Unleashing the Network

Meet our Team

The Networks Division at African Leadership Academy is based out of the ALA campus in Johannesburg. We are organised into 3 main teams: University Support, Early Careers Success and Sector Communities.

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Management team

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Maia Matshikiza

Chief Network Officer


Maia has had a fruitful career working in management and operations consulting, engaging corporate clients in various initiatives involving stakeholder relations, business process improvement, organizational design, governance, and societal impact. Being bilingual (i.e. French and English) has afforded Maia the opportunity to work in various parts of Anglophone and Francophone Africa on projects in the Mining, Manufacturing, and Oil & Gas industries. She has also had extensive exposure to the Public and Regulatory sectors through her work with government agencies and state-owned entities. A seasoned leader, Maia has experience in mobilizing and managing resources in a multicultural setting in the development of new strategies and program implementation. Maia sees joining ALA as one of the highlights of her professional journey.

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Ayado Ewinyu

Director of Early Career Success at ACN


Ayado is a Registered Industrial and Organisational Psychologist. She is currently employed as the Director of Early Career Success at ALA’s Africa Careers Network. Ayado is passionate about career and professional development and her current role enables her to design and develop programs of global influence, impacting over 2000 young people. She has previous experience working as a Management Consultant in various countries, is extensively traveled, and has built expertise in developing talent and human capital management solutions, organizational design solutions, change management, and project management. In 2020, Ayado received the Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychology (SA) Presidential Award Nomination for Industrial and Organisational Practitioner of the Year in recognition of her work in championing and advocating for young people in the youth employ-ability space. Ayado possesses a Masters in Industrial and Organisational Psychology from the University of Johannesburg and is an Executive at the Society of Industrial and Organisational Psychology in South Africa, where she oversees all the society’s governance matters.

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Sheila Agiti

Head of University Support


Sheila Agiti is from Ghana. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University and a Master of Science degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Her professional interests focus on economic development, youth empowerment and education in Africa. Sheila’s career at ALA started off as a Princeton-in- Africa fellow where she worked as a Career and Internship Coordinator and well as a Community Service Coordinator. She later moved to the United States and worked as a Graduate Program Manager supporting ALA alumni studying in the Northeast of the US. Sheila previously worked at the African Center for Economic Transformation (in Accra) where she designed monitoring systems and coordinated the external review of a project in Liberia.
Sheila has served on the boards of Teach for Ghana and Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) in various capacities.

Val Wiggett

Director of Sector Programs


As Director of Sector programs, Val’s role is to provide strategic guidance in building networks around the sector-communities. This entails building partnerships with various external stakeholder groups to enable the successful execution of programs and initiatives focused on building the capacity of our leaders. Val was born and raised in the Western Cape, South Africa. She studied through the University of South Africa, where she completed a Bachelor of Administration in Development and a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing Management. She subsequently completed her PGDIP and MBA through GIBS Business School. Val has had senior roles in the manufacturing, construction, F&B and technology industries. Val’s varied work experience and skillset has allowed her to define what strong leadership looks like and created a deep understanding of strategic business operational requirements, to meet and align with various stakeholder needs. These are important skills for her role at ALA.  She is passionate about the African continent, people development and tech. In alignment with this, Val is also a director of the Sekela Foundation, which is focused on supporting, sustaining and enabling local communities and a mentor at Project Girls4Girls South Africa, an organisation aimed at empowering young women.

Miriro Matema

Head of Marketing and Communications


Born in Zimbabwe and living in South Africa, Miriro is a seasoned publishing editor and communications specialist, having worked with leading brands in financial services, corporate travel and entrepreneurship. Passionate about Africa’s development, Miriro is also a dynamic marketing strategist with 14 years experience working with startups and global multinational corporations.

As the Head of Marketing and Communications, Miriro will bring the Network’s mission to life, and lead the way in building a strong Marketing and Communications engine, which will support ALA’s strategic priority of “Unleashing the Network”. She enjoys tackling complex strategic challenges in the passion-to-entrepreneurship pipeline, particularly focused on the implications of 4th Industrial Revolution and workforce automation.

Early career success

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Hilda Nalwanga

Early Careers Associate at ACN


Hilda is an Associate with the Early Career Success team at Africa Careers Network. She works with ALA alumni and Mastercard Foundation Scholars, identifying their early career needs and developing material and tools to support their preparation for success in their careers. Hilda manages the Peer Coach Program for our scholars at Makerere University in Uganda and the University of Gondar in Ethiopia, and supports capacity-strengthening efforts for the career development teams on the ground. She also manages employer-partner relationships and placements for scholars within management consulting and finance organizations. Hilda completed her undergraduate studies at Smith College, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and African Studies.

