Meet Our CEO - Semhar Araia

Semhar Araia is the Founder and CEO of The Diaspora Academy, an online diaspora leadership and engagement institute dedicated to strengthening and supporting diaspora changemakers worldwide, and the Diaspora African Women's Network (DAWN), a U.S.-based advisory firm and global network supporting clients and partners focused on diaspora contributions to global development with a gender-equity lens.

With over two decades of public policy and advocacy experience, Semhar is a recognized thought leader, public speaker and practitioner on diaspora engagement, African affairs, women's leadership and international development.  She has advised multiple public and private entities, including governments, international organizations and over 100 African, Asian, European and Arab diasporas to help drive transformational change across various industries.   

Previously, Semhar established and led Meta’s Diaspora Public Policy team for Africa, Middle East and Turkey, guiding the company on its global policy priorities for diaspora engagement. Prior to that, she led diaspora partnerships at UNICEF USA, and public policy 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 presented before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, International Organization for Migration, Concordia Summit, and the International Conference of Eritrean Studies, among others.  She has been recognized for her leadership 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 was most recently profiled 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 Awardee, 2012

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

  • The Root's Top 100, 2009




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