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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.

Jessica Gottsleben

This energetic and straightforward young American leader has made a crucial choice in life: to accomplish her mission the way she sees it, and embrace it. It may sound like the plot of a Paolo Coelho novel, but it is not, as her story is unfolding in real life.


Jessica Gottsleben (a surname that means « God-life » in German) brings to the fore a large array of different skills and interests. She is an American policy advisor and strategist, security scholar and researcher, human and civil rights advocate, consultant, and  “survivor expert”. The latter expression may be unclear to some, but represents a pillar in her professional journey, as she will explain later.

Her areas of expertise include climate security, cybersecurity, intelligence, transformative and restorative justice, violence, exploitation, human trafficking and slavery, terrorism, sustainable development, peacebuilding, and security. Behind all of these areas and sectors, there is a soul determined to heal and give her life maximum purpose. Her next step is running for Congress, for greater impact. She warns in her CV: “I have a limited time on this planet, and I will save as many lives as I possibly can with the time I'm granted. Here for transformational, not transactional”.

She advised on The Paris Agreement on climate, provides counsel in cases of abuse and cyber abuse, recently secured legislation for a rape kit tracking system in Florida, and is actively working to end qualified immunity and coercive control in the United States. Qualified immunity refers to a series of legal precedents that protect government officials, including police officers, accused of violating constitutional rights, whereas coercive control is an oppressive behavior grounded in gender-based privilege, that invades all arenas of women’s activity by limiting access to money and other basic resources.

A survivor of sexual violence

Jessica serves on FreeFrom’s Survivor Wealth Policy Group, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the international NGO Open Web Application Security (OWASP). She is a founding member of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy (CFFP), an Advocate for Hacking is NOT a Crime (an organization defending hackers’ rights) and a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, aimed at rethinkingUS security. She’s also an Ambassador of Secure Diversity and has been serving on the Millennial Action Project’s Young Leaders Council for the last four years.

When asked about her main role currently, Jessica Gottsleben answers: “Chief Information Security Officier (CISO) for organizations caring for the most vulnerable, domestic violence and terrorist attacks victims, women in danger, refugees, migrant children”. Her work is to protect data and information, in order to “keep people alive, because a security breach at any time could put them in danger”.

As a CEO, she runs an organization for victims and survivors of violence and sexual violence, providing free assistance and training in cybersecurity. She serves « people like myself who have been attacked on Gender based violence ». She experienced trauma, through a criminal network. « That’s why I got into what I do, I’ve witnessed women and girls die. After seeing that much violence, I have a responsibiliy to help. My guiding forces are that I have a responsibiliy to serve, as I’m very grateful to be alive. Victims of violence matter, they should be given not something to make them feel smaller but more important. »

A multi-specialized professional with a mission

Her home State is Florida, where she is currently busy working on amendments to a law protecting the rights of nature, species and access to clean water. As a child, she dreamt of becoming a competitive dancer and an artist. « I fell in love with the Everglades National Park and had a lot of interest in animals, conservation, justice and the arts ». Later, she thought of associating the skills of a physicist and psychologist, to « help provide, through science, an access to individuals from poor communities that are systematically excluded ».

She studied Radio and TV journalism, as well as political science, and obtained a Masters degree in Justice and Security, specializing on cybersecurity and intelligence. She likes the idea of « creating the space », as James Baldwin had put it in his writing, and is not afraid to explore « a path less travelled. I’d rather be innovative and change the world than go with the status quo ».

What does changing the world entail for her? Certainly not being in the limelight, as she is very clear about “not being here for awards or magazines”, but rather for “influence on major policy decisions, such as the Paris Call for Trust on Cyberspace”. She helped organize the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, a day of demonstrations on November 6 held by the COP26 Coalition, gathering a team of leaders across the world. “We keep making noise because we don’t get the results we want, at a time of multiple overlapping crises, from human trafficking to climate change and environmental terrorism”.

While she was very focused on her work, some “big leaders, international diplomats” told her to apply to the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders program. She applied in 2016, and was voted by her peers to represent the group as a panelist in the final plenary session of the Atlantic Dialogues. “That was very exciting, and today, some of my favorite people to work with are from the ADEL community”, she says. She takes part in the Policy Center for the New South activities, spoke during the last Atlantic Dialogues online conference, and is a member of a “Global South network, something meaningful I don’t often see in other think tanks and conferences”.

Today, she is “very intentional about healthy relationships, selfcare and holistic care”. She loves to sing, draw, dance and read, and was saddened by the passing on December 16 2021 of the African-American writer Bell Hooks, an anti-racism and feminist icon. Gardening, animal rescue and yoga are also among her hobbies. While preparing to run for Congress, she stays humble. Her conviction is that “many unknown leaders have greater impact”.

Idia Irele

“Towards a more impactful leadership”

Fluent in English, Yoruba, Portuguese, and Spanish, this US and Nigerian citizen, holding both passports, now lives in Medellin, Colombia. A perfect candidate for the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders program, she was selected in 2017 to follow the program


Born in the USA 27 years ago, Idia Irele grew up between Nigeria and the U.S. and moved to Boston when she was 10. Her family followed her father, Professor Francis Abiola Irele, a Nigerian academic who taught African and French literature at Harvard University. When asked about her studies, she states very factually that she was an undergraduate in Government and International Relations (Smith College), and has a Masters in International Education Policy (Harvard University). She works with social and emotional learning, and has experience in human rights education in the USA and Africa, with Boston Mobilization and UPLift Liberia. 


