Conversation on Women and Trade: Advancing African and Diaspora Women in the Global Marketplace

December 12, 2022 | 2:00 - 4:00 pm EST

Interdisciplinary Research Building (IRB)
Howard University
2201 Georgia Ave NW, Washington, DC 20059

The Howard University Center for African Studies, Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadership, and the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center are pleased to host a conversation with Ambassador Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative; Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce;  Marisa Lago, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade; Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of ITC Geneva; Rahama Wright, Founder and CEO of Shea Yaleen, and others on Women and Trade: Advancing African and Diaspora Women in the Global Marketplace.  This conversation, on the eve of the U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit, will focus on gender equity and equality and ensuring that women from the African Diaspora thrive in the global marketplace.

The event capacity is 80 individuals. Registration will close after capacity has been reached.

The event will be livestreamed at

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Ambassador Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative
Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce
Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director, International Trade Center (ITC) Geneva

MODERATOR: Krista Johnson, Director, Center for African Studies, Howard University


Habiba Ali, CEO, Sosai Renewable Energies
Jeannice Fairrer Samani, President & CEO, Fairrer Samani Group
Rahama Wright, Founder, SheaYaleen
Lyzz Ogunwo, Vice President, International Development and Global Impact, National Basketball Players Association Foundation

MODERATOR: Marisa Lago, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade


Howard University Directors

Jarpa Dawuni.jpg
Tonija Navas.jpg

Krista Johnson

Director, Center for African Studies

J. Jarpa Dawuni

Director, Center for Women, Gender and Global Leadership

Tonija Hope

Director, Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center




Ambassador Katherine Tai

Ambassador Katherine Tai was sworn in as the 19th United States Trade Representative on March 18, 2021. As a member of the President’s Cabinet, Ambassador Tai is the principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on U.S. trade policy.

Prior to her unanimous Senate confirmation, Ambassador Tai spent most of her career in public service focusing on international economic diplomacy, monitoring, and enforcement. She previously served as Chief Trade Counsel and Trade Subcommittee Staff Director for the House Ways and Means Committee in the United States Congress. In this capacity, Ambassador Tai played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. trade law, negotiations strategies, and bilateral and multilateral agreements, including the recently re-negotiated United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.


Secretary Gina Raimondo

Gina M. Raimondo serves as the 40th U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on March 3, 2021. As Secretary of Commerce, she is focused on a simple but vital mission — to spur good-paying jobs, empower entrepreneurs to innovate and grow, and help American workers and businesses compete.

Secretary Raimondo was formerly the 75th Governor of Rhode Island and its first woman governor. She grew up in Smithfield in a tight-knit Italian-American family, the youngest of Joseph and Josephine Raimondo's three children. Her family history and her childhood experiences shaped her core beliefs in hard work, opportunity for all, and the importance of financial security.


Under Secretary Marisa Lago

Marisa Lago is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. She was appointed by President Joseph R. Biden and sworn in on Dec. 28, 2021, to lead the federal government’s efforts to assist American businesses entering or expanding into international markets, enforce fair trade policies, promote travel and tourism to the United States and U.S. products and services overseas, provide in-depth trade analyses, develop strategies that will shape the future of international trade, and engage in commercial diplomacy across the globe.

Under Secretary Lago has a distinguished career in public service with expertise in international markets, trade, financial regulation, and enforcement. Before joining ITA, she led the New York City Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission. In the Obama-Biden Administration, she served in the Department of the Treasury as Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development.


Pamela Coke-Hamilton

Pamela Coke-Hamilton has served as Executive Director of ITC since October 2020. Since that time she has led the agency to meet the economic and trade challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent global supply chain disruptions. Ms. Coke-Hamilton has a breadth of experience and expertise in trade-related capacity-building and sustainable development and a deep understanding of the challenges faced by vulnerable economies such as the small island developing states and least developed countries. Ms. Coke-Hamilton has worked extensively with the private sector and academia across African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to build trade-related institutional strength within member States. She also established the Women Empowered through Export (WeXport) platform to address the disadvantages that women-owned firms experience in accessing markets. She began her career in Jamaica’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and later also served as Director of Trade, Tourism and Competitiveness of the Organization of American States (OAS) and Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA).


Rahama Wright

Rahama Wright is a social entrepreneur who works at the intersection of beauty, business development, and policy. She is the Founder/CEO of Yeleen Enterprises (Shea Yeleen, and the Yeleen Beauty Makerspace). Shea Yeleen, a social impact beauty brand, manufactures pure plant-based shea butter body care products that nourish the skin and empower its producers by creating living wage jobs for women in Ghana. The Yeleen Beauty Makerspace, scheduled to open in 2023 in Washington, DC, will provide manufacturing, business, and educational support for early-stage companies that manufacture and/or sell hair, skin, and body products. An in-demand speaker, panelist, and leading voice on African women’s economic and business development, Wright is serving her fourth term as a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa and delivered talks at The United Nations, the World Bank, and the Sustainable Brands Conference. She resides in Washington, D.C., and is an avid traveler who has visited and worked in 36 countries.


Lyzz Ogunwo

Lyzz Ogunwo is the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Vice President of International Development and Global Impact. Since 2017, Ogunwo has worked with the NBPA Foundation, leading the development of philanthropic resources and support for the individual efforts of NBPA members and the Foundation’s programmatic work domestically and abroad. Before joining the NBPA Foundation in 2017, Ogunwo spent over a decade in politics and government affairs, notably serving as the White House Leadership Development Director and White House Liaison to the Peace Corps during the Obama Administration. Under President Obama's first term at the Department of Energy, Ogunwo helped to advance the White House Energy Council on Women and Girls and the International Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) initiative.


Jeannice Fairrer Samani

Jeannice Fairrer Samani is a distinguished global executive leader in technology and data-driven business intelligence for over 20-years of successful innovation and accountability. Currently, as CEO at Fairrer Samani Group, a global business intelligence consulting firm that integrates Business and IT Engineering, and Founder of Fifth Wave, a STEM education Initiative. She led successful scaling to international markets in Europe, India, and MENA regions. An architect and mentor for the Techwomen program for eight years, Jeannice has traveled to Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East as a delegate on behalf of the US Department of State as an advocate for girls & women in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. She serves as an advisor for Space Apps NASA in Nigeria and Serra Leone. She is a lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University and Santa Clara University in the School of Engineering.


Habiba Ali

Habiba Ali is the managing director and CEO of Sosai Renewable Energies Company, one of the largest distributors of renewable energy in Nigeria. Sosai Renewable Energies provides renewable energy products like solar lamps, water purifiers and solar panels, as well as energy consulting services to help bring clean, renewable energy solutions to Nigeria’s budding communities. Ali also co-founded the Developmental Association for Renewable Energies (DARE),and is a member of the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air and the Nigerian Energy Network. She holds an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in accounting.