ABOUT VANGUARD AFRICA
Founded in 2016, Vanguard Africa represents the synthesis of best practices in campaign management with the mission-driven focus of a pro-democracy organization. We have convened previously isolated networks -- campaign consultants, government and public relations experts, business leaders and human rights advocates -- to provide unrivaled access and strategic solutions for pro-democracy leaders.
To date, our cutting edge has been featured in a range of high profile media outlets including: Newsweek, CNN, Le Monde, World Politics Review, Delayed Gratification Magazine, Ozy.com, and the Huffington Post, among others. In September 2017, our executive director was honored by the Government of The Gambia and President Adama Barrow as a "Champion for Democracy" due to our efforts in the country's pro-democracy struggle that resulted in the first peaceful transfer of power in the country's history.
"When the world was silent to our suffering, Vanguard Africa was there to shine a light. When others told us our cause was lost, when others ignored our pleas for help, Vanguard Africa was there, always, to extend a hand. Our gratitude and our appreciation is unending."
-His Excellency Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of The Gambia
"For five decades, my country of Togo has been ruled by a dictatorship. Never have we gotten as much international attention as when Vanguard Africa stepped in to help us amplify our struggle for democracy and justice. We are grateful for the support Vanguard Africa has provided to raise awareness on the grave human rights violations, as well as its massive advocacy efforts to help the people of Togo overcome tyranny and misrule."
-Farida Nabourema, Director of the Togolese Civil League (Togo)
“I would like to genuinely thank Vanguard Africa for the great support to our cause of democracy in Djibouti, where we have been fighting for social change since 1992. Since we started working with Vanguard Africa in 2017, our relations network and our visibility have significantly progressed, especially in the United States. We hope this work continues where it is much needed, in Djibouti and elsewhere in Africa.”
-Daher Ahmed Farah, President of Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (Djibouti)
"The magic of Vanguard Africa is their deep understanding of the continent today. Their counsel reveals an understanding of the different systems and institutions at play, always placing human rights, freedom of the press and the fight against corruption as the pillars that guide their action. This approach is testimony of their concern for ordinary citizens yearning for a better life."
-Akere Muna, founder of Transparency International-Cameroon and 2018 presidential candidate (Cameroon)
"The corrupt networks that currently comprise the core of many states are deadly. They kill with impunity to accumulate. Occasionally they will threaten someone like me who can make noise and be heard. But mostly, it's the poor who disappear into a broken criminal justice system. This is why Vanguard Africa’s platform and voice are essential.”
-John Githongo, award winning anti-corruption campaigner and CEO of Inuka Kenya Trust (Kenya)
“Africa's important need to own the century must start with deepening a participatory democratic culture, instituting electoral integrity, and respecting the rights of our people. Vanguard Africa is a valued and trusted partner in these endeavors.”
-Dapo Olorunyomi, Premium Times editor-in-chief (Nigeria)
"It is absolutely critical to have genuine, outspoken organizations – especially in advanced democracies – that are dedicated to advancing justice and dignity for African nations enslaved by repression. In these efforts, Vanguard Africa is a leading partner for me and my colleagues."
-Eddy Gicheru Oketch, founder of Ongoza and independent senate candidate (Kenya)
Our ADVISORY COuncil
Dr. Aref Ali Nayed is the former ambassador of Libya to the United Arab Emirates and is the Founder and Director of Kalam Research and Media (KRM), and Chairman of the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS). During the Libyan revolution, Dr. Nayed was the chief operations manager of the Libya Stabilization Team. He has taught and lectured Islamic Theology, Logic, and Spirituality at the restored Uthman Pasha Madrasa in Tripoli, Libya. He is Senior Advisor to the Cambridge Inter-Faith Program; Fellow of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute in Jordan; Visiting Professor at Fatih Sultan Mehmet University in Istanbul; and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Templeton Foundation. He was Professor at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (Rome), and the International Institute for Islamic Thought and Civilization (Malaysia). He received his BSc in Engineering, MA in the Philosophy of Science, and a PhD in Hermeneutics from the University of Guelph (Canada). He also studied at the University of Toronto and the Pontifical Gregorian University. He has been involved in various Inter-Faith initiatives since 1987, including the seminal “A CommonWord” process, which was one of the most important inter-faith initiated by Muslims. His impressive list of published works include Vatican Engagements: A Muslim Theologian’s Journey in Muslim-Catholic Dialogue (KRM, 2016); ISIS in Libya: Winning the Propaganda War (KRM, 2015); Libya: From Revolutionary Legitimacy to Constitutional Legitimacy (KRM, 2014); Beyond Fascism (KRM, 2013); and Growing Ecologies of Peace, Compassion and Blessing: A Muslim Response to ‘A Muscat Manifesto’ (KRM, 2010).
