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The 2023 Leaders Africa program will be a six-month, non-residential, virtual journey for 35 emerging leaders from across the continent.

The 2023 program will focus on honing leadership skills, building deep relationships with fellow leaders, and exploring how to drive, scale, and make sustainable change. Upon graduation, this group of Leaders will join a pan-African community of like-minded changemakers and will become part of a lifelong Obama Foundation community with access to a deep network.

The virtual Leaders Africa program seeks to identify exceptional leaders in government, civil society, and the private sector who have a clear issue-focus and who can illustrate the impact of their work. Our objective is to build a network of values-driven leaders, who create positive, innovative change in their communities, throughout Africa, and across the globe.

The program will run from February 2023 through July 2023. Leaders will participate in the following core elements of the program:

Weekly Virtual Calls
These live virtual sessions will be the primary form of collective engagement. These connections will offer a mix of new content (conversations with experts, introductions to leadership frameworks, skill-building, etc.) and interactive, small-group work in breakout rooms.

Monthly Community Groups
Leaders will work in peer learning groups that encourage deeper relationship-building and peer-learning, and offer an opportunity to reflect on or discuss open questions from the group sessions.

Individualized Leadership Coaching
Leaders will be paired with a coach to help them gain self-awareness, clarify goals, brainstorm ideas, achieve their development objectives, and unlock their potential.

Get to know the 2023 Leaders below!

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Founder and Chair, Young Leaders Organization

Collen Saudu is the founder and chair of the Young Leaders Organization, a movement run entirely by young people that addresses the prevention of diseases in southern Africa through health outreach programs. He recruits and trains young people to engage, educate, and inspire their local communities on critical health issues in Botswana. He is a public health graduate of Johns Hopkins University and previously served as a member of the Ministry of Health Primary Health Care Taskforce in Botswana. Collen is passionate about health and the role it plays in social progress.



Founder, Youthkonnect

Njemo Naomi Mabuh is the founder of Youthkonnect, an ed-tech initiative that educates youth on global citizenship and sustainable leadership, preparing more than 100 youth in technical and functional skills related to sustainable leadership in Cameroon, Nigeria, Eswatini, and Kenya. Naomi has worked as an education administrator in the education development sector for over six years and is passionate about providing unconventional education to help youth use their power to make change.



Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Game Changers

Beverly Ndifoin Niyang is the co-founder and chief operating officer at Game Changers, a youth-led association that trains small- and medium-sized enterprises to adopt low-carbon operating models, helping to realize private sector climate change commitments. Beverly has provided capacity-building workshops for over 300 entrepreneurs and mobilized volunteers to retrieve and recycle 10,000 kilograms of plastic waste that would have otherwise remained in landfills. Beverly’s passion for saving the environment stemmed from her environmental reporting experiences as a journalist, drawing her closer to the science behind climate change.



Founder and Creative Director, Divine Touch Designs

Agbor Veronica Wirsiy is the founder and creative director of Divine Touch Designs, an arts, crafts, textile, and fashion design company that equips women with skills to become financially independent in Cameroon. Veronica has trained more than 300 women and presented educational seminars on themes such as violence against women and girls to rural Cameroonian communities. She is a teacher by training and holds a master’s degree in sedimentary and petroleum geology. During her studies, Veronica created handicrafts to support herself, and was inspired by this experience to support other women to become financially independent through the establishment of their own arts and crafts businesses.


Democratic Republic of Congo

Founder and Executive Director, Ubuntu Trust

Daniel Muhwezi is the founder and executive director of Ubuntu Trust, a non-profit organization that helps Ugandan refugee farmers break the cycle of poverty through skills development and access to affordable financial services to practice farming and scale farming businesses. Daniel grew Ubuntu Trust’s microfinance membership from 16 to 1,200 in only four years and has provided financial assistance to over 20,000 community members. Daniel has also delivered food safety and quality training to over 200 smallholder farmers in partnership with the World Food Program. Daniel arrived in Uganda as a refugee at age 15 due to turmoil in his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He dreams of designing solutions that measurably impact 500,000 refugee youth and farmers to lift themselves out of poverty across Uganda.


