Kwaku Akowuah, Chair
Kwaku Akowuah is a partner in Sidley’s Supreme Court and Appellate group. In recognition of Kwaku’s litigation success, he was recently named a “D.C. Rising Star” by the National Law Journal 2015. In addition, Kwaku was recently recognized in the Washington Business Journal‘s 40 Under 40, a list of 40 professionals, under the age of 40, who have “scaled the ranks” in the Washington area. Kwaku maintains an active pro bono practice. He recently argued a Fourth Circuit appeal concerning fast-track immigration removal orders and is handling a habeas challenge to immigration detention in Maryland Federal District Court. For these efforts, he was named to the inaugural pro bono honor roll of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. Prior to joining Sidley, Kwaku served as a law clerk to Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court. From 2009 to 2012, Kwaku was an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice. In that role, he provided legal advice to departments and agencies of the executive branch on a variety of matters, including questions relating to the constitutional separation of powers, the interpretation of federal statutes, and international law principles. Prior to his time at the Justice Department, Kwaku was an associate in the appellate litigation practice of a global law firm in New York, where he also gained trial court experience representing clients in commercial, products-liability and securities cases. Kwaku began his legal career by clerking for the Honorable Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Kwaku earned his law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School. He received his A.B. from Princeton University where he studied public policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Between college and law school, Kwaku studied at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, on a fellowship grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
Aubryn Allyn Sidle, Vice Chair
Aubryn is a Doctoral student and Cornell Fellow at Cornell University where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Development Sociology. Aubryn has a technical background in life skills and girls’ education program design with a particular focus on secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa. As a researcher she is focused on understanding the impact of soft-skills and gender rights programming on marginalized and rural girls’ educational and health outcomes. As a practitioner, she works to amplify the voices of small, local and locally focused NGOs in the global policy conversation on girls’ education.
From 2010-2016 Aubryn served as the Executive Director of AGE Africa, where she built an innovative and scalable program model for girls’ retention and achievement in secondary school in Malawi. Under her leadership AGE Africa’s programs and resources expanded at an average of 30% per annum, and the AGE Africa’s signature after school program CHATS, achieved global recognition as a promising practice in girls’ secondary education by the Clinton Global Initiative, the United Nation’s Girls’ Education Initiative and others.
Aubryn has served in an advisory capacity on issues of governance, program design, and fundraising to several startup NGOs and US-based nonprofits, including the Tiba Foundation and the Grace Youth Center, in Tenants Harbor Maine. She has served on the boards of Peachtown School in Aurora, NY, and the program committee of the RYSE Youth Center in Richmond, California. Most recently, she served on the Steering Committee of the Coalition for Adolescent Girls in Washington, D.C. She earned her Master of Science in Development Management at the London School of Economics where she focused her research on organizational design and the barriers to participatory programming for youth service delivery NGOs. Aubryn obtained her Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University in Anthropology and Africana Studies, magna cum laude.
Roland Pearson, Treasurer
Roland Pearson is Managing Director of Capacity Solutions at Enclude. He is a leader in international financial sector and enterprise development, with a 30 year track-record of motivating teams and building institutions to deliver commercial value and sustained social and economic impact. Other key achievements have included raising and structuring nearly $1 billion of investment and social capital, especially for social enterprise, microfinance, and low-income housing ventures; and successfully starting, cultivating, and divesting from two economic development consulting firms, with multi-disciplinary practices in enterprise development, finance, banking, economics, trade and investment.
Roland received a MA with Honors in Finance, Economics, Law, and Southern Africa from The Fletcher School of Tufts University, and a BA with Honors in International Relations from Brown University. Roland has also been a member of the AGE Africa Triathlon team since 2011!
Astri Kimball, Secretary
Astri Kimball is Senior Policy Counsel at Google, focused on working with the US government on Google’s global policy challenges and opportunities. Prior to joining Google, Kimball served for six years in the Obama Administration, including the White House and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. In the White House, Kimball was Deputy Director of Cabinet Affairs and then Deputy Counsel to Vice President Biden. As a member of the senior management team of OPIC, Kimball focused on President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, impact investing, and opening OPIC’s first office in Asia, in Bangkok.
