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By way of introduction, my name is Damian Oakes. I completed my undergraduate studies in International Relations and French. Thereafter, I completed an Honours degree in French. During my post graduate studies, I completed a language immersion programme in France during which I worked as a language assistant teaching English as a foreign language at Lycée Gabriel Fauré in Annecy, France. I completed my Masters’ degree in Interpreting and Translation (French to English) whilst focusing on international relations and human rights related issues.

Concerning my work experience, I completed an internship at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in South Africa where I taught French as a foreign language to diplomats and civil servants respectively. I then worked at an international immigration firm during which my duties and responsibilities included ensuring immigration compliancy for a wide range of transnational corporations and expatriates working on assignment or rotation in French-speaking Africa. These experiences taught me the value of managing expectations, communication, attention to detail, forging relationships, working across different cultures and open-mindedness – all of which will help me better assume my new role in the ACCA.

Human development is important for attaining sustainable development. The key to human development is education and awareness. I applaud the work of many organisations working in the spirit of collaboration with communities on the ground through awareness campaigns to make them aware of their right to partake in Africa’s development.

In order for the ACCA to be a truly continental coalition, it needs to be accessible to the people. One of the ways in which this can be achieved is though making it accessible in as many languages as possible and through raising cultural awareness which will, hopefully, play an important role in improving people’s understanding.

I love languages, especially foreign languages. I have a basic understanding of Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic. I am of the belief that foreign language learning is essential for facilitating cross-border communication. In this light, I am of the firm belief that speaking the most-widely spoken languages (lingua franca) is crucial for working in Africa. Nelson Mandela’s quote on languages inspires me in this regard: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.

To conclude, through my contribution to the ACCA and working together with this illustrious network of exceptional individuals, I look forward to growing in the field of business and human rights to better understanding the inextricable link between business and human rights and the important role it can play in the development of our continent.