Simi Nwogugu, CEO, JA Africa

Simi Nwogugu is CEO of JA Africa. In 1999, it was Simi’s vision that brought JA to Nigeria. Born and raised in Nigeria, she was first introduced to JA during her time working at Goldman Sachs in New York City. Impressed by the organization, she quit her lucrative private-sector job at age 24 to move home to start up JA operations in 1999. Today, JA Nigeria has grown to become one of the strongest JA offices in Africa, reaching 1 million youth across 36 states in Nigeria.

Simi embodies the values of JA, showing the boundless potential of young people. When she founded JA Nigeria in 1999, dictator Sani Abacha had just died, leaving a damaged education system and an economy in recession. 

Simi believed JA was exactly what the country needed to inspire and educate young people to become change agents for Nigeria’s future. For three years, she set to work building JA operations in Nigeria, while also building a culture of philanthropy among organization partners and a culture of volunteering among individuals.

Simi went back to the U.S. in 2002 to attend Harvard Business School, but she continued to serve as a board member for JA Nigeria, bringing programs from Harvard to JA, including the Venture in Management Program. In 2016, she returned to the role of Executive Director, building digital and out-of-school youth programs that enabled the organization to reach underserved populations in the North even during the Boko Haram crisis and COVID-19 pandemic

Simi became CEO of JA Africa in 2020, and since then has brought her abundance of talent, intelligence, and passion to the entire region, expanding JA operations to 16 countries in Africa by 2023 and with a mission to expand to 20 countries by 2025.