As part of the WHT newsletters we have decided to start running profiles on our alumni family from around the world. The purpose of this is to introduce our new scholars to some of the alumni and the interesting things they are involved in as well as to encourage alumni to remain interested and involved in the WHT community.

For this newsletter we focussed on some of our African alumni and the interesting paths they have travelled since graduating from Oxford. We hope you enjoy reading their profiles and their answers to some of the questions we asked them.

Onthathile Serehete

Botswana
International Health & Tropical Medicine (MSc), 2017
Keble College, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann

Upon leaving Oxford in September 2017, I chose to go back to clinical medicine and serve in a rural hospital in North West Province, South Africa. I worked mainly in HIV/AIDS care seeing a mostly young and either infected or affected population with limited access to very basic health resources. One of the greatest accomplishments was setting up an adolescent support group in our HIV clinic which helped in improving adherence to treatment. I continued to upskill myself and completed a post graduate diploma in HIV management from the College of Medicine South Africa in April 2018.

After a year in rural health, I married my best friend and moved to Pretoria where I sought clinical research opportunities in HIV to make the most of the skills learnt at Oxford. Currently I work in Mamelodi township as a Clinical research physician for a global research site organisation. We are participating in HIV vaccine trials as well as other therapeutic areas including cardiovascular, osteoarthritis and diabetes. We see over 300 research trial participants across 10 different clinical trials. This has been a great opportunity for me to not only continue working in HIV/AIDS of which I am passionate about but work in an environment that allows me to continually learn while lending a hand in finding solutions for current medical conditions and diseases.

How has the scholarship and leadership programme benefited/impacted your career to date and what does the programme as a whole mean to you?
What has really impacted my career is the CV writing workshop we had at Cumberland Lodge and the networking and communication skills that I developed. I learnt how to use every work or career function as a tool to position myself for my next career move, and really make professional relationships that live past the cocktails and polite chatter of the event. The CV workshop taught me tools I can use to make it easier to secure that interview spot and not have a CV that works against you and your next job.
WHT programme has meant a better me, it gave me the real-life skills that I did not know I needed, something not even an Oxford classroom could have taught me. It is thanks to the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust that a young Botswana girl like me can make it to the top university in the world and learn skills she can use to help make a small difference in making health advances in Africa.

What advice would you give to WHT scholars on making the most of their time at Oxford?
My advice to new scholars is to please immerse yourself in Oxford culture without losing yourself. Be fully present in Oxford and avail yourself for new and different experiences while being away from home. Create the memories that you will carry along with the degree in your hand long after leaving Oxford.
What most excites you about Africa at the moment?
I love Africa, it has great innovative potential because the challenges force you to come up with quite creative solutions and our generation needs to hone this advantage and create new opportunities to take Africa to new technological, industrial, and health heights. It is thanks to foundations such as the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust that a young Botswana girl like me can make it to the top university in the world and learn skills she can use to help make a small difference in making health advances in Africa.

Christopher Mathew

South Africa
Master of Business Administration (MBA), 2017
Trinity College, Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld-Hoffmann and Saïd

After completing my second masters, I returned home to join a South African hospital group as the Clinical Lead for their digitisation project. We’re in the process of creating the first fully digitised hospital in Africa. After months of hard work, 100-hour weeks and sleep-deprived days and nights, we began our pilot in September in our first hospital in Johannesburg. It’s going brilliantly, and we can already proudly say that we have changed healthcare in South Africa forever.
On the personal side, my wife and I have settled down into a beautiful home that we can call our own. We’ve grown our family, by adding a Great Dane puppy (not all that small though), and are glad to say we have another family member on the way – our first child is expected in December!

How has the scholarship and leadership programme benefited/impacted your career to date and what does the programme as a whole mean to you?
The scholarship has helped to open doors in various ways. First, the prestige of the programme has helped initiate conversations and “get a foot in the door” as it were. Secondly, the skills taught and the exposure of the leadership programme, helped to round off and diversify the learnings of my MBA, allowing me to apply it across a broader spectrum of environments. However, lastly and most importantly, it has helped me inspire countless others to pursue a dream of further education at Oxford. At least once every two months, someone new contacts me to discuss pursuing a dream at Oxford, one of which I helped with getting into the MBA programme this semester, and hopefully one or two more joining the ranks next year.

What do you miss most about Oxford?
Everything! The beautiful, memory-filled buildings, the amazing friends, the college dinners, the long summer days that went into the night, the libraries of your childhood dreams, and so much more.

What most excites you about Africa at the moment?
The excitement about Africa is what excites me. There is this feeling of hope and optimism, and everybody is looking on with wide-eyes to see what the future holds. I’m just glad I can be a part of it!

Samafilan Ainan

Tanzania/Somalia
Global Health Science (MSc), 2014
Green Templeton College, Louis Dreyfus

After completing my degree in Global Health Science at Oxford I worked in the humanitarian field focusing on the health sector. I initially worked in Liberia, West Africa during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and thereafter in Turkey on the Syrian conflict. I then went into Paediatric residency training and recently completed my training and I am now a specialist Paediatrician in Tanzania.
The Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust scholarship and leadership programme has made an immeasurable impact on my career to date. I gained a masters that propelled me into the Global Health field and opened the door to numerous opportunities.

The experience deepened my networks in academia, professionally and among fellow scholars enabling connections even beyond my time at Oxford. Furthermore, the opportunities offered to scholars particularly career talks, one-on-one conversations with recruiters and most importantly the moral and leadership seminar prepared me for the job market, future roles and leadership positions. The WHT programme means a great deal to me, not only did it support my studies and other scholars at Oxford but also invests in us throughout the duration of the scholarship and after, enabling us to make an impact in our communities and globally.

