In addition to a successful career as a two-time Academy Award winning actor, writer and director, Ben Affleck is also a passionate advocate and philanthropist.
In 2010, Ben co-founded Eastern Congo Initiative alongside Whitney Williams as an advocacy and funding organization focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. Believing that collaboration is integral to better solutions, Affleck led ECI’s acquisition of Asili, a social business enterprise providing world-class water and healthcare services in 2019. Affleck is deeply committed to public policy and the impact of multilateral cooperation. He has testified five times before both the U.S. House and Senate, advocated for Congo before the United Nations, and has met with numerous elected officials over the last decade to increase international diplomacy, understanding and support for the region.
He is also a strong supporter of many charitable organizations, such as Feeding America, A-T Children’s Project, and the Jimmy Fund.
Mvemba Phezo Dizolele
Mvemba Phezo Dizolele is a writer, foreign policy analyst, and independent journalist. He is a senior strategy and advocacy adviser at Eastern Congo Initiative.
Mr. Dizolele is a professorial lecturer in African Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, the Peter J. Duignan Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and the author of the forthcoming biography, “Mobutu: the Rise and Fall of the Leopard King” (Random House UK).
In 2006, he covered the conflict and the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and was embedded with United Nations peacekeepers in Ituri district and South Kivu province as a reporter.
His analyses have been published in the Journal of Democracy, New York Times, Newsweek International, International Herald Tribune, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Forbes and other outlets. A frequent commentator on African affairs, he has been a guest analyst on several radio and television programs, including PBS, NPR, BBC, Al Jazeera, and Voice of America.
Dizolele has testified before various subcommittees of the two chambers of the United States Congress. He has also testified before the United Nations Security Council.
He holds an International Master of Business Administration and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago. He graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and French from Southern Utah University.
Dizolele speaks several languages and is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
Hugues B. Efole
Hugues is the Head of Global Corridor Development (US & Canada) and Global Strategic Partnership at MoneyGram International.
Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hugues B. Efole has called Los Angeles home for the past 32 years, after spending 2 years in Dallas, from 2017 – 2019.
He is a CSUN Alumni, where he earned his Double-Major B.S Degree in Finance and Real Estate. Mr. Efole also earned an MBA in International Finance from Keller School of Management in Long Beach, CA, and a Fintech Certificate holder at Harvard University.
Through his now 16-year successful career with MoneyGram International, Inc., Hugues Efole has held various leadership positions with P&L responsibility such as Head of Emerging Markets (EMEAAP), Head of Retail Sales (US & Canada), Global Head of Corridor Development and currently Head of Global Strategic Partnership. Though Hugues Efole has earned several personal and professional awards, achieving and exceeding goals, his most prestigious awards have been the success of the teams he has led (and continues to lead), and his social impact-related awards, at the professional level, but also as a community leader, and global citizen.
Outside his professional accomplishments, Mr. Efole takes pride in bridging gaps between the Corporate world and communities in US/Canada where he resides, but also in Africa, particularly in DRC, his home country. Mr. Efole has earned several certificate of recognition from members of the governing body of the state of California, such as Mayor Eric Garcetti, Council Members Curren Price, and others, for championing and taking leadership roles in community development activities such as African Goodwill Awards, Annual Philippines Independence Day Parades, Annual African Soccer Tournament Los Angeles, Feria Chapina, Fiesta Patrias, CongoFest, US Special Olympics Games, etc.
Mr. Hugues Efole seats on the advisory board of the Congolese Community of Southern California (co-founder), Africa Frocus, Inc. (LA, CA), is a Board Member at CongAutisme (DRC, Belgium, US/Canada), a member of the advisory board of Bel Campus University (DRC), is a co-founder and Chairman of the -about to be launched – Congolese Chamber of Commerce – SoCal, and a silent partner in a handful of micro businesses in DRC, in the areas of e-commerce, women and children’s clothing, pharmaceutical industry and business consultancy.
Muadi Mukenge provides strategic direction for fundraising, partnership development and global communications at Ipas. Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ms. Mukenge has 21 years of leadership experience in international philanthropy, communications and development.
