Search form


The Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders Alumni Portraits Series will trace back the stories of impactful young leaders of the ADEL alumni community. More than a biography, this journalistic approach will capture these success stories, helping us understand the roots of their leadership and pursuit of positive impact. From Morocco to South Africa, Germany to Canada, Brazil and the United Statesl, these young leaders from diverse backgrounds came together in Marrakech for the common goal of rebalancing Atlantic relations to include Southern Atlantic states. As the ADEL Alumni community keeps on growing, we will highlight some of their singular stories here in the spirit of intergenerational dialogue that lies at the heart of the Policy Center for the New South.

Patricia Ahanda

This young French entrepreneur cannot be reduced to a single side of herself. To describe her as the founder of Lydexperience, a training platform focused on leadership coaching, is certainly not enough. She is also into politics and has held an electoral mandate, with expertise on equality, training and female entrepreneurship.


In her case, the same applies to geography. Born in France, Patricia Ahanda partly grew up in Cameroon, her parent’s country. When her father was posted in Yaoundé, his family followed. Between the age of 6 and 10, Patricia observed and absorbed her new environment. She dreamt of becoming a school headmistress. “I realized the importance of education in Cameroon. My father was helping a lot of children in need, to finance their studies. He thought it was unacceptable to let kids work on the fields or walk for kilometers to attend class. He told me to always help somebody to go to school, as much as I could”.

Cameroon has taught her life lessons : “People always fight in difficult circumstances, finding strength and inspiration”, she says. In France, “things are not easy either but this is a Revolution country with important values such as freedom and equality, and that also grants its citizens the right to protest . One can always criticize the French society, but the struggle against inequalities is deeply rooted. I find this reassuring, because it is not the case in other countries”.

Double culture, double curriculae

Her double curriculae in Politics and Communication is another facet of her personality. She has a Master’s Degree in Modern Litterature and Communication and another one in Geopolitics (Université Paris III). At first, she wanted to be a diplomat like her father. But she changed her mind after a traineeship at the French Embassy in Niamey (Niger) in 2010. “A troubled time, with French nationals being held hostages and a general context of financial restrictions in diplomatic institutions”, she explains.

She decided to study further at La Sorbonne (Paris I), with a Master’s Degree mixing Law, Political Science and preparation to the well-known National School of Administration (ENA). She never made it to this elitist school, now doomed to disappear under a decision of the President Emmanuel Macron. She nonetheless managed to get the needed skills to pursue her political carreer.

At 16, she started fighting for youth participation in politics with the Socialist Party (PS). In 2011, she joined the direction of the campaign team of François Hollande, elected in 2012. She became a member of the press relations’ team in the cabinet of the Minister of Economy and Finance.

Crying out for change

Between 2014 and 2020, she held an electoral mandate as a Deputy Mayor of Champigny-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris with 76,000 inhabitants. She was in charge of the “digital development, training and professional insertion” for the youth and the unemployed. 

Patricia Ahanda has a smooth voice, but everything about her is crying out for change. Her coaching firm, called Lydexperience, was launched in 2017 to fill a gap. “Everybody’s talking about governance and leadership, but nobody is teaching those subjects. My work experience has shown me that leadership is a skill you can acquire. It’s all about certain codes and customs that some people are not raised with. When knowledge and tools are shared, it becomes possible to democratize leadership, without thinking it belongs to the elite”.

She organizes trainings in the public sector, and gives advice to SMEs or people looking for leadership skills. What is the best asset to become a true leader? “Quality, the desire to do and share something, serve a cause, solve a problem, respond to questions or expectations of a group”.

Self-assertion as a young woman

Her customers are mostly women, looking for a self-assertive outlook that is often lacking. “There isn’t one model of leadership, and it does not necessarily look like a man in a suit. Leadership is also represented by strong women like Mother Teresa or Wangari Maathai. More and more women want to get trained after reading positive pieces about female success stories in the press”. She operates in France and Africa, offering a Women Leadership Workshop and a Brunch Women Leadership Business. Both initiatives were given in 2020 a label by UN Women and the Ministry of Gender Equality, during the forum called “Génération égalité”.

She is still working on the political front, and has launched in 2021 a new NGO called POLEADHER, focusing on the participation of young women in politics. Patricia Ahanda, a leader in her own right, has been a member of many programs - Globsec Young Leaders, the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD), the Forbes Under 30 Summit and the World Bank Youth Summit, to name a few.

She was also an Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leader (ADEL) in 2018, a program she thinks is “different, because I am still in touch with fellow young leaders from across the Atlantic”. She applied because she was longing to meet people “like me, living in other countries but sharing my aspirations and a will to have a positive impact on the world, with more exchange and cooperation”. In Marrakesh, she shared experiences with “people eager to learn and other young women finding it sometimes difficult to impose themselves”. Patricia’s future seems bright, rooted in questions of equality, education and development that won’t go away.

Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr

This young woman comes across as a striking beauty, body and soul. Born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria, she shines. She’s not only a voice for others, but first and foremost her own person.


She founded She ROARs in 2016, a platform dedicated to unleash the potential of young female leaders in Africa and the diaspora. It really took off after an important gathering of more than 300 African women in August 2017 in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania. The “Women Advancing Africa” conference was organized by the Graça Machel Trust, named after the former First Lady of Mozambique and widow of Nelson Mandela.

