Delivering on Promise
Optimism. Opportunity. Interactivity. All marked the favorable mood of the recent World Economic Forum on Africa, as described by Jendayi Frazer. Frazer is a many-time Forum participant, globally-recognized policy leader, expert on African affairs — and Carnegie Mellon University distinguished public service professor.
The World Economic Forum on Africa was established in 1990 to bring together global political, business and policy leaders to explore the economic and political challenges and opportunities facing the African continent.
"This was the very best that I've been to — it really stood out because of its focus on practical solutions," noted Frazer, a leading architect of U.S.-Africa policy for nearly a decade. She served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2005–2009 and was the first woman appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Africa in 2004.
"There was an optimism about the continent," Frazer continued, "This marks the 50th anniversary of the African Union. With strong growth and fewer wars, it was tangible that we needed to take advantage and make the most of the next 50 years to bring about peace and prosperity."
Frazer's passion for African affairs began as a teen, when she developed a love of African literature and found that "the different communities and cultures just drew me in. I fell in love with the continent," she explained. "And some 30 years later, I still feel the same way."
In 2009, she joined the CMU faculty with joint appointments to Dietrich College and Heinz College. She also became the director of the Center for International Policy and Innovation, drawn by the university's vision of "further internationalizing" the curriculum and its "focus on innovation and technology."
She was particularly intrigued by the efforts of CMU's College of Engineering to develop a new campus in Rwanda, which enrolled its first class of students in 2012. This campus was highlighted during the World Economic Forum on Africa as an example for stimulating education and increasing human capital in the east Africa region.
At CMU, Frazer has enjoyed the ability to further both her own work and the development of her students.
"I've been able to do work on issues such as preventing election violence in Africa," she explained. "It's a strong interest of mine because it's a promotion of both good governance and peace on the continent."
"And through my coursework on diplomacy, international development policy and policy innovation, I've been able to bring some of my real world experiences to the classroom, as well as offer some of the best guest speakers — including those who have served in the past and current Obama administrations — to engage and interact with the students."
She's proud to pass along her passions and see her former students working as diplomats at U.S. embassies, and she aims to further cross-campus involvement throughout the university.
"One of my goals at Carnegie Mellon is to connect even more with the different campuses around the world," said Frazer. "I think there are tremendous opportunities there for both faculty members and students. I'm very much part of our center in Washington D.C., for example, and I believe it could be even further utilized by our students to gain unique and practical experience."