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Advisory Board

Dominic Akuritinga Ayine is a former Deputy Attorney-General of the Republic of Ghana and a senior partner of Ayine & Felli Law Offices, a firm he co-founded in 2009. He is currently the Member of Parliament for Bolgatanga East Constituency and the Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee of the Parliament of Ghana. Prior to entering politics, Dr. Ayine was a lecturer at the University of Ghana Law School from 2000-2013, where he taught International Trade and Investment Law, Natural Resources Law, and Administrative Law at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Dr. Ayine graduated from the University of Ghana Law School in 1993 and studied for the Bar at the Ghana School of Law from 1993 to 1995. After his call to the Bar in October 1995, he joined the University of Ghana Law School as a teaching assistant. In August 1997, he was admitted to the University of Michigan Law School where he studied for the Master of Laws specializing in International Economic Law. After his graduate studies in Michigan, he returned to Ghana and joined the University of Ghana Law School before returning to the United States to study for the doctorate at Stanford Law School. He graduated from Stanford with a Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD) degree in June 2006.

Jennifer Bisgard received a B.A. magna cum laude in Political Science and Economics from the University of Michigan (1985) and a Master’s Degree in Social Change and Development from The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, a division of Johns Hopkins University based in Washington, D.C. After completing a year long internship in Liberia in 1987 with USAID/Monrovia, she moved to Pretoria, South Africa in 1988. Until 1993, she served as the Senior Education Specialist at USAID/Pretoria, which had been established under the United States Congress’ Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986.

Ms. Bisgard co-founded Khulisa Management Services (see in 1993 and currently leads the company’s evaluations and capacity building assignments in the Education, and Democracy and Governance sectors across Africa. An expert in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and organizational development, she actively speaks and writes about evaluation and evaluation use; her latest publication is a chapter in Evaluation Failures: 22 Tales of Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned (Sage Publishers, 2018). She also has served on the Boards of the African Evaluation Association (AfrEA), the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE) and the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA). 

Christina De Simone currently leads the Financial Planning & Analysis team at an oncology biotechnology company based in the Bay Area. She has spent her entire career in the finance organizations of large and start-up biotech companies. While at Roche Pharmaceuticals and Genentech, she worked in Milan, Italy in 2016 and in Johannesburg, South Africa from 2017 to 2018. At Roche South Africa, she participated in a mentorship program with UNICEF, called Techno Girls, and was paired with a bright and energetic young woman from Tembisa. They have continued the mentorship relationship today, even after the program’s formal end. Since 2019, she has been the Treasurer and a Board Member of the African Library Project, a literacy-focused nonprofit organization that creates libraries across the African continent. Recently, she has completed the Impact Investing in Africa Executive Education program through the University of Cape Town, driven by her interest in impact and angel investing in African companies, with a gender lens and education focus. Christina received a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business with Minors in Spanish Language, Literature and Cultures and Asian Languages and Cultures from LSA (2009).

David Heleniak (A.B. University of Michigan, M.Sc. (Econ), London School of Economics, J.D., Columbia University) spent the majority of his career at the law firm of Shearman & Sterling, LLP, rising to become its Senior Partner (CEO) in 2001. From 1977 to 1979, Heleniak interrupted his career at Shearman & Sterling to serve in the United States Government first as Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and then as its Assistant General Counsel (Domestic Finance). While at Shearman & Sterling, Heleniak worked principally on mergers and acquisitions, including representing Citicorp in its merger with Travelers. He also served as Anglo-American's and De Beers’ principal outside corporate counsel starting in the post-apartheid era and worked closely with the Oppenheimer family.

In 2005 Heleniak became the Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley and a member of its Management Committee. He continued his relationships in South Africa and also met with President Mbeki. In addition, he provided advice on Nigeria's oil and gas business to President Obasanjo. In 2009 he became a Senior Advisor at Morgan Stanley and worked principally with its investment banking group until his retirement in March 2018. Heleniak is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is active in numerous educational, community, cultural, and bilateral organizations, for many of which he served as President of the Board: The New York City Ballet, the MacDowell (artist's) Colony, and the Council for the United States and Italy. Heleniak also served for two decades on the board of directors of The New York City Partnership and of The New York City Investment Fund, among several other organizations. Among his education board memberships are: the Provost's Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee of the Dean of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, both at the University of Michigan, and the North American Advisory Board of the London School of Economics. In 2009 he was named an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Economics. 

