Board

Darren Smith, President

Darren Smith is the Co-Founder and Portfolio Manager at 337 Frontier Capital, a NYC-based, dedicated African investment firm. He was born and raised in Canada but has lived in South Africa, South Korea, Dubai, and Washington, DC, before settling in the NYC area. Darren previously worked as the Head of Research for Credit Agricole’s MENA brokerage business, and he is currently on the Board of Directors of Bank of Kigali Group, Rwanda’s largest bank. Darren has traveled extensively across Africa, having dedicated his professional career to understanding and contributing to capital markets development on the continent. He has been on the board of AGE Africa since 2018 and has been contributing to its mission for nearly ten years.

Darren is married with two young daughters and would love to see Malawian girls have the same educational opportunities as his daughters. He received his bachelor’s in finance from Bishop’s University in Quebec, and he is a CFA charter holder. Darren loves camping, downhill skiing, practicing yoga, and spending time with his family and friends.

Ambassador (ret) Jeanine Jackson, Vice Chair

Ambassador (ret) Jeanine Jackson is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer and a retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel. As U.S. Ambassador to Malawi (2011-14), she led a $250 million development, governance, and security assistance program. As Ambassador to Burkina Faso (2006-09), she increased security cooperation, infrastructure, and development assistance and oversaw a significant girls’ education program.

Ambassador Jackson was the operations director to open new U.S. Embassies in the 13 former Soviet republics in 1991-2, in Afghanistan in 2001, and in Iraq in 2004. She focused on U.S. interests in Hong Kong during the British Colony’s reversion to Chinese sovereignty. In Kenya, following the Al Qaeda bombing of the U.S. Embassy, she helped reestablish operations and infrastructure. She also served in Switzerland, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the Bureau of African Affairs.

She serves on the Boards of FCA Corp (AFRICAP fund) and Developing Radio Partners and studies classical piano. She is married to Mark Jackson, a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer and Army Colonel. Enamored of Africa’s cultures, they have independently traveled more than 30,000 miles overland on the African continent.

Zokeseh Labala, Treasurer

Zokeseh Labala is a Senior Business Analyst at WestEd. A finance and accounting professional with over ten years of experience, Zokeseh is 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 the 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 Master of Science in Accountancy (MACCY) from The George Washington University.

Dr. Jeni Gamble, Secretary

Dr. Jenifer Gamble has worked to improve policies, systems, and services for the most vulnerable throughout the US and globally since 1997. Gamble currently serves as the Assistant Dean and Director of Field Education & Experiential Learning at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work. She holds a BA, MSSW, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, respectively. She is also board secretary for Finn Church Aid Americas, an Ambassador (KY) for the United State of Women, and is former faculty of West Virginia University. Gamble’s domestic nonprofit experiences focused on eliminating gender-based violence and improving criminal justice and victim service programs.

In Washington, DC, she focused on global and girls’ education policy. She has held leadership positions with national and local organizations, such as the Brookings Institution and the National Alliance to End Homelessness. She often consults with organizations around social entrepreneurship, strategic planning, and growth. Gamble lives in Lexington, KY, and is an avid runner and craft beer enthusiast.

Susan Banda-Mudiwa

Susan Banda-Mudiwa is an Executive Coach with international experience. With 20+ years of leadership experience in the development sector and the corporate world, Susan brings her skills and knowledge to all interactions with her clients.

Before becoming a full-time Executive and Leadership Coach, Susan worked in the corporate and development sector, including leading the development and implementation of a $350 million investment in the power sector in Malawi financed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (www.mcc.gov).

As an Executive and Leadership Coach, Susan has worked with clients in leadership and other positions in both the development and corporate sectors. Some of her clients have included staff in UN agencies, the financial sector, FCMG companies, and NGOs. Originally from Malawi and married to a Zimbabwean, Susan is based in Kenya and has worked with clients worldwide, including Australia, the United States of America, Southern Africa, East Africa, Asia, and Europe. She has two Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Malawi and Elizabethtown.

