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The Opportunity of a Lifetime… a Lifetime of Opportunity: A Conversation With Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation President-Elect Jane Hale Hopkins



Jane Hale Hopkins (right) will succeed J. Mark Davis as president of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation later this year.


“From an early age, I knew I wanted my profession to be a calling of purpose,” says Jane Hale Hopkins, president-elect of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. “I went to a liberal arts college where training of the heart, as well as training of the mind, was preached and prioritized.”


Jane Hale Hopkins

Hopkins, who will succeed J. Mark Davis later this year, joined the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation in 2001 as a finance manager. She’d spent time in New York City after college working on a master’s in public administration from NYU and co-founding a nonprofit called Serve It Up, a community service-minded network of young professionals. The Lexington, Kentucky native was eyeing a return to her native South when she launched a job search in the pre-social media, pre-smartphone era.

“I remember going to the New York Public Library every Sunday afternoon to get on a computer and access the weekly job blast from the Southeastern Council of Foundations,” she recalls. “There were always jobs in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, but eventually one came up at a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta.”

Davis was especially impressed with Hopkins’ involvement with Serve it Up, which aligned with the mission of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. They met in New York on Nov. 7, 2000, the night of the infamous Bush/Gore presidential election.

“I remember being really excited after the interview, then coming home and sitting up all night watching the results come in on TV,” she said.

She had the job a few weeks later and, over the last 17 years, she has worked to develop an influential community of socially conscious and service-minded Coca-Cola Scholar leaders who share a passion for making a difference. Now, she’s poised to take over the reins in a milestone year as the Foundation celebrates its 30thclass.

We spoke with Hopkins ahead of the third-annual Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit in Atlanta to learn more about her vision for the future of the Foundation.


Jane with Harvard Scholars

Hopkins (second from left) with Coca-Cola Scholars at Harvard University.

Why is now an exciting time to be stepping into this role?

This is truly an opportunity of a lifetime. Winning the Coca-Cola Program scholarship is an opportunity of a lifetime for a high school senior. From there, it’s also finding and identifying equally incredible opportunities throughout your lifetime like this one. We’re at a really special place in the history of the Foundation. We’ve been doing this for 30 years and have stayed true to our mission to reward future leaders in the communities where we do business with a four-year college scholarship. But what Mark started was this idea of building a community. The scholarship is really important, of course, but it’s also the ongoing engagement we provide. Coke Scholars are all extraordinary individuals. But together as a network, they become a really powerful catalyst for positive change. That’s why we not only identify the brightest minds in the country, but take steps to nurture those relationships over the years. And now, 30 years in, we have a network of 6,000 Scholars.

What will be your initial priorities?

We’re embarking on a journey from a transactional organization to a transformational organization. We’re thinking really intentionally about how we want to continue to show up in these leaders’ lives. We’re developing a roadmap for how Scholars engage with the Foundation to ensure we’re meeting them where they are throughout their lives. We want to clearly articulate what Scholars can expect to get and what they can expect to give back.

When we bring Scholars to Atlanta every April for Scholars Weekend, we do a full Leadership Development Institute. We teach four key values of leadership: self-awareness, empathy, inspiration, and vision. The idea is to teach them a leadership framework from the inside out, so they’re reflecting on themselves or understanding themselves. We bring in 30 Scholar alumni to teach the curriculum. It becomes a check-in for them – to ensure the values that were important to them as high school seniors and that helped them win the scholarship continue to show up as they evolve. We want to continue to be a reminder of those values as they leave college and embark on their careers and start families.

We also will spend time identifying strategic partners around the country and world to help us advance our mission. Finally, we want to intertwine Coca-Cola Scholars more closely with our brands in ways our company and bottlers can pick up on easily.


Scholars Group

Hopkins with Scholars at the 2016 Coca-Cola Scholars Service Summit in Austin, Texas.

What sets the Coca-Cola Scholars Program apart from other scholarships?

A competitive advantage for us is the sense of family. At Coca-Cola, the people truly make the magic. And I think we’ve been able to extend that magic to our community of Scholars. Mark always says, “We want to be part of their lives as long as they’ll have us.”

How do you measure success of the Coca-Cola Scholars Program?

For some scholarship programs, retention or graduation rates are the primary measures of success. For us, we select 150 of the brightest minds in the country. They graduate. So from there, you start thinking about how to define network strength and influence. And I’m not sure that we’ve totally figured out how to do that yet. We got some really good data from an impact survey we did about a year ago. For example, over 80 percent of the Scholars we surveyed said the Scholars community is one of the top three professional networks they belong to. Engagement is another key metric for us. We want to keep as many Scholars connected to the community long after they graduate.

