For instance, the percentage of people in Togo who have mobile internet access has grown from 3 percent in 2012 to 49 percent in 2018, while the number of people who have internet service has grown tenfold since 2013. On financial inclusion, Lawson led two projects—Eco CCP (an interest-bearing mobile savings account that allows anyone with a mobile phone to open a bank account in seconds) and AgriPME (an electronic wallet for farmers that has revolutionized the disbursement of government subsidies to the most vulnerable Togolese farmers, making it possible for them to receive funds directly in their e-wallets to purchase fertilizer). “With AgriPME, we are ensuring that the fund is effectively managed and that the subsidies reach their beneficiaries securely and quickly,” says Lawson.
In a sense, Lawson had been preparing for this job her whole life. She grew up in Paris as the daughter of Togolese immigrants who had fled their homeland. “Because my dad was an opponent of the regime and we were exiles, we had lots of discussions about politics. But for me, it was about policy not politics—how do you do something to contribute to the public good?” she says.
She was studying at Institut d’etudes politiques de Paris/Sciences Po when one of her professors suggested that she continue her education at Harvard Kennedy School. Thanks to a scholarship from the Harvard Club of France, she was able to attend. “I loved the MPP program,” says Lawson.
She says that she valued her HKS education while she was in Cambridge, but that it was only later, as she was working in telecom, that she connected the dots. “My time at the Kennedy School was fundamental. It prepared me for the position I have today, but I had no idea of this at the time,” she says. MORE