I was invited as one of the core moderators to anchor the event, Chidiogo Akunyili remembers. I thought it was a shame to come all this way and not take advantage of the capacity of so many women gathered in the same place, besides the regular talks. I thought : what if we did something different, something bolder ? We had a moment of 300 women sobbing after sharing some very personal stories, opening up to different types of violence they had endured. The need to connect, take time to breathe and realize that you are not alone was overwhelming.”

She was so inspired by the gap between that need and what a few organizations can do to support entrepreneurial women that she decided to take further her action. “There is no organization promoting wellness and the acknowledgement of pain – from sexual atrocities to pressures at work, from sexual abuses to struggling with a husband, or to have a husband.

The association works through coaching, workshops, seminars and conferences. With a light team of 5, three women in different areas in the world and two technicians in Casablanca, Morocco, helping with the online side of the activity, it has already reached 2000 women, mostly young professionnals aged 27-37. The seminars and one-to-one coaching sessions address the impact one can have, the relation between personal and professional life, vision and goal setting methods and work on leadership qualities.

Her dream is to reach out to millions of women in Africa, North America and the Caribbean. The mission is not focused on therapy, but self development. « You can’t give what you don’t have, she says : your own strength, peace of mind, trust to your intuition and discernment. Young women are constantly shutting themselves down because they are told they’re not good enough ».

After all, Chidiogo knows her subject inside out. Her late mother, the multi-awarded pharmacist Dora Akuniyli (1954-2014), is an icon in Nigeria. She was the uncompromising head of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control  (NAFDAC) between 2001 and 2008. As the Director-General of this regulatory agency, « she wouldn’t take bribes and did what no man could ever do : she changed the rules of the game for operators in the food and drugs industry in Nigeria ». Recipient of the Integrity Award of Transparency International in 2003 and named “One of the 18 heroes of our times” by Time Magazine in 2006, she was the Minister of Information and Communications from 2008 to 2010 in Nigeria. Chidiogo, who has five siblings, is currently writing a book about her, to inspire others.

As for her own trajectory, it is already telling. She decided to study International Relations & Economics at SAIS, John Hopkins, and French. These two subjects were “broad enouth to figure out later” what her options could be. She was eager to understand the world and human interactions, and get the skills she felt insecure about not having. That’s why she chose International Relations instead of Law, recommended by her parents. But why French ? A big revenge on life: she had a negative experience with a French teacher who slapped her in class when she was 11. “I internalized the story I was not smart enough for French and put up a wall, thinking this is not for me. When I was 17, my sister had this crazy idea for me:  spend the summer learning French in Vichy. I was excited, and two months later I came back speaking French, because the teacher focused on me when I was crying in class, and I was living in a family whose children didn’t speak English.” She  spent a year in Germany and learned the language, and then moved to China, where she worked on her undergraduate piece on China and Africa. She came back speaking Chinese, which she believes is an “important language to understand, so that colonization doesn’t happen again”. Now aware of her gift at learning languages, she went for a year to Bologna, Italy, for her Masters, and then to Mexico for six weeks, adding Italian and Spanish to her skills.

She has already been named among the “100 most inspiring women in Nigeria” by The Guardian, an aknowledgment of her commitment towards the African woman’s cause. She is also World Economic Forum Global Leadership Fellow, and an Associate Fellow of the Nigerian Leadership Initiative.

Now based in Canada, she travels a lot and keeps going to Nigeria. When asked about her home town, Enugu, located in a region formerly known as Biafra, she immediately answers: “We never talk about the impact of the Biafra war, that killed 2 millions people between 1967 and 1970. A lot of the challenges in Nigeria have their roots in this unadressed aftermath of the civil war”. One more good reason to work on the rise of strong women “not allowing anyone to tell them who they are”. Chidiogo Akunyili is convinced that female leaders have the ability to change the world.

Joana Ama Osei-Tutu

This young and outspoken Ghanaian citizen, a peace and security expert with a focus on gender, describes herself as “engaging, accomodating and seeking”. Born and raised in Ghana, Joana has a deep knowledge of her country, as her father was transferred a lot throughout his career. Her family has also spent some time in Louisville, Kentucky. As a teenager, her dreams were definitely altruist, as she wanted to become a photojournalist or a human rights lawyer.


Since 2017, she is the Head of Women Peace and Security Institute at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center (KAIPTC) in Accra. The West African institution has trained since 2004 thousands of civilians, police and military staff from all over Africa and beyond. Its goal: “sustain a peaceful atmosphere in Africa”, as Joana sums it up.

There, she has climbed the ladder quickly. At first, she was a Research Associate in a Regional Partnership for Peace & Security Programme (2010-15), and then was appointed Deputy Head of the Peace and Security Studies Program (2015-17). In her current position, she is responsible for African women’s effective participation in peace negotiations and peacekeeping activities, and the integration of a gender perspective in research, policy and training activities.

This important task is done through many channels: advocacy, lobbying, high level conversations, but also on the ground. “At the community level, for example, we deliver a course on how to prevent and respond to gender based violence. We engage with traditional and religious leaders, civil society and media actors. We put all the actors in the same room and have a conversation so that they can learn from each other. This is powerful. We turn these exchanges into teachable moments and solutions”.

As a Project Lead in preventing and responding to Gender Based Violence in Africa, Joana is also supervising courses for local actors in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Central African Republic and South Sudan. Her trips show her that “certain components are the same across the continent, in terms of patriarchal systems, but also in the will or call for resilience to change the status quo”.

To support her journey, Ama went as far as South Korea to gain more skills. In a bid for wider exposure, she applied to schools in Australia and the UK, but finally spent more than a year in Seoul, for a Master’s degree in International Development. “From my time at Ewha, I took away their work ethics, drive, and sense of getting the job done”, she says.