Training young leaders in Latin America

Since 2017, she has worked as  Director of Curriculum and Manager of Strategic Relations at the Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA). This is the South American version of the African Leadership Academy, she explains. So far, approximately 620 young leaders have taken part in intensive leadership bootcamps in different Latin American cities, with around 30 young leaders in each program at a growing rhythm of eight bootcamps per year and one residential program in Colombia  

We focus on the potential of the continent and help build compassionate leadership to find solutions to persisting problems. The students are amazing young leaders. We support them in coming into their roles as community leaders and leveraging their stories and wisdom to gain  access to wider platforms, both locally and globally. ” For instance, one student from Rio who created a nonprofit organization to work with incarcerated women in Brazil  mastered the art of fundraising through participating in LALA. After raising $3,000 USD to come to LALA,  she harnessed her newfound skill to launch a global campaign for her cause and raised  $7,000 USD in only two weeks during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

2020 has been a tough year, with the toll of Covid-19, a coup in Peru, a massacre in Lagos at the height of the #EndSARS movement against police brutality, as well as the death of Miguel da Silva in Brazil and Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless other Black Americans in the United States. 

A five-year-old,  Black Brazilian was killed shortly after George Floyd. During the pandemic, we have seen interconnectivity between all these events and transnational dialogue like never before. Women everywhere used their social media accounts to raise awareness about violence against women in Mexico and Turkey. Friends from around the world have used the EndSARS hashtag without ever having gone to Nigeria. This new, COVID-era globalization rests on true shared humanity.

Idia is not just an observer. She is focused on action. “I started to explore the parallel between racial narratives across regions. The history of violence and enslavement in the US finds nearly identical parallels in Latin America. Just like in the U.S.,  the same racialized populations that were previously enslaved still lack opportunities to fully participate in society today. This is especially present in Colombia and Brazil, where despite  narratives of  ‘racial paradise,’ regions populated by Afro-descended and Indigenous communities face widespread poverty and barriers to fully representative leadership. I hope to continue advancing cross-continental dialogue through  teaching history from the vantage point of multiple communities and organizing for social change. I teach young people to become closer to both themselves and the world, situating themselves in the issues around them and developing creative solutions to solve them.”


Africa on her mind 

Idia’s vision is very clear: she plans to eventually become a U.S. diplomat in order  to achieve “a more direct, impactful leadership in the future, working in international development, human rights, and responsible governance more broadly.” 

Africa is on her mind. She hopes that the continent will play a more “prominent role globally, not only exporting raw materials, but also more products and services. As a producer of cocoa, coffee, rubber and coltan in addition to music, art, and other cultural influences, African countries play an important role in the global market, but this essential role is not widely recognized in the international community.” She believes in South-South relations and the collective development of the Global South. “There are more Afro-descended individuals  in Brazil than anywhere else in the diaspora, this legacy provides an enormous opportunity for stronger connections between the two regions.” 

Among her role models, she mentions her mother, who grew up through decades-long political strife  in Calabar, a coastal town that played a pivotal role in the conflict between Nigeria and what was once the secessionist Republic of Biafra. She also admires Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “a woman who has paved her way in literature, writing stories about everyday Nigerian people not to explain, but to seamlessly immerse people in her characters’ worlds, whose universally human struggles and considerations are ones that everybody can identify with.” The Nigerian writer is the author of one of Idia’s favorite books, Half of a Yellow Sun, a story that enabled her to discover more about her own family’s history.



Seleman Kitenge

As a Project Assistant responsible for Speech Writing in the Office of Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, Seleman Kitenge, born in 1989 in Tanzania, is now based in Johannesburg. He was first a volunteer for the African Union (AU) in the same role for one year, before being hired in August 2020 by the AU Development Agency.


I’m enjoying it, he says, some of my mentors are really good”. Among them, Togolani Mavura,  Private Secretary and Speech Writer for the former President of Tanzania H.E Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, and Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki himself, who has been taking time to mentor him personally. “Since I joined AUDA-NEPAD, my mentors have been like my guardian angels and makes it a growing journey for me”, he says. 

Born in Dar es Salaam, raised by a father who is still a prominent tailor, Seleman Kitenge’s family comes from the Kigoma region, close to the Tanganyika Lake in the western part of Tanzania. His love for his country and Africa is intertwined with his personal longings. “My dreams have never changed, he says, I’ve always wanted to be a leader in either politics or diplomacy, in order to foster the development of our continent”.

Where does it come from? “This is part of my personality, and my father kept on encouraging me to read newspapers, books, and follow Tanzanian politics”. He wanted his son to understand the vision of one of the most admired African leader, Julius Nyerere (1922-1999), the father of Tanzania’s Independence. Called “Mwalimu” – “school teacher” in Kiswahili - Nyerere had a socialist vision for his country’s development and left a strong legacy.

The first trip to Russia

Seleman Kitenge could have been a singer, as he was into rap and singing in his teenage years, or a soccer player – soccer being one of his hobbies. But his parents kept pushing him into politics and diplomacy. So much so that they decided to sell a piece of land to finance his first trip abroad in July 2013. He went to Russia to follow a training program in Tver Oblast known as International Youth Forum Seliger. “This trip will help you to get more trips for free and make many friends from different parts of the world”, his father told him, foreseeing exactly what would happen next.

The young man studied Public Sector Financial Management at Tanzania Public Service College, and is a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the Open University of Tanzania. He holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management for Foreign Relations from the Center for Foreign Relations, and has also made his way through many international programs, in Azerbaijan, Japan, Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Morocco, France, Crimea, and Australia to name a few.

