In Nairobi, Kenya, the streets are full of people seeking change. “They simply want a better life,” says Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa, “the same as other people.”
Musiitwa knows this because she works among these change-seekers. As the head of Hoja Law Group, based in New York and Kigali, Rwanda, she helps governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations navigate political, corporate and intellectual property law. She also leads Transitional Trade, a nonprofit promoting social trade and investment in post-conflict countries and transitional communities.
Both enterprises put Musiitwa on the front lines of social change, partnering with community leaders, innovators and local residents. She has advised the director general of the World Trade Organization and the Rwandan Justice Ministry. She has earned recognition from the Aspen Institute, the World Economic Forum and the African Leadership Institute. But without Davidson, it might not have been so. As a Bonner Scholar, she was immersed in a community dedicated to serving others. And through the Dean Rusk International Studies Program, Musiitwa learned the value of diverse, global perspectives. “Opportunities for experiential learning took me out of my comfort zone and helped me find my place in the world,” she says.
These days, Musiitwa notices a buzz around Nairobi. “People are trying new things, using technology to start conversations with leaders,” she says. That’s the kind of change Musiitwa embraces — change that starts within.
More from Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa
How she defines game changer
“A game changers are people who dare to do things differently, to take risks, because of the change they want to see in society. They want to change minds, and change the way things are done, and they are willing to risk speaking truth to power.” “When I think of game changers traditionally, I think of Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela – but increasingly, the game changers I see and deal with are young entrepreneurs, mostly in the tech space, seeking solutions to critical problems within this society. They’re coming up with mobile apps to help farmers in agriculture, finding ways to aggregate data in order to advise policymakers, developing mobile apps that serve as payment systems. From my perspective, these game changers are younger and not necessarily putting themselves at risk, but they’re doing innovative things to solve social problems.”
Formative Davidson experiences
“The Dean Rusk International Studies Program brought in different speakers from around the world and provided grant money to allow us to travel. It set my whole Davidson experience apart. I was able to travel to interesting countries that I wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. I went so many places by the time I was 20 — it changed how I viewed the world and eventually determined my life path. I went to Davidson pre-med, but after travel and experiences with professors, I thought: Wait a minute, there’s more to life than labs. The Dean Rusk program allowed me to create my own ideas about the world and find my place in it.”
“As a Bonner Scholar, I did a community service project per semester and read a lot on the subject of service. The process required lots of self-analysis – finding a cause, a purpose. It was very objective – who are you as a person, what are your skills, what can you do?”
On the value of liberal arts
“There is always banter back and forth about the applicability of liberal arts, but for what I’m doing, it makes sense. At Davidson, I studied many things that didn’t seem relevant at the time, but the experience made me really well rounded, and it helps me today when I’m doing policy work. When I’m sitting in a room of leaders in their 50s I can say, yes, I read that book and I had many of the conversations we’re having now – when I was 19.”
Davidson’s lasting impact
“The concept of the Honor Code has stuck with me the most. At first, I thought it was a bit of a hoax: If I leave my laptop on the lawn, no one will take it. Really? But learning that Davidson was a safe place restored my faith in the goodness of humanity. I’ve relied on that trust a lot since Davidson — working on a prosecution team in Sierra Leone, reviewing witness reports about atrocities committed. My Davidson experience reminded me that there are good places in the world, even though terrible things are happening elsewhere.”
“Davidson encouraged me to believe that, if we put down basic rules, we can live together more peacefully in the world. There are schools now across Africa, like the African Leadership Academy, that are starting to cultivate the idea of an honor code. If enough people are ingrained with those values, we will start to see those changes.”
“Right now, rules are bent a bit depending on who comes to the table. The challenge we have as voters is selecting the right leaders who are held accountable and make the right decisions. It’s a circle of responsibility – leaders and citizens – to make sure rules serve the greater good.”
“I may pursue a leadership role in a corporation or an international organization. I started out very idealistic, working with NGOs. Moving from there, I thought about how I could affect the most people possible. That’s why I moved into law. Now I feel that big change needs to happen in job creation – in the movement of money. The next step in Africa is making sure the investments coming in are good investments — not those that create more disservice to people. I don’t want people to come here, make money and then leave. The next stage of development is value addition, and I want to make sure I’m with an organization that can add value here on the ground. We have to be able to generate money here, grow brands here, and generate jobs here with enterprises that feel like they are part of the ‘rising Africa’ story.”
How are we cultivating more game changers like Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa?
Learn about the campaign priorities.
Recommend a Game Changer
Do you know a member of the Davidson community—alumnus or alumna, faculty or staff member, current student who has championed positive change— in family, community or world? If so, we invite you to nominate a game changer. Davidson will follow up to tell the story.