In March 2015, women leaders from sub-Saharan Africa gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa for our tenth Global Ambassadors Program. As part of the program, women involved in business or social enterprise who are at tipping point in their professional, business, and leadership paths were paired with Ambassadors – established women executives in the fields of public health, communications, and finance – who will help them advance their business plans. The Ambassadors shared their expertise to help the mentees develop strategies for growth and success which ultimately positively impacts the region. The women also attended training sessions dedicated to sharpening business acumen, refining their financial management knowledge, and improving their communication skills. This was the second Global Ambassadors Program held in South Africa, with a previous program in 2012 in Cape Town.
The 2015 Global Ambassadors Program in Johannesburg represents a unique opportunity as two significant partners – Vital Voices and (RED) – are brought together. The program focused on the economic empowerment of women who are engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The participating mentees manage a program, business, or clinic connected to (RED) that is associated with AIDS prevention, eradication, and treatment, or that provides economic opportunities to those living with HIV/AIDS. Similarly, the Global Ambassadors are senior executives from companies partnering with (RED), including Bank of America. The program also included a thought leadership event to foster dialogue around the impact of global health issues facing women’s leadership and the economy, HIV/AIDS, and the digital revolution.
Read the Global Ambassadors’ and mentees’ bios below, and see highlights from the trip.
South Africa Global Ambassadors
Vice President of Communications, SAP Africa
Mentoring Joyce Mbwette
Antonia is a seasoned communications professional with over 20 years of international experience. She has worked for SAP, the global market leader in enterprise software, since 2002. Her roles include global Head of Communications Strategy, global head of Employee Communications and global head of Corporate Social Responsibility. She entered her most recent role as vice president of Communications for Africa after her decision to move back to South Africa after 15 years in the UK and Europe.
Prior to joining SAP, Antonia ran Ashton Public Relations, a boutique public relations agency in London focused on creative consumer products media relations.
Antonia is passionate about helping corporations and business leaders define their unique value proposition and develop communications tools and programs to bolster their reputation with relevant stakeholders.
Antonia is on the board of the Germany Chapter of the World Childhood Foundation; a research project manager for the neuro-linguistic aspects of Business Communications and Negotiation; a member of Women in Leadership in the Information Society; a member of Public Relations, Corporate and Media Professionals from around the World; a member of the African Association of Communication Directors; and a member of the European Association of Communications Directors.
Managing Director, Footloose Tanzania Ltd.
Since 1999, Joyce Mbwette has been managing director and shareholder of Footloose Tanzania Ltd., a trading company linking international buyers and small-scale craft and agriculture producers. Managing day-to-day operations, Joyce coordinates the artisans and key frontline staff. She manages the financial, administrative and human resources side of the business, and she represents Footloose Tanzania at forums, meetings, workshops, trade and sources shows.
Prior to joining Footloose Tanzania, Joyce worked with the National Bank of Commerce as an agriculture project credit officer, working with over 87 small-scale industries and agricultural projects throughout the country.
Joyce has a diploma in horticulture from the Tengeru Horticulture Institute. She has certificates in planning, appraisal and financing small-scale agricultural projects; credit management; and strategic business management. She participated in the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Business Exchange Program in 2003 and the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) in 2011.
Managing Director, Head of Business Banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Mentoring Kogie Govender
Katy Knox is the Retail Banking & Distribution executive for Bank of America. She leads a team providing a full range of financial products and services to nearly 40 million customers through an unmatched coast-to-coast retail and ATM network, including the nation’s leading and award-winning digital banking platforms. Her team is responsible for the Retail business, deposit and card products, and the distribution channels for the bank’s Consumer Banking business. She is also a member of the executive management operating committee.
Knox has more than 25 years of leadership experience in financial services, including senior positions in commercial banking, corporate strategy, global treasury management, consumer banking, and marketing. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Elmira College and a Master’s degree in business administration from Boston College.
Owner and Manager, Express Employment Professionals
Mrs. Kogie Govender is the owner and manager of Express Employment Professionals, a national and international franchised professional recruitment agency she created in 2010. Since 2007, she has also served as projects manager for the Foundation for Professional Development, a higher education institution that provides clinical training for HIV/AIDS treatment in Africa.
Kogie brings to the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) community of South Africa a record of exceptional leadership skills through her HIV/AIDS training initiatives, and strategic vision through her community outreach programs in the outskirts of the rural areas of KZN. In 2014 alone, over 15,000 community members were offered training in various HIV/AIDS related courses. She was recently voted chairperson of the women’s forum for HIV/AIDS.
From 1982 to 2009, Kogie served at the Department of Health in KZN in various positions, including HR manager from 2010 to date. She currently serves on the Durban Chamber HR forum. She earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources from the University of South Africa.
