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Changing the way Africa powers its future

Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa, Esq. is Legal Counsel and Assistant to the President and CEO of the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank). She is also the founder and serves as Managing

Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa, Esq. is Legal Counsel and Assistant to the President and CEO of the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank). She is also the founder and serves as Managing Partner of Hoja Law Group, a boutique law firm in New York and Kigali, Rwanda, advising on commercial, political, and intellectual property law for companies doing business in Africa as well as African governments. She is also a Young Global Leader 2011 (World Economic Forum), an Archbishop Desmond Tutu fellow 2011 (African Leadership Institute), and a 2012 Mo Ibrahim Foundation Leadership fellow.
At the inaugural African Spotlight event, Musiitwa presented on her career and experience working with African leaders and business people. African Spotlight is a program aimed at highlighting the achievements of African youth leaders and serves as an inspiration for others in Washington, DC. Musiitwa spoke with us about her work at PTA Bank, doing business in Africa and why people should invest in Africa right now.
Please give a brief description of your work at the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank)?

I work in the President’s office at PTA Bank. There I’m Legal Counsel and Assistant to the President and CEO. In that capacity I not only advise on legal matters, but I also focus on resource mobilization, strategy, corporate affairs and any other functions that require my expertise.

Muna
Why should people invest in African countries right now?
Why shouldn’t people invest in Africa? There are great margins to be made. Certain African countries–like many parts of the world–have risks. Risk mitigation is essential for all investments. Many economies have improved their legal and regulatory frameworks and their general business environment so it is easier to do business.

Do you think there are any over-saturated industries in African economies? Are there industries that you think people should be looking to invest in and are not paying attention to? I think all sectors are open to investment. I think it is important to invest in sectors that help diversify economies. Every country is different and so it is necessary to do research and if necessary partner with reliable and knowledgeable local partners. Energy is much needed for the development of other industries so priority should be emphasized there. Within energy, it is important to focus on sources of renewable energy. Otherwise, services, agriculture and manufacturing have great potential.

What would you say is the role of Africans in the Diaspora in the economic development of African countries? That is, if there is a role?
Everyone can play a role in Africa’s development, the Diaspora no less. The Diaspora is well placed to contribute to Africa’s development in many ways. For example, impacting US policy in Congress through lobbying, sending remittances and investing in local businesses; bringing know-how and expertise back either by moving back or through various forms of skills training.
Do you have any advice for young professionals in the Diaspora who are seriously thinking about moving back home?
Look at all of Africa as your home. There are great opportunities all over the continent and people shouldn’t limit themselves. After all, you are a global African. So use your broad-based expertise for the greatest good. Do the necessary research about opportunities in your field, contact the relevant people, apply, visit the country.
Talk to other people from the Diaspora who’ve moved back and listen to their experiences, keeping in mind that everyone’s experience is different. A lot of people think about starting their own businesses and moving into the private sector when they think about starting a project in their home countries.

Can you make a case for why more of us should go into the public sector, the government?
Everyone has a role to play, whether in the private or public sector. The private sector has managed to attract strong talent because of better pay among other perks, but the public sector can be equally fulfilling. Within the public sector, member of the Diaspora have the opportunity to share their experience from more developed systems and try to improve African systems and institutions, which have typically been weak, ineffective and have slowed progress. The move to the public sector is not only bold, but necessary. For instance, many countries have archaic legal systems, so for corporate lawyers from London or NYC to join Ministries of Justice, they could help modernize laws in line with current global best practices. The same applies to contract negotiation and teaching law.

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