Our Team

Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych | President & CEO
Dr. Daniel Karanja | Vice President, Programs & Advisory
Shanta Bryant Gyan |Vice President, Strategy, Communications & External Affairs
Helen Mant | Senior Advisor
Austin R. Cooper Jr. | Director, Government Relations
Patricia Sainz | Director, Finance and Administration
Peter Nance | Manager,  Business Development & Member Relations
Lara Bangs | Manager, Programs & Corporate Events
Omolara Abiona | Communications Assistant
Lia Mayka | Consultant, Advisory

Dr. Mima S. Nedelcovych | President & CEO


Dr. Nedelcovych is the President and CEO of the Initiative for Global Development (IGD), a nonprofit organization that engages corporate leaders to reduce poverty through business growth and investment in Africa.

Prior to joining IGD, Dr. Nedelcovych was the Chairman of Schaffer International, the successor company to the Schaffer Global Group. For the Schaffer Group, he is the lead Partner in the establishment of the Markala Sugar Project in Mali, and serves as the Chairman of the Société Sucrière de Markala.

He has also established an independent consulting practice focused on trade facilitation, project development, project finance, and public-private partnerships in Africa. Dr. Nedelcovych has worked with clients such as Carana Corporation, USAID, and Abt Associates to identify and advise investment opportunities in Africa, as well as with corporate clients such as International Green Structures, Illovo Sugar and JML Investments, Novel Commodities Group, and SATAREM Renewable Energies to develop specific investments.

Prior to establishing his consulting practice, Dr. Nedelcovych was Director for Business Development and Country Director in Liberia for Buchanan Renewables (BR). He was Managing Director of the Schaffer Global Group (SGG) for 15 years until accepting a 2-year posting as Country Director of BR in Liberia, a renewable energy business based on biomass harvested and processed from old economically redundant rubber trees.

Dr. Nedelcovych served in the Administration of President George Bush from 1989 to 1993 as the U.S. Executive Director to the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. He was instrumental in formulating the “private sector initiative” at the AfDB, the African Business Roundtable and the African Export-Import Bank. Prior to being named Executive Director to the AfDB, Dr. Nedelcovych held the position of Principal at Arthur Young’s International Consulting Group, specializing in privatizations and private investments in Africa.

At the beginning of his career he served as Peace Corps Country Director in Gabon, as Special Assistant to the Assistant Administrator for Africa at USAID, and as Special Projects Officer at the US Trade and Development Agency.

Dr. Nedelcovych serves on the Advisory Board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and presently sits on the Boards of Schaffer International, International Green Structures, the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, and Afriland First Bank SA (Cameroon) and is a past Director and President of the CCA and Member of EXIM Bank’s Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee. He received a BA in Political Science from Yale University, an MA in International Relations from George Washington University, and a PhD in Comparative Political and Economic Development from Florida State University (in conjunction with Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco).

Dr. Daniel Karanja| Vice President, Programs & Advisory

Dr. Daniel Karanja is Vice President, Programs & Advisory at the Initiative for Global Development. Before that, he served for three years as Executive Director of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, an independent U.S.-Africa effort focused on increasing the level and effectiveness of U.S. development assistance in Africa’s agriculture and rural development. He also served as Vice-President and Chief of Staff at the Partnership and led its outreach and collaboration on Capitol Hill and with Washington-based African Ambassadors, built stronger relationships with African institutions like the African Union, NEPAD and regional economic communities, supported work to strengthen Africa’s regional and external trade, capacity building for science, technology and innovation, and elevating Africa’s voice in development discussions.

Prior to joining the Partnership in 2003, Dr. Karanja worked with Bread for the World in Washington, D.C., where his primary focus was on international development, strengthening collaboration between U.S. and African countries on agricultural and economic development, and making Africa known and a priority in Washington, D.C. In the 1980s, Dr. Karanja worked as a research economist with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute testing smallholder farm technologies and linking farmers to research and extension services. He earned his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural economics at Michigan State University, and has published peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.

Shanta Bryant Gyan | Vice President, Communications & External Affairs


As the Vice President of Communications & External Affairs, Shanta helps to set organizational strategy and oversees all of IGD’s communications and efforts. Shanta works closely with IGD leadership to design and execute dynamic communications and media strategies to enhance the IGD brand and heighten awareness of IGD’s work. She has more than fifteen years of experience in media outreach and editorial work in the fields of international finance, advocacy and humanitarian and development with a focus on Africa. Launching her career as a reporter for the All Africa News Service, a Nairobi-based continental African newswire service, Shanta served as the Director of Communications and Media Relations at InterAction.