How would you describe your leadership style?

My goal with everyone is to connect each person on our team with their purpose and help make others better even when I’m not around. I’m not an overly hands-on leader… I’m very trusting. We have a great team committed to the values we’ve instituted within the Leadership Development Institute. Personally, I’m always on a quest to learn more about myself and continually reinvent myself and show up as a better version in my life. That’s really important to me. I’m an avid reader and journaler, and I’m very disciplined in my athletic endeavors. I run and practice Pilates and hot yoga – which all helps keep the snakes out of my head.

Tell us about the third-annual Coca-Cola Scholars Leadership Summit that kicked off yesterday and runs through the weekend.

The goal is to bring Scholars together in a way that inspires them to bring positive change to their communities. We’re expecting around 450 Scholars this weekend. We’ll have a mix of outside speakers and Scholars, and several breakout sessions. Anytime we put this many Scholars in a room, we like to say magic happens. All of our lives are elevated. So it’s a chance for them to learn from each other, hear about what others are doing in their communities, and hopefully leave inspired to take action.


-Coca-Cola Company

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Sahara Group Leverages Transformative Innovation For Sustainable Performance



Sahara Group Team (Source: Sahara Group)

Sahara Group, an Energy Conglomerate has released its 2019 Sustainability Report which reflects its commitment to achieving its corporate goals and creating shared value for stakeholders through economic development, protection of the environment and building a sustainable society.

Tagged ‘Transformative Innovation’, the report highlights how Sahara continues to leverage innovation and technology in achieving its corporate goals and sustainability ambitions across its businesses in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Director, Governance and Sustainability, Sahara Group, Pearl Uzokwe, said the Group had continued to foster partnerships and initiatives that have co-created a desirable future through innovation.

Uzokwe said: “We have aligned our business operations within our entities with the demands and expectations of our changing world – digitization – which in turn increases our competitive advantage for sustainable growth. Beyond measuring our performance in numbers and outcome, we have raised our lever of sustainability excellence by committing to more strategic partnerships and setting targets to achieve sustainable development from the micro to global scale.”

She said Sahara had aligned its operations and processes in furtherance of the urgent global transition to cleaner energy and low-carbon solutions. *Sahara entered an MoU with the United Nations Development Programme in 2019 to provide access to affordable and sustainable energy in sub-Saharan Africa. This is in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 7. During the year, we were pivotal to the success of the United Nations Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) and joined hands with other stakeholders in  advancing the mission of the African Influencers for Development (AI4Dev), World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) and other institutions in providing a better quality of life to the world.”

According to Uzokwe, Sahara launched its Green Life Initiative in 2019 in line with its commitment to fostering sustainable environments via the protection of the environment, promotion of a circular economy and recycling of waste within and outside our business. “Among other activities, we established a Recycling Exchange Hub in the Ijora Oloye community and executed upcycling vocational training for the conversion of tyres to usable products. In delivering more environmentally friendly fuels, we committed to complying with the African Refiners & Distributors Association (ARA) standards – the only pan-African organization for the African downstream oil sector – in 2019, as we expanded our investment in the supply of cleaner energy in the form of gas, particularly LPG’” she added.

Sahara is a foremost provider of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in Africa through West Africa Gas Limited, a joint venture with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). WAGL operates two 38,000 cbm LPG vessels, MT Africa Gas and Sahara Gas that are driving LPG access, security, and stability in Africa. Both vessels have supplied approximately 500,000 MT of LPG across regional markets since their acquisition in 2017. Sahara Group’s 2019 Sustainability Report reflects our economic, social, and environmental activities from January 1 to December 31, 2019. The report is our fifth sustainability report, and our fourth report written in line with the GRI standard. The 2019 Sustainability Report has been organized and presented in accordance with the Sustainability Reporting Standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The guidelines seek to achieve consistency amongst corporations reporting on their sustainability activities.

Please click here to access the sustainability report.

Sahara Group


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The Mansaray Foundation Story- Saibatu Mansaray



Saibatu Mansaray, Founder at The Mansaray Foundation (Source: The Mansaray Foundation)

In September 1997, I lost my aunt. In May 2008, I lost another aunt.