Democratic Republic of Congo

Founder and Executive Director, Fountain of Hope

Marcel Cirhuza is the founder and executive director of Fountain of Hope, which works to alleviate poverty in Malawi’s refugee community through agriculture, health and sanitation, sustainability, education, literacy, gender equality, and financial initiatives. Under his direction, the Foundation of Hope educates preschool-aged children, provides startup funding to women in business and entrepreneurship, and supplies water to hundreds of refugee households. The organization’s food security initiative also assists farmers by providing them with agribusiness, nutrition, and economic training. Before fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo due to ongoing conflict, Marcel led community-based initiatives in the country that focused on livelihood support for women and children. Marcel credits the resilience he built during his time in Malawi’s Dzaleka refugee camp as the driving force behind his leadership today.



Project Manager, Center for Development Services and Co-Founder Women in Global Health Egypt Chapter

Norhan Bader is the project manager at the Center for Development Services (CDS), an entrepreneurial business that works to find practical and creative solutions for development-related issues, to bring about a better future. At CDS, Norhan leads ‘Love Matters Arabic,’ a digital project promoting sexual health, rights, and healthy relationships that reaches 60 million young Egyptians. Norhan also co-founded the Egypt Chapter for Women in Global Health, the first chapter in the MENA region, which has now grown to have a leadership team of 12 and ongoing funding to support women’s leadership in global health. A medical doctor by training, Norhan decided to leave her clinical work and join civil society work to grow her influence in sexual health and rights through advocacy and training.


Equatorial Guinea

Assistant for People with Visual Disabilities, National Organization for the Blind

Ángel Custodio Loeri Saka is the assistant for people with visual disabilities at the National Organization for the Blind in Equatorial Guinea, which advocates for and supports the social integration of those with visual disabilities. In his role, Ángel provides training for people with visual disabilities and supports their families in understanding treatment options. Ángel’s work and influence spans the African continent as vice chairperson of the African Committee for Visually Impaired Youth in the African Union of the Blind. Ángel is motivated to assist people with vision disabilities and their families because of the challenges he endured as a visually impaired person. He sees himself as an agent of change for people with disabilities and believes it is essential to be able to put oneself in the shoes of others to empathize with their experiences.



Public Health Consultant and Mentor, When Women Worship

Alice Sagwidza-Tembe is a public health consultant with over a decade of experience working in Eswatini, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. She works with organizations like the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to design, implement, and monitor public health-focused programs across southern Africa. Alice is also a mentor at When Women Worship, where she has developed motivational video clips to inspire women to step up, take charge, and support other women to raise their voices. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in behavioral sciences. Alice believes that by investing in the power of women, there can be no limit to what humanity can achieve.



Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Poverty 360

Sherriff Abdul-Hamid is the founder and chief executive officer of Poverty 360, a non-profit organization in Ghana with the mission to improve the lives of Africa’s economically oppressed people through diverse initiatives. Poverty 360 operates in Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, and its current projects focus on countering extremism and preventing forced and early child marriage through unique, community-tailored interventions. As part of Poverty 360’s holistic approach to strengthening livelihoods, Sheriff has led the organization’s previous initiatives including seedling planting in rural communities, providing solar lighting for children and families for schoolwork, and increasing profit margins for farmers by supporting improved agriculture technologies through hands-on training.



Co-Founder and Executive Director, Maltiti Foundation

Ewura Adams Karim is the co-founder and executive director of the Maltiti Foundation, a non-governmental organization based in Ghana that focuses on women’s economic empowerment. Under his leadership, the Maltiti Foundation team has assisted hundreds of young women in developing agricultural, financial literacy, and marketing skills to operate their own farms and create 350 direct and indirect jobs in their respective communities. Ewura also worked as a broadcast journalist and talk show host, and continues to be a multi-talented performing artist, using theater for social change.



Global Communications Coordinator, CLEAR Global

Susan Mbalu is the global communications coordinator at CLEAR Global (formerly Translators without Borders), a non-profit organization that helps individuals obtain critical information and be heard in their own languages. CLEAR Global shares information about public health, women’s reproductive health and rights, climate change, and forced displacement across the continent through machine translation, automatic speech recognition, and conversational AI. Susan promotes CLEAR Global’s work by working with partners such as global technologists and information access activists to increase awareness of the digital language divide.



Co-Founder and Executive Director, Queer African Network

Okong’o Kinyanjui is the co-founder and executive director of the Queer African Network (QAN), a social and professional networking platform for LGBTQ+ persons of African heritage. QAN’s membership has expanded to 2,500 members in 18 countries. The organization continues to co-design and build its platform with its members to ensure they can make safe connections, access opportunities, and exchange resources. In 2022, Okong’o gave a TED Talk about QAN, which has received over 1 million views, and he has also presented his work before the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Okong’o values interdisciplinary approaches to problems and believes that for projects to be successful, we must recognize the deep interconnectedness across all issue areas.