Shanta has been principal of SBG Communications where she has worked with leading international organizations to bolster communications and media outreach efforts to increase coverage and help shape the media’s reporting on the developing world, particularly Africa.

Shanta received a B.S. in journalism from Boston University and pursued graduate studies in International Communications at The American University in Washington, D.C.

Helen Mant | Senior Advisor

Helen has close to 20 years international experience in the adoption of market systems approaches to promote sustainable development in key sectors including agriculture, financial services and energy. Helen has particular expertise in collaborative approaches such as cross sector partnerships and in the development and implementation of innovative impact measurement approaches. Helen previously worked for SABMiller, PwC and Business Action for Africa.

Helen is a Chartered Accountant and holds a LL.B (Hons) Law degree from Cardiff University and a postgraduate certificate in cross sector partnerships from Cambridge University.

Austin R. Cooper, Jr. | Director, Government Relations

Austin R. Cooper, Jr. serves as the Director of Government Relations for the Initiative for Global Development (IGD). With extensive legislative, political and communications background, including holding senior level positions at the federal, state and local levels of government, his employment history includes working for four Members of Congress: Congressman Charles Rangel, Congressman William H. Gray III, Congressman Louis Stokes and Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Austin has also worked on public affairs accounts for Hill and Knowlton Strategies and Edelman Worldwide.

He served as a State Lobbyist (pension, education and labor) to former New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins and Vice President of Government Affairs for the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. He has also provided communications and government affairs counsel to the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation. Prior to establishing Cooper Strategic Affairs, Inc., Austin served as the Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for GoodWorks International, LLC. In this capacity, he served as the media representative for former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and represented the Governments of Nigeria, Rwanda, Benin and Tanzania in Washington, D.C.

Austin received a Bachelor or Arts (BA) in History & Government from Saint Augustine’s University and Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

Patricia Sainz | Director, Finance and Administration

Patricia has more than 20 years of experience in accounting, administration, health benefits and retirement. Prior to IGD, she worked in finance with local unions in California and New York City.

Originally from Mexico, she brings an unique perspective to our organization. She is passionate about protecting the environment, animal rights and spends most of her free time volunteering with different organizations in Washington, DC.

Peter Nance | Manager, Business Development & Member Relations


Peter serves as the Manager of Business Development & Member Relations where his primary focus is to maintain and expand IGD’s network of Frontier Leaders, as well as prepare the development and implementation of IGD’s biannual Frontier Leader Forums.

Prior to joining IGD, Peter served with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps in Baltimore, MD and Baton Rouge, LA. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s degree in Global Development Studies and Economics with a concentration in International Economics.

Lara Bangs | Manager, Programs & Corporate Events


Lara Bangs is the Manager of Programs & Corporate Events for the Initiative for Global Development. In this role, she manages the logistical and administrative support for the IGD Frontier 100 Forum and other corporate events. Lara provides strategic support to the Government Affairs office by tracking legislation and drafting congressional letters and reports. She also helps to maintain and expand IGD’s network of innovative companies and partners committed to business-driven development in Africa by providing administrative support to the CEO and COO, researching and creating background reports on potential members, partners, and projects.

Prior to IGD, Lara was an intern at the Atlantic Council for their Millennium Leadership Program. She graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a Bachelor’s degree in Global Studies.

Omolara Abiona | Communications Assistant

Omolara Abiona is the Communications Assistant for the Initiative for Global Development. In this position, she manages IGD’s social media presence and assists in the development and implementation of communications strategies that best serve IGD’s key constituencies. She also assists in the media relations and marketing efforts for the organization.

Most recently, Omolara was an Assistant Paralegal at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen, and Loewy LLP, a business immigration law firm in Washington, DC. She shares IGD’s mission to change the African narrative and brings her passion for transformative storytelling to her work. She graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, CT with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and International Studies, French minor. In her spare time, she writes for Brittle Paper, a popular African literary blog, and volunteers as a docent at the Smithsonian National Musuem of African Art.

Lia Mayka |Consultant, Advisory

Lia Mayka is based in Nairobi, Kenya and brings expertise in connecting ventures with innovative financing, investors, and resources to bridge the SME growth gap. Most recently, Lia led Village Capital’s work in Sub-Saharan Africa accelerating and investing in seed-stage startups across the continent.

Before joining Village Capital, Lia worked for the largest chain of low-cost private schools in Africa, Bridge International Academies, leading special projects for the company’s co-founders. She has also worked as a loan consultant with Accion USA building capacity for small business owners in New England through financing and technical assistance. She has prior experience in nonprofit program evaluation and has led research projects on microfinance in Belize and the Dominican Republic.

Lia holds a BA in Sociology with a concentration in Social Enterprise and a Minor in Latin American/Caribbean Studies from Northeastern University.