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Sylvia Onyinye Okakpu

Early Careers Associate at ACN


Onyinye is an Associate within the Early Careers team at Africa Careers Network. She works with ALA alumni and MasterCard Foundation scholars in different universities to identify and support their early career preparedness needs. Onyinye supports the development of early career transition schemes for  Mastercard Foundation partner universities in Africa and manages the Peer Coach Program for scholars at the university of Abomey Calavi in Benin and the African Leadership Academy.  Onyinye graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a Bachelors degree in Economics. Her early career experience was in strategy consulting at the Boston Consulting Group and Princess Cruise Lines as a Strategy Associate. Through her experience in consulting, she worked in a significant number of staff retention and organizational restructuring cases that stirred her interest in the impact of human capital led  development in Africa.

University Support

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Mbali Shange

University Support Associate


Mbali Shange joined the ALA community 3 years ago and has a total of 8 years of experience in student support. She has a Psychology background and works to provide holistic support to ALA graduates and MasterCard Scholars studying at universities in Africa, Middle East, Asia and Europe. She is passionate about student development and support; and cultivating the potential in this continent’s greatest asset – the youth. Before joining ALA, she worked with various South African NGOs that sought to provide financial and psychosocial support to university students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Sydney Newman

University Support Associate


Sydney Newman is a University Support Associate at the African Leadership Academy. She supports ALA alumni and MasterCard Foundation Scholars attending universities in the United States, Canada, South America, and the Caribbean.
Sydney joined ALA in 2019 after obtaining her master’s in African Studies from Stanford University. Her professional background includes work in refugee resettlement and immigration, international law, and gender relations. In addition, she holds bachelor’s in Political Science with minors in African Studies and French from Gustavus Adolphus College, a liberal arts university in her home state of Minnesota.
Sydney is based out of the ALA office in New York City. In her spare time, she enjoys playing competitive rugby and exploring new places and people.


Suzanne Hunter

Director of Scholar Selection


Suzanne is the Director of Scholar Search and Selection for the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at ALA. The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at ALA is a tertiary scholarship program that connects promising students to outstanding universities, and offers scholars sustained and holistic support throughout university. Prior to managing the Mastercard Foundation Scholars program, Suzanne served as a member of the ALA University Guidance team, supporting ALA students through all aspects of the university application process. Suzanne attended George Washington University in Washington, DC, and graduated with a degree in International Relations. Suzanne is deeply passionate about education and how it can transform lives and communities.

Trevor Langat

Alumni Engagement Associate


Trevor is an ALA alumnus from the class of 2010 and is the Alumni Engagement Associate at ALA.  He earned an undergraduate degree in Social Sciences from SciencesPo Paris in France and a Masters degree in African Studies at the University of Oxford. He enjoys talking about African Affairs and runs a video blog called ‘Africa in Perspective.’ Apart from playing guitar, Trevor enjoys sports and reading during his spare time.

Sector Communities

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Amanda Chembezi

Sector Lead: Governance


Amanda is a seasoned International Development specialist and the Network Manager for AL for Governance at African Leadership Academy. She leads a network of students, youth activists, political leaders, and public officials that are passionate about the radical transformation of the governance sector on the African continent. She also manages career placements for graduates interested in public service, diplomacy, international development, and civil society. Amanda was selected as one of the Top 25 young women in Africa leading social change in her community in 2012 by the Moremi Initiative. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Finance and is completing her MSc in International Development at the University of Portsmouth. Amanda aspires to become a cabinet Minister of Education in Botswana in the future and pursue a career in public service.

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Jihad Hajjouji

Program Lead: Education Accelerator


Jihad Hajjouji ’08 from Morocco leads a network of education entrepreneurs building high impact institutions across Africa through the Anzisha Education Accelerator. Drawing expertise from her earlier career as a Consultant with Dalberg Global Development Advisors, and learnings from Stanford University where she earned an MBA and Master’s Degree in Education, Jihad seeks to transform the education landscape in Africa by empowering the next generation of education leaders. Jihad has always seen herself as an enabler and she intends to continue playing a key role in the education sector, supporting leadership development, tackling youth unemployment and enabling the growth of others.