Her thesis on piracy in Somalia led her to be invited as a panelist at the Atlantic Dialogues in Marrakesh in the early 2013. She later on applied to the Atlantic Dialogue Emerging Leaders (ADEL) program, which she found more attractive and original than others, and came back to Marrakesh in 2018. As an ADEL, she felt “enlightened to know more about a very IT and entrepreneurial field”, and went back home “with good tips about leadership”.

A huge music lover and a keen reader of African historic litterature, Joana has learned to see the “beauty and the joy in spite of the pain and suffering”. On the banks of the Kivu Lake, in DRC, were she was delivering a Protection of Civilan training for MONUSCO staff, she remembers watching a group of children playing and being struck by their happiness and contentment.

Her next move at work is to “get more impact at a community level and find more allies, bringing men onboard”. Among her last reads, she mentions Becoming, by Michelle Obama and We’re Going to Need More Wine, by Gabrielle Union. When asked if she’s a feminist, this mother of two, a daughter and a son, replies immediately: “I am a humanist, and maybe a ‘genderist’! I want both my children to have equal opportunities”.

Ana Paula Barreto

« Passionate, Black, visionary »

Ana Paula Barreto talks about serious matters with great calm, taking time to reflect before answering questions, from New York. Born in Jardim Angela, a poor area of São Paulo, considered as the most dangerous neighbourhood in the world by the United Nations in 1996, she remembers the violence of the favelas. She doesn’t want to reduce her childhood « in a joyful family » to « the ugly », but one of her strongest memories is seeing the bodies of people murdered during the week-end, on her way to school on Monday mornings. At a young age, Ana Paula Barreto realized that her « community was lacking the conditions and opportunities to have a dignified life ». She decided that she would be an « agent of change,  promoting social and racial justice ». In one of the most unequal societies in the world, she reminds that « 54 % of the population is of African descent, but we are very invisible in decision-making circles, universities and politics ».


Promoting equality and equity, « meaning that the people with less access to education, health and resources will achieve the same », soon became her raison d’être. After school, she was able to attend University. A « historical accident », as she calls it. It was still impossible for Black students coming from a poor background to study in the early 2000’s, because of a historical systemic racist and elitist selection process. « Some of the best universities in Brazil are public, thus free, but the middle-class and rich people send their children to private schools. For people like me who went to public schools, the exam to enter University was impossible to pass. Its level was too high for the quality of my education ».

« Racial and Social quotas » at University

Fortunately, the Lula administration, with the historical support of Black movements, created affirmative action programs in the mid-2000’s, at the time she was finishing High school. Thanks to a Law of Racial and Social Quotas passed in 2012, no less than half of the admission spots benefit pupils who attended public schools, most of them being indigenous and Black. « If I was born 20 years before, my possibilities would have been very low. President Lula showed how public policies can change a country. Today, there is a whole generation of Black Brazilian professionals and this is changing Brazilian society ». A system of scholarships was also introduced to give more access to private universities. That is how Ana Barreto could study International Affairs with a full bursary at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica of São Paulo. « We were 30 in my class, and two of us were coming from a black and poor background ». 

After college, she applied to the United Nations and went to Brasilia, a 90 minutes flight from São Paulo, for a six month internship. This was the last « critical investment » she asked her family to make for her, as her internship would be unpaid and she would have no time to work alongside her office hours. Her parents took a loan, to cover all her expenses for six months. When she moved back to São Paulo, she worked for UNICEF, while participating in human rights projects in her community with local organizations, and volunteering as a popular educator.

New York, Addis Abeba, Marrakesh

She then was selected by the Atlas Corps for a one-year fellowship in New York in 2015 with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a global NGO launched in Mumbai (India) in 1952 and headquartered in London. « They bring professionals from the global South to get experience contributing in U.S. organizations », she explains. In New York, she assisted staff by managing the portfolio of sexual and reproductive health programs related to youth, gender-based violence, and HIV/STIs. It went so well that she stayed for six more months, before moving back to Brazil and prepare her next step : a Master’s degree in International Affairs, which she started in 2017 at the New School University of New York, with a focus on racial justice and global health.

With a group of students, she went to Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, for a research project on Women Economic Empowerment through loans. There, she worked with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on internally displaced communities, doing advocacy with the African Union. Also in touch with the Brazilian Embassy, she organized a Film Festival in 2018 in Addis Abeba, on Black Brazilians in cinema. Her experience in Ethiopia was “powerful”, she says, as she was able to “see the similarities with people of African descent, not only physically but with food and dances that have not been lost throughout the centuries, the transatlantic slave trade and colonization”.

The same year, she was selected as a Fellow of the OHCHR in Geneva for the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), and by the Policy Center for the New South, for the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders program in Morocco. “The Atlantic Dialogues were an amazing experience in that very special year for me. I was on the last panel of the conference representing my cohort and talking about youth, transformation and creating a more just society. It was an honor, and I was able to connect to so many people doing great work !"

Racial justice and global health

She has now completed her masters about health outcomes of Black Brazilian women, « in the only country in the world having a public health policy focused on the African descent community ». Currently working as the Director of Programs with Afro Resistance, a small NGO launched in 2010 in New York, she deals with racial justice, human rights and democracy in the Americas, with a focus on Black women, notably from the Caribbean and Latin America. The NGO provides online conversations, research projects and conversations bringing local community voices to international decison-making spaces.

