Gloria Wawira (MPP 2022) first began to consider applying for the Master of Public Policy (MPP) after a visit to Oxford and the Blavatnik School of Government in February 2018. Gloria, a trained lawyer, worked for eight years in Kenya’s public sector on a range of policy issues, including tech regulation and energy sector reform and regional assignments at the East Africa Legislative Assembly and Pan-African Parliament.
“Though I’d been thinking about applying for the MPP for some time, when the end of the Twelfth Parliament of Kenya was in sight in 2021, I felt it was the right time to apply.”
Though Gloria also looked at other public policy graduate programmes at Harvard, Cambridge and Princeton, the MPP stood out from the crowd. She found herself returning to the School’s YouTube channel, impressed by the breadth of issues the School was engaging with and the recollections of former students. These testimonials, along with the course’s globally-focused, multidisciplinary approach, settled the decision for Gloria.
“My work over the years exposed me to a continental view of the policy challenges Africa faces. Many of the issues affecting one country are shared across the continent – education, healthcare, energy, and corruption will all require a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to resolve them. That’s what appealed to me most about the MPP.”
Now that Gloria has arrived, the programme has been a delight. She especially enjoyed the induction, a perfect introduction to the course and notably how paramount it is for public policy professionals to challenge their biases in order to build unlikely coalitions. She likens her classes so far to “a small version of the United Nations”, offering the unique opportunity to consider a multiplicity of views from across the world on a singular policy issue. Throughout the year she hopes to take advantage of this environment to develop her interest in tech policy. Being in this environment, however, is not something she takes for granted.
“I have to credit the School for their help in finding me a scholarship. When I got my offer for the MPP I was thrilled, but I didn’t know how I would pay for it. I filled in the scholarship questionnaire from the School and after that the Africa Oxford Initiative got in touch to invite me to interview. The process took a little while but eventually they made me an offer. Without the scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to come. I am grateful to the Initiative and to the School’s admissions team for their support in helping me find this opportunity.”
Beyond her studies, Gloria has also been taking advantage of the opportunities in Oxford to explore some of her secondary policy interests. With much of the African region’s economy depending upon agriculture, Gloria has in recent year developed a personal interest in food systems and how these links with global trade. Across Oxford she has already had the opportunity to listen to and engage with actors having an impact in this sector. The city itself has also inspired a new policy interest she feels is particularly relevant to her home continent.
“Most recently, I’ve taken an interest in urban mobility, inspired by this city. We walk everywhere in Oxford. It’s planned in way that discourages driving. African cities in general are congested. It has made me wonder what opportunities exist to improve urban planning, encourage walking and incentivise the creation of green spaces.”
In the long-term, though, Gloria is committed to returning to sub-Saharan Africa to work on tech policy and regulation. Having worked on the passing of Kenya’s data protection law, she sees herself taking on a larger regional role in this area. With work ongoing to develop a digital taxation framework in Africa for large tech platforms, as well as conversations around data sharing with governments, Gloria hopes to be part of this effort that could shape the future of policymaking in Africa.