Founder, HyaPak Ecotech Ltd.

Joseph Nguthiru is the founder of HyaPak Ecotech Limited (Hyapak), a start-up transforming the water hyacinth plant, the world’s most problematic aquatic weed, into biodegradable alternatives for single-use plastic products. Since its inception, HyaPak has eliminated over 300 kg of water hyacinth from Lake Naivasha in Kenya. Alongside the HyaPak product, Joseph runs social-environmental projects under the Adopt a River initiative, which has eliminated over three tons of waste from polluted rivers across Kenya through involving communities in environmental education, river cleanups, and restorations. Joseph also invented a solar dryer that is now being used to revive pyrethrum plant farming in Kenya. As a civil and environmental engineer, Joseph is passionate about creating innovative and sustainable technologies to address climate change.



Executive Director and Project Lead, Paradiso TB Patients Trust

Bruce Matewere is the executive director and project lead at Paradiso TB Patients Trust, a non-profit organization that supports and advocates for people living with tuberculosis, HIV, and AIDS. Bruce leads a project team of over 1,000 volunteers that deliver health programs in 48 health institutions across Malawi and lobby for post-TB therapies to affected people in the community. To date, the team has provided health-related information to over 400,000 people. Growing up in a large family, Bruce learned early on that no one can bring about, much less sustain, meaningful change on their own. This lesson inspires Bruce to build strong teams to help bring change in the areas in which he works.



Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officers, Suadela
Gender and Education Consultant, The World Bank Group

Djénéba Gory is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Suadela, a non-profit organization that strives to uplift adolescent girls via negotiation skills development. Suadela operates in Mali using a “train-the-trainer” approach and plans to expand its programming throughout Africa. Djénéba also works as a gender and education consultant for The World Bank Group, where she advises governments on education and gender equality in more than 15 African countries. Djénéba’s experience of seeing her mother advocate so strongly for her children’s education after being unable to finish her own education due to family commitments is the inspiration behind her organization, Suadela.



Co-Founder and Partner, Living Labs Federation and Co-Founder, Mo Angels

​​Nassima Sadar-Gravier is a co-founder and partner of Living Labs Federation, a global impact accelerator that integrates local environmental programs with new climate change solutions. Nassima is also a co-founder of Mo Angels, a non-profit organization offering companies early-stage investment, mentoring, and networking. To date, the group made of 40 members has supported Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Israel, and Vietnam based-startups. Nassima, a former partner at a private equity firm, shifted her career trajectory after the birth of her first child, when she felt driven to work on climate change solutions.



Founder and Elected President, Federation of Student Organizations and Young Workers Program Manager, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Program

Ihssane Iraqi is the founder and elected president of the Federation of Student Organizations and Young Workers (FOEJA), an organization that seeks to build the capacity of young people in Morocco, with an emphasis on the inclusion of those who are not working, enrolled in schools, or participating in training programs. Ihssane leads interventions to help young people build a support network while equipping them with skills to enable socio economic inclusion. Since its inception, FOEJA has reached out to over 50,000 young people in Morocco. Ihssane is also a program manager for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Program, where she runs various programs like capacity building for women entrepreneurs in remote regions in Morocco. As an Arab Muslim woman, Ihsanne has overcome sociocultural barriers and deems her highest accomplishment as being able to freely be herself.



Founder and Project Leader, Comrade Nigeria

Bolaji Kareem is the founder and project leader of Comrade Nigeria, a civic engagement group that mobilizes nonpartisan teams of Nigerian youth to promote civic education and increase citizen participation in their local communities. In this role, Bolaji manages the operations team of 50 youth volunteers and engages with 500+ community members across Nigeria. In preparation for the 2023 general elections, Bolaji launched a web application to assist Comrade Nigeria’s youth volunteers in educating voters in their local communities. Previously, Bolaji organized a group of over 300 youth service corps members to advocate for women’s equal access to leadership opportunities in public service roles in Lagos. He believes in the ability of everyday people to work together to build the future they want.



Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Nextwear Technologies

Kemisola Bolarinwa is the founder and chief executive officer of Nextwear Technologies, the first wearable technology startup in Nigeria. In her role, she designs and develops technology worn near the body to treat health-related problems. Building on her robotics and system engineering experiences, Kemisola invented a smart bra that can detect early-stage breast cancer before symptoms develop. Recognized by BBC Africa, the smart bra is unique in its wide accessibility to those in rural or low-income communities who cannot access health facilities for conventional tests. Kemisola was inspired to create a smart bra after her aunt’s death due to the late-stage detection of breast cancer.



Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kosmotive

Blandine Umuziranenge is the founder and chief executive officer of Kosmotive, a social enterprise that focuses on improving reproductive, maternal, and child health in Rwanda and throughout Africa. Blandine created the KosmoPad, an eco-friendly and low-cost sanitary pad, that has been supplied to over 54,000 girls to help them continue their education while menstruating. In addition, she has created around 25 jobs in Kosmotive’s manufacturing plant for underprivileged women. Blandine was named one of the Top 50 African Business Heroes in 2021, and a finalist in the We Empower United Nations Social Development Goals Challenge in 2022. Blandine believes that as girls and women break the silence about menstruation and benefit financially from making and selling pads, they will see their periods as a source of pride and power.



Founder, Sunu Reen

Fanta Cire Diop is the founder of Sunu Reen, a social enterprise that promotes organic fabrics and local handicrafts. Fanta is currently working on a project to recycle organic fibers to create organic cloth for fashion, promoting the integration of circularity into the African fashion sector while creating jobs in rural communities. Fanta is committed to improving waste management and creating long-term solutions that benefit businesses, the environment, and communities.


Sierra Leone

Director, Africa Transitional Justice Legacy Fund

Makmid Kamara is the director of the Africa Transitional Justice Legacy Fund, a grant-making organization based in Ghana that focuses on African transitional and reparative justice. In this role, he supports survivor-led and community-based organizations in conflict and post-conflict countries to advance truth, justice, and accountability. In August 2022, Makmid hosted a global summit on reparations and racial healing for historical crimes. He is deeply committed to social change and believes there is an urgent need to reunite Africa with its diaspora populations to progress reparations demands and facilitate racial healing.


Sierra Leone

Deputy Director for Programs, Namati

Eleanor Thompson is the deputy director for programs at Namati, a land and environmental justice organization in Sierra Leone. Among other work at Namati, Eleanor provides direct legal assistance to communities during lease negotiations with investors. Eleanor has worked extensively on human rights, the rule of law, and justice at national, regional, and global levels for over 15 years. She influenced positive law reform in Sierra Leone by co-drafting the Customary Land Rights Bill and National Land Commission Bill, creating more equitable and democratic frameworks for decision-making on land. Eleanor is passionate about supporting people to utilize their power to protect their rights, hold their leaders accountable, and shape the laws that affect them.


Sierra Leone

Founder and Executive Director, Weekes Foundation

Sylvester Weekes is the founder and executive director of the Weekes Foundation, an organization that raises awareness about sexual and reproductive health and rights among girls aged 15-19 and equips them with educational tools and information to combat the systemic issue of adolescent pregnancy in Sierra Leone. As a gender equality advocate who seeks to empower and promote transformative leadership among girls and young women from underserved backgrounds to meet the urgent need for more African women in leadership positions, Sylvester aims to empower 300,000 women by 2030 to achieve gender equality in Freetown, Sierra Leone.


South Africa

Founder and Managing Director, Thriving Founders

Feroza Aitken is the founder and managing director of Thriving Founder, a coaching and training platform dedicated to developing conscious leadership in women entrepreneurs and executives. Feroza knows from lived experience that entrepreneurship is a challenging journey and believes that greater holistic support for entrepreneurs will develop more productive organizations.


South Africa

Manager and Lead Engineer, Aizatron

Joseph Lumbahe is a manager and lead engineer in computer vision at Aizatron. He also co-founded Bus54, a mobility technology platform with a digital infrastructure that aggregates intercity bus transportation data throughout all 54 African countries. Already deployed in its initial market, Nigeria, Bus54 has shown significant promise for improving African road transportation. A serial entrepreneur, Joseph’s other co-founded venture, TRACEROUTE, aims to reduce “last mile” delivery operational costs and to increase customers’ experience and satisfaction by introducing route optimization and parcel real-time visibility. He enjoys teaching others about technology and is proud of his impact on entrepreneurs he works with.


South Africa

Founder, #NotTooYoungtoLead Movement and LGBTQ+ Political Leaders Program

Thokozile “Thoko” Nhlumayo is the founder of the #NotTooYoungToLead Movement, a movement aimed towards holding governments in Africa accountable on the number of young people they have in office. She also serves as Secretary General of the International Youth Parliament, an African organization of 45 countries that advocates for young people’s meaningful engagement in political, leadership, and decision-making capacities. The African Union acknowledged the International Youth Parliament as one of the top 70 institutions contributing to Africa’s leadership and political growth. Thoko also launched the LGBTQ+ Political Leaders Program in South Africa and Namibia, which seeks to achieve full equality for LGBTQ+ people by building, supporting, and advancing a diverse network of LGBTQ+ public leaders. Thokozile’s passion for advocating for the inclusion of young people in leadership roles was developed by her own experiences of being denied public office opportunities due to age and gender.



