Siaka Togola is an M.A. International Affairs student concentrating on Economic Development in Africa. He is from Mali in West Africa and serves as the 2019 Elliott School Graduate Student Forum President. Currently, he is the Special Assistant to the African Union Permanent Representative to the U.S. on all diaspora related matters under the African Union Citizens and Diaspora Directorate (CIDO). Additionally, he chairs the Pan-African Diaspora Youth Association’s Communications and Public Relations sector, PADYA. PADYA is the Youth mobilization and sensitization branch of the African Union Mission to the United States of America, Canada, South and Latin America, and the Caribbean. He is an aspiring diplomat and international affairs practitioner and dreams to bring prosperity to Africa and its people.
What inspired you to select your program/concentration at the Elliott School?
It is my belief that Africa’s road to development is through cohesion among African nations. It is also my belief that the answer to making such cohesion happen can only be found at the Continental Level, rather than the country level. My desire to deepen my knowledge in international affairs and wanting to bring concrete and measurable change to Africa are the primary reasons behind my choosing a master’s in international affairs with a concentration on Economic Development. My regional concentration in Africa as a whole because I do not see the need to focus on a single country or region when trying to make the case for a continent to come together if only economically.
What has been your favorite course at the Elliott School so far and why?
I have liked every course I have taken so far at the Elliott School. The same goes for my teachers as they exhibit such deep knowledge of their subject matter and truly master their topics. I would say however that the most rewarding course so far has been my International Development Policy class. It has helped me examine the scope and nature of international development and the challenges currently facing development agencies, but also those that have arisen over the years. It is my hope that I can bring truly forward-looking answers to Africa’s developmental issues, for it truly is the Continent of the Century.
What has been your most rewarding work, intern, or volunteer experience since starting your program at the Elliott School?
My most rewarding work experience since starting at the Elliott School has been as Special Assistant to the African Union Ambassador to the US, H.E. Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao. I have been able to meet people from all over Africa and the diaspora, and some of these encounters were truly touching and life-altering. The African Union Mission here in the US has a core function to coordinate African Positions in efforts to mobilize support for Africa’s development and to adopt common positions on key issues; Build, Sustain and Nurture the Bilateral Relationship between the USA and the African Union; Inform America and Promote Africa; To establish working relationships with the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States; Build Constituencies for Africa – Diaspora engagement. My role is to reach out, sensitize and coordinate efforts between the African Union and the African Diaspora, or as the African Union calls them, the sixth region of Africa (in addition to North, South, Central, East and West Africa, the 5 traditional regions). I do so primarily by putting together databases identifying diaspora and diaspora organizations within the sixth region. Five years from now, I hope I would have grown into a career in International Development with either my current employer or with a multilateral development bringing and promoting Economic development in Africa. Change the world’s view of Africa and help make the case that an emerging and strong Africa is best for everyone, especially the United States.
What advice do you have for first-year students who are starting their graduate studies?
Whether you are a graduate or undergraduate student, my advice to you is to be involved in campus life and create yourself a strong network and support group. During my time at GWU, I have learned just how valuable such network and support is not only for your life in school but also for post-graduation.
How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?
I don’t eat fruits mixed with “food”. To me, fruits are either snacks or dessert, so understandably my feeling about pineapple pizza is somewhat mixed? I do appreciate Pineapple as fruit and more so as a drink. I make the tastiest pineapple mojitos in the whole world if I say so myself. On occasion, I have had food served inside of a freshly cut and emptied pineapple. I cannot say that I tasted the pineapple, which is probably why I could finish that dish.
The #WeAreElliott series highlights current Elliott School graduate students and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.