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Lois Nienaber

Network Coordinator


Lois supports the creation of a network of organisations in education, curriculum development, and youth engagement. She also coaches and manages the career development paths of ALA alumni in university pursuing careers within the education sector. Prior to joining ALA, she built extensive experience in the NGO space building and running community centred programs and curriculums. Lois was inspired to follow a career of empowering youth after working at a school in Eswatini; assisting in the development of new strategies for integration for children with trauma and educational development. Lois is a graduate of the University of West of England with a BSc (Honours) in Educational Psychology. She is passionate about social development and has an internal desire to improve the lives of those around her and igniting hope.

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Francis Ekii

Network Coordinator


Francis is a Network Coordinator at Africa Careers Network. He supports the development of a community of impact-driven leaders with a shared interest in addressing Africa’s most pressing governance and development challenges and committed to working together to achieve collective impact. Francis is a graduate of Political Science from the College of Wooster and is an experienced social entrepreneur with a passion for youth development. He is the Founder/CEO of Young Entrepreneurs Challenge in Uganda – a for-impact youth development organization that seeks to nurture the innate entrepreneurial talents of young Africans through ideas competitions, Entrepreneurship and Leadership workshops, mentorship, and seed-funding. Prior to joining the ACN team, he worked across multiple sectors in the civil society and non-profit fields.

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Kalliope Kruesman

Sector Lead:  Education


Kalliope is an ALA alumnus from the class of 2012. Kalliope has a defined passion for global education reform and innovation. At Africa Careers Network, she oversees the development of ALA’s education network and the development of professional development opportunities for alumni hoping to pursue careers in the sector. She pursued her undergraduate studies in Social Anthropology and African Studies at SOAS, University of London. Alongside a variety of projects, internships, and independent consulting work, she has designed for Minerva Schools KGI’s global experiential curriculum as well as set up supplementary school programs in the UK in efforts to address the persistently growing attainment gap. Kalliope returned to ALA to channel her passion into helping shape ALA’s education sector.

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Matt Maralack

Sector Lead: AL for the Arts


Matt Maralack is the sector lead for AL for the Arts and is a South African by birth, but truly identifies as a global citizen. He is a BA (Hons) Music and Musicology graduate from Rhodes University with several years of experience in the fields of ethnomusicology, sound technology, music performance and music education. Though he continues to occupy classroom, stage and music studio spaces when presented with the opportunity, he has taken a primary interest in arts and culture’s intersection with society from a leadership and urban governance perspective. To this end, Matt completed an MA in Cultural Policy and Management from Wits University conferred in 2019. With these experiences, Matt demonstrates a unique understanding of the challenges that face the creative industries. “I want the AL for the Arts community to feel tangibly supported by the network… it is my hope that members will buy into unleashing all that the arts has in store for the development and shared prosperity of the continent.”

Laurene Amoit

Sector Lead:  Health


Laurene is passionate about revolutionizing the state of healthcare in Africa. Before joining ALA, she co-founded MamaTips, a Kenyan-based maternal healthcare company leveraging data and technology to serve women in marginalized communities. She later joined Castlight Health to improve access to quality and affordable healthcare across the US. Drawing from these two experiences and her learnings from Minerva Schools at KGI, where she earned her undergraduate degree, she seeks to empower graduates to map out and take ownership of their careers in healthcare. As the sector lead, she engages employer partners and professionals across the continent to create opportunities in healthcare for ALA Alumni. She also champions for the creation of pan-African networks comprising of young people, professionals, and other stakeholders seeking to address change in the health sector.

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Nono Sekhoto

Sector Lead:  Agribusiness


Nono leads the Agribusiness sector network which supports alumni to access career opportunities in the agriculture sector across the African continent. Nono’s work consists of relationship building with alumni and industry stakeholders and placing alumni into career opportunities. Nono has developed an 8-year career in agriculture as a farmer and leader at a national farmers’ association where she established and ran the young farmer portfolio. Nono developed programs that focused on supporting young farmers in partnership with many industry corporates. Nono founded a company which focused on finding ways to empower youth in agriculture. Nono has participated in local and international platforms advocating for support of youth in agriculture.

Lerato Kubuzie

Network Coordinator


Lerato is a Network Coordinator supporting agribusiness, where she works with young leaders and entrepreneurs who engage with each other to transform agriculture in Africa. She further supports the infrastructure sector, facilitating collaborations around sustainable development and innovation. Lerato has a diverse background with extensive experience in law, business development operations, client relations, sales and marketing. The roles she has undertaken throughout her career have developed her exceptional people skills and ignited her passion for people development. She is currently pursuing studies in Business Administration.