Longtime Africanist and President and CEO of The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, Bernadette Paolo, formally announced her resignation today from the Africa-focused organization effective January 8, 2016. She is leaving The Africa Society to do a Fellowship at Harvard University.
“While it is difficult to leave a place you know, and a community and the people in it you have spent so many years with, they and Africa will always be with me, as will the many young people who have been a part of The Africa Society through the years,” she stated.
Ms. Paolo has led the organization since the passing of Leonard H. Robinson, Jr. in 2006. Prior to assuming this role, she served as the Vice President and Director of Field Operations and In-house Legal Counsel for the National Summit on Africa beginning in 1997. Before signing on to the National Summit, Paolo ended her twelve-year career on Capitol Hill, ten years of which were on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, as Staff Director of the House Subcommittee on Africa.
Paolo is credited for creating educational programs such as Teach Africa and advancing key initiatives such as the Presidential Tours of Africa series that have had domestic and global impact during her tenure. She sought throughout her career to showcase the positive aspects of the continent of Africa and its peoples in contravention to the stereotypical images portrayed in the media.
For the National Summit on Africa, she led mobilization efforts resulting in the largest gathering of Africa-interested individuals in the history of the United States in 2000. She has been a strong proponent of legislation on debt relief, HIV/AIDs and AGOA and for key policies advancing the continent’s interests in many areas.
Noah Samara, current Chair of The Africa Society Board of Directors and Chairman and CEO of Yazmi, Inc., announced his departure slated for January of 2016 on December 1 at an “Evening of Commemoration and Engagement” held at the Embassy of Federal Democratic of Ethiopia http://allafrica.com/stories/201512022031.html . Samara, who has served as Chair for 14 years, was honored by fellow Board Members and the staff of The Africa Society, together with other leaders in the Africanist community. He succeeded Ambassador Andrew Young as Chair of The Africa Society Board of Directors.
An attorney and a native of Ethiopia, Samara is known as a visionary who has sought to uplift humankind through his inventions. As the Founder and CEO of Worldspace, he was the first to launch satellite radio. His primary motivation was to bring broadcasting to the poorest and most underdeveloped areas of the world. He also wanted to bring access to reliable health information to African countries facing epidemics and saddled with poor infrastructure.
His desire to end illiteracy and to educate Africans “about…everything” led him to his most recent invention-a satellite powered tablet that can deliver the best educational material anywhere.
As Samara prepares to leave The Africa Society Board of Directors, he pledged his continued support to his colleagues and staff, and remained adamant regarding his quest to make sure that Africa and Africans are recognized for their enormous contributions to the world in all spheres of influence and that the underserved are finally served through access to information and education.
The new CEO and Chair of The Africa Society Board of Directors beginning January 8, 2016 is Ambassador Pamela E. Bridgewater (ret). Ms. Bridgewater has served as U.S. Ambassador to three countries, two of them in Africa, nominated by three different Presidents. President Clinton appointed her as Ambassador to the Republic of Benin from 2000-2002; President George W. Bush appointed her as Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana from 2005-2008; and President Obama appointed her as Ambassador to Jamaica from 2010-2013.
Bridgewater is a graduate of Virginia State University and the University of Cincinnati. She also completed course work and advanced to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree from the American University School of International Service. Among her many positions while at the Department of State were Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Special Coordinator for Peace in Liberia, Political Officer in Pretoria, and Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Durban, South Africa.
She served for six consecutive years in South Africa during the country’s historic transition from apartheid where she witnessed, and with her colleagues, helped effect some of the positive changes that brought about the peaceful transition.
Ambassador Bridgewater was named head of the White House Security Governance Initiative for Kenya in 2014. She recently returned from Nairobi where she co-chaired the second SGI steering committee meeting. In addition to her background in security, having been a faculty member at the National Defense University, she has an extensive background in education. She has been an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Voorhees College, Bowie State University and Morgan State University.
A distinguished career diplomat, Bridgewater is committed to insuring that Americans, in particular, youth, know more about the continent of Africa and the world at large. According to Ambassador Bridgewater, “Advancing The Africa Society’s mission of engaging and educating Americans about the countries comprising the continent of Africa and creating, through partnerships, a better understanding of its peoples, diverse cultures, histories and economies is aligned with my life’s work; it is my passion. I look forward to building upon the rich foundation that has already been set by Leonard and Bernadette.”
Patricia Baine will be assuming the role of President of The Africa Society next year after spending a decade working with the late Leonard Robinson and Bernadette Paolo. Ms. Baine, a graduate of the University of Virginia and a native of Uganda, is currently the Director of Programs. She also worked with the late Congressman Donald M. Payne on the House Subcommittee on Africa prior to working for The Africa Society.
Baine has been Paolo’s right arm on The Africa Society team in sustaining and building the organization. She represents a new generation of Africans in the Diaspora as she steps into a leadership role in the Africanist community in the United States. Regarded by her colleagues and partner organizations as being highly efficient and a consummate diplomat, she takes on the presidency with a great deal of experience and goodwill.
She envisions creating closer ties with African youth and institutions of higher learning in her new position and continuing the educational programs and activities that have been a part of The Africa Society’s mandate for many years.