Her dream is “to make a difference in the Americas by uniting global health, racial justice and ancestral knowledge of our people”. She hopes to make innovative and impactful work, as well as becoming a reference in this unique approach. “I also hope to work in government, a critical strategic space if we want to really promote systematic change through public policies”. Her role models are an exact reflection of the way she describes herself : “Passionate, Black, visionary”… Among them, the US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, 38, born in Somalia, and Vilma Reis, 51, sociologist and activist from Salvador de Bahia, whom she describes as a “historical figure that did a lot on the intersection of civil society, government and human rights for the most marginalized people”. One of her favorite readings is Lelia Gonzalez (1935-1994), a Brazilian anthropologist, professor, politician and activist, “for her complex analysis of the world we live in”.

Jessica Berlin

This political analyst, expert in security issues and international development, describes her personality as « down to earth, curious », and not taking herself « very seriously ». Born in Seattle, half German and half Korean-American, she was raised « between three cultures ». After a decade living and working abroad in Rwanda, China, Afghanistan, the UK, and Myanmar, she is now based in Berlin. She’s fond of cooking and is a « beer nerd » – her German side, definitely.


This 36 year old political analyst for DW News, the global news channel of German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and founder of CoStruct, a consulting firm, has an impressive record. Not of the least is her TEDx Talk about the transatlantic democracy crisis. « My career and life have been quite global, she says. I work with organisations from across the world and across the public and private sectors ».

Her firm, CoStruct, has supported nonprofits, foundations, investment funds, and government agencies with strategy and program design. Jessica is also supporting partnership development in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and serves as Vice Chairman of the Board for a pan-African fintech company.

She has a strong drive to be her own boss and belief in what she does. When friends ask her if she’s ever going to go back to a good job in some big institution, she laughs. « I became my own boss because I saw the need for people who can think and act outside of siloes, who work between institutions to fill the gaps and connect the dots ». 

As a member of the advisory board of Europa Nova, a think tank based in Paris, she’s analysing the security policy of Europe and the Transatlantic alliance and advising program design. « The transatlantic alliance is at a turning point. We struggle to redefine ourselves in the 21st century because our systems and thinking are still based on 20th century assumptions. Now that I’m back in Europe, it’s important for me to contribute to challenging those assumptions, strengthen collaboration between my home countries, and bring a global perspective to our internal debates. Germany and the US need each other, and the world needs us to evolve faster ».

It takes a little while for Jessica Berlin to open up and tell her story. It’s only when asked which travels made the biggest impression on her that she speaks of Afghanistan, the root cause of her free positioning in life. « A country so beautiful and with such wonderful people, but failed and betrayed for so long by its own leaders, neighbours and the international community ». She describes as a « turning point » her stay in Mazar-e Sharif and Pul-e Khumri from 2011-12, where she was working for an international development agency. « What I saw was truly a masterclass in how not to do things. The most concerning in my view was the readiness, even when issues were flagged, to continue with bad strategies and decisions that we knew did not work ». To stay in this sector seemed comfortable but unconscionable: « You’re paid very well and seen by some like a combination of James Bond and Mother Teresa, » she laughs. « But if I know I am part of the problem I am supposed to solve, then I can’t stay in good conscience ». Her gut feeling was to leave, not really knowing what would come next.

Another trip that left a strong impression on her, for the opposite reasons, was in Cape Town, South Africa. « I spent a winter seminar at the University of Cape Town as an undergrad and fell in love with this city constantly recreating itself, so diverse, with so many cultures coming together ».

Jessica Berlin applied to the ADEL program in 2017, after somebody in the German Marshall Fund sent her some information. « It was transformative : the people, the network, brilliant and diverse minds. They have been part of my life since 2017. My ADEL friends and colleagues around the world are doing incredible work ». 

She loves nature, feels happy anywhere with mountains and the sea, and speaks highly of one of her latest reads : A Fistful of Shells : West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution, by Tony Green. « This history book has been written by a professor who gathered primary sources about West African pre-colonial global trade and political relations that had been dispersed in archives around the world, as well as oral histories that had been excluded or overlooked in past research ». She also mentions The Dawn of Everything, a New History of Humanity, by David Graber and David Wengrow, a book on prehistory ripping apart all kinds of stereotypes about our ancestors living in caves and hunter-gathering, through the latest researches about how societies were structured before agriculture. « This books tells how diverse and sophisticated prehistoric social models already were, how civilisation grew out of what came before. This research is very interesting for me, I learned things I didn’t know I didn’t know. In the policy space, we need to question our assumptions more. We too often view history and causality through lenses that limit our visions for the future. We think we know where we come from and where we’re going, but we don’t. We’ve just started scratching the surface »

Hanae Bezad

Hanae Bezad, an entrepreneur with a cause 

At 31, this Moroccan “impact tech” entrepreneur already has an impressive track record. She is not only the founder of Douar Tech, an inclusive tech hub that helps empowering young people and women with digital skills in rural and peri-urban areas in Morocco, but also spent 2020 in Kigali, working as a Project Manager on startups and ICT ecosystems for Smart Africa.

This pan-African initiative of Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, has 30 member countries working on a common digital market. Hanae Bezad helped define the strategy to create favorable conditions for startups on the continent, talking to governments, development agencies and the private sector. She left after a final Blueprint came out with the state of play in each of the 30 member countries, an ecosystem mapping for all countries, a final draft for Rwanda and Benin Startup Acts, a strategy outline for updating and enacting the Ivory Coast Startup Act, and last but not least, the launch of the pan-African Startup Act initiative, endorsed by Heads of States in December 2020.