Kimball previously worked in the International Dispute Resolution and Strategic Counseling practice groups at O’Melveny and Myers, LLP, and at Goldman Sachs in New York. Kimball is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, co-chair of the Meridian Center Rising Leaders, and a board member of the Washington Foreign Law Society. Passionate about girls’ education, she is a member of the Board of Kent Place School in NJ.
H.E. Ambassador Edward Yakobe Sawerengera
Ambassador Sawerengera has just completed a successful tour of duty as Ambassador of Malawi to the Federative Republic of Brazil, during which he facilitated and signed, on behalf of his Government, the Investment Cooperation and Facilitation Agreement between Brazil and Malawi. Prior to this, Ambassador Sawerengera worked as Director General for State Residences (Chief of Staff). While at State House, Ambassador Sawerengera established favorable and constructive working relationships with various sections of the Presidency, including State House, the President´s Advisory Team, and the Office of the President and Cabinet.
Ambassador Edward Yakobe Sawerengera has had a remarkable and distinguished career in public and private sector management in Malawi. For 20 years, Ambassador Sawerengera worked at the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), a state marketing agency, where he rose through the ranks to the position of Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Head of Operations. He worked tirelessly to ensure efficient and reliable markets for smallholder farmer outputs, and provision of adequate farm inputs at all ADMARC depots.
In the past 15 years, Ambassador Sawerengera has held several executive leadership positions including; Deputy Chief Executive Officer of David Whitehead & Sons (DWS), a textile Company; Chief Executive Officer of the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), a strategic grain reserve for the state; and Executive Director of Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF), a government project designed to finance self-help community projects and transfer cash through safety net activities.
Ambassador Sawerengera holds a Diploma in Agriculture from Bunda College of Agriculture of the University of Malawi (1975), a Post-Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Marketing and Supply from Loughborough Cooperative College-UK (1986), and an MBA in Strategic Management from Strathclyde Graduate Business School-UK (1997). He is a strategic thinker with excellent negotiation skills, and the ability to build partnerships and networks with relevant stakeholders. Throughout his career, Ambassador Sawerengera has achieved productivity improvement and turned non-performing operations around.
His Excellency Edward Y. Sawerengera presented his letters of credence to the United States on 16 September, 2016. He is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Malawi to the United States on a residential basis. He is also accredited on a nonresidential basis to the Bahamans, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Ambassador Sawerengera is happily married.
A recently-retired Senior Foreign Service Officer from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Curt Reintsma is currently focusing his work on encouraging private sector engagement in Africa and other developing regions. He now works as a Partnerships Specialist with USAID’s Bureau for Food Security. He previously served as USAID’s Director for Donor Engagement and before that was the USAID Mission Director to Malawi from 2006-2011, where he oversaw an extensive portfolio of development activities in health, education, economic growth, democracy, and humanitarian assistance.
Curt has lived and worked a total of 18 years in Africa. Before Malawi, he was Director for Sudan Programs in Washington, and before that, held a variety of senior positions in Washington, including the Africa Bureau and in Legislative and Public Affairs. Among many individual and team accomplishments, Curt served as one of the co-founders of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) initiative, and he started the Africa Food Security Initiative in the 1990s. Curt was awarded the Administrator’s Distinguished Career Service award in 2012, one of the Agency’s highest honors. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Curt directed agricultural projects in Africa and served for 4 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Indian Ocean islands.
Curt is a graduate of the Universities of Texas and Wisconsin, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics.
Clara is a Partner at Foley Hoag and specializes in advising sovereign States in international disputes with other States, foreign investors and U.S. plaintiffs.
Clara has successfully represented sovereign States before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in disputes involving territorial rights, human rights and environmental harm. She has appeared before the Court in more than seven cases in the last eight years. She also has substantial experience counseling States in boundary disputes before the ICJ, UNCLOS Annex VII arbitral tribunals, and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
In addition, Clara has extensive experience representing sovereigns in investment arbitrations before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and other prominent arbitral fora. She currently represents Uruguay in an ICSID arbitration brought by Philip Morris challenging the State’s tobacco control regulations.