Before joining Ipas in 2018, Ms. Mukenge worked at Emory University and Karna, overseeing CDC initiatives focused on the role of nurses in HIV/AIDS clinical care in Africa, and holistic support for orphans. Previously, she oversaw grantmaking, special initiatives, and resource mobilization for Sub-Saharan Africa for the Global Fund for Women from 2004 to 2016, growing its work most significantly in rural communities, conflict regions, and Francophone Africa. She contributes expertise in the fields of maternal and adolescent health, economic empowerment, political development, and ending violence against women.
Ms. Mukenge has partnered with organizations in Congo since 2006, making frequent site visits and also organizing workshops and conferences. From 2014-2016, she managed a partnership between Global Fund for Women and the Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, to include women in peace processes in the region. She has also been an active member of Congolese diaspora groups that implement development projects in rural Congo.
Ms. Mukenge is a current Board member of Priority Africa Network and the Congolese Studies Association, and a former Board member of the African Studies Association and New Field Foundation. She has a master’s degree in African Studies from the University of California at Los Angeles and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Davidson College.
Through her work in the public, private and academic sectors, Maura O’Neill has created entrepreneurial and public-private solutions for some of the toughest domestic and global problems.
Maura has founded four companies (energy efficiency and curbside recycling, electricity customer info systems and billing, e-commerce and digital textbook platform), served as Chief of Staff in the U.S. Senate, appointed President Obama’s first Chief Innovation Officer, US Agency for International Development ($22 billion Agency budget). Maura co-led USAID Forward, the Agency’s major reform initiative as well as oversaw over 600 global public-private partnerships including mobile money; supply chain elimination of ingredients/packaging from virgin forests; water and health interventions; gender equity and entrepreneurship. Maura is most well known for adapting venture capital and drug discovery methods to development by co-creating the Development Innovation Venture Fund. Maura served on the White House Innovation Cohort assisting the Administration in innovation across the federal government and an official USG representative to many international meetings including COP 15 (climate), G8 Impact Investment Forum, RIO+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
In addition to advising early stage companies, Maura is Distinguished Teaching Fellow at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley and serves as a Faculty Director at UC Berkeley Executive Education. New Venture Finance, Blockchain Strategy, DC Immersion and Executive Leadership are among her most popular courses. Examples of her awards include three-time winner of the Cheit Award for Excellence in Teaching at UC Berkeley as well as the Greater Seattle Businessperson of the Year.
Maura has a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, where her research focused on narrow-mindedness and the errors it leads to in science, medicine, business and political decision-making. Maura also has M.B.A.s from UC Berkeley and Columbia University. She also is the founding Vice Chair of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, the public charter school featured in the award-winning film, STEP. More information: www.mauraoneill.com
David serves as the founder and chairman of The Mako Group, one of Europe’s most prominent providers of liquidity in exchange-traded financial instruments. Based in London, Mako acts as a principal trading house while also offering investment opportunities through strategic, structured solutions.
David’s other work includes acting as Founder and Chairman of Mpower Pictures, a Santa Monica-based independent motion picture production company, which recently produced “Man Down,” starring Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman and Kate Mara. David also acts as the strategic investor for The Video Genome Project, the world’s largest and most granular database of video metadata.
With his wife, David has been active in supporting not-for-profit initiatives, including We See Hope, The Alpha Course, Water.Org, and Eastern Congo Initiative, alongside philanthropic investments in several university programs.
In addition to his work, David is an avid adventurer, a competitive sailor, a private pilot and an outdoorsman. In 2010 he navigated his Rigid Inflatable Boat (Zodiac) in partnership with Bear Grylls and a crew of three others through the famed Northwest Passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific –from Greenland to Alaska – over the top of North America.
Nima Taghavi is the Founder & CEO of Group 206, a private investment firm created in 2013.
Taghavi’s entrepreneurial journey began at a young age. Taghavi immigrated to the US from Iran when he was 9 years old, and by his early teen years, was selling video games at the Swap Meet to supplement his family’s income. This early start helped Taghavi develop a passion for business.
Taghavi turned his early entrepreneurial experience into successfully founding and exiting several enterprises throughout his career, including video game distributor SVG Distribution and video game publisher Crave Entertainment. Both SVG and Crave became market leaders and, under Crave Entertainment Group (CEG) and were sold to The Handleman Company (NYSE: HDL) in 2005. With revenues nearing $300M, CEG was the largest privately held company in the video game industry at the time. Nima was an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in 1998, 2000 and 2004.
