Yawa Hansen-Quao is a visionary leader whose career intersects with the values and goals of Emerging Public Leaders. For nearly a decade, she has nurtured female leadership and social entrepreneurship in Africa through the Leading Ladies Network (LLN), a nonprofit she founded in Ghana. Through the Leading Ladies Network, Yawa has fostered an ecosystem of women and girls who have ambitious goals, strong character and resolve to serve as impactful leaders in business, civil society, and government. In May 2012, at the World Economic Forum on Africa, Yawa was recognized as one of Africa’s Rising Leaders and in 2016 was awarded an Eisenhower Fellowship in honor of her pioneering work nurturing emerging women leaders.
In addition to being a founder, speaker, and author, Yawa served for three years on the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community; and is a current member of the Board of Directors of Ashesi University College; a leading liberal arts university in Ghana. She previously served as a leadership consultant to UN Women helping to develop leadership curricula to enhance the capacity of women leaders in East and Southern Africa. Additionally, Yawa served for two years as a member of the Advisory Board of the Women's Institute for Global Leadership at Benedictine University.
Yawa holds a MA in Gender, Peace & Security from the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center, Honors studies in Entrepreneurship & New Product Development at the American University of Rome, and a BSc in Business Administration from Ashesi University College.
Mariam is a Program Associate at Emerging Public Leaders. In her capacity, she is responsible for country programs management, organizational development, and donor engagement. Prior to joining Emerging Public Leaders, Mariam lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania working with Smart Codes, a local digital marketing agency, on developing an innovation lab for Tanzanian startups. She previously worked at Dexis Consulting and holds significant volunteering experience with Learning Enterprises in Panama and The Foundation for Sustainable Development in Uganda.
Mariam graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2016 with a B.A. in Government and Politics and minor in International Development and Conflict Management. During her time at Maryland, she won the Boren Scholarship to study Swahili in Arusha, Tanzania from 2015-2016. In her free time, she enjoys discovering new coffee shops and searching for the best travel deals online.
President Sirleaf served as the president of Liberia from 2006 to 2018, becoming the first elected female head of state in Africa. During her time as president, Ms. Sirleaf advocated for freedom, justice, and peace. In 2011, she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in fighting for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. Ms. Sirleaf was awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in 2017.
Prior to serving as president, Ms. Sirleaf worked for five years as Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Program, as Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, and was the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Project for Africa. She received her Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University.
Betsy Williams is the Founder and Co-Chair of Emerging Public Leaders. She also founded the President’s Young Professionals Program in Liberia and currently serves as PYPP International Advisory Board Chair and on the PYPP Liberia Board of Directors. Ms. Williams launched PYPP with Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf upon seeing the country's urgent need for a stronger civil service following two civil wars, and recognizing the potential of youth to drive that progress. Ms. Williams' work has focused on the intersection of social development, foreign policy, and global health, having launched and supported innovative programs at USAID, JSI, Asia Society and Physicians for Human Rights. She graduated cum laude from Princeton University and received her MPH from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University where she currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Overseers.
Michelle Gavin was the Managing Director of The Africa Center. From 2011 to 2014, Ms. Gavin served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Botswana and the U.S. Representative to the Southern Africa Development Community. Prior to that, she served as Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Africa on the National Security Council. Before joining the Obama Administration, she was an Adjunct Fellow for Africa and an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Ms. Gavin has also served as legislative director to U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO), spent six years serving as the primary foreign policy adviser to Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), and has served as the staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on African Affairs. She earned a Masters of Philosophy in International Relations from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar; and a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Antoinette Monsio Sayeh oversaw and significantly enhanced the International Monetary Fund’s engagement with its sub-Saharan African members as Director of the African Department between July 2008 and August 2016. As Minister of Finance in post-conflict Liberia (January 2006 through June 2008), she led the country through the clearance of its long-standing multilateral debt arrears, the HIPC Decision Point, the Paris Club, and its first Poverty Reduction Strategy, significantly strengthening its public finances and championing public financial management reform. Before joining President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Cabinet, Ms. Sayeh worked for the World Bank for 17 years, including as Country Director for Benin, Niger, and Togo; Senior Country Economist on Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as an Advisor in the Bank’s Operations Policy Vice Presidency and as Assistant to its principal Managing Director. Before joining the Bank, Ms. Sayeh worked in economic advisory positions in Liberia’s Ministries of Finance and Planning. Ms. Sayeh graduated with a bachelor’s degree with honors in economics from Swarthmore College and a PhD in International Economic Relations from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
Witney Schniedman is Senior International Advisor for Africa where he leads Covington’s Africa initiative and is a senior member of the firm’s Public Policy and Government Affairs Practice Group, the International Strategy Group and the International Trade and Finance Group. Dr. Schneidman, a non-lawyer, has nearly 40 years of experience working across Sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on his experience in the State Department, the World Bank, think tanks and his own consulting practice, Dr. Schneidman, has advised energy, technology, consumer and health companies, among others, on projects in more than 30 African countries. Dr. Schneidman provides strategic advice on the varied political, economic, social and regulatory issues that are critical to companies’ success in Africa. This includes issues related to Corporate Social Responsibility, compliance, and market entry and risk mitigation. Dr. Schneidman has written extensively on African economic and political issues and aired his views on CBS News, CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC and the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation, among other media outlets.
Andrew is the Founder, President + Executive Director of GDI, which provides strategic, operational, and fiduciary support to EPL. He leads the team across focus areas and crafts unconventional perspectives to drive the global development sector forward. Mr. Stern has played many roles within GDI initiatives, including Interim CEO of Convergence, and serves on the advisory boards of the President’s Young Professionals Program of Liberia, mhNOW, and Tendrel. Prior to founding GDI, Mr. Stern was a Global Operating Partner at Dalberg Global Advisors. During that time, he helped design and launch ANDE and served as the founding chairman of mothers2mothers. He holds a joint MBA/MPP from Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School and a BA in Economics from Princeton University.
Melissa Bukuru is an Analyst in Global Policy Development at Soros Fund Management. She manages several policy-related projects for the principals of the fund. Before joining, she worked at the Open Society Foundations in New York managing grants for African civil society organizations. Previously she was at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she did research on conflict, technology and democracy in Africa. She holds a BA in Global Studies from The New School in New York, where she also studied creative writing. She was born in Burundi and spent her childhood in New York City and Quebec.
Hh Zaizay serves as the Executive Director and leads the in-country team of the President's Young Professionals Program of Liberia. Mr. Zaizay provides critical leadership support, and is responsible for the management and implementation of program-related activities and curricula in Liberia. Mr. Zaizay serves as the main point of contact in Liberia for all partners and stakeholders. He holds a MA in Gender, Peace, and Security from the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Accra, Ghana and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the United Methodist University in Monrovia, Liberia.