Senior vice president of SEACOM, with more than 50 years of experience in international affairs.
Interview at UCLA Haskell Ward
Griffin, Georgia, where Haskell Sears Ward was born in 1940 is such an iconic small southern town that it has featured in several films, including Academy Award winners Driving Miss Daisy and Mississippi Burning, about the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers.
By then, Ward had become active in the civil rights movement himself, as a student at Clark College in Atlanta, 40 miles away. Shaped by the inequities he saw in segregated Griffin, he was also, in the way of small towns, taught personal responsibility. His pastor and sixth-grade teacher demoted him from head of the safety patrol when he slapped one of his patrol members. The shopkeeper for whom his mother worked as a maid – one of the few whites he knew before meeting his roommates in Peace Corps training at UCLA – fired him from his grocery delivery job when he skipped out to watch a parade.
The twin lessons that work is serious and that authority should not be abused have guided him ever since. He retains a fondness for Griffin, which has returned the affection. Today the street on which he grew up is called Haskell Ward Drive.
Ward’s 40 years of experience in public and international affairs reflect those early influences. Whether facilitating major African infrastructure investment projects or developing U.S. policy toward Africa at the State Department, he has been guided by a belief that building sustainable societies means addressing problems creatively and aggressively,through multiple means.
His engagements include serving as vice chair of the board of the Corporate Council on Africa, as chair of the American Cancer Society’s Global Health Advisory Board and as an advisor to the National Peace Corps Association. He has testified before the sub-committee on Africa and global health of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. Congress and is in demand as a speaker by business schools,universities and conferences.
Ward is married to Leah Ward Sears, an attorney who was the first woman and youngest person to sit on the Supreme Court of Georgia. In 2005, she became the first African American woman to be a Chief Justice in the United States.
For nearly a decade Ward was an officer in Global Alumina, a major energy and mining company. He was responsible for managing the company’s relationships with key government officials and non-governmental organizations including the United Nations, USAID and the World Bank,and he championed the company’s social investments in mining communities and along the railway lines that took ore to port.
Before his corporate work, he served under the Carter Administration’s Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. With the rank of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Ward was the responsible officer on the Policy Planning Staff for the development and oversight of the Department’s Africa policies. Following that, he served as Deputy Mayor of the City of New York in the administration of Edward Koch.
Dealing with the challenges and opportunities in urban America complemented a professional life in which Africa has remained the uniting thread. The year before joining one of the first Peace Corps groups and being posted to Ethiopia in 1963, Ward was a volunteer in Kenya with anon-governmental organization, Operation Crossroads Africa, for which he later became a staff member.
He subsequently worked for the Ford Foundation, in New York City and in Lagos, Nigeria, where he specialized in economic development programs and strategies for the Middle East and Africa. His 1989 book African Development Reconsidered explored the barriers to economic progress and the possibilities of surmounting them. His current work brings him full circle.
As Senior Vice President of SEACOM, he has cultivated the relationships among company officials,investors and regulators that enabled the firm in July of 2009 to launch the first sub-marine fiber optics system linking eastern and southern Africa with Europe and Asia. Widespread access to communications technologies will prove transformation moment for the continent Ward says – a way to directly address the inherent inequity of Africa’s marginalization, as well as a path towards prosperity.
The New Global Crossroads in Africa - November 2011
A Presentation on Non Communicable Diseases at the CCA - October 2010
African Business - A New Opportunity and Blueprint For America - February 2010