Three were outstanding in his view. He was awarded in June 2016 an Honorary Diploma of New Leaders for Tomorrow by the Crans Montana Forum in Vienna, Austria. “One of my best experiences, as I was one of the 3 African citizens in a group of 11 young leaders selected and the first Tanzanian to receive the honor”, he recalls.

In 2018, he became one of the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders (ADEL) and came to Marrakech for a tailor-made networking and empowerment program before attending the high level international conference Atlantic Dialogues, organized by the Policy Center for the New South. There, he enjoyed the “unique blend” of the conference, “African with a taste of Europe and the Americas”, and the specific touch of the ADEL program: “We were trained as young leaders and also allowed to interact with senior leaders from AU, NATO, the UN, former Presidents and Prime ministers from all over the world”. One of the things he liked most: “Interacting with Havard and Cambridge students confidently, to engage and contribute as an equal expert on geopolitics, although my academic journey is just from local institutions”.

His third favorite program is the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), launched in 2010 by the State Department under the presidency of Barack Obama. A member of the first cohort of YALI’s East Africa Chapter in 2015, Seleman has listened to President Barack Obama in Nairobi (Kenya). He met “prestigious trainers coming from US Universities, former officials at the White House, the Department of State and even NASA”.

Dedicated to Africa’s future 

Among many other things, he has been certified by the Commonwealth Secretariat as a Trainer of Trainers on issues around Hate Speech, Human Rights, and Countering Violent Extremism as well as being named by the European Union Commission as a One Young World Peace Ambassador. As much as he may have traveled abroad, he never thought of leaving Tanzania or Africa. “There were tempting opportunities out there, but I always came back to serve my country and continent”.

His vision is the one of a whole generation : “To see Africa prosper and have an equal share at the table of global affairs. Most importantly, see Africa become fully integrated economically to create more opportunities for the youth who are the most marginalized by economic systems across the continent”.

Moreover, he hopes to see extreme poverty eradicated, in order to facilitate the continent's economic transformation. He envisions seeing youth given more opportunities at the front leadership row on social, political, and economic issues. “I believe the energy, vibrancy, and innovative nature of youth will significantly help to fast-track Africa’s development if properly utilized at the national and continental levels.”

Before AUDA-NEPAD, he worked as an Administrator and Spokesperson at the Honorary Consulate of Sierra Leone in Dar es Salaam, and as a Program Officer with the United Nations Association of Tanzania. This non-profit umbrella organization is working closely with the UN in Tanzania but is not a part of the UN system.

There, Seleman Kitenge took part in a project to accelerate youth political and economic participation across the country. “We reached over 20 000 young people in the mainland and Zanzibar, to encourage them to participate in local governments and get to know and use the grants our government is allocating to the youth, to start businesses”.

A keen reader of political essays and biographies, he mentions “The world as it is” among his favorite books, written by Ben Rhodes, the former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting under President Barack Obama (2009-2017). A man he met twice, in Kenya and France, and who gave him his book as a present. Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, is one of his role models. Seleman Kitenge, an ambitious young man, would certainly like to walk in this path of greatness, “whether at the front stage or behind the scenes”.    

Youssef Kobo

Entrepreneurial, curious, energetic”. This is how Youssef Kobo, a Belgian citizen coming from a Moroccan family, would describe himself in three words. Always on the road, this busy traveler is taking part in conferences and workshops all over the world. His line of work? He is an individual consultant on strategic innovation.


Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, he has launched his own enterprise, called New Blueprints, end of 2020. The demand is high for his talents of keynote speaker, coming from a variety of customers. “I am a generalist and my missions vary from advising on projects for European institutions to giving keynotes for multinationals or workshops to international think tanks”, Youssef Kobo explains.

He is also the founding director of A Seat at the table, a non profit organization he created in 2018 after participating to the Atlantic Dialogues conference in Marrakesh, to connect disadvantaged youth with opportunities and business. For this project, he consulted a number of Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders (ADEL) from different cohorts, who all chipped in with ideas, feedback and so on. Youssef Kobo is also a columnist for De Tijd, and writes op-eds on geopolitics, innovation and youth for De Standaard and De Morgen. Dutch is his language, as he was born and raised in Mechelen, a city located between Brussel and Antwerp in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders.

He is not interested in negativity in his writings. When asked about his feelings on the ongoing debates around the Moroccan and muslim community in Belgium, he replies: “This is very tiring and frustrating. Every single day, even before the 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels and the Syrian refugee crisis, there is a national issue on Islam, Muslims, Moroccans, headscarves or what not. For some reason, we constantly talk about identity – an obsession in the public debate, but fortunately not in the everyday life and interactions in Belgium. There are some serious issues whith minorities when it comes to employment, but nothing of the scale of an apocalyptic disaster, as depicted by the media and the political elite”.

The Atlantic Dialogues, a life changing experience

This young leader has always kept a “strong and emotional connection with Morocco”, where he spent summers every year with his family, in the region of his parents, near Tetouan. This partly explains why the high-level conference Atlantic Dialogues, organized by the Policy Center for the New South, has been such a life changing experience for him. In early 2016, he met a Program Officer of the Policy Center at the Brussels Forum, a conference organized by the German Marshall Fund (GMF). “We got talking, because of our Moroccan roots, and this Program Officer told me I you should apply to the ADEL program”.