Senior Vice President, Business Development, Belvedere Vodka
Mentoring Philippa Thorne
Cathy Steen is the senior vice president, Business Development for Belvedere Vodka, within the LVMH Wine and Spirits Division. She is responsible for the development and execution of the sales, trade marketing and financial plans for the USA region impacting the overall brand performance. Cathy also sits on the leadership committee that oversees global business development.
Previously, Cathy was part of the leadership team at Millennium Import Company, the company that launched Belvedere Vodka in the United States, creating the world’s first luxury vodka category. She spent 10 years developing the brand’s sales and marketing assets leading up to the acquisition by LVMH. At LVMH, Cathy was part of the team charged with consolidating three LVMH owned companies into one sales and marketing company, MHUSA, the company responsible for the group’s entire wine and spirits portfolio. There, she served as senior vice president, National On-Premise, for five years.
Cathy began her career at the Gallo Winery in Denver, Colorado, in the 1980s. She is passionate about developing people and mentoring men and women in business, and she works with several charitable organizations dedicated to preparing underprivileged women for interviews and workplace business etiquette.
Creative Director, Gone Rural
Philippa Thorne is creative director for Gone Rural, a hybrid for-profit and non-profit organization that supports both artisans and their communities through health, education and empowerment programs. Philippa arrived in Swaziland from the United Kingdom in 2001 after graduating from Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, and began work as a design intern at Gone Rural. In 2007, Philippa became the managing director at the age of 28. Despite reservations regarding her experience and leadership abilities, the World Bank and IFC granted a loan for the business. Exceeding all expectations, within three years under Philippa’s leadership, the business grew by 100% and the income of the rural women quadrupled.
Gone Rural is now one of the largest women owned/managed companies in Swaziland and is acknowledged internationally for its innovative products and design, as well as its unique model. It has been featured in design-led projects, exhibitions and collaborations; including Habitat Gallery’s ‘Platform’ initiative in London and Design Network Africa.
Chief Executive Officer, (RED)
Mentoring Agnes Atim Apea
Deborah Dugan’s goal at (RED) is to move fast, break things and innovate. Traditionally, it has been the business sector that owned the market on product and service innovation. (RED) uses a disruptive approach in philanthropy — making it simple and accessible for everyone to play an active role in ending AIDS.
In 2011, Deborah Dugan joined (RED) as the chief executive officer. Since then, (RED) has solidified its identity as both a nonprofit and a brand — purposefully provocative and impact obsessed. To date, (RED) has raised more than $300 million for the Global Fund and impacted the lives of over 55 million people.
Prior to (RED), Deborah was president of Disney Publishing Worldwide. During her eight years at Disney, she oversaw 275 magazines and published more than 4,000 new book titles. In addition, she acquired Baby Einstein, and launched Disney English language learning programs throughout Asia.
Deborah was included in Forbes Magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women” issue for ‘Social Entrepreneurism,’ and Elle’s December 2014 issue of “Top Women to Help Change the World.” She has been selected from New York Moves as a “Power Women” of 2014.
Agnes Apea, PhD
CEO, Hope Development Initiative
Agnes Apea is the founder and CEO of Hope Co-ops, a women farmer’s organic agriculture cooperative in Uganda’s Lango sub-region. Hope Co-ops has over 5,000 members, focused on production, processing and trade in rice, oilseeds and cassava products. The co-op’s vision is to economically empower rural women to fight injustices through agribusiness. In Agnes' view, entrepreneurship should be driven by a passion to solve existing social problems.
Prior to establishing Hope Co-ops, Agnes was an international development professional with over 20 years of experience working with national and international development agencies in policy, research and program development. She also worked as a gender and development consultant with the United Nations and Commonwealth in Africa and Asia. She is a recipient of Columbia University’s Human Rights Advocacy Award in the U.S.; and received the University of Reading’s Social Science Studentship Award in the UK, where she recently completed a doctoral degree in international development. She also holds a master’s degree in development studies from Uganda Martyrs University.
Global Ambassadors Program, 2015
Kathleen Matthews is a candidate for U.S. Congress in Maryland's 8th Congressional District.
Prior to announcing her campaign in June, Kathleen was the chief communications and public affairs officer for Marriott International, where she was responsible for the company’s global brand public relations, corporate communications, social responsibility, culture, and government affairs. She co-chaired Marriott’s Executive Green Council and served on the company’s Global Diversity and Inclusion Council. Matthews also served as vice-chair of the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to the Secretary of Commerce and chaired the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the future of travel and tourism.
Prior to her career at Marriott, she was an award winning news anchor and reporter at the ABC-TV affiliate in Washington, DC for 25 years, and hosted the nationally syndicated “Working Woman” television show. Matthews has been awarded nine local Emmys and has been honored as a “Woman Who Means Business” by the Washington Business Journal and Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine. She is a graduate of Stanford University, and a 2004 Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School at Harvard University.
