Development Experts from Global South Selected for Aspen Institute New Voices Fellowship

January 26, 2017

The Aspen Institute Announces 2017 Class of New Voices Fellows, Including Experts in Infectious Diseases, Food Security & Agriculture, Community-Led Development, Non-Communicable Diseases, and Environmental Conservation 

Michelle Geis Wallace | +254 711 326 770

Andrew Quinn | +1 202 736 2291

Washington, DC, January 26, 2017 — The Aspen Institute announced today the 2017 class of the New Voices Fellowship, a groundbreaking program designed to ensure experts from the developing world have a voice in the global development discussion.

The 20 new Fellows are leading public health specialists, doctors, scientists, activists, social entrepreneurs, policy experts, researchers and economists, and come from 12 countries across Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. The full list of 2017 fellows and descriptions of their work can be found below and here.

“For five years the New Voices Fellowship has been amplifying the voices of experts, activists and leaders from developing countries whose perspectives and insights on development issues need to be heard,” said New Voices Fellowship Director Andrew Quinn. “This new class of Fellows will challenge preconceived ideas and provide journalists and policymakers alike with fresh and innovative thinking grounded in first-hand experiences.”

Meet the Fellows

The 2017 fellows come from Barbados, Botswana, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. They will undertake a program of intensive media training and mentorship to reach a broader global audience through both traditional and new media, as well as speaking engagements.

This year’s fellows include:

  • a doctor from Botswana who is spearheading efforts to address the burden of non-communicable diseases in her country;
  • an Indian-American polio eradication campaigner who is also the first female wheelchair athlete to complete the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii;
  • a South African activist who is turning cell phones into democracy-building tools; and,
  • an Indian researcher who helped develop India’s first heat preparedness plan as killer heatwaves become more common.

The New Voices Fellowship also includes four specialized tracks of Fellows involved in development finance, food security, infectious diseases, and human rights. These tracks include:

  • a Ugandan researcher conducting trials against notorious striga weed that causes 80 to 100 percent of yield losses in cereals across Africa;
  • a Nigerian-American infectious disease epidemiologist recognized for convening a global response effort to H1N1 in Saudi Arabia and her efforts during the 2016 Ebola response in Guinea; and,
  • a Kenyan economist leading award-winning efforts to bring livestock insurance to vulnerable herding communities in the Horn of Africa.

During the program’s first four years, New Voices Fellows were featured over 2,000 times in media outlets and delivered numerous TED and TEDx talks. Under a training partnership with The Moth, a non-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling, New Voices Fellows have told their stories to live US audiences and through radio and podcast syndication.

Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Societies Foundation, the New Voices Fellowship was established in 2013 to bring the essential perspectives of development experts from Africa and other parts of the developing world into the global development conversation. Application to the fellowship is by nomination only, and nominations will open in August 2017 for the next class.

For more about the New Voices Fellowship, visit or email Follow all the fellows on Twitter here and the Fellowship at @aspennewvoices.

For press materials, visit

A complete list of the 2017 Aspen New Voices Fellows is below.


Omezzine Khelifa – Tunisia
President and Founder, “Mobdiun – Creative Youth”

Omezzine Khelifa is a Tunisian activist who left her high-profile finance job in France when the Arab uprising broke out in 2011 and moved back to Tunisia to participate in the transition efforts. She later joined the governing coalition, advising both the finance and tourism ministers during two transition governments. Today, she heads “Mobdiun – Creative Youth,” a non-profit that promotes youth social inclusion and social transformation through arts, culture, sports and technology. In 2014, she was nominated as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Andrew Mude – Kenya
Principal Economist, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Andrew Mude is a principal economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) working to improve the resilience of livestock-dependent households, with a focus on pastoral farmers. In 2016, he was awarded the 2016 Norman Borlaug Field Award for Field Research and Application for leading the multiple award-winning effort to design, implement, evaluate and scale insurance to help vulnerable herding communities in the Horn of Africa to better manage the significant challenges to livestock posed by drought.

