Uzodinma Iweala Portrait

Uzodinma Iweala, Chief Executive Officer 

Uzodinma Iweala is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and medical doctor. As the CEO of The Africa Center, he is dedicated to promoting new narratives about Africa and its Diaspora. Uzodinma was the CEO, Editor-In-Chief, and co-Founder of Ventures Africa magazine, a publication that covers the evolving business, policy, culture, and innovation spaces in Africa. His books include Beasts of No Nation, a novel released in 2005 to critical acclaim and adapted into a major motion picture; Our Kind of People, a non-fiction account of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria released in 2012; and Speak No Evil (2018), a novel about a queer first-generation Nigerian-American teen living in Washington, D.C. His short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications like The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and The Paris Review among others. Uzodinma was also the founding CEO of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, an organization that promotes private sector investment in health services and health innovation in Nigeria. He sits on the boards of the Sundance Institute, The International Rescue Committee, and the African Development Bank’s Presidential Youth Advisory Group. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and a Fellow of The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Lawrence Ekechi, Community Outreach Liaison

Lawrence has been with the institution for 18 years, spearheading the Center’s outreach efforts, and has organized campaigns to reach African Missions and Ambassadors, churches, schools and senior centers. To date Mr. Ekechi has successfully met with 47 African Permanent Missions to the United Nations, governmental agencies, civic leaders, enlisting support for the Center and its work. Within the Education Department, his responsibilities have also included working with school groups, and organizing aspects of public and educational programs. Prior to joining the Center’s staff, Mr. Ekechi held positions at JFK International Airport and at Holman Nigeria, where he was the company’s Shipping Controller. He holds a diploma in Industrial Relations Management from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and a diploma from the Royal Society of Arts, London. He has also studied Business Management at The Cardiff Institute of Shipping Management, Lagos, Nigeria, an affiliate of Cardiff Institute, London. He has completed a one-year course in Professional Development with The Northern Manhattan Fellowship-Center For Community Leadership at the JCRC-NY, as well as the Civic Engagement & Leadership Development course at The CUNY Murphy Institute.

Tunde Olatunji, Associate Director of Policy

Tunde Olatunji is the Associate Director of Policy at The Africa Center, working on programming and initiatives to further the institution’s policy practice and contribute to narrative change on important African policy issues. His background is in policy research and analysis primarily in the international development and climate change spaces, having worked on several research and evaluations projects across Africa and the Middle-East. He is interested in climate & renewables policy, political economies, and people-centered policymaking. He holds a BA in International Studies from the University of Richmond, a Master’s in Public Policy from Georgetown University, and an MPA in Environmental Science & Policy from Columbia University.

Evelyn Owen, PhD Associate Director of Curatorial Projects

Evelyn Owen is a curator and writer. A cultural geographer by training, her research explores contested geographical imaginations, especially in relation to art and artists from and about Africa and its diaspora. For The Africa Center, she co-curated the installations Gymnasium (2019) by Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, Harlem Sunrise (2018) by Victor Ekpuk, and Lagos State of Mind II (2014) by Emeka Ogboh. Elsewhere, she curated Tracing Obsolescence at apexart, New York (2018) and, with Yaëlle Biro, co-curated the exhibition The Aftermath of Conflict: Jo Ractliffe’s Photographs of Angola and South Africa at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2015). Other projects have included consulting on the collaborative photography exhibition Bamako & London (2012) at the British Museum, London, and on the book “Making Art in Africa: 1960-2010” (2014, edited by Polly Savage). Originally from the UK, Evelyn received her BA in Geography from the University of Cambridge, and an MA in Cities and Cultures and a PhD on the Geographies of Contemporary African Art from Queen Mary, University of London.  She is an alumna of Independent Curators International’s Curatorial Intensive program.

Devonne Pitts, Executive Assistant

Devonne Pitts is the Executive Assistant to the CEO at The Africa Center. She holds her B.A. jointly in Theater and in History & Literature from Harvard University. Following graduation, she spent a year abroad in Accra, Ghana with the purpose of cultural exchange and immersion, as well as to begin drafting the manuscript for a novel. Devonne’s previous work experiences have included serving as a Production Assistant for many productions at The American Repertory Theater and as a Producer for the Office for the Arts at Harvard College. She is a writer, theatermaker, and aspiring filmmaker. She was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH.

Adolphine Umukobwa, Chief of Staff

Adolphine Umukobwa is Chief of Staff at The Africa Center. She is a lawyer, writer, and nonprofit organizational development and operations specialist. Adolphine has worked in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, starting at Open Society Foundations where she worked in the Africa Regional Office and the Executive Office. She served as Operations Manager at Resolve to Save Lives, and previously worked at The Africa Center serving as Director of Operations before diving into the consulting space and providing operations advising to Systemic Justice. Adolphine holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Quinnipiac University and a Juris Doctorate from St. John’s University School of Law.

Velky Valentin, Controller

Velky Valentin is the Center’s Controller, and she manages key aspects of the financial and accounting functions for the capital campaign and the annual operating budget. She has over seventeen years of experience in book-keeping, non-profit management and finance from Dance Theater Workshop, where she worked as the Finance Associate, Associate Director of Finance and as the Controller, as well as a position as the Controller of the David Lynch Foundation. Ms. Valentin holds her Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Baruch College.

Nazreth Yemane, Associate Director of Public Programs

Nazreth Yemane is the Associate Director of Public Programs at The Africa Center. Prior to this, Nazreth served as a Program Associate at Accountable Africa in Tanzania, an investment management and advisory firm, focused on promoting and making sustainable and transparent investments across Africa. She is passionate about transforming the narrative surrounding Africa and in amplifying the role of the diaspora in doing so. Nazreth has experience supporting events and initiatives with the United Nations, British Red Cross, and Shrine World Music. Nazreth holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from The City College of New York and an MA in International Studies & Diplomacy from SOAS, University of London.


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