Founder, “It’s All About You Queens”

Hager Eissa is the founder of “It’s All About You Queens,” an organization that helps women of color worldwide achieve their dreams. Hager has also established programs in refugee camps in Darfur, facilitating reconciliation procedures and committees to transform conflict and build tolerance. She is a global peace ambassador for the Global Peace Chain, a worldwide movement to spread the message of peace and love. Hager believes that peace and the inclusion of women are essential for society’s growth and progress.



Country Manager, Femme International

Sia Towo is the country manager at Femme International, a non-profit organization in East Africa that provides menstrual and sexual reproductive health education, research, and menstrual product distribution. Sia and her team implement the organization’s Twaweza Program in collaboration with local schools and community-based groups, with the goal of creating safe spaces for dialogue about puberty, reproductive anatomy, sexual health, body hygiene, menstruation, and menstrual management. Sia seeks to influence education and health policy to improve menstruation health and promote gender equality in Africa.



Founder and Chair, Nala Feminist Collective

Aya Chebbi is the founder and chair of the Nala Feminist Collective, a pan-African coalition of activists and politicians united to support Africa’s female future. She has established several platforms and programs to support youth and women’s leadership, including a blog, a mentorship program, and a think tank. Her work has reached over one million young people. Aya was a voice for democracy during the 2010-2011 Tunisian revolution, and she served as the African Union’s first Special Envoy on Youth from 2018 to 2021. The notion “my liberation is your liberation” drives her work in building sisterhood, movements, and power for collective liberation.



National Coordinator, Universal Coalition of Affirming Africans Uganda (UCAA-UG)

Tom Twongyeirwe Junior is the national coordinator of the Universal Coalition of Affirming Africans Uganda (UCAA-UG), the first national coalition of Ugandan religious leaders dedicated to using a faith-based approach to advance the inclusion of oppressed groups, including LGBTQ+ people, women, and people living with disabilities. Under Tom’s leadership, the organization has grown in size to 67 members. The Human Rights Campaign recognized him as Uganda’s Innovator of the Year in 2019.



Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Empowerment Initiative for Rural Women and Girls

Ireen Chikatula is the founder and chief executive officer of the Empowerment Initiative for Rural Women and Girls, a non-profit organization focused on improving livelihoods in Zambia’s rural communities through the social and economic empowerment of women and girls. Their initiatives include advocacy and leadership training for adolescent girls and business training and coaching for rural women. Ireen was named a One Young World Peace Ambassador in 2022 in recognition of her critical role in fostering peace in her community. Her vision is to create an enabling environment free from violence, inequality, and poverty, where women and girls can be autonomous and reach their greatest potential.

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Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Abiyedu Kin Consulting

Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Energyneering Zimbabwe

Prechard Mhako is co-founder and managing partner at Abiyedu Kin Consulting, a strategy consulting firm that supports innovative entrepreneurship. He is also the co-founder and chief commercial officer at Energyneering Zimbabwe, a company providing underserved communities with affordable renewable electricity and safe drinking water. Prechard has partnered with international development partners to deliver innovative solutions, such as a water container that purifies contaminated water using solar energy. He learned about entrepreneurship at a young age from his father, who owned a rural business that provided many impactful jobs in the community. Prechard’s personal goal is to help create 10,000 sustainable jobs.



Founder and CEO, Opihc

Chipo Zhou is the founder and CEO of Opihc, a communications strategy company based in South Africa. She is an entrepreneur and film festival curator with over 15 years of experience in the arts industry. Chipo is motivated by her need for an open-minded, equitable, and inclusive society. As a result, she advocated for the transformation of the film industry in Zimbabwe early in her career at the International Images Film Festival for Women, and more recently in South Africa through her work at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF). She delivered five consecutive iterations of the DIFF and increased African and LGBTQ+ representation from 20 percent to more than 50 percent during that time. Over the years, she has created various platforms to develop local South African films by providing support for zero-budget filmmakers. She owns Mupfuti Garden’s Restaurant and Outdoor Venue, which she now uses for arts-related events and initiatives in Mashonaland West, Zimbabwe.