Assia Sidibe – Mali
Development Specialist, African Risk Capacity, Specialized Agency of the African Union (ARC Agency)

As part of the African Risk Capacity, Assia Sidibe is working with Francophone African states to improve their capacities to plan, prepare for and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters in order to protect the food security of vulnerable populations. She advises and works closely with governments and bilateral and multilateral partners, providing her with valuable insights and knowledge into several development issues. Prior to joining the ARC, Assia worked at the French Development Agency in South Africa, where she managed capacity building and municipal infrastructure financing programs.

Narayan Adhikari – Nepal
Country Representative for Accountability Lab Nepal

Although Narayan Adhikari studied forestry, he rejected a post as a Forest Ranger when he realized it would involve being faced with corruption on a daily basis. After ten years working in the development sector, including teaching rural communities how to make better use of renewable energies, he concluded that the key to development is accountability. Narayan helped set up the Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network (GYAC), and for the past five years has led the network’s work in Nepal, including training young people on how to build innovative solutions to hold their leaders to account.


Boaz Keizire – Uganda
Head of Policy and Advocacy, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa

Boaz Keizire’s advocacy work is focused on trying to turn agricultural policies from being driven by government to being more centrally rooted in the work of farmers. He is also a research associate with the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), an environment and policy research think tank in Uganda. A farmer himself, Boaz plants pineapples during his spare time.

Moses Ariong – Uganda
Project Specialist, One Acre Fund

In 2000, Moses Ariong narrowly missed being abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels when his high school was raided, which inspired him to carry on with his studies. He obtained a fellowship from the Ugandan government to study agriculture, a profession that he passionately practices and believes has the potential to alleviate poverty in Africa. Today, Moses leads field-level research to identify appropriate solutions to challenges affecting smallholder farmers, and is currently conducting trials against the notorious striga weed that causes 80 to100 percent yield losses in cereals across Africa.

Mojisola Ojebode – Nigeria
Founder, Moepelorse Bio Resources

Mojisola Ojebode, a trained biochemist, leads a start-up venture for the production, sale and distribution of environment-friendly organic pesticide made from medicinal plants. At Moepelorse Bio Resources, she leads the development of these bio-pesticides and coordinates training and educational programs for legume and cereal crop farmers in South West Nigeria.

Jemimah Njuki – Kenya
Senior Program Specialist, Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

Jemimah Njuki oversees a portfolio of agriculture and food security projects focused on reducing post-harvest losses, improving nutrition and engaging women and youth in agribusiness. She has 15 years of experience carrying out gender research and managing women’s economic empowerment programs in Africa and Asia. Jemimah has published widely and recently co-edited two books.


Minda Dentler – USA/India
Director of Operations, AIG

Minda Dentler was born in India and contracted polio as an infant, leaving her legs paralyzed. When she was three, she was adopted by an American family and grew up in the United States. In 2013, Minda became the first female wheelchair athlete to complete the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. She writes and speaks about the importance of global immunization efforts and polio eradication, and was also a global advocate for Rotary International and the UN Foundation Shot at Life campaign.

Ngozi Erondu – USA/Nigeria
Assistant Professor, London School of Hygiene and Topical Medicine, Co-Founder of the Global Bridge Group, LLC.

Ngozi Erondu is an infectious disease epidemiologist and global health policy expert. After working to combat polio in Kenya in 2011, she became inspired to become an operational researcher. Today, her research focuses on providing data to help policymakers make informed decisions about health policies and programs. Ngozi received a recognition award for efforts in convening a global response to H1N1 in Saudi Arabia, and was also lauded for her efforts as a CDC field epidemiologist during the 2016 Ebola response in Guinea.

Bakary Sidibe – Ivory Coast
Country Director, Last Mile Health

Bakary Sidibe brings more than 20 years of experience in international development and program management, having managed complex global health, livelihood and emergency programs in Liberia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Palestine, South Africa and Guyana. Bakary’s passion for community-based work was sparked by his time spent as a Peace Corps Volunteer in East Timor, where he provided technical support to the Ministry of Health.