Ugochukwu (“Ugo”) Ikemba (AB, MArch, MBA, University of Michigan) is a global finance executive with experience in private equity and impact investing. Currently a Partner in the London-based firm of Actus Partners, his focus is on SME Growth investments in emerging markets, including Africa and the Caribbean.

While a student in Ann Arbor, Ugo founded the African Business Enterprise Corps in the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which has been incorporated into the Multidisciplinary Action Projects program of the William Davidson Institute. 

Ugo’ experience in private equity, development finance, and SME operations spans almost two decades, starting from his early work in African Capital Alliance in Nigeria culminating in development finance work at the World Bank. In 2013, he was appointed by the President of Nigeria to the Board of the Securities & Exchange Commission of Nigeria, where he chaired the Corporate Governance Committee and developed regulations overseeing Nigeria’s PE industry. From 2017 to 2019, Ugo headed a US$160M World Bank project focused on entrepreneurship, SME development, capacity-building, and employment generation in Nigeria.

In partnership with another Michigan alumnus, Ugo founded the largest running club in Nigeria, the Road Warriors Fitness Club, in 2012. The club has grown to hundreds of members who run marathons all over the world.  

Kwame Marfo is a managing partner at Africa Empowerment Fund and board chair at Business Center for New Americans, a community development financial institution that invests in immigrant and refugee owned businesses. Kwame has over a decade and half of experience in business, government, civil society, and media sectors across four continents with experiences ranging from leading strategy and business model analysis at the Bank of England, to investing in small and medium-sized enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa and human rights activism in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has written for The Business and Financial TimesCiti Business NewsAfrica at LSEModern GhanaZNews AfricaApplause AfricaThe Africapitalism Institute, and MyJoyOnline.

Kwame is the international executive producer of the award-winning documentary, When Elephants Fight, which was executive produced and narrated by Robin Wright (Claire Underwood from House of Cards). He is currently working on another documentary on how black civil rights movements in the 1920s inspired the formation of a soccer team, the birth of a nation, and the consolidation of Pan African unity. He is on the boards of Birthright Africa, Impact Capital Forum, Infoview Data Solutions Limited, and Business Center for New Americans (BCNA). He has a BS (Hons) from Binghamton University, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and an MBA from The University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Anne Petersen is Research Professor at the University of Michigan’s Center for Human Growth & Development and an active member of ASC’s STEM-Africa Initiative, the S&T Policy Program, and the Ford Policy School, all at U-M. She is Founder/President of Global Philanthropy Alliance, a foundation making grants in Africa.

Professor Petersen, who has authored 18 books and over 350 articles, has held administrative and faculty roles at Stanford, the University of Minnesota, Penn State, and Chicago (the university from which she also received all her degrees: B.A., Mathematics, M.Sc., Statistics, Ph.D., Measurement, evaluation, and statistical analysis). Petersen served as Senior VP for Programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and US President-nominated/Senate-confirmed National Science Foundation Deputy Director/COO. In addition, she was Associate Director for Health at the MacArthur Foundation, and worked closely with the Swiss Jacobs Foundation in many roles. She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NASEM: National Academies of Science, Engineering, Medicine) and as a Fellow in several scientific societies. She currently leads the Secretariat, International Consortium of Developmental Science Societies, Chairs NASEM Policy & Global Affairs Divisional Committee, Chairs CRDF Global Board, and serves on NSF International Committee, among other US/global voluntary boards/committees. 

Michael Sudarkasa (B.A., Highest Honors, History, University of Michigan, J.D., Harvard Law School) is the CEO of Africa Business Group (ABG) (, a South Africa-based and continentally active, African economic development company, which focuses on economic and business development consulting; agriculture, tourism and renewable energy projects; and capacity development. The Group specializes in the areas of private sector development, trade, and investment within Africa and between Africa and the global business community; it also has designed and manages the Global African Agribusiness Accelerator Platform ( as the company’s principal capacity development initiative. ABG’s sister company, Africa Business Energy, is the vehicle through which the group provides renewable energy and energy efficiency focused on training; advocacy, and consulting; and project design, development, and implementation.

A U.S. commercial attorney by training, Michael has lived, travelled, and worked in 50 countries around the world (including 35 in Africa) and is the author of several publications, including The African Union Commission’s Africa Business Directory: Toward the Facilitation of Growth, Partnership and Global Inclusion (African Union, 2014) and A Field Guide to Inclusive Business Finance (UNDP 2012). Michael currently serves as the Chair of Impact@Africa, a continentally focused impact investment ecosystem development platform, and as a member of the University of Michigan Provost’s Advisory Committee, and of the Board of Constituency for Africa.