The digital revolution in Africa

Hanae Bezad learned a lot in Rwanda, a “fascinating country with a strong will, a clear direction and strong potential”, she says. She found similarities with her country in “the mobilization of the diaspora and the hard work on infrastructures”, but also differences in the fact that growth is “still driven by the State and foreign aid, while a more vibrant private sector would help accelerate the development”.

When asked if there is a real digital revolution in Africa, considering the limited access to Internet (22% in Subsaharan Africa and 55% in North Africa according to the World Bank), she replies: “We can still talk of revolution in many aspects. People have access to resources, knowledge and networks that impact their lives, and perceptions in a more obvious way than TV. With some 650 hubs on the continent, I do see a digital revolution, not only in terms of skills transfers but also with many attempts to reshape the narrative. Fintech is working towards mobile banking and digital inclusion… It’s fair to say there is a revolution, as the continent is boiling with ideas.”

Getting more skills

Born and raised in Rabat, Hanae Bezad speaks almost as fast as she thinks. She comes from a family where education means everything. Her father was a medical doctor, her mother a teacher and one of her grandmothers a school principal. “Both my parents have launched social projects to play their part, as citizens. The context of my childhood was a transforming Morocco, still carrying a post-independence dream of autonomy and excellency, yet already altered by the slowness of progress and the privatization of the health and education sectors. I was raised being told that my life would not be simple as a woman, and that I would have to fight. In short, I grew up with contradictory paradigms: belief in the values of socio-liberal progress inspired by the West, and appreciation of the complexity of my multi-layered conservative society”.

Her excellent results at the Lycée Descartes in Rabat and her Scientific “Baccalauréat” (A Levels) led to the French government granting her a Scholarship for Excellence, covering five years of studies in France. Besides a Dual Master’s degree in Corporate and Public Management (Sciences Po Paris & HEC Paris) obtained in 2014, she has three Bachelor’s degrees, one in Law (Paris I – Panthéon Sorbonne), the other on Social Science (Sciences Po Paris, 2010) and the third on Mathematics and Physics (Université Pierre et Marie Curie).

Her idea was to “explore as many fields as possible, in the pluridisciplinary spirit of the American way of educating”. Something she experienced herself during a year of exchange at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009-10. With no precise idea of her future, she just knew she didn’t want to “embrace the fragilized jobs” of her parents, and that she wanted “as many skills as possible to work in the development field”.

Back to Morocco

She could easily have had an interesting career in France, where she worked for two years and a half for Eleven, a consultancy group specialized in digital transformation for big companies. “This universe, remote from my studies, added value for me, she recalls. Eleven was my day job as I was also writing a tribune for the think tank Fondapol (Fondation pour l’innovation politique), was interested by the MENA region, and also became a member of the board of directors of Led by HER, a social incubator for women entrepreneurs who are victims of violence”.

All of this nurtured her reflection on development, technology, inclusion and what she could do in Morocco, where she felt like going back in 2016 – the right time for her. “I was always questioned about the terrorist attacks of 2015 in Paris, something tiring, as I was also appalled by this violence that roots itself in systems of exclusion. I decided to go get more skills, learn how to code and launch Douar Tech.”

Empowering women

This tech hub is targeting youth and especially women, in order to train them to skills that will help them professionally. Among its partners, Douar Tech counts Unicef and the American Embassy . In 2019 and 2020, Douar Tech reached out to 70 beneficiaries, with 43 mentors and 10 staff members. In the first quarter of 2021, it has trained 275 women already, out of which 200 Afropreneurs in  partnership with Afrilabs.

Hanae Bezad applied successfully to the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders (ADEL) program in 2019, motivated by the quality of the program and community. She is still an active member of the ADEL community, writing pieces on building an Atlantic community for the Policy Center for the New South and inviting her peers to hold sessions for the Douar Tech programs.

The extra-ordinary Hanae Bezad, spotted by Voice of America, The Arab Weekly and Femmes du Maroc, is still busy getting more and more skills. She is currently getting trained to become an aero yoga teacher – one of her hobbies. As we spoke, she was reading “You Belong: A Call for Connection” (2020) by the Ethiopian author Sebene Selassie, around spirituality and anti-racism and “My Sweet Orange Tree” (1968), the best-seller by the Brazilian novelist José Mauro de Vasconselos. She also belongs to the House of Beautiful Business, and launched the Kigali Chapter of this global platform with an event focused on “Gukira”, healing and abundance. Her writing project, “Un abécédaire d’une vie moderne”, has been published online with the help of a young professional trained by Douar Tech.

Hanae Bezad won’t say what is her next move, but here’s a clue: “The idea of coming back home has nothing final. Mobility is important for me, in order to thrive in more fluid identities.” Sabine Cessou  

Fatim Zahra Biaz

She was 31 years old and had just set up the New Work Lab, a coworking and start-up accelerator space, in Morocco in 2013, when she was selected as one of the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders. Fatim Zahra Biaz already had an extensive professional background, which reflected her quest for meaning in work: a graduate of Edec, a business school in Lille, she had worked in Paris in "change management" consulting.


"I couldn't sense the impact I was looking for in my work, be it economic, social or educational. I resigned and went around the world for nine months. She traveled throughout Latin America, from Australia to Asia, learning to overcome her fears and meeting "digital nomads", young people who set up their businesses on the Internet.

