*Not all members included.

Abiola Afolayan

Abiola Afolayan is the author of the forthcoming book: “Becoming Girls, Women and a Movement Making a Change in Peace and Security and Rewriting Boundaries in the 21st Century, A Manifesto.” An international lawyer by training, her previous experience was as partnership and strategic communications officer with the UN World Food Programme in Rome, Italy where she helped spearhead global partnerships and initiatives on SDG 2.

Abiola is also the founder of the volunteer-based NGO Not On Our Watch Advocacy! (NOOWA!), with the mission to educate and empower youth to find solutions to youth trafficking. Among others, Abiola has been selected as a National Endowment for Democracy Penn Kemble Democracy Forum Fellow and an American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyer’s Division (YLD) Scholar. Abiola’s field work has taken her to the front lines of the Syria-Jordan border, North-eastern, Nigeria, Western Sahara, Algeria, Turkey and Taiwan on human rights, humanitarian and development policies. Since law school Abiola has been an active member of the National Lawyers Guild.

Michel Anselme Goudjo Ako

Michel Anselme Goudjo Ako is currently working as a project specialist and government contractor for the Department of Defense and VA where he utilizes his expertise on current DoD and VA regulations, as well as administrative projects processing as required for government approval. He is heavily invested in the African diaspora community and is member of various affiliated organizations and associations.

Michel’s love for the African continent, its politics and international relations goes far beyond its culture. He believes the continent plays a prominent role in today's international development and needs even more attention from the international community.

Hannah Akuiyibo

Hannah Akuiyibo (@hbakuiyibo) is the Program Associate with the Wilson Center Africa Program, where she manages the Africa Program’s daily activities, grants, and projects. She holds an MA in Democracy and Governance from Georgetown University, with a research focus on Africa, and a BA in Political Science from Bob Jones University.

She previously served as a Program Assistant with the Africa Program. Originally from Alaska, Hannah has studied German at the Goethe Institute in Göttingen, Germany, and worked in Kenya and Uganda with International Justice Mission. Her interests are U.S.-Africa policy, elections, subnational politics, and democracy in Africa.

Kidan Araya

Kidan Araya is the Africa Program Campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency in Washington, D.C. She creates advocacy strategies to combat environmental crimes across Africa and manages partnership engagement for EIA's Forests Program, most notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia.

She holds a Master of Arts in Geography from the University of Washington at Seattle, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Environmental Studies from Beloit College. Kidan has conducted a variety of human rights centered research funded by private foundations and governmental agencies to analyze environmental and social policies in the United States, Cameroon, and Sweden. Her expertise lies in environmental governance, China's investment in the natural resources sector in Africa, forest policy, anti-corruption, strategic partnerships, youth engagement in policy advocacy, and global public health. She formerly coordinated USAID, UNICEF, and State of California funded projects. In her spare time, she loves cooking Ethiopian food, visiting community gardens, and travelling back to Africa any chance she gets.

Toyin Awesu

Toyin Awesu, for over thirteen years, has helped organizations and government offices use communications as an innovative tool to engage stakeholder groups and raise their profile nationally and internationally. She has also facilitated communications and digital media trainings in South Africa, Niger, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Kenya.

Toyin currently serves as the Director of Communications for the Congressional Black Caucus for the U.S. House of Representatives. As the Director of Communications, Toyin has helped elevate the voice of the Caucus around critical issues and legislation impacting the Black community. Prior to this, Toyin was the Senior Communications Manager for National Democratic Institute. Toyin has a Master of Science Degree in Integrated Marketing & Communications from West Virginia University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism from Temple University. In addition to the CSIS Africa Policy Accelerator, Toyin is also a member of the International Black Women’s Public Policy Institute.

Lexi Boiro

Lexi Boiro currently serves as a Program Officer with the National Democratic Institute supporting democracy and governance programming in Francophone West Africa. Her interests focus on citizen engagement in electoral processes; subnational governance and accountable service delivery; and issue-based social mobilization.

