Ashinaga Scholar Co-Directs Inaugural Africa Summit Princeton

On April 6, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Ashinaga USA scholar Blessing Jegede, the first Africa Summit Princeton took place on the New Jersey campus of the renowned university. Jegede, a Princeton sophomore from Lesotho who is studying mechanical and aerospace engineering, played a major role in producing the event, serving as co-director. The summit was initiated by Jegede with her peers to educate the campus community about Africa, with the goal of augmenting the limited representation of Africa and Africans at Princeton.

Four other Ashinaga USA scholars – Eleazer Afotey from Ghana (University of Richmond), Oneile Gorata Baitlotli from Botswana (University of Notre Dame), Bakang Molefi from Botswana (College for Creative Studies) and Muhammed Bah from The Gambia (Duke University) – joined Elisa Edmondson, Associate Director of Student Relations for Ashinaga USA, in attending the summit, lending their support to Jegede while taking advantage of the educational opportunities the event offered.

The idea behind Africa Summit Princeton is to bring talented individuals from all over Africa, both from the continent and around the world, to engage with other students and professionals from the African diaspora. This year’s event was keynoted by Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, founder of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange and of blueMoon, a youth agritech incubator in Ethiopia. She encouraged attendees to “fall in love with a problem that stirs your heart and mind, that rewards your soul – and not just your bank account.”

Throughout the day, panels addressed African development from such differing angles as trade, peace and conflict resolution, youth and gender, innovation/entrepreneurship, and the complexities of the diaspora. Speakers, who represented a variety of disciplines and generations, included Simbarashe Mhuriro, Founder/Managing Director of Oxygen Africa, a renewable energy development company based in Zimbabwe, and Akuei Bona Malwal, The Permanent Representative of South Sudan to The United Nations. In between panels, attendees held roundtable discussions, and experienced an array of artistic expressions from the African continent and the diaspora, including poetry, music, and dance.

Translating vision into sustainable action requires drive, great ideas, and passion – and at this summit, all three were in abundance. University students from around the world, including the Ashinaga scholars in attendance, were heavily engaged in the program, asking lively questions during Q&A sessions and actively networking with distinguished speakers and fellow students. The Africa Summit Princeton will be an annual event. The long-term goal of Jegede and her group is to build an Africa Lab at Princeton. Ashinaga USA congratulates its scholar for playing such a formative role in this year’s summit, and looks forward to being equally well represented at next year’s.