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Donald Osmund is the CEO of Seedbearer Corporation, a US government services provider that builds web, e-commerce and software solutions for companies in West Africa. As contractors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Seedbearer boasts development centers in the United States, China, India, Pakistan as well as Nigeria.
Osmund is currently working on an application called Postafest which allows the general public to connect and share in times of emergency: the app allows any user to co-share information without the requirement of 'friending' or following anyone else. Next year Seedbearer will launch two unique products in the e-commerce and social networking industries: a cultural networking platform as well as an e-commerce service that connects professional and technological services at a fraction of the cost to those who can't typically afford them.
According to Osmond: "Seedbearer's mission is to focus on seeing and ending present challenges to maximizing opportunities ahead...we want to demystify software and application development, to encourage individuals and small businesses to bring us their ideas so we can make [them] come alive."
Chinaemerem Muoka is president and CEO of the New-York based IT corporation El-Kairos Inc. Muoka's interest in further developing the African technology sector motivated the launch of www.jobclickr.com, a site that would become the first job search engine tailored particularly for African users. Muoka sees the site as a response to "the rising demand for an infrastructure that [provides] job feeds for all African countries...[the] vision is to create a platform in Africa that will give every IT entrepreneur a fair shot to success, and with this success, people are hired, the economy grows and there's development...our goal is to become the largest go-to website for any job opening in Africa."
In a similar vein, Muoka is currently developing geekafrika.com, a service aimed at connecting IT entrepreneur's with relevant opportunities.
Ultimately, Muoka is fundamentally interested in African economic and technological development: "What I do makes life a lot easier for everyone in Africa. With jobclickr.com, you don't need to search a million job sites for jobs in Africa; we do the search for you and give you relevant results, hence saving time, while geekafrika.com encourages creativity among Africans."
Dalumuzi "Happy" Mhlanga
Dalumuzi "Happy" Mhlanga is the founder of Lead Us Today, an organization focused on youth leadership training and development in Zimbabwe. Mhlanga was inspired to start this organization in high school after working with youth. Through his previous experiences, Mhlanga recognized the importance of young people self-organizing and inspiring one another to take action. Even after moving to the United States to attend university, he continued his involvement and outreach with Zimbabwe's youth. After his second year at Harvard in 2010 he officially started Lead Us Today.
Lead Us Today encourages youth to be involved directly in the development of their local community. Participants help design projects--such as a recycling program or night school, and implement them in collaboration with Lead Us Today. The program currently has 300 student participants.
The inception of Lead Us Today was a reach, figuratively as well as geographically: Mhalanga founded the organization while attending college thousands of miles away. Despite his own efforts, Mhalanga does not prescribe to an individualistic notion of leadership. Instead, to him, leadership is "bringing together people to solve problems [and] tapping into the [diverse] experiences of the people and asking what is there to learn from the experiences to help people progress."
Saran Kaba Jones
Saran Kaba Jones has a diverse background. After escaping the Liberian Civil War with her family when she was eight years old Jones lived and travelled through Cyprus, the Ivory Coast, Egypt, and France. Upon graduating from Harvard she worked in private equity for the Singaporean government until 2010.
After visiting Liberia for the first time since her departure as a child Jones was struck by the lack of infrastructure, high unemployment and sparsity of clean water--all remnants of the country's devastating civil war. Her return inspired the development of the organization Face Africa in 2009.
Face Africa is invested in bringing clean water and relevant infrastructure to Liberians in need. Additionally, the organization uses its primary initiative of fighting the water crisis as a way to promote women empowerment. The provision of local clean water means that women can spend less time travelling for it (sometimes miles). The reduced travel distance for water allows women a smaller chance of getting attacked, more time spent in school, and more time spent pursing financially profitable projects.
Jones' advice for prospective entrepreneurs and organizers is to "really spend some time learning about the industry you want to pursue before you dive into it."
To learn more about FaceAfrica check out:
Naaimat Muhammed is a Community Outreach Liaison for the Office of NYC Councilmember Helen Diane Foster (District 16 - the Bronx). She has a Master in Public Administration, with a track in government, which was inspired by her childhood upbringing of an adverse life where culture, religion and the American life were an uncanny mixture.
The adversity inspired her journey to become one of the few young Africans leading the community. She is a first generation American born Ghanaian and Togolese. And, with limited resources yet high expectations from family, public advocacy was not a choice neither expected of her nor easily understood. Yet, with hard work and determination, Ms. Naaimat Muhammed landed the ultimate job in her quest to become a great leader. She helps to provide opportunities, support and the necessary information and guidance to the community, specifically the youth, where she saw inexistence during her upbringing.
She defied all odds, and to this day is respected by many leaders twice her age who support her and want her to set a precident for the African youth and other immigrant families who also come from disadvantaged backgrounds. This includes her boss, Mrs. Diane Foster, who recently expressed her happiness with her work in making her proud within the community and the Bronx, naming Naaimat as her own rising star at the Annual Community Enrichment Day, which has been hosted for the past three years for the growing African population in the Bronx.
For Naaimat, success takes much more than will. It requires finding a way. When asked where she wants to be in five years, she will tell you "I see myself playing a bigger role in the change making process." For her, when one defies all odds the sky is the only limit.
BETHLEHEM TILAHUN ALEMU
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu has quickly built her company soleRebels into the fastest growing African footwear brands. Alemu was born and raised in the Zenabwork village of Addis Ababa, one of the most marginalized communities in the country. She remained in Ethiopa for University and sought to provide jobs for her local community in establishing the company in 2004.
