Fellowship Alumni

Across Sub-Saharan Africa

Virtual Professional Development Experiences Increase Global Connections

Last summer, seventy 2021 Fellowship completed their Professional Development Experiences (PDEs) virtually, and moving forward, the Fellowship will offer 30 virtual six-week PDEs for Alumni and partnering Host Organizations.  The flexibility of a virtual working environment and the part-time commitment of these virtual PDEs create rewarding opportunities for those wishing to collaborate across continents. 

Learn more about the recently completed virtual Professional Development Experiences below.

Supporting legislation with the United States Congress

Within no time, I was contributing to the drafting of legislative documents, writing thought pieces on [U.S.]-Africa relations, trade and investment, resolutions, and other important documents.  It was also a pleasure to participate in briefings and strategic meetings with Rep. Karen Bass and her team.”

Thokozile Nhlumayo, 2021 Fellowship Alumni, South Africa
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Thokozile Nhlumayo connects with new colleagues in the United States Congress.

Through this virtual Professional Development Experience with the Office of Representative Karen Bass and House Foreign Affairs Committee, Thokozile Nhlumayo provided key insights for Congresswoman Bass on improving the African Growth and Opportunity Act to better align with the provisions of the African Continental Free Trade Area.  Additionally, Nhlumayo drafted a legislative resolution to commemorate the African Union’s twentieth anniversary and reaffirm its role as a strategic partner of the United States. 

Throughout the six weeks, Nhlumayo had the opportunity to meet with the United States Agency for International Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of the Kenyan Deputy President, His Excellency William Ruto. 

Strengthening peacebuilding strategies in rural Nigeria

The virtual format of the PDE allows for greater flexibility….  It also enables the Fellow to take what they’ve learned and make an impact in their immediate community setting.  Furthermore, the future of work will require adapting to the virtual space, thus, the virtual [PDE] helps to prepare the Fellows for this reality.”  

Dr. Kelisha Graves, Chief Research, Education, and Programs Officer, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change
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Ongunyale addresses an assembly of Nigerian students to share about his work with the King Center

2021 Alumnus Tunde Ogunyale founded Peacepace Initiative, an organization that brings conflict resolution and peacebuilding strategies to youth across Nigeria.  His commitment to positive youth development was an ideal fit for a virtual PDE with The King Center, which shares concepts of social cohesion and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s nonviolent philosophy through youth engagement, trainings, and virtual curriculum. 

During his virtual PDE, Ogunyale and The King Center developed a logic model for Peacepace Initiative, which will support higher organizational functioning and an increase in positive outcomes for youth in Nigeria. 

Connecting Alumni to increase literacy in Benin

2021 Alumnus Valentin Zanmenou is passionate about literacy and founded Benin’s national spelling bee, BeninBee. Through his virtual PDE at Curious Learning, Valentin introduced the language learning app, Feed the Monster, to Benin’s Ministry of Primary Education.  This PDE also deepened cross-cohort collaboration as 2014 Fellowship Alumnus, Creesen Naicker is Curious Learning’s vice president of strategic partnerships. 

While they are intent on making reading accessible and fun, Valentin and Creesen are also working to create healthier, more equitable, and economically stable societies through literacy.

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Zanmenou presents on language learning app, Feed the Monster, at the Benin Ministry of Primary Education.

Discovering “What Women Want” in Sudan

Moreover, the virtual format enables more flexibility and allows for easier accommodation with other commitments.  I had regular virtual coffee chats with the White Ribbon Alliance staff which were one of my favorite parts of the PDE, enabling me to connect with the staff on a more personal level and have one-on-one conversations on areas of mutual interest.”

Duha Ali, 2021 Fellowship Alumna, Sudan
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A graphic for the What Women Want campaign Duha worked on during her PDE.

For the first time in the organization’s history, White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) is bringing its global advocacy campaign to the Arabic-speaking world.  The What Women Want campaign will survey women and girls around globe to better understand their healthcare needs. As the country navigates a transitional period in the wake of the 2019 revolution, this knowledge will be put into action at a timely moment.  Diana Copeland, PDE Host Supervisor and associate manager at WRA, lauded the virtual collaboration with 2021 Alumna Duha Ali, and they will continue their partnership to ensure Sudanese women are heard.

Innovating dairy farming and bringing dairy programming to Malawian youth

Denis Chitowe, 2021 Alumnus, was so pleased with his PDE at New Mexico State University that he often forgot it was taking place virtually.  As managing director at Mzuzu Dairy, he is determined to grow its operations into neighboring markets and focused his six-week PDE on understanding U.S. approaches to dairy extension and processing from industry professionals based in Texas and New Mexico.  His Host Supervisor, Dr. Frannie Miller, explained that, despite vast differences in scale of the U.S. and Malawian dairy industries, there was ample opportunity to learn and share.  Not only does Denis now have the tools to improve his company’s dairy extension practices, he is also trailblazing the first youth dairy program in Malawi and using U.S. concepts Dr. Miller has helped him develop from 4-H and Future Farmers of America.

These virtual PDEs created new opportunities to engage with Alumni during the COVID-19 pandemic and to match Fellows and Alumni with impactful Host Organizations. The benefits of these virtual Professional Development Experiences will not only lead to increased collaboration between the United States and Africa, but as Alumni apply lessons learned, they will continue to support youth engaging in peacebuilding, building literacy, empowering women, and expanding business to new markets.

Written by Cason Kirby.