Senior Associate – Infrastructure & Information and Communication Technologies, Export Development Canada
Bachelor of Arts, African Studies (’11)
Megan Malone’s interest in Africa began in high school, as she learned the family history and enjoyed the culture and food of her African friends.
Upon graduation, she pursued a degree in international studies with the idea of working in international development. However, shortly after she started her program at the University of Ottawa, she found it didn’t quite resonate with her experience of the rich culture she had encountered in her friends’ homes.
“The focus was on providing aid to failed states, and while that is very important, it just didn’t feel like the right fit for me,” recalls Ms. Malone. “I wanted to work on something that focused on growth—that was slightly more pro-active.”
That’s when she heard about the newly established Institute of African Studies at Carleton University. The undergraduate program offered a broader focus on Africa as a region with subjects covering not only development, but politics, history, and economics. Additionally, the program offered placement opportunities with local organizations working on African issues.
“I was fortunate to land an opportunity to work at the Africa Bureau of the then-Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) through the African Studies course placement option. It was there where I found my niche,” she recalls. “I was introduced to a business approach to development in emerging markets and I loved that you could see a real return on investment there.”
Ms. Malone says her interest in business and economic growth was embraced by her professors and peers within African Studies, especially the Institute’s director at the time, Professor Blair Rutherford.
“It was wonderful because the professors had all lived and worked in the field and continued to do research in African countries,” she recalls. “They have a strong passion for the continent and brought real life experiences into the classroom.”
They also encourage their students to visit the continent. Ms. Malone’s first visit was to the West African country of Ghana.
“Ghana was completely different than what I was expecting. The country is of course very hot, cities are quite loud and the culture and lifestyle were quite different,” she recalls. “Until you go to the continent, you have no idea.”
After graduation, Ms. Malone earned a graduate certificate in International Business Management, which helped her qualify for an internship in Rwanda, funded by the then-Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It was a nine-month posting with the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) working on a project aimed at increasing the production and marketing capacity of local rice and maize cooperatives.
“It was a great introduction to the cultural nuances of another country. For instance, I could ask farmers how much money they make, but not how many cows they owned,” she recalls. “I learned a lot about doing business in a different culture.”
Today, Ms. Malone applies that learning to her current role at Export Development Canada (EDC). She learns about Canadian exporters in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Infrastructure sectors, and matches their capabilities with global opportunities.
She says the contacts she developed throughout the African Studies program at Carleton were invaluable.
“In terms of a career, the Institute opened so many doors for me,” says Ms. Malone. “It’s such a good network of people and they presented me with a number of opportunities that allowed me to move forward.”