New Student Series Part 2: Laho Bangoura

In our second edition of new-student introductions, I’d like everyone to welcome Laho Bangoura. He’s from the Republic of Guinea, and at just 32 years old, he became the youngest diplomat to obtain the title of Chief of Staff, with the rank of ambassador, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He hopes to use his SIPA degree to strengthen “Guinea’s voice and visibility in the world,” he says. Read the rest of his story below.

Full Name: Laho Bangoura
Program: Master of International Affairs
Concentration: International Security Policy
Specialization: International Organization & UN Studies
Anticipated Graduation Year: 2017
Hometown: Telemele, Republic of Guinea

Undergraduate university, major and graduation year:
Université de Poitiers, Poitiers (France), Master 2 in Law, Economics and Management, obtained in 2010
Université Gamal Abdel Nasser, Conakry (Guinea), Master in Computer Sciences, obtained in 2001

What’s your professional background?
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Guineans LIVING Abroad

  • Ambassador, Special Adviser to the Senior Minister, since 2014
  • Ambassador, Chief of Staff, from 2012 to 2014

High Commission for State Reform and Administration Modernization (HC-SRAM), Office of the President

  • Director of the Department of Administration Modernization, from 2009 to 2011

ETI-SA, Enterprise leader in new technologies in Guinea, first Internet Services Provider

  • Head of the Department of Products and Services, from 2007 to 2009
  • Networks and Information Systems Manager, from 2002 to 2007

Did you apply to SIPA to change careers or to gain experience in a career path you already have experience in?
I applied for MIA at SIPA to enhance my knowledge and experience in the field of my current work: Diplomacy.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted to SIPA?
I closed my office and I started to re-read the letter of admission to make sure I’m not dreaming. I made a prayer to give thanks to God. I then called some parents and friends who have supported and encouraged me while I was preparing my application.

Why did you say “yes” to SIPA?
Study at Columbia SIPA is a unique opportunity for anyone who wants to achieve a brilliant career at an international level. I can not imagine refusing an offer of admission to this prestigious school with very valuable assets.

What do you most look forward to as a graduate student at SIPA?
I look forward to master the areas of “International Security Policy” and “International Organization and United Nations Studies” to help effectively strengthening Guinea’s voice and visibility in the world.

Do you have any apprehensions about starting graduate school?
No.

[Photo courtesy of Laho Bangoura.]
Photo courtesy of Laho Bangoura.

What are your goals after SIPA?
After SIPA I plan to return to my country, to help reforming the Guinea’s multilateral diplomatic missions. In medium term I aim to hold a high ranking position working either with or for the United Nations in New York or Geneva.

If you could change one small thing about your community, country or the world, what would it be?
Remove barriers and borders between countries.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:
For more than ten years, in parallel of my professional career, I am engaged in active citizenship through Junior Chamber International (JCI). JCI is an organization whose purpose is to provide development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change. JCI has nearly 170,000 members around the world; these active citizens ages 18 to 40 are from over 120 countries and are engaged with 5,000 communities.

In this wonderful organization, I have held several positions responsibilities including JCI International Vice President assigned to Africa and the Middle East in 2010.

What started in 2010 as JCI Vice-president visiting countries under my jurisdiction and meeting authorities as “ambassador, special envoy” turned within three years into a real appointment as Chief of Staff, with the rank of ambassador, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thus, at 32 I became the youngest diplomat at this position and one of the top decision makers in the Guinean diplomacy.

If you’d like to participate in the series, please email us at sipa_new@columbia.edu to share your personal admissions story, what your summer vacation will entail/did entail, or anything else you think your peers would enjoy reading about! You may submit a blog post of your choosing, or submit the New Student Survey with pre-populated questions to get you started. And don’t forget to submit a photo or two to help us visualize your story! (And when your post is published, I’ll also tag you on social media if you include your profile URLs.)