Prior to joining NDI, Lexi served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal where her work focused on community-level public health and malaria prevention. She also has a background in organizing, having previously worked as a Field Organizer for Amnesty International in the Southeastern United States. Lexi earned an MA in Democracy and Governance from Georgetown University and holds a BA in African Studies and Political Science from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In her spare time, Lexi enjoys exploring all that D.C. has to offer by bicycle and grappling with the NY Times crossword puzzle.

Renee Coulouris

Renee Coulouris is a Senior Program Officer at Strategic Capacity Group (SCG) in the Planning and Logistics Department. As a Senior Program Officer, she supports the coordination and execution of all SCG’s programmatic activities globally, particularly in the Sahel region. Ms. Coulouris joined SCG in 2018 as a Project Coordinator supporting SCG’s security sector reform programs in across Africa.

Prior to joining SCG, Ms. Coulouris served as a Political Affairs Assistant at the United Nations in the Africa II Division of the Department of Political Affairs, where she directly supported the Deputy Director’s work on political outreach and preventive diplomacy. Renee also worked as a Gender and Global Security Program Assistant at Women In International Security. In this capacity she conducted research and analysis on topics related to countering violent extremism. Ms. Coulouris holds a MA in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University and a BA in International Affairs and Political Science from Northeastern University. Ms. Coulouris was also the 2018 Gender in Foreign Policy Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

Habtamu Tesfaye Edjigu

Habtamu Tesfaye Edjigu is a research fellow with the World Bank’s MTI Unit. He has a solid track record conducting quantitative analysis, carrying out surveys, and working experience in high-quality empirical analysis on productivity, trade, and other socioeconomic issues using survey microdata.

He received his PhD in economics from the University of Adelaide in 2019 and was awarded a doctoral research medal as well as the Dean’s Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence.

Afua Entusah

Afua Entusah is a private sector development consultant focused geopolitical risk in sub-Saharan Africa.

She holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School, and has experience working for multilateral organizations, global risk firms and a multinational conglomerate in Africa.


Kristen Folkerts

Kristen Folkerts currently works as Coordinator for the U.S.-Africa Business Center at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a leading business advocacy group aimed at strengthening the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationship. Her work specifically focuses on the North and West African regions. Her professional interests include African affairs and expanding policy beyond the development paradigm, international trade, women’s empowerment, and project management.

Kristen graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in International Affairs and French. She spent a semester abroad in Senegal, interning for a women’s economic empowerment organization and studying microeconomics and health. Before working at the U.S. Chamber, she worked for Creative Associates International. She is a member of the CSIS Africa Policy Accelerator, Women in International Trade (WIIT), and is a Co-Chair of the Young Professional Network at the Women’s Foreign Policy Group (WFPG). She is fluent in French and speaks beginner Spanish and Arabic. She enjoys learning languages, cooking, and discovering new music.

Marc Friend

Marc Friend is the Assistant Director of U.S. Government Relations for the ONE Campaign, a global movement campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease. Previously, he was the Congressional Affairs Specialist for UASID in the Asia Bureau.

Marc has previously worked in USAID's Global Development Lab and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. Marc started his career providing government relations for various non-profits based in D.C. Marc is a graduate of The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. When not working, Marc enjoys learning the banjo and cheering on his Chicago teams.

Diane Furstenau

Diane Furstenau is a Senior Program Officer at Freedom House, where she works on human rights programs in Uganda and Tanzania.

Diane previously worked on transitional justice and counter-terrorism programs in South Sudan, Kosovo, Iraq, Kenya, Syria, and Tanzania at the Public International Law and Policy Group. She has a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, an MPhil from the University of Cambridge, and a JD from Cornell Law School.

Jake Grover

Jake Grover is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in the Department of Policy and Evaluation. Jake previously worked at USAID in the Bureau of Policy, Planning, and Learning’s Office of Policy. He originally joined USAID as a Presidential Management Fellow and completed details at the MCC and in the Department of Treasury's Office of African Nations as an International Economist.

Before working as a Researcher at the Center for Global Development, he was an Economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jake received a Master of Public Policy in International Policy and Development from Georgetown University and a B.S. in Economics and a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations from The Ohio State University.