"When I came back, I wanted to start a business, but I didn't really know what it would be. I trained myself in the digital world of start-ups, which has a different state of mind from what is taught in school". She set up a business selling designer shoes between Paris and Casablanca but changed course quite quickly. She noted that the co-working spaces she used in Paris were sorely lacking in Casablanca - as was all the support dedicated to start-ups, incubators and training programs. "I told myself that I had to provide entrepreneurs in Morocco with everything I couldn't find for myself, and that anyone who wanted to start up a business could come, to train and upgrade their skills, to be put in touch with companies, the press, clients, public authorities, etc."

She keeps a special memory of the 2013 ADEL program: "It was the first time that an organisation in Morocco trusted me with my project. It was a very nice form of support, training and learning". Since then, she has been invited as an Alumni to the Atlantic Dialogues conferences and lists among the most memorable encounters of her life a lunch with a former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, who introduced himself as the former "CEO of Nigeria".

The New Work Lab, located on Anfa Boulevard, a main thoroughfare in downtown Casablanca, has since grown and matured, remaining true to its original philosophy. Its founder is adamant: "We need to rethink the world of work, in which employees feel disconnected and often underuse their potential". The Pitch Lab has become a benchmark competition for start-ups in Morocco, which has distinguished 150 entrepreneurs since 2013. Fatim Zahra Biaz has launched another "laboratory" called “Future of Work” to rethink innovation products in large companies, corporate culture, propose events, "bootcamps", trainings, give practical toolboxes to learn how to change and do work that matters. It offers customized services, tailored to demand, as part of a change-driven program.

In seven years, the New Work Labs have welcomed 20,000 people and hosted nearly 400 entrepreneurs for training, events and acceleration programs. Among the success stories she likes to highlight is that of Anou, which allows craftspeople to sell their products directly to consumers in the United States. "This company has developed a solution enabling people who can't read or write to use the Internet... It's great!”

The New Work Lab, supported by the Office chérifien des phosphates (OCP) Foundation, contributes to the creation of an ecosystem conducive to start-ups, "in a market that is not easy to create, by inventing models with the means at hand". She dreams of scaling up and seeing the impact of her work grow, moving from the micro-economic sphere to a more "macro" impact in the world of start-ups, with increasingly ambitious projects.

Fatim Zahra Biaz continues to travel, hike and enjoy the sea, while nurturing a spirit of excellence far from mediocrity - the thing she hates the most in life. Her dream? She takes time to reflect, before explaining, with calm enthusiasm radiating from her words and her person: "That work in Morocco should no longer be seen as an obligation, a livelihood, but as our best way of participating in the development of our country, with a collective and civic impact. For me, work is a way of expressing values, a contribution that we can leave behind, a way of writing a story together. How to make people want to work differently and to see their work as a tool for collective progress, this is the very reason for New Work Lab's existence, whether you are a salaried employee, a student or a civil servant.”

Parcourez l'interview en français

Prince Boadu

Born and raised in Accra, Prince Boadu thrives on love and self-confidence. His role models are no other than his wife and two pastors in Ghana, Prophet Edem Julius-Cudjoe and Pastor Isaac Oti Boateng, founder of “Love Economy”, a mix of management and Christian spirituality. Prince Boadu’s own selfless dream is to “create pathways for others to succeed”.

Since 2016, he has settled in Darmstadt, a city close to Frankfurt. He works as a distribution requirements manager for P&G Health Germany GmbH. “I have no background in pharmacy”, he explains, “but it’s a matter of mindset, of always learning and adapting”.


How did he land in Germany? It’s a lifelong story. Prince Boadu grew up in police barracks in Accra. His mother was a police officer and his father a small entrepreneur, operating a few buses to feed his family. He first studied Building Technology at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), thinking this was “not pure science” and could be useful. He then developed a strong interest in supply chain management, and got an MBA in Logistics and Supply Chain Management (2011-13).

For one year, in 2010-11, he was a teaching and research assistant at KNUST School of Business (KSB). There, he worked on the implementation of the Agricultural Skill Development Program, a partnership between KNUST, the World Cocoa Foundation, the US chocolate producer Archer

Daniels Mildland (ADM Cocoa, subsidiary of Olam International) and Safmarine, a South African shipping company. He also assisted the Department in proposals leading to the establishment of the West Africa Institute for Supply Chain Leadership (WAISCL), to help businesses grow their markets and find competitive solutions.

After his MBA, he joined for a few months in 2014 the social entreprise Clean Team Ghana Ltd, providing affordable toilets facilities for the urban poor. He then became a fellow of Africa kommt!, a German program that brings together the “most visionary young leaders from Africa and leading German companies”. He was among the 30 selected from a pool of 3900 candidates to do a nine months internship, and was chosen by Merck KGaA. He worked in the consumer health division called Merck Selbstmedikation GmbH (MSM). His performance led him to get hired and promoted. After MSM got acquired by P&G, Prince took on the role as Manager for Distribution Requirements Planning and currently the distribution of pharmaceutical products to central, eastern and southern Europe, Latin America, Asia, Middle-East and Africa, leading a team of five distribution planners.

Helping others with The Kumasi Hive

His feet may be in Germany, but his heart still beats for the continent. His dream of “creating pathways for others to succeed” has everything to do with solidarity and a sense of sharing. Somewhat overrated qualities of African societies? He finds a need to go against “a general attitude of not making sure our fellow-citizens succeed”.