What is your fondest memory of your time at Oxford?
Really hard to pin down the fondest memory, one of the tops would be cycling down to The Isis and rowing at dawn, a picturesque start to the day.

What do you miss most about Oxford?
I miss the diverse group of talented individuals that I encountered daily; from classmates to fellow scholars to college mates you’d meet in the common room.

Joseph Ssentongo

Uganda
Master of Public Policy (MPP), 2016
Mansfield College, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann 

After graduating with a Master of Public Policy, I joined the Global Innovation Fund (GIF), a $200 million non-profit fund that invests in innovations helping people living on less than $5 a day in low- and middle-income countries. At GIF I am a Senior Director within the investment team in London where I bring analytics perspectives on themes of vital relevance to Africa including rural livelihoods, urban poverty, and health. I help GIF make evidence-informed investments by challenging the underpinning development theories and measuring the social impact of our portfolio.

The WHT programme equipped me with a vital leadership toolkit. The pre-eminent intellectual and leadership programme offered me lifelong leanings that help me continuously grow professionally. Furthermore, the opportunities for mentorship as well as interactions with past and present scholars form an essential support network of global leaders that I am proud to be a part of.

What advice would you give to WHT scholars on making the most of their time at Oxford?
You are at Oxford because you are brilliant, so my advice is that you spend the appropriate time focused on academic work but also invest in discovering people, culture and values.

What is your fondest memory of your time at Oxford?
The fondest memory of my time at Oxford was undoubtedly the birth of my daughter Joelle.

What most excites you about Africa at the moment?
The most exciting thing about Africa is the vibrancy of its youth and renewed ambition to chart its own course!

Ida Githu

Kenya
Water Science, Policy and Management (MSc), 2015
Wolfson College, Louis Dreyfus

After graduating from Oxford, I joined EED Advisory Ltd as a WASH Specialist and I now hold the position of Senior Manager. EED is a Pan-African consulting company offering technical, analytical and advisory services in water, energy and climate change based in Nairobi, Kenya. In this capacity, I’ve had the opportunity to lead and manage multiple projects that have allowed me to travel extensively around Kenya and within the region (including to Somalia).

Besides work, I enjoy the outdoors and hiking provides the perfect way to appreciate Kenya’s diverse terrain. I have hiked most of the Aberdare Range hiking trails, summited Lenana Peak on Mt Kenya (2017) and summited Uhuru Peak on Mt. Kilimanjaro (2018).

How has the scholarship and leadership programme benefited/impacted your career to date and what does the programme as a whole mean to you?
Pursuing my studies at Oxford would most likely have been impossible without this scholarship and as such, it helped set a foundation for my career within the water sector. The Moral Philosophy seminars that are part of the WHT programme introduced me to the world of Classics, something I enjoy to this day and that influences my analysis of today’s moral dilemmas. The WHT programme was thus an opportunity for both career and personal growth.

What do you miss most about Oxford?
All the extremely informative sessions that happen across the city, on a variety of topics / issues. Also, the uniqueness of formal dinners, punting and Bops.

What advice would you give to WHT scholars on making the most of their time at Oxford?
There is a lot that goes on at the University beyond course requirements. Take time to experience the diversity of Oxford – debates, dance lessons, food, college activities, etc. Also, a year goes by fast!

What most excites you about Africa at the moment?
The youth of Africa. This is a group that has embraced technology, is very innovative and has an eagerness to change Africa’s narrative for the better.

Cedric Maforimbo

Zimbabwe
Biodiversity, Conservation and Management (MSc), 2018
Linacre College, Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann

Since graduating from Oxford, I have continued to work on the Weeds to Pesticide project which spun out of my participation in the WHT Enterprise Challenge. I was selected to present this work in the Sustainable Goals Tent at the 2019 World Economic Forum, as part of a WHT delegation, thanks to the generous support of Mr Andre Hoffmann. I have since obtained endorsement for the project from the University of Oxford.

I have also joined one of the WHT scholarships’ funding partners, the Louis Dreyfus Foundation (LDF). My work with LDF entails baseline, diagnostic studies on rural smallholder farmers in Zambia and South Africa, and the design of appropriate and effective livelihood projects for these farmers, with women and youth empowerment being the principal focus of the projects.

How has the scholarship and leadership programme benefited/impacted your career to date and what does the programme as a whole mean to you?
The scholarship afforded me chance to study a course that supplemented my knowledge and skill in biodiversity science with that of the social facets of this field, which I needed in order to develop into a well-rounded harmoniser of humans and nature. This made me attractive to organisations such as WHT’s funding partner, the Louis Dreyfus Foundation (with whom I currently work) who work at this interface i.e. agro-ecology. Working with LDF also became a chance to give back to the organisation.

The WHT Enterprise Challenge challenged me to think outside the box, and this allowed me to develop the novel Weeds to Pesticide Project, which turns a pernicious problem into a poverty alleviation and nature conservation tool. To me, the WHT programme is, in short, a tried and tested incubator for maverick change agents.

What is your fondest memory of your time at Oxford?
My fondest memory is the WHT Practical Skills Seminar at Cumberland Lodge, which was an opportunity to hone our communication skills coated in what felt like a family vacation of good times.

What advice would you give to WHT scholars on making the most of their time at Oxford?
The value of the Oxford opportunity lies more in the relationships and networks that you stand to build, than in anything else. Hence, attend events and engage, engage and engage!

What most excites you about Africa at the moment?
Africa possesses enormous potential, given its rich natural resources and abundance of manpower, and the many opportunities that exist to adapt innovations that have been implemented in high income countries to Africa.

About the Scholar

Alan Clarke

Ghana
Master of Business Administration (MBA), 2019
Kellogg College, Oxford
Weidenfeld-Hoffmann-Saïd/Chevening Scholar
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