Dr. Aubryn Allyn Sidle

Dr. Aubryn Allyn Sidle is a girls’ education expert and mixed methods researcher whose work is focused on uplifting the innovation of local and locally focused organizations. Dr. Sidle currently serves as Co-Director of the Girls’ Agency Lab (GAL) at AMPLIFY Girls and as a Lecturer in Cornell University’s Global Development Department. As Co-Director of GAL, she leads several multi-country studies focused on the practice and measurement of adolescent girls’ agency and the impact of local organizations on girls’ agency outcomes in East and Southern Africa. Her current research portfolio has garnered more than $1.5 million in funding from leading educational investment funds like the Spencer Foundation, Echidna Giving, and Wellspring Advisors.

As an educator, Dr. Sidle teaches undergraduate and graduate level coursework at Cornell in gender and development, data for policy making, and monitoring and evaluation. Dr. Sidle has a professional background in youth program design, strategic planning, and nonprofit governance. From 2010-2016 she served as the Executive Director of AGE Africa before transitioning to board membership in 2017.

Dr. Sidle earned her Ph.D. in Development Sociology from The Cornell University, where she also earned a BA in Anthropology, manga cum laude. She holds a Master of Science in Development Management from the London School of Economics.

Ambassador (ret) Thomas Dougherty

Ambassador (ret) Thomas Dougherty is the Milward L. Simpson Professor at the University of Wyoming, and from 2021-2023 he was the Warburg Chair in International Relations at Simmons University in Boston. A career Foreign Service Officer for over 27 years, he served in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and Washington. He was U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso and served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Australia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Malawi. Other overseas assignments were in Senegal, Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Eritrea, Germany, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Iraq, where he was Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs. In Washington, he was Director of West African Affairs and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Africa Bureau.

Upon retiring from the State Department, he was Executive Director of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission from 2016-2021. During his tenure, the Commission secured more than $50 million in funding, including the largest single philanthropic donation to the global Fulbright program in its 75-year history. A Fulbright awardee himself in Indonesia and Singapore, he is a graduate of Brown University, did postgraduate work in Italy and California, and taught in Belgium and Switzerland. He is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, and is on the advisory board of Emissions Monitoring Satellites (EMSat).

Sruti Patel

Sruti Patel grew up in Nairobi and lives in London. She studied International Relations and Politics of Empire at the LSE. This propelled her into the world of finance with a focus on SSA. Her most recent adventure has been at EFG Hermes. She joined in 2017 as Head of Frontier Equity Sales.

Before EFG Hermes, Sruti headed Equity Sales at Exotix, responsible for building the firm’s international client franchise and sales platform, initially based in London and then New York. She previously worked on the Equity Sales desk at Africa’s largest bank, Standard Bank, where she set up an international client base for SSA equities via London. She was a research analyst covering SSA financials at Renaissance Capital.

Sruti considers it her obligation and privilege to promote and contribute to the development of SSA, from its capital markets to transferring skills to women in the local financial industry to providing girls with the same opportunities and support that she was lucky enough to benefit from.

Rodrigo Briceno

Rodrigo Briceno, CFA, is a Managing Director at Invictus Capital Partners. He joined the firm in 2012 and is responsible for executing Invictus’s securitization strategy. Mr. Briceno has overseen the issuance of over $15 billion of residential mortgage loans across thirty-five securitizations under the Verus shelf. With this help, Invictus became the first Non-QM issuer to have its inaugural transactions rated AAA by three different rating agencies. His primary responsibilities include managing the rating process, security structuring, bond investor marketing, and underwriters/legal coordination. While at Invictus, Mr. Briceno also helped manage and report on the $2.0 billion RMBS portfolio.

A native of Chile, he holds an MBA from The George Washington University, where he was the Men’s Tennis Assistant Coach, and a B.A. in business administration from Wichita State University. Rodrigo has participated in the past two editions of the AGE Africa Ride for Malawi, where he learned about the challenges faced by young women in Malawi to get an education and is committed to making an impact by joining AGE’s board.

Lisa Renee Boucher

Lisa Renee Boucher is an experienced sales leader in the technology space and has spent her career helping her clients solve complex problems. Lisa was raised in Ohio and is driven by her core family values of hard work, education, and service to her community. She takes pride in providing her global clients with the best support and solutions possible.