CEO, Imbeleko, Dr. Seni Myeni Foundation
Sbusisiwe Myeni is a business consultant and philanthropist, and simultaneously runs two organizations in South Africa. She is the founder and managing director of Kamusa Consulting, a professional consulting firm; and serves as CEO of Imbeleko, the Dr. Seni Myeni Foundation, an educational organization for top academic achieving orphaned and vulnerable children from the Qadi/Nyuswa community in KwaZulu-Natal.
In 2008, Sbusisiwe joined Absa Wealth, a Wealth Management Division of Absa Capital for ultra-high net worth clients. She established the Operational Risk and the New Product Approval offices for Absa Wealth, as well as the Risk & Compliance function for Absa Wealth International (AWI), a division of Barclays Wealth International. Sbusisiwe was awarded the 2010 Gauteng Businesswomen’s Association Business Achiever Award in the Corporate Category for her achievements in the establishment of Absa Wealth.
After earning a degree in statistical science degree from the University of Cape Town, Sbusisiwe was recruited by the Standard Bank Corporate and Investment Bank (formerly Standard Corporate and Merchant Bank) for their inaugural Class of 1997 Graduate Program and worked in the banking sector over a period of 15 years.
Vice President, Programming, A&E Network
Mentoring Laura Akunga
Lily Neumeyer is the vice president of Non-Fiction & Alternative Programming for A&E Network. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the development and production of A&E’s nonfiction, alternative and reality series, including Modern Dads, Bad Ink and Rodeo Girls. Neumeyer currently serves as executive producer of A&E’s hit series Duck Dynasty. In its fourth season, Duck Dynasty premiered to 11.8 million viewers, becoming the #1 nonfiction series telecast in cable history.
Before joining A&E, Neumeyer had a long career at MTV Networks, navigating both the U.S. and the Hispanic markets. Most recently, Neumeyer was VP of Programming for MTV Tres, where she was instrumental in launching the network and creating content and multi-platform strategy aimed at U.S. Latino youth. Prior to MTV Tres, Neumeyer served as director of development for MTV News and Docs where she created and executive produced My Super Sweet 16 and the documentary series Juvies.
Founder and CEO, Benchmark Solutions Ltd
Laura Akunga is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Benchmark Solutions Limited, a multinational company with operations in 13 countries around the globe. Benchmark Solutions Ltd offers specialized strategic alliance services with a major focus on market and financial linkages. Under Laura’s leadership, Benchmark Solutions Ltd has arranged transactions of over $1 billion USD.
Laura is also a philanthropist — educating, mentoring and supporting the medical welfare of 50 orphan girls. Among her various awards and recognitions, Laura was named in the Top 40 Women Under 40 in Kenya by Business Daily Africa in 2014, and as the Young African Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010. In 2013, Laura was appointed the vice chairperson of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), an initiative of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Head of Civil Society and Political Advocacy, The Global Fund
Mentoring Feven Haddis Gabriel
Linda Mafu is the head of Civil Society and Political Advocacy at the Global Fund, and she has dedicated her career to fighting discrimination and stigma associated with AIDS. As a prominent AIDS activist, she spearheaded efforts to secure a plan of action in South Africa at a time when many leaders were still denying the existence of the pandemic. Before joining the Global Fund, she served as executive director of World AIDS Campaign. Prior to that, she worked with Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa.
Linda studied community development at the University of Cape Town, learning about the complex and inter-connected nature of social change in any community. She later moved from the Treatment Action Campaign to the World AIDS Campaign, where she worked on advocacy throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Deputy CEO and Global Communications Manager, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia
Mrs. Feven Haddis joined Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia in 2009 as the public relations manager, later taking on roles as deputy CEO and global communications manager. She helped to manage the organization during a time of crisis in 2012-13, developing a strategic plan and reforming the Board of Trustees.
Previously, Feven worked at the Ethiopian House of Peoples’ Representatives (the Parliament) as a press expert, and in Addis Ababa City Administration as a public relations expert and information and culture team leader.
Feven is the author of Feminism in African Literature Context: A Feminist Reading of Nuruddin Farah's First Trilogy "Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship." This publication reflects her passion to address the patriarchal structures in communities; and to show that if women acquire the opportunity, they can play a pivotal role in addressing political and economic problems. Feven holds a postgraduate degree from the Addis Ababa University.
Dr. Sipho Moyo
Africa Executive Director, The ONE Campaign
Mentoring Lebo Ramafoko
Dr. Sipho S. Moyo is the Africa executive director for The ONE Campaign. Since joining in 2010, she has led a team that has developed an authentically African advocacy agenda, directly impacting multilateral decision making processes such as the Post-2015 agenda and the Africa Union Year of Agriculture.