Taghavi was an original investor and co-founder of Solutions 2 GO (Canada), which grew from its inception in 2004 to become the largest video game distributor in North America by 2008. To optimize his investment in Solutions 2 GO (Canada), Taghavi founded its sister company Solutions 2 GO LLC (U.S.) in 2009, a video game distribution company specializing in both the brick and mortar and e-commerce retail channels. After reaching well over $1B in combined revenue, Taghavi sold his collective interests in 2017.
As a longtime owner-user and investor in industrial real estate, Taghavi co-founded investment management firm BKM Capital Partners in 2013. Soon after, Taghavi was joined by John Mack (former CEO & Chairman at Morgan Stanley) as an investor, business partner, and board advisor. Throughout Taghavi’s tenure as Chairman, BKM grew to nearly $2 billion in assets under management with more than 20 institutional investor partners. In 2020, Taghavi and Mack sold their collective ownership in BKM.
In 2018, Taghavi co-founded VoltEdge, a consumer brand company specializing in the design, development, and manufacturing of high-performance video game accessories sold through national brick & mortar and e-commerce retailers. In 2020, VoltEdge was acquired by Mexico-based GameXpress.
Taghavi established The Nima Taghavi Foundation in 2005 to support a variety of disadvantaged children’s charities and other causes. Additionally, Taghavi has been a member of the Board of Directors for Eastern Congo Initiative (founded by Ben Affleck) since 2015 and a member of the Board of Directors for The Clinton Foundation since 2018.
After a more than forty-year legal career, Rich Voelbel is now devoted full time to his philanthropic passion for the world’s poor and most vulnerable.
He graduated from Macalester College Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude. He was also an International Rotary Graduate Fellow at St John’s College, Cambridge University. He is also a strong supporter of his alma mater, the University of Minnesota Law School, where he received his juris doctor cum laude.
In his legal career Rich was a litigator dealing with complex disputes in multiple venues in the US and around the world.
He helped lead the 9/11 World Trade Center litigation and reinsurance arbitration in New York. He also spearheaded the Bridgestone/Firestone Liberian Civil War litigation, TX and Liberia and the BankAmerica Securities litigation and reinsurance arbitration, CA and NY.
In addition to Eastern Congo Initiative, Rich also serves on the board of directors for Alight, formerly known as the American Refugee Committee; ORAM, the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration; and Beneficial Returns (Credit Committee).
Rich is a “big tent” follower of Jesus and a member of the Colonial Church of Edina where he served on church council, missions board and as Moderator.
He has been married to the love of his life, Lynn, for 48 years. They are the proud parents of three and delighted grandparents of five, and currently reside in Minneapolis and San Francisco.
Whitney serves as co-founder and Vice Chair of the Board for Eastern Congo Initiative, the first U.S.-based advocacy and grantmaking organization focused solely on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. In this role Whitney oversees millions of dollars in grants to dozens of local Congolese community-based organizations, as well as a broad U.S. and international advocacy agenda to drive good public policies relative to the DRC.
She is the Founder + CEO of williamsworks, a consultancy based in Montana. As a pioneer of strategic advocacy, Whitney is dedicated to defining and maximizing the impact of individuals, foundations, and advocacy organizations. Leveraging her experience in strategic planning, government relations, and grassroots advocacy. Whitney provides executive leadership, ensuring that the williamsworks approach results in solutions that are creative, unique, and customized.
Whitney is personally involved in developing philanthropy strategies, positioning clients, and conceiving and implementing international and domestic learning engagements. Her in-depth understanding of the complexity of working across the globe and her knowledge of complex political environments help clients make their grant making and advocacy efforts as effective as possible.
Dedication to the common good and public service runs in Whitney’s family. Her mother, Carol Williams, was the first woman elected both Majority and Minority Leader of the Montana Senate, and her father, Pat Williams, served as Montana’s distinguished Congressman for nine terms.
Whitney is a graduate of the University of Montana in Political Science and Wilderness and Native American studies. She lives in Missoula, Montana, where she serves on the Boards of Montana Conservation Voters and Carol’s List, and is a guest lecturer at the University of Montana.