The inaugural Return 2 Congo will connect the Diaspora, and interested parties, with Congolese leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers across multiple sectors such as agriculture, supply chain, real estate, finance, hospitality and more. The trip will also include opportunities to discover and enjoy the culture, arts, entertainment, and history of Kinshasa.
PAST EVENTS & PROGRAMMING
September 22 & 23, 2023. NEW YORK
U.S.-Africa Policy Strategist
Marielle Amani Thete serves as Director, U.S. Government Relations, North America Advocacy, at the ONE Campaign – a global nonprofit, nonpartisan, advocacy organization campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease while focused on Sub-Saharan Africa. She leverages her bipartisan, bicameral, and broad U.S. government relationships and ties to the continent to influence US-Africa policy on a range of issues including education, economic development, agriculture, and food security. Prior to joining ONE, Marielle was a Program Manager for CARE's Learning Tours, a program that hosts high-level delegations in countries where CARE works in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia, so they can experience the impact of U.S. investments and foreign aid on the ground while connecting directly with program participants. Additionally, Marielle was U.S. Senator Angus King’s (I-ME) Senator’s State Scheduler and served as the scheduler for his 2018 re-election campaign.
Marielle holds a BA in International Relations and Political Science from Wheaton College (MA). She is fluent in French and Lingala. Born in the DRC, Marielle grew up in Portland, ME. She lives in Washington, D.C.
CEO, Equity Group
Dr. James Mwangi is the Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Office of Equity Group–a banking conglomerate with one of the largest customer bases on the African continent. He has led Equity to become a publicly listed financial services group that is rapidly expanding in Africa with a current client base of 14 million clients in 7 countries, including the DRC. Equity’s subsidiary in the DRC is Equity BCDC. It is the second-largest bank with a balance sheet of $2.5 billion and a nationwide footprint of 74 branches, 214 ATMs, 13 local dedicated desks, 3055 agents, and a customer of nearly one million.
On the global front, Dr. Mwangi has won several awards, including the G8 Global Vision Award, 2007. He was named among the Top 50 Emerging Market Business Leaders and the 20 most influential people in Africa in 2011; the World Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2012; the Forbes Africa Person of the Year in 2012 and was recently named in the Bloomberg 50 list of people who defined 2019 globally. He is an honoree of the 2020 Oslo Business for Peace Award, also described as the “Nobel Prize for Business.”
Stella Safari is the Founder and CEO of Zapenda, an African-inspired fashion brand with roots in Congo. Ms. Safari was born in South Kivu and immigrated to America with her older sisters following the war. After earning her degree from Dartmouth College, she moved to Detroit where she began her career in venture capital and startup operations. Before starting Zapenda, Ms. Safari ran an early stage accelerator where she helped high growth companies scale and raise over $20M in venture capital. Her work with entrepreneurs in Detroit inspired her to return to Congo and be a part of shaping a better future for her home country. She created Zapenda with a mission to create employment opportunities for talented tailors while sharing the beauty of Congolese fashion with the world. Zapenda recently opened a showroom in Detroit and a production atelier in Bukavu. Ms. Safari was featured in Crain's Detroit 20 in their Twenties list and is a recipient of the Joy Ivy Foundation Woman of Impact Award.
Co-founder and CEO, Lipaworld
Group Director, Sustainability, Equity Group Holdings Plc
Reshma has over twenty years’ experience on a broad and rare combination of expertise spanning Business Strategy & Performance, Risk Management, Finance, Tax and Sustainability. In the last fifteen years, her work has focused on the Extractives and Infrastructure Sector primarily in Africa and the Middle East.
Reshma brings practical experience of working in highly complex operating environments having led and worked on areas such as M&A; Government and third party negotiations; litigation and arbitration; new country entry; risk and performance management; shared infrastructure projects. She has also managed a number of Above Ground Risk areas such as Corporate and External Affairs, Local Content and Capacity Building, Land Acquisition, Water Resource Management, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) studies, Security and Conflict Management and Shared Prosperity including strategic partnerships.
Reshma holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Manchester in the UK and an Executive MBA from École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées (ENPC) in Paris. She is also a UK qualified Chartered Accountant and a Chartered Tax Advisor. Reshma is also certified in Sustainable Finance from the University of Cambridge and in Green, Social and Sustainability (GSS) Bonds from the IFC and the International Capital Market Association (ICMA).
Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations, Salve Regina University
Dr. Yvan Yenda Ilunga is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island (USA), where he teaches undergraduate, master, and Ph.D. level courses in international relations and African Politics. He also serves as Deputy Director of the Joint Civil-Military Interaction (JCMI) Research and Education Network, coordinating strategic partnerships, research, and training of key stakeholders on policies and operations related to civil-military interactions in fragile countries. He is a strategic thinker and scholar with over 15 years of experience working, advising, and conducting policy-relevant research and studies on Africa’s security, development, and governance issues. He consults for international organizations, government agencies, think tanks, and business consulting firms. Dr. Ilunga uses cross-cultural and interdisciplinary focus in his work, and he is skilled in navigating the strategic, operational, and tactical environment in his analysis and engagement with stakeholders.
Dr. Ilunga is the author of the book Humanitarianism and Security: Trouble and Hope at the Heart of Africa (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). He is working on two book projects, The Dynamics of Religion in Peacebuilding and Peacekeeping Operations and Designing and Teaching Peace (Under Contract). His most recent book chapter, “Peace Leadership, Security and the Role of the Military in Ethnopolitical Conflict,” was published in the Routledge Handbook of Peacebuilding and Ethnic Conflict. (Routledge Publishing 2022). He is the initiator of the African Wars in the 21st Century Project. With his research agenda broadly focused on international relations, peace operations, security, peace, and development, Dr. Ilunga addresses questions related to humanitarian action, civil–military interactions, natural resources-based conflicts, regional cooperation, and security in his writings and public engagements. Dr. Ilunga holds a Ph.D. in Global Affairs (Rutgers University, U.S.A.), He is fluent in English, French, Swahili, and Lingala. He tweets at @DrYvanYenda.