His main incentive was that he’s “always felt like a big piece was missing” in his life – as big as Africa. “I was adamant to dive into Morocco, reconnect with my roots, and amazed by the opportunities and ventures that the Atlantic Dialogues made me discover in Africa”.  

The Policy Center for the New South,leading as an example, gave me the drive to come back more in Africa”, he further explains. Youssef Kobo was “so triggered, as a young Moroccan living in Belgium, to hear the vision of the Policy Center about how Africa should take charge of its own future and destiny”, that he launched A Seat at the Table soon after.

Shirley Chisholm as an inspiration

His non profit organization was inspired by a quote from Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected at the US House of representatives, in 1968: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring your own folding chair”. Mentionned during a closing panel of the Atlantic Dialogues in 2016, this sentence lighted a spark that soon became a fire. “I believe in this mindset of reaching out to young people from a disadvantaged background” like himself, who comes from the lower part of the social ladder.

The self-made man, who has left university after two years of law studies, once understood that what sounded like “the most prestigious thing was too boring, and not for me”. When he left Marrakech in December 2016, his wish was to make sure he would stay in touch with ADEL Alumni, and create a local impact to give back to his community. In his mentoring programs for the youth, he often says: “If you want to be a leader, create your own opportunities”. Every week, A Seat at the Table organizes events with young professionals and students visiting international institutions, meeting CEO’s or taking part in workshops on soft skills.  

His aspirations for the future are quite simple : making his current activities grow bigger. “I like being constantly on the move, in a rapidly changing environment, generating social impact”. In his Brussels office, he is sitting in front of an impressive wall, made of over 2000 books he likes, from the ground to the ceiling. Among his latest reads, he mentions Niall Ferguson, author of Doom, the Politics of Catastrophe (2021), the autobiography of the US actor Will Smith, and The Laws of Human Nature (2018) by Robert Greene.

Youssef Kobo has returned to the Atlantic Dialogues as a speaker, and is grateful that the Policy Center is “investing in its Alumni, something you don’t often see in other conferences and leadership programs”.



Jordan Kronen

Bright and open-minded, this young American has already achieved a lot at just 28 years of age. Since February 2019, he has been serving as Legislative Assistant to Democratic Senator Liz Lovelett in Olympia, Washington. “Working for a senator whose values I share is really a dream come true,” he says. He sees Liz Lovelett as a role model, since “she leads with her heart and great values, always thinking on how we can infuse equity into everything we do.” 


Jordan Kronen calls Washington home, as he moved there from a suburb outside Miami, Florida when he was 12. His father is a small business owner, recruiting for technology companies, and his mother a paralegal working in a law firm. But his main influence comes from his grandfather, “Poppie.” “He served in World War II in Germany and in the Pacific theater and even has a patent from his work as a member of a military commission that designed a suit to withstand both high and low temperatures for combat pilots and space travel,” explains Jordan Kronen, with beaming pride.

A Democrat grandfather 

“Poppie” was also the founder of the Democratic Party chapter in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. He conveyed to his grandson a strong sense of public service: “Vocation in government means serving the people; it is both honorable work and gives meaning and a sense of purpose that is much bigger than any one person.” Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Jordan also co-founded the College Democrats of Oregon, while studying Politics and Government at Pacific University. 

His absolute idol, however, is no other than the late John Lewis, the famous African American civil rights activist and congressman from the state of Georgia who passed away last July. Lewis was one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington against legalized segregation, voting disenfranchisement, and racial discrimination. Jordan met the non-violent freedom rider twice in 2012, when he was an intern with the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C, and later that year while working at the DNC National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’ll never forget his demeanor and grace. There are no words to express just how instrumental John Lewis was in changing the country in the face of overwhelming hatred, violence, and bigotry.

Asian experiences, interest for Africa 

A thirst for exploring and learning more about the world was also mostly inspired by his grandfather’s travels throughout East Asia after World War II. Jordan made bold moves after graduating from college to gain experiences abroad. First, in 2015, he spent three months in Chiang Mai, Thailand interning for Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia Community Legal Education Initiative. Working for this “non-profit with a long title,” Jordan aided their mission of advocating for legal ethics, strengthening the rule of law, and increasing access to justice and pro bono legal services. As a Fulbright Scholar, the following year in 2016, he taught English to schoolchildren in Bachok, a rural town in the state of Kelantan in Malaysia’s northwest peninsula. “It was the best experience of my life. Despite being forced to conceal my Jewish identity in a very conservative Islamic town, it felt most rewarding to start integrating myself in another culture and engaging in mutual understanding between our two countries.” 

Then, he decided to pursue an accelerated master’s course in 2017-18 to get an M.A. in Global Affairs as a Schwarzman Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. “It’s a very new program as I was a part of the second cohort, but it is modeled after the Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford. The mission of the program is to strengthen U.S-China relations, and to ensure greater collaboration and prosperity for the world as China becomes a more prominent player on the international stage.” 

After discussing the opportunity with a Schwarzman Scholar from Nigeria, he applied for the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders (ADEL) Program, and came to Marrakech, Morocco in December 2019. “I applied because I became increasingly interested in the Global South and Africa, where various external actors are applying pressure on this mostly developing continent. I wrote my thesis on the China Belt and Road Initiative and how China flexes its muscles on countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, and other regions within its orbit, often leading to ‘debt diplomacy’ and other undesirable outcomes. I was curious to see how African countries are responding to these pressures, and how best we can work with leaders on the African continent to be independent rather than relying on China or the U.S. With its growing young population and innovative, nascent industries, it’s really an exciting time for Africa. I met young African leaders in Marrakech, learned a great deal from them, and felt truly inspired by their example and drive.