Dr. Olaniyi Olatunji Nelson is an international development expert with over two decade’s worth of experience in mobilizing international partnerships for Africa’s economic prosperity. Dr. Olaniyi has previously served in top advisory positions with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), an economic development program of the African Union, as well as the ECOWAS Commission, the ECOWAS Expert Committee for Regional Investment and Development, the Joint West Africa-European Union Regional Negotiation Committee, and was a senior trade adviser for the African Business Roundtable. Most recently, from 2011-2014, he was the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland for the African Business Roundtable. Currently, Dr. Olaniyi is a distinguished fellow at the Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria and at the Nigerian Institute of Management. He holds a PhD in Finance from the University of Calabar, an MSc. in Policy and Development Studies from Ambrose Alli University, and a BSc. in Economics from Olabisi Onabanjo University.
David A. Rice is an economist who consults, writes and teaches about economic development, governance, and policy, specializing in Africa. He was most recently the founding director of the Africapitalism Institute, a pan-African think tank based in Lagos, Nigeria, which he ran through the end of 2015. The Institute, supported by the Tony Elumelu Foundation, conducts rigorous, applied research on the critical role that the private sector must play in driving broader economic growth and social development across the continent. David is currently based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where he is teaching development economics and entrepreneurship at Central Asia University, and working with a local new business start-up incubator called the Prosperity Accelerator. Prior to his position in Lagos, David was a professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs where he also served as executive director of the university's Development Research Institute, working alongside economist William Easterly. David has also been the Africa advisor to the Milken Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan global financial innovation think tank. David obtained his M.A. in International Development from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and previously served as a Fellow in the Advanced Leadership Program at the Snelling Center for Government at the University of Vermont and was an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for American Progress.
Frannie Léautier is a globally respected development expert with over 25 years of distinguished professional experience. She is currently the Senior Vice President of the African Development Bank Group based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. A citizen of Tanzania, Dr. Léautier is also the chairperson and co-founding partner of Mkopa Private Equity Fund, which is focused on private equity investments in small and media size enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has worked extensively in emerging markets in Asia and Latin America, as well as in 49 different countries throughout Africa. From 2009-2013, Dr. Léautier served as the Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) based in Harare, Zimbabwe. During her tenure at the ACBF, Dr. Léautier was widely credited with raising and revamping the profile, governance, accountability, efficiency and delivery of the institution.
John Githongo is the CEO of Inuka, a Kenyan NGO that promotes good governance and anti-corruption. He is a past Chairman of the Africa Institute for Governing with Integrity, the Africa Center for Open Governance (AFRICOG), and served as a Commissioner of the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI). Previously, he was Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President in charge of governance and ethics. He remains a weekly columnist for the Star newspaper and occasionally writes for international press outlets such as the Guardian. In 2011, Mr. Githongo was selected as one of the world’s 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine and one of the world’s top 100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy. In October 2013 he was awarded the OXI! Award by the Washington Oxi Day Foundation that marks heroism and the defense of freedom. In 2015, he was appointed the Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor at Stanford University and was awarded the prestigious University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law Prize for international Integrity. Mr. Githongo is also a Senior Advisor to the Office of the President of South Sudan.
Amadou Janneh is a former Minister of Information and Communication in The Gambia. In 2011 he was sentenced to life in prison for treason after distributing t-shirts with the slogan "End Dictatorship Now." After worldwide protests, including from Amnesty International, Janneh was pardoned and later settled in the United States. As coordinator of Coalition for Change-Gambia (CCG), he continues to be a leading advocate for democracy and human rights in West Africa.
Dapo Olorunyomi is currently publisher and editor-in-chief of the Nigerian multimedia platform, Premium Times. Prior to this, he served as policy director and chief of staff at Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). His work as editor during the years of military dictatorship in Nigeria earned him the 1995 International Editor of the Year Award, presented by World Press Review, the 1996 PEN Center (West) Freedom to Write Award, the 1996 Press Freedom Award from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) New York and a Hellman Hemmett grant from Human Rights Watch.