My Aunt, a proud Sierra Leone native, and mother of four, was delivering twins when she suffered a postpartum hemorrhage that not only took her life but also the life of one of her twins. This was in 1997, when my aunt and her baby were lost forever. Her five surviving beautiful children were forced to grow up without their mother. After 23 years, this loss still feels like it was only yesterday and for many more families in my home country, it very well could have been yesterday, or even today.

My family was again forced to endure the aftermath of this crisis in 2008, when a second aunt died from childbirth complications. She, too, went to deliver my beautiful cousin and succumbed to postpartum hemorrhage. Three more cousins of mine were now without their mother: left to navigate life without her loving guidance.

Sierra Leone is an amazing place with incredible people where losses like this have sadly become commonplace. My people, as foreign as it may seem to the outside world, fear childbirth.

When both of my aunts died, my uncles never remarried. They both raised my cousins without a wife, but they were never alone. Our family and the local community rallied to help. The sacrifice, resilience, and the sense of community that Sierra Leonean – and Africans as a whole – have for one another should warrant everyone’s admiration. But they need more, they need all of us to fight with them to affect change and save lives.

Ninety-four percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries like Sierra Leone with 830 women dying every day, and an estimated 300,000 deaths annually around the world from preventable causes. My aunts were two of these women.

They are both just statistics now, but to me, their husbands, and their surviving children they are so much more. While I do not know each of these 830 women who die each day, I know they have families. They have children who love them dearly and will forever miss and long for their mothers.

The maternal deaths are staggering worldwide, but unfortunately most of Africa is far more impacted than the rest of the world.

Women in Africa have, on average, many more pregnancies than women in developed countries, and their lifetime risk of death is higher. Due to African women bearing children at an early age, their lifetime risk of maternal death is extremely high and equates to the probability that a 15 year old girl will eventually die from a maternal cause. In high income countries, this is 1 in 5,400, versus 1 in 45 in low-income countries.

Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than other women. In Sierra Leone, if we do nothing to change our unfortunate circumstances, 6% of our 15-year-old girls will die from maternal causes sometime in the future. Maternal deaths are common in rural and poorer communities and as it stands today, 1 in 75 births in Sierra Leone results in the death of a woman.

The five countries where a woman is most likely to die in a given pregnancy are Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, and South Sudan. As a continent, countries like Egypt, Morocco, and Libya have demonstrated that we can lower the maternal death rates.
Our beloved Mother Africa is suffering most from a health crisis that is preventable and we must all band together in order to solve this rather unfortunate inordinate number of African maternal deaths.

The Mansaray Foundation begins its work in Sierra Leone, but we envision our work spreading throughout West Africa where we are among the highest maternal mortality rates worldwide. Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rates in the world but the maternal deaths in Liberia, Guinea, Gambia and Nigeria are unsettling.

The main factors that prevent women from receiving or seeking care during pregnancy and childbirth are poverty, distance to facilities, lack of information, as well as inadequate and poor quality of care.

In Sierra Leone, the foundation will focus its efforts on improving access to quality care and ensuring the rural clinics are properly resourced.

We will utilize a simple, scalable and sustainable health-systemic approach to prevent maternal mortality, promote maternal health, and prolong the quality of life of rural women in Sierra Leone through multi-stakeholder partnerships that is in line with global best practices.

Our goal is to help lead Sierra Leone from the highest maternal mortality rate globally, to the lowest five in Africa.

I look forward to returning to Sierra Leone and embarking upon a journey to address and combat Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality crisis, work tirelessly on youth and women’s empowerment efforts and strongly support local innovative and development opportunities for Mother Africa.

Our efforts must begin here, by sharing the stories of those we have lost. If you have a loss to share or would like to join the #fightforourmothers, reachout on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn: @TheMansarayFdn.

We call on the pioneers, the innovators, and the educators, the global health leaders, big tech, journalists and supply chain experts to join us in this fight. Mother Africa needs you, join us:

Visit us The Mansaray Foundation

Email us

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

Author: Saibatu Mansaray is the President and Founder of The Mansaray Foundation and Host of The Saibatu Mansaray Journey podcast. Mansaray’s life and career has been dedicated to public service seeking to effect positive change in the world and making her home country and the people of Sierra Leone proud. She works now to highlight the community and speak out on the issues and challenges we in the African community face. The Mansaray Foundation initiative is the latest step in the long line of public service by Sierra Leone-native Saibatu Mansaray, a retired United States Army officer after 23-years of service and two tours of duty to Iraq.

