Meet Our CEO - Semhar Araia

As the CEO and founder of The Diaspora Academy, Semhar Araia is a recognized thought leader, strategic advisor and policy practitioner on diaspora engagement, African affairs, women's leadership and global development.  She has been named one of the Most Influential People of African Descent, and is the recipient of global awards and honors for her work. 

Semhar built and led the Diaspora Public Policy at Meta (formerly known as Facebook) for the Africa, Middle East and Turkey Public Policy team. She also led UNICEF USA's diaspora partnerships, building philanthropic partnerships with diaspora organizations. Her earlier roles include serving as a public policy advisor at Oxfam International, the US House of Representatives and Nelson Mandela’s organization, The Elders. A lawyer by training, Semhar began her career as an attorney for the implementation of the 2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia peace agreement.

Semhar has testified as an expert witness to the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and the United Nations ECOSOC.  She has delivered remarks before the International Organization for Migration, Concordia Summit, and the International Conference of Eritrean Studies, among others. 

Semhar is a recognized leader and pioneer. She was honored by President Barack Obama as a White House Champion of Change, The Root's Top 100 list, OkayAfrica’s Top100 Women, and MIPAD’s list of Top 100 Most Influential People of African Descent. Semhar is also recognized as one of the five individuals in the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture's Next-Generation Voices exhibit and in her University of Saint Thomas alma mater magazine. 

Semhar is a former Council on Foreign Relations Term Member and previously served on USAID's Advisory Committee on Foreign Voluntary Aid (ACFVA). She has been featured in the Financial Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Ventures Africa, AfroElle, and other media outlets. Semhar was born in New York City to Eritrean immigrant parents and resides in Washington, D.C.



  • The Links International Trends and Services Awardee, 2022

  • OkayAfrica Top 100 Women, 2018

  • Most Influential People of African Descent Awardee, 2018

  • Member, USAID Advisory Committee for Foreign Voluntary Aid, 2016

  • African Union Diaspora Technical Expert, 2016

  • Term Member, Council on Foreign Relations, 2014

  • Applause Africa Leadership Award, 2014

  • White House Champion of Change, 2012

  • African Union Diaspora African Forum Awardee, 2012

  • Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Foreign Policy Women on Twitter, 2012

  • The Root's Top 100, 2009

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