Debbie Banda was born in the US and spent 18 years of her later life in South Africa in 1995-2013. Her involvement with South Africa began at university in the mid 1980s where she became an anti-apartheid activist. After that, Debbie managed the South African Education Program (SAEP) in New York, a USAID funded program providing higher education in the US for black South Africans. She also worked with the the Cleveland International Program, the South African Washington International Program, and the African Leadership Academy in the US.
In 2013, Debbie and her family returned to the Washington DC area and in 2022 moved to central Ohio. Debbie has served as an operations manager and Human Resources and Organizational Development leader in recent years, specializing in helping organizations manage HR systems and policies, improve employee engagement, and navigate transformation and change. She most recently worked as an HR Consultant for the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), one of the key organizations that oversaw the development of the Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.
Along with a BA from Denison University and an MBA the Yale School of Management, Debbie earned an Executive Certificate in Organizational Consulting and Change Management from Georgetown University in 2020, and a certification in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace in 2021 from the University of South Florida. She is also certified as an integrative health coach.
J Eric Wright is co-founder of Vibranium Capital Group and has been living and doing business in Africa for 25 years. Vibranium Capital Group has offices in Washington DC and Johannesburg and is a high value-add investment firm. Eric has extensive experience as an investor and entrepreneur in over 30 African countries. He previously co-founded Africa Venture Partners and was one of the founding executives of Citigroup South Africa, where he was the head of private equity and sat on the bank’s executive and credit committees.
Eric was a founding member of the investment committee of the South African government’s National Empowerment Fund, and special advisor and acting CIO to the US government sponsored $100 million venture capital fund, the Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund. Eric co-founded Gold Coast Securities Ltd., an investment bank in Accra, Ghana. Prior to moving to Africa, Eric worked in corporate finance and mergers & acquisitions in the US at Security Pacific Merchant Bank, PwC and Union Bank.
Eric has a Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Southern California, and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Jennie Dawes brings more than 32 years of experience in nonprofit management and fundraising in the US and the state of Ohio. She currently manages donor services at the Licking County Foundation, a public charitable organization made up of a diverse collection of funds given by caring individuals, businesses and organizations that have a common concern for the well-being of the people of Licking County in Ohio. Before that, she worked at Hattie Larlham, first as grant writer and then as the Director of Development, helping this nonprofit to provide opportunities for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to thrive.
Previously, Jennie spent 12 years as an Executive Search consultant serving local, statewide and national nonprofits of all sizes, on assignments ranging from top executives to top financial, operations, and advancement roles. Early in her career, she oversaw communications for 9 years at the Federation for Community Planning (now the Center for Community Solutions), a nonprofit human services research, planning and advocacy organization in Cleveland, Ohio.
Jennie is a highly competent, ethical and well-respected individual in the central Ohio community, and has deep experience with nonprofit management and fundraising within the US environment. She will bring diverse and solid knowledge of fundraising best practices and will offer important insight into US philanthropic trends.
Although Jennie’s career has been focused in Ohio, she remains keenly interested in international affairs, particularly in developing countries, and understands why it is important to help ensure that South African youth are supported. Her university studies included African studies and a senior thesis on African literature.
Jennie has a B.A., cum laude from Denison University (Granville, OH).
Andrew (who goes by his middle name) is originally from South Africa and has lived in many countries over the last three decades including Lesotho, Tanzania, Zambia, Bulgaria, Germany, the UK and the currently US.
Andrew has deep experience and strong ties with South African government entities and the South African diplomatic service in Washington DC and New York. For the last 18 years he has served as a Consular Officer for the South African Embassy in Washington, DC. He has worked within the Consular, Immigration and Civic Services agency, and as a researcher for the Socio Economic & Development Section within the Consulate. Before that, Andrew served as Deputy Director of the Department of Trade and Industry in Pretoria for 1 year.
In 2001-2004, Andrew held the role of Consul Economic at the South African Consulate General in New York, where he helped to promote trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) between South Africa and the US. In South Africa, he has also worked for Societe Generale, as well as the Land & Agricultural Policy Centre as a Senior Policy Researcher.
Andrew has an MBA from the Western Governors University in the US, a degree in Development Economics and International Development from Imperial College, London, and has studied Conflict Resolution at the University of Maryland in the US. He is currently close to completing a Doctor of Business Administration degree at California Southern University.
Andrew has an extensive network of high level and influential contacts within the US and internationally.