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About Us

About Us

Zaza Connect is a top-tier consulting and project management firm with history of designing and implementing complex and ambitious global development initiatives that involve a network of political and commercial partners and clients. Zaza takes pride in its skill to identify needs and act as a connector and filling the gap by bringing in our global network of Economic, Political and Humanitarian partners.

Zaza Connect's greatest strength comes from the partnerships we forge and the organizations we work with to get the job done. Leading an integrated team that works throughout Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, our partners have access to capital and investors, government leaders, company decision-makers, intergovernmental diplomats, and stakeholders who bring solutions and the capability to implement them.

Zaza Connect develops strategies to bring ideas to life, conception to completion.

Our Approach


Why Zaza Connect is Different

We establish relationships across sectors and connect them to meet your priorities:
We have deep relationships across governments, media, private sector investors, private donors, philanthropy, and academia - and specialize in developing the conversations necessary to achieve your strategic priorities across multiple groups.

We are nimble – and can react more quickly than massive firms:
Unlike large companies with unnecessary overhead, we are well-situated to listen to your priorities and adapt to your needs quickly. Our teams keep a discrete profile and do not seek credit for our work, positioning you to benefit from the wins.


We bring a small, elite team to accomplish precisely what you need when you need it :

Our exceptional roster has experience at the highest levels of governments, financial institutions, public relations, and private finance, and we will engage subject matter expertise only as needed.

We know how to scale, from one firm to entire country-wide strategies

With an expert roster spanning the globe, we have the capabilities to develop strategies tailored to your needs, no matter what size approach you need.


Our Team

Our team of experts is able to offer decades-worth of combined experience in conceptualizing, planning, and executing.


Alicia Lewis

Managing Director

Alicia is an experienced business leader with a history of building and growing successful companies in international markets. She counsels governments, businesses, and non-governmental organizations, developing global strategies that combine intense advocacy and diplomatic engagement with nuanced economic and political analysis. Alicia is passionate about connecting people, businesses, and countries. She has worked extensively with the United Nations, leading the UN CITO’s global Public Private Partnerships program, and the UNDP’s South-South Cooperation initiative. Alicia’s entrepreneurial spirit extends far beyond the Beltway. Since 2020 she has run Zaza Meats in Europe, which connects farmers and meat processors directly to end buyers and distributors, and ethical Gold Trading company Zaza Precious Metals and Trade, which operates from Dubai.


Cory Alpert

Chief of Staff

Cory is a strategist and operator with deep experience across the United States building strategies, coalitions, and organizations. Cory is the Managing Director of South & West, a boutique strategy and consulting firm based in San Francisco. Cory recently served as the senior advisor to the multilateral effort to establish war crimes investigations platforms in Ukraine. He now advises a range of nonprofit and political organizations, and leads advance teams around the globe in support of the White House. Cory was previously the senior advisor to Mayor Steve Benjamin in his role as President of the United States Conference of Mayors, where he was responsible for the Mayor’s policy development and planning, as well as natural disaster response coordination across the country. He led negotiations on behalf of US mayors and local leaders ahead of COP23 and COP24 and build global coalitions of local officials on issues from climate change to refugee resettlement. He was a senior staff member for Pete Buttigieg’s history 2020 Presidential campaign, being one of the first 10 staff members, and has held senior campaign roles at every level of American politics. Cory was previously the senior advisor to Mayor Steve Benjamin, President of the United States Conference of Mayors and Mayor of Columbia, SC, where he was responsible for the Mayor’s policy development and planning. He led negotiations on behalf of US Mayors and local officials ahead of COP23 and COP24, and built global coalitions of local officials to work on issues ranging from climate change to refugee resettlement. He then worked as a senior staff member for Pete Buttigieg’s historic 2020 Presidential campaign, being one of the first 10 staff members hired. Cory recently left a role as a senior advisor to another NGO focused on supporting Ukrainians.


Ambassador Gene Cretz

Senior Advisor

Gene A. Cretz hails from Albany, New York, graduated from Albany High School, and attended the University of Rochester, graduating in 1972 with a degree in English Literature. He also has a Master's of Science Degree in Linguistics from the State University College at Buffalo (1975). Cretz served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kabul, Afghanistan (1975-77) before joining the Foreign Service in March 1981. His first tour was as a general services officer and consular officer at the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan (1982-84). That was followed by a year in the Operations Center and one year as NEA staff assistant. From 1986-88, he was a political officer in Damascus, Syria, followed by a tour as political officer in New Delhi, India (1988-91). After India, Cretz served in Tel Aviv (1991-94) where he was responsible for the Arab affairs portfolio, including the Gaza Strip. He then returned to Washington in IO/UNP as the officer responsible for Middle East Affairs at the UN. From 1998-01, he served in Beijing, China, where he was in charge of China's External Affairs portfolio. In 2001, he transferred to Cairo, Egypt where he served as Minister-Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs. He returned to Damascus in August 2003 and served as Charge d'Affaires until January 2004 before assuming duties as Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM). In August 2004, he took up duties as the DCM in Tel Aviv. On July 11, 2007, President Bush nominated Cretz to be the United States Ambassador to Libya and he was confirmed by the Senate on November 20, 2008. After serving in Tripoli (2008-2012), Cretz served as Ambassador to Ghana (2012-2015). From August 2015-December 2019, he was the representative of the Director General of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Tel Aviv.


Richard Steffens

Senior Advisor

Richard Steffens has over 30 years’ experience as a senior government official, diplomat, venture capitalist and entrepreneur supporting innovative companies with growth and global expansion. He recently founded TTSE, a boutique consultancy designed to help high tech companies access government funding for business expansion and R&D. Prior to this, Mr. Steffens served as U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary/Director for Asia (2020-2022), where he focused U.S. semiconductor and critical minerals supply chain issues, established the Transformational Exports program focused on high tech start-ups, and led the SelectTech Asia program designed to attract Asia tech firms to the U.S. He was Deputy Assistant Secretary/Director for Western Hemisphere (2015-2020). He had a 20-year career as a U.S. diplomat serving in Asia, Europe, and North America, rising to the rank of Minister-Counselor (two-star general equivalent). Before joining the Foreign Service, he managed New Jersey’s seed fund under Governor Thomas Kean, where he helped early-stage firms access over $150 million in federal R&D funding. He served as Assistant Director for Research with the Fels Center at the University of Pennsylvania, a think tank which supported the formation of early technology hubs and community development banks. He is a graduate of the Wharton School and holds a Masters in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of Secrets of a Venture Capitalist, the Changing Software Market, has published over 50 articles, and has been interviewed on business topics by the BBC, 60 Minutes, and various media on three continents and in five languages.

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