Focusing on climate change 

His current battle, now, is climate change, and how to mitigate its effects in an equitable way. He’s working on a proposal authored by Senator Liz Lovelett that is making the headlines in the United States. The Washington Sustainable, Transformative Recovery Opportunities for the Next Generation (STRONG) Act establishes an economy-wide price on carbon pollution to generate the bondable revenue needed to finance a resilient recovery and clean economy transition. The revenue generated would be invested in projects that deliver positive returns in the form of economic activity, greenhouse gas reduction, community resilience, and healthy, productive natural resource lands. The beneficiaries would be the communities most affected in Washington State, on the basis of a health disparities mapping tool created by the state’s Environmental Justice Task Force. This map shows, based on science and data, where these investments are needed the most to alleviate the burden on these frontline communities already experiencing the harmful effects of a changing climate. “This is a bold proposal that would provide a blueprint for other states and the Federal government to potentially implement,” he says. 

Some of his favorite books are The Green Collar Economy, by Van Jones, and the philosophical tale Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, which also embeds thematic threads of sustainability and climate change. An indelible memory of the book for Jordan is the describing of the world as a plane having run off a cliff and going downward toward its demise. Even though the vessel has all the inherent capabilities to fly and avert disaster, it continues descending on a rapidly expedient trajectory. Jordan hopes to wake up the pilot (humankind), start the engine (ingenuity and our problem-solving spirit) and begin to change course. “The sky, after all, is our only limit.” 

His next step? Pursuing a concurrent degree (a law degree and a master’s degree in public policy) to better equip himself with both a solid legal foundation and policy chops to continue pursuing his climate agenda. “My goal is to play a prominent role in fighting climate change in an equitable way. People representing diverse voices from various backgrounds, industries, and perspectives must be at an inclusive table when these decisions are being made to put forth the best solutions so we can ultimately succeed together.”

Emmanuel Lubanzadio

This young German man with Congolese origins, educated in Germany, the United States and the Netherlands, has roots on three continents. He’s not only the epitomy of an Atlantic young leader – the way the Policy Center for the New South defines them – but now also a member of the 2019 ADEL cohort Alumni.


In January 2020 he transitioned as Head of Public Policy for Sub-Saharan Africa at Twitter. At this strategic position, he works for one of the most influential social media networks globally, but keeps a cool head and stays low key.

When asked about his personal impressions of Africa, he reminds quietly : « Every country is different, although sometimes people outside of the continent perceive Africa as one country simply because the majority of its citizens happen to be black. Africa is so rich in its beauty and diversity, in its culture, languages, ethnicities and religions ». He describes his personality as a « mixture of realism and optimism ». So when it comes to Africa as the world’s last growth frontier, he states simply : «Some parts of Africa may see deficiencies in infrastructure or healthcare, for example. While it may seem discouraging, things are absolutely progressing in that region because of the creative, strong, resilient people who reside on the continent.

The people who make Africa great are its youth and civil society in general ».

Dreams fulfilled

Emmanuel grew up in Germany in a modest Congolese family of five children. During his childhoold, his trips to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were few and far between, but he heard a lot about African politics, a recurrent topic at home. His first acquaintance with an African country other then the DRC happened in 2014 in Ghana, where he lived and worked for the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) on a project with the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center.

Emmanual Lubanzadio has already fulfilled many of his wishes. When he graduated from high school in Germany, he longed for a life abroad. First dream : check ! He moved to the USA in 2007, where he spent 6 years. In the U.S., he obtained a B.A. in International Relations from the Oral Roberts University (Oklahoma, USA) and a Graduate Certificate in Applied Politics from The George Washington University (USA). Then, he started to think of working in politics and applied for the Emerging Leaders Program of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and was selected to spend ten months in Washington D.C. to work in the United States Congress and the Center for International Private Enteprise (CIPE). Second dream: check ! He then moved back to Europe, obtained a M.A. in Development Studies from Maastricht University (Netherlands) and sought to learn about government relations in the private sector. This led him to join a multinational pharmaceutical company back in Germany.

African youth at heart

His last position was in the healthcare industry for the last two and a half years, working in the field of government relations. He wanted to get more insights on how to engage with policy makers, after his experiences in the US Congress and GIZ. The topics that move him most are freedom of expression, digital rights, youth unemployment and lack of perspectives for many young people. “The African continent has 200 million young people, the largest youth population in the world, he explains. This is where my heart lies, in terms of their implication in the decision making process within the realm of politics and access to ways of making a living”.

That’s partly why he applied to the ADEL program, believing that Atlantic relations do not confine to the USA and Europe alone. “There are many more countries, and the Policy Center does an amazing job in capturing that as well. The participants coming from Africa and South America gave a different perspective… ADEL does not only focus on the global self, but moreover on including people who will make decisions and influence their own societies one day. The program also gives a chance to get people who have been historically excluded and marginalized from the decision-making process a seat  at the table and the ability to discuss policy issues. I haven’t seen anything else like this !

A global citizen

Now, he would like to inspire people with his trajectory, showing that for a second generation immigrant who may not have had much, it’s still possible to “make it”. When asked about his own role models, Emmanuel Lubanzadio has to admit he “did not have any” while growing up. He enjoys reading biographies and the last one he read was the Autobiography of Malcom X, written by Alex Haley. When reflecting on role models, he points at his own parents: “I have the ultimate respect for them. They have been in a pursuit of a better life and have laid the ground work, for my siblings and I to get inspired and have opportunities.”

