Chair – Ambassador Charles A. Ray

Ambassador Charles A. Ray, a member of the Board of Trustees at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, served as U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of Zimbabwe. In addition, he was the first U.S. Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, opening the Consulate General there in 1998.

From 2006 to 2009, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs, responsible for DoD efforts to account for those missing in combat from World War II to the then current conflicts and for policy related to the rescue of personnel who become isolated, missing, or taken in service abroad.

During his diplomatic career, Mr. Ray served as deputy chief of mission in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and at consular posts in Guangzhou and Shenyang, China, and Chiang Mai, Thailand. He was diplomat-in-residence at the University of Houston during the 2005-2006 academic year; responsible for outreach and recruiting at colleges and universities in South Texas.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1982, he served 20 years in the United States Army, with postings in Europe and Asia, including two tours in Vietnam during the war. He retired in 2012 from the Foreign Service and is now engaged in consulting, public speaking, and writing. He is the author of more than 30 works of fiction and nonfiction, including a historical series about the Buffalo Soldiers, the African-American soldiers who served on the western frontier, and is the author of an Amazon best-selling mountain man adventure series. His nonfiction works include books and articles on management, leadership, international relations, and history.

Ray is currently a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Diplomacy, communications director for the Association of Black American Ambassadors, and a member of the board of the Cold War Museum.

In addition to his government service, Mr.Ray has worked as a newspaper/magazine journalist, photographer, and artist, and was editorial cartoonist for the Spring Lake (NC) News, a weekly newspaper in central North Carolina during most of the mid to late-1970s.

He has a B.S. in business administration from Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas; an M.S. in systems management from the University of Southern California; and an M.S. in national security strategy from the National Defense University. In 2001, he received the Thomas Jefferson Award from American Citizens Abroad (ACA) for his work in support of American business in southern Vietnam.



Alden Young is a 2023 Templeton Fellow in the Africa Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Alden is also the Vice Chair and an associate professor of the African American Studies Department and a faculty member of the International Development Studies program of the UCLA International Institute. A political and economic historian of Africa, he is the author of “Transforming Sudan: Decolonization, Economic Development and State Formation” (Cambridge University Press, 2017). Young is particularly interested in the ways in which Africans participated in the creation of the current international order and has research interests on both sides of the Red Sea. He has done extensive fieldwork in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Young’s current research project examines how Sudanese intellectuals and businessmen conceptualized the rise of the Arab Gulf beginning in the 1970s and built economic, political and labor relationships between Sudan and the Gulf region. He is also engaged in two collaborative research projects: a study of post-partition conflicts in the Horn of Africa (e.g., Sudan-South Sudan and Ethiopia-Eritrea) with political scientist Michael Woldemariam, and a study of East African ideas of federation. Along with Nathalie Puetz of NYU Abu Dhabi, Young has been awarded a research grant by the Social Science Research Council to conceptualize the Red Sea as a region of study.

A frequent contributor to international media outlets such as Al Jazeera, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy, Young is a non-resident fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and was a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study of Princeton University for the 2019–2020 term.

Mandira Bagwandeen is a Non-resident Senior Fellow in FPRI’s Africa Program. She has experience working at think tanks, in the corporate sector, and lecturing at universities in South Africa. Mandira is a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, and an alumna of Fudan University in China. She is also a Research Associate at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (Foundation for Strategic Research) in France, a Research Fellow at the Afro-Sino Centre of International Relations in Ghana, and a Research Contributor for the Nanyang Technical University-Singapore Business Federation (NTU-SBF) Centre for African Studies. Her research interests include, but are not limited to, China-Africa relations, Africa’s regional integration, infrastructure development on the continent, emerging powers and Africa, and African and Asian geopolitics.

Ned Rauch-Mannino is a Non-resident Senior Fellow in FPRI’s Africa Program. He is a former U.S. senior official with U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Agency for International Development, Ned Rauch-Mannino served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Operations and Senior Advisor for Global Markets to support U.S. commercial diplomacy worldwide. He contributed to U.S. policies and strategies on development finance, trade capacity building, private sector engagement, and global fragility, among other measures, as well as to the launch of multiple trade and investment programs and was a co-chair and secretariat member for the White House’s Prosper Africa initiative. Prior to his federal service, he directed government affairs, strategic consulting, and economic development in various roles, and lectured for Temple University’s Economics Department as an adjunct faculty. Today, Mr. Rauch-Mannino provides strategic consulting for economic security, energy, and natural resources, and sustainability initiatives. He is a Royal Geographical Society Fellow and serves on the Smithsonian-affiliate National Museum of Industry History Board of Directors. He earned his Master’s degree from Penn State University with field research in Kenya and undergraduate degrees from Temple University.

Michael Walsh is a Non-resident Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Africa Program.  He is a senior subject matter expert who regularly advises governments, humanitarian organizations, and think tanks on democracy, development, and security affairs. He currently serves as an Adjunct Fellow at Howard University, Program Advisor at the Center for African Studies, and Visiting Researcher at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. Walsh is a regular commentator on Africa affairs. Recent outlets include Center for Strategic and International Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, and European Consortium for Political Research.