In 2014 she led the Do Agric Campaign, which called on all African governments to increase investments in agriculture to unlock the opportunities in this sector.
Before joining ONE, Sipho had 18 years of development experience at the African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations (UN) and the World Bank. She is a member of the Global Agenda Council (Africa) of the World Economic Forum and was recently appointed by His Excellency President Jakaya Kikwete to sit on the independent review Panel of the Big Results Now (BRN) Initiative.
CEO, Soul City Institute
Lebogang Ramafoko is CEO of the Soul City Institute for health and development communication. In this role, she leads strategic direction and accountability for the programmatic, operational and financial aspects of the organization.
Lebo joined the Soul City Institute in 1995 as a young graduate and social activist committed to rebuilding after Apartheid. With a degree in education and a passion for youth, she developed life skills learning materials for building self-esteem and resilience, and preventing diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Lebo was integral to Soul City’s myriad social and behavior change programming, and pioneered a first-of-its-kind community development reality show, drawing partners from government, civil society and business on fostering transformational change in five communities in South Africa.
A household name among youth for her role as “Agony Aunt” on a daily youth magazine show, Lebo dispensed advice on a range of topics from sexuality to careers, and continued this work from a global platform through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Lebo is an outspoken gender activist and in her work at Soul City has raised awareness of issues facing women and young girls. Through a Global Fund grant the Soul City Institute received for HIV prevention in young women and girls between the ages of 15 and 24, Lebo will be returning to the television screen as a co-host of an intergenerational talk show supporting the Rise Young Women’s Clubs. The show will focus on some of the structural drivers of HIV, including inequality and gender based violence.
Retail Products and Underwriting Executive, Bank of America
Mentoring Victoria Kisyombe
As Retail Products and Underwriting Executive for Bank of America, Titi Cole is responsible for delivering products, services and solutions to meet the financial needs of more than 40 million consumer households. Cole leads the development, management and distribution of the bank’s Consumer Checking, Debit and Credit Card solutions. She oversees credit and underwriting functions for Bank of America’s U.S. consumer credit card portfolio and the company’s Enterprise Payments Network capabilities.
With more than 20 years of product management, operations and strategy planning experience, Cole joined the bank in 2010. Cole is a leader on the Bank of America Global Diversity & Inclusion Council, a member of the Black Executive Leadership Council and LEAD for Women employee network. She serves on the board of directors of Opera Carolina and the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte.
Cole has a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Managing Director, SELFINA
Dr. Victoria Kisyombe is managing director of Sero Lease and Finance Ltd. (SELFINA), a for-profit operation that provides micro-leasing to women in Tanzania. Victoria’s microleasing model is recognized internationally for empowering women to become economically self-sufficient.
Victoria is profiled in the World Bank’s 2007 study, “Doing Business in Africa.” Victoria was also honored as Africa Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2010 by the World Economic Forum/Schwab Foundation in recognition of visionary, pragmatic and courageous contributions that significantly improve the state of the world. She is now a permanent Schwab Fellow and a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on New Growth Models. She is also an Associate Member of the Global Banking Alliance for Women, based in the United States.
In 2014, Vital Voices honored Victoria with a Global Leadership Award for economic empowerment.
Managing Director, Sub Saharan Africa (Ex-RSA), Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Mentoring Mary Mbukpa
Yvonne Ike is a managing director and head of Sub Saharan Africa (Ex-RSA) at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She has more than 20 years experience in financial services, including capital markets operations and fixed income, derivatives and equities products. Over the course of her career, she has led senior teams in New York, Geneva, Hong Kong,
Nigeria and South Africa.
Prior to joining Bank of America Merrill Lynch in September 2014, Yvonne was a chief executive officer at Renaissance Capital West Africa, and from 1984 to 2009, she was a managing director at JP Morgan. Yvonne has been an FSA-registered representative since 1994.
Yvonne is a trustee of The Bridge Leadership Academy, Christopher Kolade Foundation and The Dangote Foundation and is a non-executive director of Guinness Nigeria PLC. She is passionate about contributing to Africa’s development and is involved in several initiatives including African Gifted Foundation and Women for Women International. In 2007, Yvonne was recognized by the Queen of England as one of the top 200 businesswomen in the UK to make a significant impact in society.
Territorial Manager, Society for Family Health (SFH)
Mary Mbukpa works in the Calabar Office of the Society for Family Health (SFH) in Nigeria as the territorial manager. She provides operational leadership and direction for the implementation of SFH interventions, one of which is the Enhancing Nigeria’s Response to HIV&AIDS Program (ENR), which drew to a close in December of 2014.
Mary has more than four years of experience in leading development projects across the spectrum from community level interventions to influencing approaches in family planning, malaria, HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health interventions in Nigeria.