About identity, a hot subject in Europe in a context of rising populism, he has clear thoughts: “I am a German with roots in Africa who was educated in the United States and Europe. People like myself will often wrestle with the question of identity. I’ve known many clashes of cultures, but I am proud of my roots. I have a passion for Africa and I’m also European, combined with the optimism I took from the USA, thanks to this idea that you can be whomever you want. I find it beautiful. I’ve had this privilege that certainly defines who I am, a global citizen with roots in regions where I take the best of everything.” This young man of his time is a name to remember.

Sabine Cessou

Yassine Moustanjidi

“Out of the Eurocentric box”

This young planner and lecturer at the Departement of International Urbanism of the University of Stuttgart (Germany) spontaneously describes himself as a “Marrakchi, ambitious and curious” person. His birthplace and family’s influence matter a lot in his professional journey. Not only because the Red City is “an inspiring place for its history, architecture and culture”, but also because his grandfather was a well-established tile maker, who participated in the edification of many historical palaces in Marrakech.


“I was just lucky enough to be able to listen to myself when I had to make a decision”, he recalls. His choice was to study at the only public architectural school in Rabat, l’Ecole nationale d’architecture (ENA). Getting admitted there was like “winning the jackpot”, he remembers, since only 60 students are selected each year among 3,000 applications. “It was the right place, and it turned out to be great”.

On his fourth year of a six years cursus, he got a DAAD scholarship for an exchange program at the University of Technology in Berlin, where he started what was going to be his new life in Germany. There, he took part in the large research project “Future Megacities – Energy- and Climate-Efficient Structures in Urban Growth Centres”, funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research. The project aimed at developing sustainable urban strategies in nine cities around the world, mainly located in the global South, each having a specific topic, such as water in Lima, mobility in Shanghai or urban agriculture in Casablanca.

Megacities of the Global South

He focused on Casablanca, “a vibrant and dense city of 4 million inhabitants with scarce green spaces, where urban agriculture could be introduced as a productive green infrastructure, offering a new nexus between energy, food security, and sustainable urban development”.

Vacant plots had to be spotted, among which some 20 hectares along train tracks. A discussion was engaged with the authorities and several pilot projects were implemented. The sustainable management of the scarce water resources was at the center of these projects. One of the solutions was to introduce on-site water treatment plants in informal settlements to recycle the used water of Hammams (public baths) for urban farming and the irrigation of green spaces.

After a year in Berlin, he spent 2012 in Shanghai, a megalopolis of 25 million dwellers, where everything takes place at another scale. “I was very excited to go to China, a vibrant place, transforming very fast, with very bold ideas and daring experiments in architecture and urbanism you might not find anywhere else in the world”. There, he learned the “do’s and don’t” of the Chinese model.

Back in Berlin, he became a staff member of the project on megacities, as a coordinator until 2014. He worked on the implementation phase, testing new ideas, such as developing organic food production in a small field in Casablanca, with a corporation of 25 farmers who were trained. “We organized the food baskets to connect the farmers to the inhabitants and markets, which led to a 200% to 300% increase of the farmers’ income”.

Out of the Eurocentric Box

He remembers the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders program fondly, being selected in 2015 to what he describes as one of the “less Eurocentric” leadership programmes he has ever attended. “It brings you tremendous energy, space for inspiration, networking and learning. You meet all these brilliant minds and energetic people from the Global South, from all sectors, who take you out of your bubble”. The ADEL program was short in his view, “but the network was way stronger afterwards”.

Among his favorite readings, he mentions Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, “a brief history of human kind with interesting perspectives, on digitalization and how human beings are using their transformative power to change nature”. He reflects on the impact of digitalization on urbanity, a big topic under the Covid-19 pandemic. The latter has uncovered huge spatial inequalities in cities, and calls for the rethinking of urbanity, public space, and above all encourages us to establish a more inclusive and environment-friendly urban model.

Besides these new lines of reflection, his dream is “to  be able to make a difference in terms of highlighting or recontextualizing urban planning in the Global South, putting the spotlight on culture of planning. City planning has unfortunately been a strong vehicle to impose a Eurocentric model and a one-sided understanding of modernity.  However, there is a lot that can be learnt from the flexibility and the resilience of cities in the Global South, and the way they cope with urban issues”.

Dubai, in his view, is the perfect example of how one should deconstruct the impact of the Eurocentric perspective on how a “modern city should look like”. “This view is rooted in New York, Tokyo, Singapour, but we have to redefine what sustainable progress is… It’s a bit superficial to think about the tallest skyscraper or the most transparent facade as sign of progress. The city is a space where culture matters, and I’m not sure that with replicating Dubai in Ghana, for instance, you don’t widen this gap between who we are and the kind of image that is forced on us. Every place has its context, its history and has to develop its own image and imagination. That model is not universal.” Sabine Cessou

Juan Diego Mujica Filippi

This impact-driven young Peruvian legal scholar studies and advocates for the redesign of Corporate Law internationally through innovation for sustainable development.

What does that mean exactly? After graduating from Harvard Law School (LL.M.’19), Juan Diego Mujica Filippi has been working as academic coordinator of an international research project on purpose-driven companies and the regulation of the fourth sector sponsored by the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB, based in Spain), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).


He contributes to the study of public policy frameworks for “purpose-driven companies”, to understand “how these businesses can thrive, having a solid economic return and positive social and environnemental impact, in line with the SDGs”. The project covers 12 Ibero-American countries, 5 international jurisdictions and key topics such as model legislation, impact measurement, tax incentives, sustainable public procurement, and gender equality.