In addition to her core work functions, Lisa has been recognized by her peers for her extraordinary commitment to mentoring young women in technology. She serves as a Board member for the Colorado Technology Association, Women in Technology, and internationally as an Ambassador for LEAP Schools in South Africa. In her free time, Lisa loves the outdoors, volunteering, and traveling, and she is a professional SCUBA diver and emergency first responder. She also spends time supporting Ocean Conservation efforts.

Lisa attended the Ohio State University and graduated with Honors with a BS in Marketing and Business Administration from Franklin University. She is currently attending Regis for her master’s degree in business administration.

Honorary Board Members

Her Excellency Justice Esme Jynet Chomo

Her Excellency Justice Esme Jynet Chombo is the Ambassador of the Republic of Malawi to the United States. Before she was appointed Ambassador, Esme Chombo served for 18 years as a Judge of the High Court of Malawi, serving as a judge with powers of unlimited original jurisdiction, appellate and review jurisdiction over all subordinate courts in civil, criminal, administrative, and industrial relations matters.

Her adjudication experience spans over 28 years. She first joined the Malawi Judiciary as Chief Resident Magistrate from 1986 to 1995, supervising all magistrates and overseeing the management of all lower courts in the Northern Region of Malawi. Before progressing to the High Court, she worked as Company Secretary for Press Corporation Limited and Press Agriculture Limited between 1995 and 2002.

Esme Chombo has also served in many other key roles in Malawi and Southern Africa related to prisons, adoptions, abortion, and judicial commissions and associations. She was the founding President of the Women Judges Association of Malawi’s Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges.

Esme Chombo holds a Master’s in Women’s Law and Human Rights from the University of Zimbabwe (2008), a Master’s in Strategic Management from the University of Derby, UK (2001), and a Bachelor of Law – (LLB) (Hons) from University of Malawi (1986).

Martin Banda

Martin Banda is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Malawi. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Soil Surveys from the International Institute of Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences of the University of Twente in the Netherlands and a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Malawi. He has 39 years of experience in the public and private sectors.

Martin served for 15 years as the Agriculture Development Program Specialist at the U.S.Agency for International Development in Malawi. In 2012 he briefed then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a women’s dairy project. He implemented agriculture programs that focused on diversification of the agriculture sector into such commodities as dairy, soy, legumes, and sweet potatoes. These programs targeted smallholder farmers, especially women. His work included emergency food assistance for those affected by natural disasters and addressing the underlying causes of hunger.

Martin’s first jobs were at the Ministry of Agriculture in extension services and the Land Resources Conservation Department, where he was responsible for land use planning, soil surveys, soil and water conservation, and land evaluation. He moved on to manage a Winrock International project to strengthen agricultural extension services. At the Delegation of the European Union to Malawi, he was Project Manager for Rural Development and Food Security.

Emeritus Board of Directors

  • Xanthe Scharff, Founder (2005 – 2015)*
  • Bill Bailey (2009 – 2011)
  • Christine Beggs (2010 – 2015)
  • Johan DeBrujin (2011-2017)
  • Marcella Distrutti (2019-2022)
  • Valerie Gilpin (2009 – 2015)
  • Steven Koltai (2013 – 2015)
  • Sebastiaan Kwakkenbos (2017 – 2020)
  • Ambassador Stephen D. Matenje (2013 – 2015)
  • Ambassador Necton D. Mhuru (2015-2016)
  • Jane Nankwenya (2013 – 2017)
  • Roland Pearson (2012 – 2019)
  • Kathleen Kimiko Phillips-Lohrmann (2008-2017)
  • Curt Reintsma (2012 – 2019)
  • Rinn Self (2006 – 2010)*
  • Roger Sullivan (2009 – 2011)
  • Sarah Sullivan (2012-2018)
  • Jessica Turco (2006 – 2009)*
  • Astri Van Dyke (2015 – 2021)
  • Kwaku Akowuah (2016- 2022)
  • Clara Brillembourg (2016- 2022)
  • H.E. Ambassador Edward Yakobe Sawerengera (2015- 2021)
  • Margaret Mwanza Gadabu (2015- 2021)

* Indicates Founding Board Member