International Commerce and Policy Grad Making a Difference in Africa

Jean-Guy Afrika has been fascinated by global trade from the very start.

“I acquired an interest in international trade and globalization very early on in my life,” he said. “Having grown up and studied in four countries and on two different continents, I quickly became aware of the rising interconnectedness of people and nations. Some mysterious forces were at play that created ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ from this globalization process, and from a very young age I wanted to understand them.”

It was this enduring curiosity that contributed to Jean-Guy’s enrollment in the Master's in International Commerce and Policy program at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Governmen. A Rwandan with a keen attraction to the nuts and bolts of global economics, he wanted his graduate studies to concentrate on how the forces behind globalization could be applied to bring about rapid development to his country as well as to the whole of Africa.

“At the time, I felt intuitively that a standard MBA or International Affairs program would not give me the answers I was looking for – I felt that I needed a broader, more multidimensional program,” said Jean-Guy. “George Mason's international commerce master's program was rigorous in its coverage of business and finance but also deep in its review of important perspectives in the global economy, such as international trade, public policy, technology, and culture.”

His hard work at Mason paid off. Today, Jean-Guy is Senior Trade Expert at the African Development Bank, managing the Africa Trade Fund – a trade-related technical assistance fund with the aim to improve the trade performance of African countries.

“Through the Africa Trade Fund, I supervise the implementation of a pipeline of 34 trade projects in 24 African countries focusing on customs modernization, products and markets development, and institutional capacity building,” he said. “I also spearhead Bank efforts to develop Africa’s first regional integration index to better measure the progress and impacts of regional integration in Africa.”

Jean-Guy credited the international commerce program with bestowing students with a matchless grasp of the forces at work behind globalization, paving the way for job opportunities from public to private sector, international development to consulting. He also lauded the program for its expert faculty and inventive courses, which were crucial to honing the critical and analytical thinking skills he now uses daily.

“The ICP program has positively influenced my career in a number of ways,” Jean-Guy said. “It enhanced my ability to think laterally in the design and execution of complex multinational policies, strategies, and programs.”

Jean-Guy’s journey from inquisitive youth to international trade and regional expert seems to have come full circle. Equipped with the tools he acquired as an international commerce and policy graduate student and a steadfast raison d’être, he is fulfilling his dream of making a difference at home and beyond.

“At a very young age I made a personal commitment that I would dedicate my professional career to the improvement of conditions in the developing world, particularly Africa,” he said. “The master's in international commerce and policy program taught me to be a reformer, to question the status quo in the multilateral system and constantly search for solutions that are better aligned to the needs of developing countries.”