Alongside his international role, Juan Diego leads the corporate responsibility area at Universidad de Lima’s Sustainability Center, where he also teaches Corporate Law.

At this stage, the main difficulty for him, is that the “purpose-driven business ecosystem is mostly unknown by the general population, and is studied only by a part of academia and public policy research, with not much data and many, many definitions”.

But he is determined. After all, at the age of 24, he authored a draft bill for a Peruvian benefit corporation legislation, which was passed as law three years later by the Peruvian Congress in October 2020. “This is one of the most important achievements for me so far, as I drafted the bill at law school” he explains. “ Today through my role at the Sustainability Center, Universidad de Lima is still advising the Peruvian government on that matter and working so students and faculty know about purpose-driven companies as an option to do business and entrepreneurship”.

Born in Lima, he is a dual citizen both from Peru and Argentina, his mother’s country. His aspiration has always been to “find the tools to propose change in a positive way”. This way, for him, happens to be academia: “It is really a powerful thing to delve into a topic and do something about it, become an actor in it”.

Juan Diego insists on “believing deeply” what he does, and is building a community of friends around his passion for SDG’s and sustainability. His sense of debate and taste for contrasting opinions is what led him to the ADEL program. “I loved the idea of the Policy Center for the New South build bridges between, Latin America and Africa, our two beautiful continents, as the decisive actors for the future”.

He says the ADEL Program in 2019 has been a life-changing experience, as he discovered “people from all over the Atlantic with so much in common, in terms of challenges an opportunities, willing to work for a better future and move forward. Everytime I find myself in a deep conversation with friends I made in Marrakesh, it feels like I am back in Morocco!”

The future, in his perspective, is all about “changing the rules of the game for the better. The rules I studied, corporate law, deal with the private sector, an within it there is an immense power to solve social and environmental problems in an efficient way”.

Besides his work, Juan Diego loves to travel, something he has done extensively throughout his studies, going from the Czech Republic to Canada for law exchange programs, then to Harvard in the USA. His favorite thing is to “connect with people, get tea or coffee - always with a pastry - with my friends, as this really lifts my spirit”. During the spare time the COVID-19 crisis has offered, he has read again one of his favorite writers, the Peruvian Nobel Prize for Literature Mario Vargas Llosa. “A way to connect to my country and culture”, he concludes, with a broad smile.

Vicky Ngari

“Your environment, an opportunity for skills”

Born in Kenya, Vicky Ngari reluctantly followed her mother in the United Kingdom when she was 10. She didn’t want to leave Nairobi, where she nurtured as a child a fascination for clothes, garments and dancing. As the years passed, she never severed ties with Kenya, nor Africa.


In Brighton and London, she studied Film and TV, then creative writing, majoring in sociology and journalism. She realized during her first year at University that she could learn a lot out of experience, besides theorical knowledge in the classroom. « On the ground, I taught myself how to network », she says. At the time, she had two part-time jobs, working as a receptionist and at a gym. There, she discussed so much about styling with a fashion designer who came to exercise, that she got invited on a shoot.

While at University, she became a beauty queen, first as Miss Kenya in 2008 and then as Miss East Africa in 2009, insisting on wearing African inspired dresses she designed herself. She became an assistant stylist with Claire Watson, a freelance in demand, and kept on learning on the ground. « One time, Claire was overbooked and had to throw me to a deep end, a shooting for a tabloïd magazine. I had an idea of a set reminding ancient Greece, but the editor walked in and said : « No, we don’t do Greek gods here, take this out ». I learned that you have to listen to what the editors say and to think about the target audience ».

African style, education, opportunities

She was already convinced that the African style was not seen in fashion the way it should. During a Fashion week in London, she was looked upon as an UFO, because of her flashy African prints. But she wasn’t distracted. « People in Africa wear prints all the time ! I still think we are not penetrating further the industry, in terms of what African fashion means, culturally and socially. It has a lot do to with heritage and spirituality. Our ancestors wore certain colors to communicate their intentions. When I design my bag, for instance, I go back to traditional messages of baskets, hand woven and naturally dyed with tree bark ».

Her beauty queen status got her invited to many talks and platforms, such as the One Goal Campaign before the soccer World Cup in South Africa in 2010, or the Unleash Innovation Lab in Denmark in 2017, initiated by the United Nations to gather 1000 change-makers Milleniums. She fell in love with the concept of social entrepreurship and the topic of education. “I was sitting in rooms full of white men in suits, discussing the future of African youth. And I’m sorry, but Africa doesn’t need just aid or money, but opportunities. The African youth must be included and be part of the solution”.

To work from the ground in rural communities

She took action. In 2016, she launched the educational program Good Ambition, the basis of an App she is working on, named “Skilledit”. “The idea is to tackle opportunity for young people and women in all the areas who lack financial and social advance, to be able to see their own environment as a place to skill themselves”. She went to rural communities in Kenya, gathering them as sustainable manufacturers. The “Rural Retail” platform has gathered 350 young people so far, helping her producing bags for her brand, “Vicky Ngari”. 

As a young leader, she came to Marrakesh in 2017 to attend the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders program, and was proud to “fit in an arena where you can actually bring your contribution in terms of creative thinking, and get support. Creative thinking, in my view, comes naturally and serves as lateral thinking to solution, like the little boy who says “deflate the tyres”, when a truck is stuck in a tunnel and experts struggle to get it out.” 