Oby Ezekwesili is a Senior Economic Advisor with Africa Economic Development Policy Initiative (AEDPI) where she advises reform-committed African heads of state on economic and policy issues. Mrs. Ezekwesili is also a co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls citizens’ movement, advocating for the safe rescue of the abducted 219 school girls in northern Nigeria. She has also served in leadership roles at the Open Society Foundation and the World Bank, where she managed an extensive African portfolio. From 2002 to 2007, Mrs. Ezekwesili served in the Nigerian Cabinet as Minister of Education and headed several transparency initiatives. She is a founding director of Transparency International and has extensive international development experience. In 2015, she was named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and 50 Most Powerful Africans by New Africa Magazine. Ezekwesili was also named as one of the New York Times’ 2015 Women of Impact.
OUR Washington, D.C. TEAM
Jeffrey Smith (Executive Director) has over a decade of experience managing international human rights and democracy promotion campaigns, including prior positions at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Freedom House, National Endowment for Democracy, Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa (IDASA), and UNESCO. He has been cited as one of the most influential pro-democracy advocates on social media today, and has been honored multiple times for his work, including in 2017 by the Government of The Gambia as a "Champion of Democracy" due to his efforts in that country's pro-democracy struggle. Also in 2017, he was an Ozy.com Rising Star and, most recently, in 2018 was named among the Top 40 Under 40 Professionals by the Washington Business Journal. He has led, planned and conducted civil society assessment missions to a number of African countries, including The Gambia, Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. He has organized and led high-profile delegations to the White House, U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Congress, and the United Nations Human Rights Council. He frequently provides expert briefings to government institutions, presents on public panels, and has written extensively on issues related to democracy and US-Africa policy for premier international publications, including The Atlantic, Foreign Policy, World Politics Review, Foreign Affairs, Washington Post, Quartz, and the Royal African Society. In March 2018, he was a feature speaker at Harvard University's annual Africa Business Conference and has presented on panels at American University, Georgia Tech, Grand Valley State and his alma mater, University of Connecticut, where he received a masters degree in international relations with honors in 2007. He is an expert in media engagement and outreach, is often quoted by major publications, and has provided on-air analysis for Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, MSNBC and NPR.
Joe Trippi (Co-Founder) is heralded on the cover of The New Republic as the man who “reinvented campaigning" and has been at the forefront of movement politics for three decades. Trippi began his political career working on Edward M. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1980 and has worked on numerous presidential, gubernatorial, senate, and congressional campaigns in the United State and around the world since. In 2008, Trippi helped Morgan Tsvangirai and the Movement for Democratic Change receive the most votes, and helped garner international media attention to Robert Mugabe’s democratic subversion and violence which led to a ‘unity’ government and Tsvangarai becoming Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. In 2010, Trippi was a senior strategist and media consultant in Jerry Brown’s successful run for California Governor. Most recently, Trippi helped manage the senate campaign of Doug Jones in Alabama, who became the first democrat to win statewide office in over a decade. He is the author of "The Revolution will not be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything," which chronicles his revolutionary use of the internet in political campaigning.
Christopher Harvin (Co-Founder) is a founding Partner at Sanitas International, a global strategic communication, public affairs, digital media and political advisory firm based in Washington DC. He was recognized as one of the top public relations practitioners under 40 by PRWeek in 2013, has served the White House and has held senior communications and public affairs positions with U.S. Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Congress and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Having worked in almost 70 countries and on 6 continents, Mr. Harvin has provided political and communications counsel and support around the world to include U.S. Presidential, Senate and Congressional campaigns, international corporations, opposition candidates and their parties, and dozens foreign heads of state and sovereign governments.
Albert Wynn (Senior Government Relations Advisor) is currently a senior director at Greenberg Traurig, LLP and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Maryland’s 4th Congressional District. While in the House, Albert served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, most recently as Chairman of its Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, and as a member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. In addition, Albert was a member of the Financial Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. During his distinguished career in the United States Congress, Albert held numerous prominent positions, including Senior Democratic Whip, Regional Whip, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, member of the Democrats’ message team, Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Task Force on Small Business, and Co-Chair of the Hydrogen and Wireless Caucuses. While there, he was selected to serve as delegate to numerous inter-parliamentary meetings, involving both the Caribbean and European Union organizations.