The HKS brand is Second-to-None

johnInterview by Malik Siraj Akbar, Web Editor, The Citizen 

The Citizen spoke to John Kidenda, the co-chair of the Africa Caucus at the Kennedy School and the activities the caucus organizes. Excerpts:

Tell us a little about yourself. What brings you to the Kennedy School?

My name is John Kidenda and I am from Kenya. I came to the Kennedy School to join the MPAID program. I will be graduating in May and going back to Kenya to work full time on development issues such as financial inclusion, water, sanitation and agricultural development.

Tell us more about your organization/ PIC. How many members do you have? What is the purpose of the organization and what do you do to meet these goals?

I am a co-chair at the Africa Caucus, which is a home for Africans and Afro-enthusiasts at the Kennedy School. My co-chair Claire Hassoun and I are responsible for ensuring that Africa is represented at HKS through regular, relevant and well-organized programing for the student population. We host speaker’s series, study breakfasts, cultural events and parties that bring the vibrancy of the African continent to the school. We are one of the most active caucuses at the school and have over 170 registered members on our mailing list.

What are some of the interesting events and activities you organized past semester and what do you intend to do next semester?

The most high profile event that the Caucus hosts along side 6 other Harvard schools is the African Development Conference which this year will be held on the 3rd and 4th of April. The event is the foremost student run conference on African development issues in the country. It is in it’s 6th year and brings together academics, policy makers, heads of state and students from around the world for a 2 day event filled discussion on Africa and its future. In addition we host a weekly study breakfast where students vigorously discuss African current affairs. We host a series of speakers through out the year. We recently hosted Dr. Kaberuka, head of the African Development Bank for a well-received student discussion. Finally we are increasingly known for throwing the most entertaining quorum call each semester. We use this platform to introduce the HKS community to the richness of African music and food and show the community the incredible diversity that exists on the continent.

How can current and future students join your organization? How do you think your organization adds value to students’ HKS experience?

The easiest way to join the caucus is to sign up for our mailing list during the various student group open days or to email one of the chairs (john_kidenda@hks15.havard.edu or Claire_Hassoun@hks15.harvard.edu ). If you are interested in learning more about Africa while meeting amazing people and helping to shape the global discussion on Africa’s future prospects then this is the organization for you. Also, if you like good music, good food and good people, this is the organization for you J joining the Africa Caucus is one of the best ways to meet a diverse group of students excited about Africa. You can find more information here: http://africacaucus.blogspot.com/

How does the environment at the Kennedy School help in meeting your organizational goals? What are some of the challenges your organization faces in terms of improving the work you are currently trying to accomplish?

Being at HKS gives us unparalleled access to the top minds thinking about issues affecting the African continent. It also gives us access to actors in the development space both on the African continent and beyond. The HKS brand is second-to-non in its ability to open gateways to the kinds individuals we seek to bring to the African Development Conference. Finally, the student population at HKS is an amazing resource that we regularly leverage for the various activities we host throughout the year.