This young lady, who loves nature, herbs and plants, is also a keen reader of mythology. Her dream? “To work in cultural diplomacy to help build more aligned education systems for creative industries with Indigenous sustainable practises.  Growing a successful fashion brand and technology tool as my demonstration, ultimately starting my own schools in nature”. As she defines it, it just looks like the intertwined leads of her personal basket.

Eric Ntumba

Eric Ntumba, a young Congolese banker, came from Kinshasa in December 2017 to participate in the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders Programme of the Policy Center for the New South (PCNS) in Marrakech. At that time, when asked what his dream was, he immediately said he would like : « to become President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and bring about inclusive development, so that the country’s enormous potential can be finally transformed into power. My dream is that each Congolese child be able to fulfill his or her own dream! »


Eric Ntumba is one of those who think big and do not easily admit defeat. In Marrakech, he met several people from diverse backgrounds at the Atlantic Dialogues Conference who « enriched » his vision of the world and offered him new opportunities. He further explains that « if I had not met the Brazilian economist Otaviano Canuto, a Senior Fellow of the PCNS, I would not have signed a chapter with him on the risks of an international financial crisis in 2018 in the Atlantic Currents Report ».

In search of an alternative

He also wrote a paper on the geopolitics of Central Africa at the African Peace and Security Annual Conference (APSACO) 2019, organized in Rabat by the PCNS. His thoughts focused on the trend towards « elections without democracy » that affects his subregion. « In Central Africa, development indicators are the worst in Africa, he went on. It is also the region where presidents exercise power much longer than anywhere else, where young people are brutally repressed, where the electoral exercise amounts to a parody and where democracy is constantly denied, as it is reflected in this famous saying of Gabon’s former President, Omar Bongo: « One does not organize elections to end up on the losing side…».

While noting with interest the wave of citizen movements that has emerged across Africa, including the DRC, Eric Ntumba points out however that it is « not backed by an alternative political offer that would make it possible to have MPs, mayors, ministers ». It is this alternative that he constantly thinks about, like others from his generation.

Eric Ntumba happened to be in good hands. He grew up in a family which was in direct touch with the world of politics. His father, Alphonse Ntumba Luaba, a law professor, a former deputy minister of justice, and a former human rights minister, was one of the negotiators of the 2002 Sun City Peace Agreement, which put an end to the second war of Congo. Then, as the Secretary General of the Transitional Government (2003-07), he chaired the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) from 2011 to 2016.

Returning to the native country

Eric Ntumba attended primary school in Nancy, France, where his father obtained his Ph.D in law, and went to secondary school in Kinshasa. After a master's degree in computer science from North-West University, South Africa, he joined the National School of Administration (ENA) in Paris at the end of 2006. Two years later, he returned directly to Kinshasa – an ‘‘obvious’’ choice for him. « I had been told that the doors were open in France and Europe, but I was convinced that it was in the RDC, in Africa, that what I had learnt would be most useful », he explains.

Because he was determined to contribute to the construction of a notoriously vulnerable state, he first sought to join the public service at the Ministry of Planning. « I was faced with a conservative environment in which I had to claim a political affiliation on which I had not made a decision at the age of 27 years », he remembered. He finally turned to the private sector, first in the position of Advisor  to the General Directorate of the Banque congolaise (BC), then as Corporate Manager at the Banque commerciale du Congo (BCC), as well as Relationship Manager at City Bank Congo (CBC), and lastly at his current position as Head of the Corporate Banking Division at Equity Bank Congo (EBC).

Once again, he notes without complacency : « The private sector in the DRC is limited to extractive industries under the control of foreign operators, without any Congolese capital properly speaking, and that is a real problem for startups, which cannot rely on business angels for guidance and funding. Yet, Kinshasa is demonstrating a powerful creative energy. The DRC lacks a real incubation ecosystem that has demonstrated its value in Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire. » Until venture capital companies take an interest in the entrepreneurial dynamism of Congolese youth, he will continue to provide mentoring and participate in various forums on the African economy abroad.

« Realizing you are not alone »

Two years after his ADEL Programme, Eric Ntumba remains committed to the PCNS, which he considers to be an « incubator of ideas ». « A conference like Atlantic Dialogues helps you readjust your ambitions, he says, and realize that you are not alone. Others think Africa is on the move, in a project of shared prosperity ».

Eric Ntumba, who is a keen reader, mentions among his references ‘Une brève histoire de l’avenir’ (Fayard, 2006) an essay by Jacques Attali that offers a forward-looking perspective of a polycentric world structured around nine nations, including Egypt and Nigeria. In the world of fiction, he has a penchant for one of the great classics of African literature, ‘Une si longue lettre’ (Nouvelles éditions africaines du Sénégal, 1979), by the Senegalese novelist Mariama Bâ. He has now joined her among other writers, having himself published his first novel, ‘Une vie après le Styx’ (L’Harmattan, 2019). He considers that he « has taken his responsibilities » by taking up his pen. His objective is to participate in the construction of a collective memory linked to the atrocities of the Congo war, by narrating the journey of a traumatized young girl who will however find the strength to start her life over.

Eric Ntumba has much admiration for Patrice Emery Lumumba, the father of Congo’s independence, as he has for Martin Luther King, for his fight at the forefront of the civil rights movement in the United States. « His journey tells us that it only takes a handful of  fully committed people to trigger a movement. I also like his formula: "In every mountain of despair, there is a stone of hope". This stone  can be any one of us ». A leader’s words … Sabine Cessou

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