Lisa Jené

Lisa Jené is a consultant for Mercy Corps’ Research and Learning Team, where she manages projects on climate change, conflict, migration, and adaptation in fragile states. Previously, she was the Fellow for the Africa Subcommittee for the House of Representatives.

She has a PhD in Political Science from Claremont Graduate University in California. She specializes in the DRC, where she has conducted extensive fieldwork.

Hillary Mara

Hillary Mara is a Senior Program Officer in the Africa Division at Millennium Challenge Corporation where she provides program management expertise for projects in Liberia, Niger, and Malawi. Prior to joining MCC, Hillary worked as a consultant at Catholic Relief Services in the Agriculture & Livelihoods division.

Hillary completed her MPA at Cornell University with a concentration in international development. As a student she worked on projects related to sustainable rice production; integration of gender into agricultural research; and rural entrepreneurship. Previously, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea and Mali working in the agriculture and agribusiness sectors. She is proficient in French.

Rudy Massamba

Rudy Massamba has designed and managed democracy assistance grants programs for nine countries encompassing Central Africa and West Africa. In this capacity, Rudy has traveled to 17 countries spread across sub-Saharan Africa, Western Europe, and South America.

In addition to shaping grantmaking strategy, he has frequently organized high-profile talks aimed at enhancing the international awareness of specific challenges to democracy or improving relations between civil society and government officials in the countries of his portfolio. As a seasoned expert on democracy-promoting civil society, especially in relation to the conflict-ridden Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rudy frequently contributes to Washington-based panel and working group discussions. He is a regular lecturer at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and has previously spoken at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), the Georgetown University Law Center, the Harvard Law School, and the Harvard Kennedy School. Rudy is fluent in French and possesses intermediate Portuguese language skills.

Christopher Metzger

Christopher Metzger is a research associate for the Project on Prosperity and Development (PPD) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) where he manages five grants with private companies, foreign governments, U.S. government agencies, and non-profits. While at CSIS, he has led research trips to Uganda, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Italy, and Australia. He maintains PPD’s research workstreams on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, urban water finance, private sector development, anti-corruption efforts, and youth. He was the lead organizer of the 2019 Global Development Forum, which had over 600 attendees and featured remarks from former Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom and USAID Administrator Mark Green.

He started his career at CSIS as a research intern in September 2017, having previously served in a U.S. Senate office. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international politics from Washington and Lee University and studied at Hollins University’s campus in London and Syracuse University’s campus in Florence, Italy. He will be joining the Global Human Development program within the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University this fall.

Matt Mullman

Matt Mullman is a business, economic, and geopolitical analyst who provides strategic advice and insight to advance clients’ interests across Africa. He has extensive experience producing actionable business intelligence on the Horn of Africa and the East African Community, as well as other major regional markets and industries on the continent.

Prior to joining CG, Matt was with the Africa practice at Albright Stonebridge Group. Before that, Matt worked on the East Africa and Political Transitions teams at the US Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. He also was the lead analyst for sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia at a start-up political risk firm with a focus on machine-learning insights. Matt has lived and worked in Tanzania and Ethiopia, where he was a Peace Corps volunteer focused on rural community health issues. He speaks Kiswahili, Afan Oromo, and German. Matt holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service with academic distinction from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Georgetown University.

Simone Peloquin

Simone Peloquin is a Program Officer at impl. project, an NGO specializing in hyper-local data collection and targeted programing in non-permissive and conflict-affected environments. During her time at impl. project, she has deployed to Benghazi, Libya, Azerbaijan and Chicago on behalf of public and private sector clients and managed community resiliency programming in the Philippines.

Ms. Peloquin has also worked at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), supporting United States government democracy programming in Nigeria. At NDI, her work focused on electoral strengthening and she launched an election observation mission for Nigeria's 2015 presidential elections. Prior to her time at NDI, Simone interned on Capitol Hill for US Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and US Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE), who at the time, Chaired the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. Ms. Peloquin holds a MA in Politics from New York University, and a dual BA in Political Science and Journalism from the University of St. Thomas.

