Ambassador Rama Yade named director of Atlantic Council’s Africa Center

Former French deputy foreign minister will lead center promoting partnerships with African states; Ambassador J. Peter Pham returns to serve as distinguished fellow

WASHINGTON, DC – March 29, 2021 – The Atlantic Council announced today that Ambassador Rama Yade has been named director of the Africa Center. Ambassador Yade has served as a senior fellow with the center since 2019 and was previously France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs and human rights—an appointment at the age of 30 that made her the first woman of African descent to become a member of the French cabinet.

A native of Senegal and a French citizen, Rama brings to us impressive senior-level experience on the international stage that will allow the Africa Center to raise its profile and build on its work as a leading voice for African agency and transatlantic partnerships.

The Atlantic Council also announced today that Ambassador J. Peter Pham, previous director of the Africa Center, will be returning as a distinguished fellow. Ambassador Pham stepped down as director of the Africa Center in March 2020 when he was named US Special Envoy for the Sahel Region of Africa—a role he held until January of this year. His deep experience and relationships on the continent will be central to the Africa Center’s scholarship and outreach.

Today’s announcements provide additional momentum to the Africa Center, which in 2020 convened over a dozen African heads of state and ministers and led policy dialogues on issues ranging from trade and COVID-19 to Sudan policy and the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia. In October, the Center partnered with the US International Development Finance Corporation to host Investing in Africa’s Future, one of the largest US convenings of African leaders in recent years. The Center also led the way on private sector-led growth and development financing by partnering with the Africa Finance Corporation to launch the Afro-Century Initiative.

“Ambassador Yade’s extraordinary experience and background make her the perfect choice to lead the Africa Center’s work to forge stronger transatlantic partnerships in Africa at this pivotal moment for the future of the continent,” said Atlantic Council president and CEO Frederick Kempe. “Her deep knowledge of the issues, her relationships across the continent and in Europe, and her infectious passion for human empowerment, economic opportunity, and security in Africa are unrivaled. Policymakers around the world will benefit from her innovative ideas and unique perspective.”

Ambassador Yade’s extraordinary experience and background make her the perfect choice to lead the Africa Center’s work to forge stronger transatlantic partnerships in Africa at this pivotal moment for the future of the continent.

Frederick Kempe, Atlantic Council president and CEO

Ambassador Yade’s distinguished career is marked by her work advancing human dignity and rights in Africa. From Sudan to the DRC, she has mobilized the international community to act on behalf of women’s rights, children’s rights through the integration of child soldiers, refugee protection, LGBTQ rights, and freedom of expression. Ambassador Yade also served as the French ambassador to UNESCO, French deputy minister of sports, a World Bank consultant, and a senior civil servant in the French Senate. She is a teacher at Sciences Po Paris and the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Morocco, where she teaches “Africa at the Center of the World.”

“I am proud to have this opportunity to have a global impact at a critical time for Africa and its partners in North America and Europe,” said Ambassador Yade. “By prioritizing the African continent, the Atlantic Council is preparing policymakers for the onset of an African century—during which 1 in 4 people in the world will be African by 2050. I look forward to working closely with policymakers and partners in Africa not only to change the African narrative, but also to change the rules to allow for greater prosperity.”

I look forward to working closely with policymakers and partners in Africa not only to change the African narrative, but also to change the rules to allow for greater prosperity.”

Ambassador Rama Yade

Prior to joining the US government, Ambassador Pham served as a vice president at the Council in addition to his role as director for the Africa Center. He also served as US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa from 2018-2020 and continues to serve as vice chair of the board of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art. “Peter is a long-time advocate of American engagement with Africa, a prolific and insightful scholar, and an innovative policymaker. He brings deep relationships across the continent that will bolster the Africa Center as the go-to place for expertise on Africa in Washington,” said Kempe.

“The strategic importance of Africa to the United States cannot be understated,” said Gen. James L. Jones (Ret.), Executive Chairman Emeritus of the Atlantic Council and former US National Security Advisor. Under Jones’ chairmanship of the Atlantic Council, the Council created the Africa Center in 2010 as its first regional center. “Our national security, economic prosperity, and geopolitical standing in the 21st century will be directly tied to the rise of Africa. I am delighted to welcome Ambassador Yade to lead the team and to welcome Ambassador Pham back to the team. There is no better time for the Atlantic Council to double down on generating innovative solutions for the most pressing issues facing African states.” 

Our national security, economic prosperity, and geopolitical standing in the 21st century will be directly tied to the rise of Africa. I am delighted to welcome Ambassador Yade to lead the team and to welcome Ambassador Pham back to the team.

Gen. James L. Jones (Ret.), Executive Chairman Emeritus of the Atlantic Council and former US National Security Advisor

For more information about the Africa Center, please visit here.

For press inquiries, please contact [email protected]

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