He co-founded in 2016 the Kumasi Hive, a coworking multipurpose innovation space based in the second biggest city in Ghana. He is still a director of this structure, proposing working spaces for entrepreneurs who cannot afford to pay rent, and organizing incubator programs to identify young entrepreneurs and lead them to potential funding. “The aim is to focus on hardware innovation, such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing, a radical shift from the traditional focus on software across the continent. We want to help a lot of the young innovators to really do their prototyping in a cost effective way”. The Hive has gathered the impressive support of 58 partners, including the Massachussets Institute of Technology (MIT), the MasterCard Fondation and Merck KGaA.

“We started putting our own money in Kumasi Hive, because in Ghana, you have to pay two years of rent in advance when you want a contract. My co-founder and I do not get paid yet, but we gave employment to 47 people, our current staff”. Over 3000 entrepreneurs have been helped since 2016, 200 events organized around skills with 4200 attendees, and about 6000 women trained for longer than six months.

The future : producing cheaper devices in Africa

Selected by the American magazine Forbes among the “Africa 30 under 30” in 2016, Prince Boadu is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and a TEDx organizer. He was also selected to be part of the fourth cohort of Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders (ADEL) in 2015. Applying

was a “no brainer” for him, but he was surprised to be selected.

“A fascinating program. If we are able to convene people of similar mindset and generate conversations, new solutions are born which inevitably spark innovation”. Impressed by the “Red City” architecture, he kept strong connections with the people he met in Marrakesh, through a WhatsApp group. In Marrakesh, he was not only invited to speak on stage and build a new narrative. Prince was also a beneficiary of the support of the Policy Center for the New South, for a project named “Girls in Biotech”.

The question is not if he will ever go back to Africa, but when: “If you pay attention to the global trends, the focus is now on the continent”. In the meantime, he is reading on innovation (he mentions The Prosperity Paradox by Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon), and broadening his network in order to get “huge leverage” when he goes back home.

His “repat” move is linked to MapTech, a company based in Ghana he created in 2015 to elaborate mapped-based solutions for its clients, using location data. “We want to build a network of base stations instruments to collect data for agriculture, map areas with deforestation or air pollution, in collaboration with the Technology University of Delft in the Netherlands”. The next stage is to manufacture devices in Ghana that would be more affordable than their current market price (10 000 dollars), and work with governments to build national geodetic reference framework via base stations across the countries, to collect more data and map

out geographical assets. Considering the lack of data still hindering decision makers in Africa, this business is on a promising pathway to succeed. As Prince Boadu puts it, “wherever huge problems exist, huge opportunities also lie”. Sabine Cessou

Julian Colombo

Aged 24 in 2011, he was already Chief of staff for Daniel Scioli, the Governor of Buenos Aires - the most populated province of Argentina, counting for 40 % of the total population with 16 million inhabitants. His main challenge then was “to be young in a relevant position”. He had to fight to get recognized and accepted by his elder peers, and succeeded with “the support of the Governor, through hard work and careful analysis”, he recalls.  


He also remembers fondly one of his main achievements of his beginnings. He was part of a team that elaborated and implemented a reform, making free the fertility treatments for couples in his province. “Before the law passed in 2010, it was very difficult for couples to have access to these expensive treatments. Some families sold their cars and put a mortgage on their houses. My governor put up a team and we negotiated with the stakeholders in the insurance sector and the health system, to make sure the fertility treatments became free in the province”.

The launch of a new consultancy firm

Born in Buenos Aires in a middle-class family, he was supposed, as the eldest and only son, to take over his parents’ business, a small manufacture of oil and products for cars. He chose another path. After studying Political Science in Argentina and obtaining a Masters Degree in Public Policy at Georgetown University (Washington D.C.), he worked as a civil servant and a political advisor for congressmen in Argentina for 10 years.

Now, his father holds no grudge nor disappointment whatsoever. In December 2019, this 33 year-old young professional launched TANT, his own consultancy firm. “I was working for several people at once, he explains, so I decided to set up my own firm, so that there would be no conflict of interest”.

One of his main areas of expertise is the relationship between Argentina and Brazil, alongside with legislative and political affairs. “Brazil is our main trade partner. Brazil and Argentina are twin countries both in trade and politics, and we need to strengthen the ties in the productive sectors between politicians in both countries. We advise on how to overcome the political differences between the two current presidents”.

Another important side of his specialization is the Fintech sector. His firm is advising government officials in Argentina on how to deal with companies willing to develop digital wallets and online banks, in order to adapt the current regulations to the market trends in that sector.  

A passion for politics

How did he fall in love with politics ? “Both of my parents are not involved, he says, but my geography professor in highschool made us take part in Model United Nations (Model UN or MUN). That’s how I started to get interested in international relations and politics.”

Julian Colombo can get “very upset”, when he sees “how some politicians from all parties manipulate the most disenfranchised people in order to get their votes, providing food and medicine during electoral campaigns”. But his head stays cool when it comes to the crucial topic of the rise of populism in Latin America. He makes his point clear : “I do not agree fully with the way Western professors talk about populism. Being in a country that has had many populist governments, I know the word might have a negative meaning, but some of these administrations have applied some of the most progressive social policies. There is a swing across Latin America between the left and the right : in the years before 2013 the trend was left, and between 2013 and 2018, it was going to the right. The region can swing again to the left, and I am not sure that the populist phenomenon is that simple”.

His fellow ADELs as role models

When asked about his role models, this keen reader of political biographies has only one name in mind : John F. Kennedy, for his approach to politics, youth and fresh ideas. Otherwise, he quotes his peers, “the African guys I’ve met in the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders programme (ADEL), because of their fight to provide basic needs, such as access to water, for instance. They are more prominent in my view than people with an actual seat at the table.”

