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.

Alana Francis de Govia, Chief Program & Experience Officer

Alana Francis de Govia has over fifteen years of experience in the strategic planning, implementation and oversight of social good programs and grants on the African continent. As The Africa Center’s Chief Program & Experience Officer, Alana leads the design of public programs and experiences aligned with the Center’s mission of transforming narratives about the African continent and centering people of African descent. Prior to her role at The Africa Center, Alana served as a Senior Program Advisor with Keep a Child Alive, an operating foundation co-founded by Alicia Keys. She has also managed programs and corporate partnerships on the continent with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Pathfinder International and worked with ICAP at Columbia University in Lesotho. Alana began her career as a Teach for Africa fellow with the International Foundation of Education and Self-Help in Dalaba, Guinea, and with Santo Egidio at the Polano Canico health center in Maputo, Mozambique. Alana holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from American University in Washington, D.C., and a Master of Science from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is of Grenadian and Trinidadian descent and grew up in Ethiopia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Eswatini.

Dr. Chinny Ogunro, Chief Operating Officer

Dr. Chinny Ogunro is a management executive, academic researcher, and entrepreneur. Previously, she was the Chief Executive Officer of WellSpring Health, an Africa-focused integrated care consortium, committed to delivering quality, affordable healthcare at scale. Chinny is a co-founder of Africa Health Holdings (AHH), a healthcare investment and operations company born out of her doctoral research and her first company, CarePoint Hospitals and Clinics. She was selected as a Young Global Leader and Dangote Fellow by the World Economic Forum in 2020. Chinny’s work in healthcare operations has delivered high-quality, low-cost healthcare to over 40,000 patients across West Africa and India. Her research has received over $700,000 in direct support from organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank. She has previously worked at Morgan Stanley, Veralon Partners, and provided long-term consultancy for the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health, the U.N. Special Envoy for Malaria, as well as multiple other development and partner organizations. Chinny holds a Ph.D in Technology and Operations Management, Strategy (Health Management) from the Harvard Business School, a M.A. in Health Administration from Cornell University, and Bachelors degrees from Stanford University.

Tunde Olatunji, Associate Director of Policy

Tunde Olatunji is the Policy Coordinator at The Africa Center, working on research and programming to enact sustainable change and address economic, environmental, and social challenges. His background is in international development and climate policy, having worked on several research and evaluations projects across Africa and the Middle-East. Prior to joining the Africa Center, Tunde was a research consultant at the World Bank and supported several large research projects in Malawi, Burkina Faso, and Saudi Arabia. He is interested in climate adaptation policy—particularly the impact of climate change on extreme poverty in urbanizing areas. He holds a BA in International Studies from the University of Richmond, an MPP in International Development Policy from Georgetown University, and an MPA in Environmental Science & Policy from Columbia University.

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.

Christina Knowles, Development and Grants Manager

Christina Knowles is the Development and Grants Manager at The Africa Center. Her background in non-profit development began in the domestic violence and human trafficking field, where she oversaw donor and grant management, organizational communication, and a robust in-kind program. Prior to her role at The Africa Center, she served as Corporate Development Manager with the National Urban League, where she supported the fundraising and management of the National Communities of Color COVID-19 Needs Assessment to advance equity in a post-pandemic world. Christina specializes in racial justice, domestic violence, and community development. She is the former President of CUNY Hunter’s Graduate Student Association and a current Literary Theory Master’s Candidate. Christina holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature & Communications and Rhetoric from the State University of NY at Albany.

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.

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, Program Coordinator

Nazreth Yemane is the Program Coordinator 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.

Myles Bonadie, Program Associate

Myles Bonadie is the Programs Associate at The Africa Center. A graduate of Pitzer College with a B.A. in Media Studies and a concentration in Critical Studies, Myles is interested in exploring how Black people across the diaspora produce culture and make meaning of the world through media, art, and language. Prior to working at The Africa Center, Myles served as a Literacy Specialist for Global Kids and worked with filmmaker and ballroom announcer Enyce Smith to develop his digital portfolio and social media presence. Myles is Vincentian by lineage; born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.

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.


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