Alejandra Portillo-Taylor

Alejandra Portillo-Taylor is a Policy Associate for the International Committee of the Red Cross, based in the Regional Delegation for the United States and Canada in Washington, D.C. As a member of the Policy Department, Alejandra represents the ICRC before a range of audiences and analyzes a wide range of thematic files, including US partnered operations, sexual violence in conflict, and operational contexts relevant to the ICRC in Washington. Before joining the ICRC, Alejandra worked at Crisis Action on advocacy campaigns for the protection of civilians in Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan.

Prior to locating to Washington, Alejandra was an English teacher in Cambodia. She also worked in Rwanda where she conducted economic empowerment trainings for women. Alejandra received her MSc in International Development from the University of Amsterdam and holds a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from Kalamazoo College.

Naomia Suggs-Brigety

Naomia Suggs-Brigety provides a unique perspective on development work through her experience with development projects in the United States and Africa where she worked as a member of government and nongovernmental organizations.

Trained as a Civil Engineer she has honed her skills as a problem-solver and quantitative thinker. Working at the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to maintain our aging infrastructure taught her the importance of innovate thinking and communication. This served her well at the Corporate Council on Africa where she worked as a part of teams organizing conferences for 800+ people and forums hosting multiple heads of state and in the fast-paced work of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Austin Swift

Austin Swift is a research associate at the Institute for Defense Analyses. He also serves as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. A former Peace Corps Volunteer, he spent two years in the West African nation of Burkina Faso.

Austin holds a MA in Geography and Regional Studies with a graduate certificate in Geospatial Technology from the University of Miami and a BA in International Studies from Texas A&M University.

Jared Thompson

Jared Thompson is an MA Candidate in Strategic Studies and International Economics at Johns Hopkins SAIS. While at SAIS, he has interned with Albright Stonebridge Group and the U.S. State Department on African economic, security, and multilateral issues.

Prior to SAIS, Jared worked at the National Democratic Institute, supporting democracy and governance programming in the Sahel, and was a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso. Jared is originally from Glasgow, KY and speaks English and French.

Yaw Thompson

Yaw Thompson lives in Washington, DC where he has worked for several years as an analyst at Forbes Tate Partners, a government and public affairs advocacy firm focused on a number of issue areas across different industries including healthcare, technology, and agriculture. Among his duties is spending substantial time exploring opportunities in emerging markets. Prior to joining Forbes Tate, Yaw worked at No Labels.

Yaw received a bachelor’s degree in History and Communications from Denison University. As he gained a stronger understanding of US domestic policy and later foreign policy during his time there, he began to think more intentionally about how these policies impact his birthplace, Accra, Ghana, where he spent his formative years, and even more broadly the continent of Africa. Yaw worked with the Sankofa Society of Ghana, a non-profit organization focused on sociopolitical issues, where he not only maintained and authored a public blog but also strategically advised on the organization's messaging and played an instrumental role in helping it find a voice in its early years.

Madeline Vellturo

Madeline Vellturo is a Policy Analyst covering West and Central Africa for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Prior to this current role, Madeline served as a Research Analyst with the Stimson Center’s Protecting Civilians in Conflict program for over four years, where she conducted field research on peace operations and pastoralism-related violence in Mali, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Madeline holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Bryn Mawr College and Master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs with a concentration in International Security Policy and Conflict Resolution. She has lived and worked abroad in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Uganda.

Kimberly Vidal

Kimberly Vidal is an Associate Director in the Glover Park Group’s Government Affairs division. A member of the divisions’ International Affairs team, she supports clients on foreign policy, global health, and national security issues.

Prior to joining GPG, Kimberly worked at Servcorp. She spent two semesters as an intern at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) geocoding the locations of terrorist incidents for the Global Terrorism Database. She also completed internships with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Public Affairs – where she assisted in the creation of a department-wide Workforce Development Program, in the House of Representatives, and on a Congressional campaign. Kimberly graduated from American University with degrees in Homeland and National Security Studies and Political Science, with a concentration in American Government. She spent a semester studying War Studies abroad at King’s College in London,