Mansaray served as a White House Physician Assistant and Tactical Medical Officer to President Obama and Vice President Biden followed by Director of Medical Operations and Military Aide to two Vice Presidents. Upon retiring, Mansaray joined Vice President Pence’s team as his Director of Advance. Her final assignment was as a White House senior executive and Assistant Director for Public Health at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.


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Wildu du Plessis: Commitment to sustainability opening doors to post-pandemic capital in Africa



Wildu du Plessis, Head of Africa, Baker McKenzie (Image source: Baker McKenzie)

The industrials, manufacturing and transport (IMT) sector is being hit hard by COVID-19 disruption, but commitment to sustainability could very well lead the sector to recovery. This is according to Baker McKenzie’s report “Sustainable Success: Exploring environmental, social and governance priorities for industrials through COVID-19 and beyond” which revealed that industrialshave taken great leaps forward in relation to environmental, social and governance matters (ESG) in the past decade.  The report outlines how CEOs in the sector have signed up to a new holistic definition of company purpose and most public companies now report on ESG goals. Access to funding is also becoming intricately linked to a commitment to ESG principles, with industrials looking at sustainability initiatives as a way to source capital for projects in Africa.

According to the report, the economic challenges and the huge changes that have turned the world upside down in 2020 cannot be ignored, but the fundamental imperative to embed and prioritise ESG remains — and is arguably more important than ever as the fragility of the world’s current systems and norms is revealed.

The report found that sustainability can be used as a lever of recovery and competitive advantage, where companies proactively consider ESG issues as part of their COVID-19 response and decision-making. Connecting sustainability and business models more closely offers industrials the opportunity to reimagine supply chains, production and revenue streams — the basis for long-term reinvention and success. As such, sustainability is set to be a powerful guiding principle of COVID-19 recovery and a source of advantage for IMT companies. In the fight for post-pandemic capital in Africa, embracing sustainability provides a valuable edge for African industrials. Funding in some areas is already contingent on meeting certain global ESG standards and other investors have followed this lead — requiring documented, planned policies and processes in relation to ESG before investing

Access to capital will be critical to corporate recovery and in ensuring that key industrial and infrastructure projects in Africa can continue. Africa’s leaders have been assessing how best to mobilise capital from local savings pools, shore up development finance from various development finance institutions like the International Finance Corporation, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, and direct capital raised via green bonds towards qualifying projects. 

The market for green and sustainable bonds is set to expand further in the coming years and industrials in Africa are likely beneficiaries of the capital raised. The African Development Bank (AfDB) Green Bond programme, for example, facilitates the bank’s green growth policy by providing capital for eligible climate change projects. Investors are able to finance climate change initiatives via green bonds, which is then allocated to eligible projects.

Green bonds are gaining in popularity across Africa and the larger economies of sub-Saharan Africa have all embraced this.  In 2019, Kenya set up the legal framework and rules for the launch of its first green bond on the Nairobi Securities Exchange,  with the aim of raising capital for green transport, water and energy infrastructure projects in the country. The country announced in 2020 that it planned to issue its first diaspora bond for green infrastructure projects this year, so that Kenyans living abroad could be given the opportunity to participate in the country’s post pandemic recovery via investments in sustainable projects.

Nigeria was the first African country to issue a Sovereign Green Bonds in 2017 and launched its the Green Bond Market Development Programme a year later. The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) Green Bond Market is a platform for green bonds in the country and four bonds are listed on the platform. Late last year, the NSE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Luxembourg Stock Exchange to promote cross-listing and trading of green bonds in Nigeria and Luxembourg, with Access Bank’s Green Bond the first to be listed on both exchanges.


In South Africa, in an effort to drive investment and make it easier to list and trade sustainability-linked instruments, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) launched a sustainability segment for green bonds in June this year. In July 2020, the African Development Bank invested ZAR 2 billion in Africa’s first Sustainable Development Goals-linked bonds (SDG bonds), which were issued by Nedbank and listed on the newly launched green bonds segment of JSE. This bond issuance is expected to create jobs, promote SMEs run by members of under-represented groups in the country, and act as a catalyst for green projects.

Post pandemic, IMT initiatives in Africa are expected to have a heightened focus on improving Africa’s capacity for green, low-carbon and sustainable development, via, for example, clean energy, community healthcare, green transport, sustainable water, wildlife protection and low-carbon development projects. Wildu du Plessis believes a commitment to ESG principles is clearly taking centre stage in the quest for post pandemic funding, with access to capital for large industrial projects now likely to contain sustainability requirements.

Article by: Wildu du Plessis, Head of Africa, Baker McKenzie

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