mentors have been like my guardian angels and makes it a growing journey for me”, he says. 

Born in Dar es Salaam, raised by a father who is still a prominent tailor, Seleman Kitenge’s family comes from the Kigoma region, close to the Tanganyika Lake in the western part of Tanzania. His love for his country and Africa is intertwined with his personal longings. “My dreams have never changed, he says, I’ve always wanted to be a leader in either politics or diplomacy, in order to foster the development of our continent”.

Where does it come from? “This is part of my personality, and my father kept on encouraging me to read newspapers, books, and follow Tanzanian politics”. He wanted his son to understand the vision of one of the most admired African leader, Julius Nyerere (1922-1999), the father of Tanzania’s Independence. Called “Mwalimu” – “school teacher” in Kiswahili - Nyerere had a socialist vision for his country’s development and left a strong legacy.

The first trip to Russia

Seleman Kitenge could have been a singer, as he was into rap and singing in his teenage years, or a soccer player – soccer being one of his hobbies. But his parents kept pushing him into politics and diplomacy. So much so that they decided to sell a piece of land to finance his first trip abroad in July 2013. He went to Russia to follow a training program in Tver Oblast known as International Youth Forum Seliger. “This trip will help you to get more trips for free and make many friends from different parts of the world”, his father told him, foreseeing exactly what would happen next.

The young man studied Public Sector Financial Management at Tanzania Public Service College, and is a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the Open University of Tanzania. He holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management for Foreign Relations from the Center for Foreign Relations, and has also made his way through many international programs, in Azerbaijan, Japan, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Morocco, France, Crimea, and Australia to name a few.

Three were outstanding in his view. He was awarded in June 2016 an Honorary Diploma of New Leaders for Tomorrow by the Crans Montana Forum in Vienna, Austria. “One of my best experiences, as I was one of the 3 African citizens in a group of 11 young leaders selected and the first Tanzanian to receive the honor”, he recalls.

In 2018, he became one of the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders (ADEL) and came to Marrakech for a tailor-made networking and empowerment program before attending the high level international conference Atlantic Dialogues, organized by the Policy Center for the New South. There, he enjoyed the “unique blend” of the conference, “African with a taste of Europe and the Americas”, and the specific touch of the ADEL program: “We were trained as young leaders and also allowed to interact with senior leaders from AU, NATO, the UN, former Presidents and Prime ministers from all over the world”. One of the things he liked most: “Interacting with Havard and Cambridge students confidently, to engage and contribute as an equal expert on geopolitics, although my academic journey is just from local institutions”.

His third favorite program is the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), launched in 2010 by the State Department under the presidency of Barack Obama. A member of the first cohort of YALI’s East Africa Chapter in 2015, Seleman has listened to President Barack Obama in Nairobi (Kenya). He met “prestigious trainers coming from US Universities, former officials at the White House, the Department of State and even NASA”.

Dedicated to Africa’s future 

Among many other things, he has been certified by the Commonwealth Secretariat as a Trainer of Trainers on issues around Hate Speech, Human Rights, and Countering Violent Extremism as well as being named by the European Union Commission as a One Young World Peace Ambassador. As much as he may have traveled abroad, he never thought of leaving Tanzania or Africa. “There were tempting opportunities out there, but I always came back to serve my country and continent”.

His vision is the one of a whole generation : “To see Africa prosper and have an equal share at the table of global affairs. Most importantly, see Africa become fully integrated economically to create more opportunities for the youth who are the most marginalized by economic systems across the continent”.

Moreover, he hopes to see extreme poverty eradicated, in order to facilitate the continent's economic transformation. He envisions seeing youth given more opportunities at the front leadership row on social, political, and economic issues. “I believe the energy, vibrancy, and innovative nature of youth will significantly help to fast-track Africa’s development if properly utilized at the national and continental levels.”

Before AUDA-NEPAD, he worked as an Administrator and Spokesperson at the Honorary Consulate of Sierra Leone in Dar es Salaam, and as a Program Officer with the United Nations Association of Tanzania. This non-profit umbrella organization is working closely with the UN in Tanzania but is not a part of the UN system.

There, Seleman Kitenge took part in a project to accelerate youth political and economic participation across the country. “We reached over 20 000 young people in the mainland and Zanzibar, to encourage them to participate in local governments and get to know and use the grants our government is allocating to the youth, to start businesses”.

A keen reader of political essays and biographies, he mentions “The world as it is” among his favorite books, written by Ben Rhodes, the former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting under President Barack Obama (2009-2017). A man he met twice, in Kenya and France, and who gave him his book as a present. Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, is one of his role models. Seleman Kitenge, an ambitious young man, would certainly like to walk in this path of greatness, “whether at the front stage or behind the scenes”.    

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