Meet Semhar Araia

With nearly twenty years of experience, Semhar Araia is a recognized practitioner, organizer and advisor on diaspora engagement, African affairs, women's leadership and international development. Her work has helped to amplify diaspora contributions and elevate discourse on civil society, next generation leadership and diasporas in development.

Semhar has worked in a variety of public and private institutions, including UNICEF USA, United States Congress, Oxfam International, and Nelson Mandela’s organization, The Elders. She began her career as an attorney for the implementation of the 2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia peace agreement and served on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team.

Her presentations as a civil society stakeholder at major forums such as the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the United Nations International Organization for Migration, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the International Conference of Eritrean Studies, among others, have helped to elevate the global discourse on the role of diasporas in development.

In response to the growing demand for this field, Semhar established Semai Consulting, a private firm which provided leadership development training and resources for diaspora members and institutions. Prior to Semai, she founded DAWN, the Diaspora African Women’s Network, an organization whose mission is to support and help develop the next generation of African diaspora professional women focused on African affairs.

Semhar is a White House Champion of Change and an African Union Diaspora Awardee of the Year recognized for her diaspora organizing and community work.

She is featured in the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, as one of the profiles in the Next-Generation Voices exhibit.  Semhar was a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of USAID's Advisory Committee on Foreign Voluntary Aid (ACFVA).

She has been featured in the Financial Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Ventures Africa and other media outlets. Semhar was born in New York City to Eritrean immigrant parents and resides in New York City.


  • The Root's Top 100, 2009

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

  • African Union Diaspora Awardee, 2012

  • White House Champion of Change, 2012

  • Applause Africa Leadership Award, 2014

  • Term Member, Council on Foreign Relations, 2014

  • African Union Diaspora Technical Expert, 2016

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

  • Most Influential People of African Descent Awardee, 2018