When he joined the ADEL community in Marrakech in 2018, he was mostly interested in starting a network with Emerging Leaders from a broader horizon than his contacts, with people from Europe, North America and Africa. “I enjoyed the possibility of travelling to Africa and broaden my vision of public policies applied on the continent”.

He came to Marrakech with his two dreams, strongly intertwined. “One is personal and one is national : I would like to achieve being president of Argentina, in order to overcome the inequalities, especially for the youth. The current state of affairs affects educational opportunities, and I hope I will be able, one day, to solve this problem in my country”. In his opinion, and in his own candid words, he notes that what is really missing across Latin America is a “bigger commitment from the political and business elite to solve our issues. We have lots of people working on different matters, the same guys for 30 or 40 years, with no real political will”. Julian Colombo, a strong personality, is a name to remember.

Sabine Cessou

Bushra Ebadi

Bushra Ebadi speaks fast, in an even tone and a very articulate way. This social innovator, a strong personality raised in Mississauga (Canada) by parents who fled their country, Afghanistan, has a lot to say and even more to do. Since July 2021, she is a Network Coordinator for Amnesty International. Her mission: “Establish through a collaborative process a global civil society network on data-surveillance technologies to promote the rights of displaced persons and migrants in the digital age”.


This is far from being her only activity. In March 2020, she co-founded the Health and Information Literacy Access (HILA) Alliance. Her organisation is in contact with key groups around the world including the WHO and UNESCO, developing strategies and programs to address infodemics, including disinformation on COVID-19.

“We apply decolonial, intersectional, and intergenerational approaches to improve access to credible and timely information on COVID-19 for systematically marginalized individuals and communities, including Indigenous and racialized people. Many communities lack meaningful and timely access to credible information and are hindered from making informed decisions on issues that impact their wellbeing.  Young people have been especially mischaracterized throughout the pandemic and are wrongly seen as apathetic.” Besides conducting research and developing accessible information guides, HILA has organized webinars with diverse experts around the world on issues related to the pandemic, including mental health and empathy.

Transforming systems

Focused on “transforming systems and promoting human rights, peace, equity, justice, and sustainability through strategic foresight, interdisciplinary research, design and systems thinking, policy analysis, and storytelling”, Bushra Ebadi is a specialist in yet another list: “gender and youth mainstreaming, refugee rights, media and information literacy, technology ethics and futures”.

She is also, since October 2019 a Youth Ambassador for the UNESCO Media and Information Literacy (MIL) Alliance. Her experience includes being a Global Advisor in 2020-21 to the 33 year old Tunisian activist and diplomat Aya Chebbi, member of The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, once again engaging with youth, refugees, and marginalized communities.

As a Research Associate at the UNICEF Office of Global Insight and Policy (OGIP), she worked on “ensuring insights from youth leaders, activists, and experts were mainstreamed into UNICEF’s report on Prospects for children : a global outlook through 2025”. She was also a consultant with Algora Lab and Mila Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, in 2020, co-leading deliberative consultations (Global Youth, Global Indigenous Peoples, and Subregional African) to ensure diverse communities were engaged in the development and review of UNESCO’s draft principles on Artificial Intelligence Ethics.

Human rights at heart

But who is Bushra Ebadi, beyond all the multitasking? She describes herself as a “dedicated, empathic, and creative” soul. An analytic mind finding in poetry “a joy that is rooted in my own Persian culture”.

Bushra Ebadi was always interested in peacebuilding. “Growing up as a first-generation Afghan Canadian, I was exposed to and learned about global affairs from a young age. Politics, Bollywood movies, and religion were all discussed at the dinner table. I grew up with an understanding that injustice and gender inequity exist in many different contexts. These issues transcend borders and are not relegated to one part of the world or a select group of people. They are systemic and represent a global challenge that we must address collectively”.

As a child, she wanted to become a human rights lawyer. She studied Political Science and Philosophy at McGill University, then Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. She is critical of “the tendency to romanticize refugees’ journeys after they have been resettled and not create the conditions to support and protect displaced people from the outset.

When asked about the current situation in Afghanistan, she goes straight to the point. This is “complex and frustrating, with history repeating itself and so many groups providing opinions on topics they don’t have expertise on – creating false perceptions. She worries that in the face of converging crises, politicians around the world will increasingly scapegoat marginalized communities, to draw attention away from corruption and ineffective governance systems and policies”.

« Co-learning and creating, instead of competition »

Bushra Ebadi found out about the ADEL program through another alum. Leornado Parraga, one of her friends who she met at the 2017 UNESCO Youth Forum, recommended that she apply in order to mobilize people for collective action. It immediately interested her, as she is convinced that “solutions are rooted in communities and shifting and reimagining power so that it does not stay concentrated in the hands of a select group of people or industries”.

In the field of peacebuilding, she adds, “competition is not useful, whereas co-learning and creating are core values that ought to be nurtured and promoted. I loved meeting people in Marrakech and having interesting conversations with them on the bus or at dinners. This wider dialogue across the Atlantic is raising critical questions on whose existence, presence, knowledge, and experiences we value. It is really important to be supported and honoured in meaningful ways, and not tokenized”.

She sees the Policy Center’s initiative as “the beginning, as more needs to be done to create a space that is conducive to dialogue. It should be a priority on the African continent that discussions be led and addressed by people from the continent. Similar to my experiences with Afghanistan; many people talk but lack a nuanced understanding and don’t have to live with the consequences of misguided ideas and policies!”