Janet Midega – Kenya
Scientist, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi

At a time where remarkable progress is being made in malaria control and optimism towards malaria elimination is high, Janet Midega’s research as a fellow at Oxford University’s Centre for Genomics and Global Health focuses on the population genomics of Anopheles mosquito populations in order to understand their evolution. Outside of the lab, Janet is passionate in engaging with, and educating communities to improve malaria control efforts.


Koketso Moeti – South Africa
Founder and Executive Director,

Through, Koketso Moeti leads a community of over 100,000 who are harnessing technology to promote democracy and accountability. This network seeks to ensure that those most affected by injustice can act on issues affecting their lives, irrespective of location and language, by turning every cell phone into a democracy-building tool. Koketso has a long background in civic activism and works at the intersection of governance, communication and citizen action.

Bernard Olayo – Kenya
Founder, Center for Public Health and Development

Bernard Olayo is a public health specialist and entrepreneur who leads a non-profit which has designed and developed two successful social enterprises: MediQuip Global, a company providing biomedical equipment repair and maintenance solutions and Hewa Tele, a public-private venture delivering affordable oxygen in remote areas. Bernard has over 14 years of experience in managing complex public health programs in resource-limited settings in 15 countries across the globe.

Neo Tapela – Botswana
National Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Program, Ministry of Health and Wellness

Neo Tapela is a Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health-trained global health practitioner. She is experienced in improving health systems and is working to improve effective delivery of services for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), particularly in resource limited areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to joining the Ministry of Health, Neo spearheaded the establishment of a public cancer center of excellence that has to date served over 4,000 patients in Rwanda. In her current role, she oversees development of strategies to prevent and control NCDs.

Dixon Chibanda – Zimbabwe
Researcher, Wellcome Trust and DELTAS Africa awardee at the University of Zimbabwe

Dixon Chibanda’s current interests include community mental health, with a focus on integrating it into existing public health programs such as immunization and HIV/AIDS. His work focuses on developing, testing and validating alternative treatments to address mental, neurological and substance use disorders. Among his most recent achievements, Dixon developed the “Friendship Bench Project”, a community-based mental health intervention that has been established in over 70 primary care clinics in Zimbabwe.

Gulrez Shah Azhar – India
Assistant Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation

Gulrez Shah Azhar is a researcher who is passionate about health, environment and development. He is currently pursuing his public policy doctorate at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, where his work focuses on heat waves. Along with other partners, Gulrez helped develop India’s first heat preparedness plan in Ahmedabad, India. Previously, he was an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Public Health where he worked on issues of environmental health, climate change and infectious diseases, with a focus on surveillance and early-warning systems.

Robert Hakiza – Uganda
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID)

A refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Robert Hakiza works in Uganda as a refugee activist and community development worker where he is best known for his bottom-up and community-led approach to refugee assistance. At YARID, Robert unites urban refugees from the Great Lakes region through sports, education and vocational skills training in order to address ethnic conflicts, unemployment, public health and lack of access to education.


Jamila Headley – Barbados
Managing Director, Health Global Access Project (Health GAP)

At Health GAP, Jamila Headley works to ensure global access to affordable life-sustaining medicines for all people living with HIV. Previously, she worked with the Open Society Foundations’ Public Health Program, where she focused on strengthening civil society engagement in the development, implementation and monitoring of national and donor governments’ health policy-making and budgets. Jamila was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

Phyllis Omido – Kenya
Founder, Center for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA)

After learning her own breast milk was making her baby sick – and realizing her child wasn’t the only one suffering from lead poisoning – Phyllis Omido galvanized the community in Mombasa to shut down the smelter that was exposing people to dangerous chemicals. This lead to the massive shut down of smelters located in dangerous proximity to humans across Kenya. As a grassroots social justice activist, Phyllis now leads her own NGO and is passionately pursuing environmental justice for communities affected by extractive industries. Phyllis is a 2015 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit:

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