Degan Ali
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Degan Ali

Degan Ali
Executive Director, Adeso

Degan Ali, a prominent Somali-American humanitarian consultant, has earned her well-deserved spot on Avance Media’s 2023 list of 100 Most Influential African Women. Renowned for her impactful work as the Executive Director of Adeso (African Development Solutions), Degan is a leading advocate for reshaping power dynamics within the humanitarian aid system and championing the use of cash assistance.


Born in Somalia, Degan Ali’s journey began with her family’s relocation to Washington when she was nine years old. Growing up in Chicago, she pursued her education with a deep-rooted commitment to making a difference. Her unique background, with a Somali military officer and diplomat as her father and the environmentalist Fatima Jibrell as her mother, set the stage for a life dedicated to humanitarian causes.


Degan’s career in humanitarian work commenced with her employment at the United Nations, where she was deployed to Somalia. However, disillusioned by the prevailing power dynamics, she resigned and transitioned to becoming the Vice Director, eventually rising to the role of Executive Director at Adeso. In this capacity, she spearheads advocacy efforts for increased funding to local humanitarian organizations and a greater emphasis on cash assistance.


A pivotal moment in her advocacy journey occurred at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, where she addressed the lack of localisation in the humanitarian aid sector. This led to the establishment of the Network for Empowered Aid Response, a platform championing the empowerment of local organizations and challenging the traditional structures of aid distribution.


In 2020, Degan Ali highlighted the shortcomings in implementing the Grand Bargain, underscoring the need for a paradigm shift in international aid practices. At the 2021 Global Steering Group Impact Summit, she sounded a cautionary note about colonial attitudes influencing aid spending, urging a more equitable approach.


Beyond her role at Adeso, Degan is the driving force behind DA Consulting, a firm dedicated to revolutionizing international aid agencies. The consulting firm has crafted a framework aimed at decolonizing aid efforts, advocating for a transition from service delivery models to active solidarity and collaboration with local aid agencies.


Degan Ali’s recognition in Avance Media’s 2023 list of 100 Most Influential African Women is a testament to her transformative contributions to the humanitarian aid sector. Her relentless advocacy for local empowerment, critique of established power structures, and pioneering efforts to decolonize aid practices have established her as a leading force for positive change. Degan’s dedication to reshaping the narrative in international aid reflects her commitment to fostering a more inclusive, equitable, and effective humanitarian landscape.

Photo Credit: CIO East Africa