Sebastiaan Kwakkenbos is currently an Associate Portfolio Manager for the Frontier Africa Fund at SQM Frontier Management, a Washington, DC-based investment advisor that focuses on Africa and the Middle East. Sebastiaan has over ten years of experience working in asset management, having previously worked at The JBG Companies, a real estate private equity group. Sebastiaan has a BA in Economics, with honors, from Tufts University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Sebastiaan has lived in a number of countries including Zambia, Israel, Bangladesh, and South Africa, and currently resides in Washington, DC USA.
Margaret Mwanza Gadabu
Margaret Mwanza Gadabu is currently the Head of Chancery at the Malawi Embassy in Washington DC. She has over 9 years of experience in diplomacy and international relations. She works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Malawi. Her areas of interest include understanding Foreign Policy and its implications on social-economic development, as well as harnessing trade opportunities for development. She is passionate about supporting the girl child to develop to her fullest potential and believes in equity and equality for everyone. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from the University of Malawi, and a Master of International Relations from the University of Melbourne.
Zokeseh Labala is a Senior Business Analyst at WestEd. A finance and accounting professional with over ten years of experience, Zokeseh currently works as an internal consultant analyzing current finance processes and implementing business process improvement initiatives. Prior to his role at WestEd, Zokeseh served in a corporate finance capacity at non-profit American Institutes for Research and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.
Passionate about helping under-resourced Washingtonians reach their college-ready and professional goals, Zokeseh has served as an academic mentor for DC middle and high-school students for the last seven years through the College Bound program. Zokeseh received a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) from Loyola University Maryland and will complete his Master of Science in Accountancy (MACCY) from the George Washington University in the fall of 2018.
Darren Smith is a Portfolio Manager at 337 Frontier Capital. He is a finance professional with over 15 years of experience, namely in emerging markets in Africa. A native of Canada, Darren received his Bachelors in finance from Bishop’s University in Quebec.
Ambassador Jeanine Jackson
Jeanine Jackson is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer and a retired Colonel of the U.S. Army Reserve. She was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Malawi in 2011 where she led a $250 million development, governance and security assistance program. As U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso from 2006-2009, she improved military cooperation and increased infrastructure and development assistance. She is most proud of the $13 million Millennium Challenge Corporation program to improve educational outcomes, particularly for girls, by building 132 elementary schools and implementing complimentary interventions. Ambassador Jackson has been a key player in activities related to creating, adapting, rebuilding and reopening U.S. Embassies.
Prior to entering the Foreign Service, Ambassador Jackson worked in Saigon as a civil service employee in the Office of the U.S. Defense Attaché and then served 10 years as an active duty Army officer, primarily in Germany and Korea. She continued her military service for an additional 20 years as a reservist while pursuing her Foreign Service career.
Since 2015 Ambassador Jackson has worked part-time for the U.S. Army’s Mission Command Training Program, training and mentoring thousands of military leaders on the importance of working with the U.S. Government Interagency and International Organizations during both peace and war situations.
Ambassador Jackson earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education from Hastings College, Nebraska followed by a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. She is an accomplished musician. She met her husband Mark when they were both Army Lieutenants serving in Germany. He is a retired colonel of the U.S. Army Reserve and is also a retired member of the Senior Foreign Service. Enamored of Africa’s cultures, they have independently traveled more than 30,000 miles overland on the African continent. She is the recipient of many Superior Honor Awards, Senior Foreign Service Performance Pay commendations, and the Presidential Rank Award.
Emeritus Board of Directors
- Xanthe Scharff, Founder (2005 – 2015)*
- Bill Bailey (2009 – 2011)
- Christine Beggs (2010 – 2015)
- Johan DeBrujin (2011-2017)
- Valerie Gilpin (2009 – 2015)
- Steven Koltai (2013 – 2015)
- Ambassador Stephen D. Matenje (2013 – 2015)
- Ambassador Necton D. Mhuru (2015-2016)
- Jane Nankwenya (2013 – 2017)
- Kathleen Kimiko Phillips-Lohrmann (2008-2017)
- Rinn Self (2006 – 2010)*
- Roger Sullivan (2009 – 2011)
- Sarah Sullivan (2012-2018)
- Jessica Turco (2006 – 2009)*
* Indicates Founding Board Member