Noticeably, soleRebels celebrates local artisanship and design in its shoes and quest to become a global brand (the company name itself is also a nod to African perseverance and independence in its reference to the Ethiopian forces who staved off colonization). Eight years later, soleRebels has maintained WFTO Fair Trade Certification since its inception (becoming the first footwear company to receive the accreditation). Alemu and the company are deeply interested in sustainability (shoe and sandal soles are fashioned out of recycled tires) as well as fair labor practices (soleRebels employees receive a straight wage in an industry dominated by quota-based pay).
The endeavor has garnered Alemu praise worldwide: she was invited to address the September 2010 Clinton Global Initiative ; she was named African Buisnesss Woman of the Year in 2011 by African Business Magazine; the World Economic Forum named her 2011's Young Global Leader [YGL] ;. FORBES Magazine named her one of "20 Youngest Power Women in Africa." and "World's 100 Most Powerful Women" list and named Bethlehem as Woman to Watch.
Throughout, Alemu has not sacrificed her initial commitment to the local community in pursuit of an international consumer brand.
Oluchi Onweagba Orlandi
From an ongoing career in modeling to her collaborative and entrepreneurial work in the business side of the industry, Oluchi Onweagba Orlandi has demonstrated that she can take action as well as strikes poses. Although most are familiar with Oluchi from her work on the runway, it is her position as a leader and role model that continues to impress. Staying true to her Nigerian roots, Oluchi has made an impact by creating opportunities for other young women in Africa.
As a New York University alumnus, Oluchi's passion for entrepreneurship was realized in OModel Africa, a South African modeling agency she founded in conjunction with the Shine Group (with headquarters in Johannesburg and Cape Town). Oluchi was also instrumental in creating an adaptation of the popular Top Model series Africa's Next Top Model set to launch in 2013. With focus and drive Oluchi is redefining the perception of young African women while encouraging them to follow their dreams.
Oluchi is married to fashion designer Luca Orlandi and is a other of two children. In her personal as well as public life Oluchi has continually served as a leader for young and inspired African women.
Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah
Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah is a feminist activist, author, and communications professional. She is the founder and curator of the popular and widely read "Adventures From The Bedrooms Of African Women" blog on African women and sexuality at www.adventuresfrom.com. Readers describe as a vibrant and safe space for African women to share intimate stories, to heal, to own, and to write our own her stories.
An entrepreneur at heart, Nana is the co - founder and 50/50 partner of MAKSI, a proudly Ghanaian chic clothing company serving Africa and the Diaspora. She advises young women entrepreneurs to "start early so you can fail over and over again" which she describes is the key to an entrepreneur's success." Start early, embrace the possibility of failure and most of all persevere whilst staying agile and open to change and new opportunities."
Nana is a trailblazer who has authored a number of African feminist publications and editor of Women Leading Africa: Conversations with Inspirational African Women. She has written for a number of magazines including BBC's Focus, New African Woman, and DUST magazine.
Sekyiamah currently manages the communications portfolio for the African Women's Development Fund,
the first pan-African women's grant making organization, providing over $17 million in grants to 800 women's organizations in 42 African countries.
"Only Africans can truly tell African stories" says Nigerian 'Nollywood' actress Mbong Amata. As an actress Ms. Amata has played a big role in not only telling African stories through a medium that is familiar for Africans but she has also been able to bridge the gap between Hollywood and Nollywood.
Born in the Niger Delta the actress is well known for her roles in movies such as Amazing Grace, Reloaded and Mary Slessor. Her most recent achievement is her lead role in the internationally acclaimed Black November, a movie that deals with the atrocities of her home region, a topic close to her heart. Directed by her husband Jeta Amata, in Black November, Amata joins an international cast including Akon, Mickey Rourke, Kim Bassinger and Vivica Fox. is the shining star with her remarkable portrayal of a girl who gets a scholarship to study overseas. She starts off longing for a normal, comfortable life but finds herself defending the exploited villagers she knew since childhood. This role was very familiar to Amata, being that she is from the Niger Delta and grew up there. "It was great to be able to play a role in a story that is very close to my heart, and be able to tell the difficulties of living in the Niger Delta. It was uplifiting, and the experience is one of the highlights in my career.
Asked if she would be making a transition to Hollywood, Amata said that she would consider roles in Hollywood movies but her preference was to Nollywood. "No one can tell the Africa story like Africans can and African stories are so unique that they can never be replaced by any Hollywood story."
Sophisticated and poised, the former beauty queen has also dedicated herself to telling the stories of young women in Nigeria and the struggles they persevere. To the aspiring actresses she inspires, she simply says, "Stay true to who you are."
Meet Uduak Oduok- a lawyer, entrepreneur, a writer and model. She does it all. Born in Nigeria and raised in the US, Ms. Oduok describes herself as a child of the 80's. Her passion for law came from a story she read about a Yoruba girl who was wrongly accused of a crime with no one to defend her. Oduok decided then that she would become a lawyer and use the law to exonerate those who were wrongly accused. At a young age her mother moved her and her siblings to the United States and, longing for home, Oduok started scrapbooking and writing to her friends back in Nigeria. The name of her magazine, Ladybrille, was born from this period in her life.
As she pursued a career in law Oduok also became a model and blogger. Her objective was to examine the polarity of African models. At home, the models are considered to be too thin, and abroad, they are not thin enough. After 14 years of experience in the fashion world, Oduok founded Ladybrille. As a journalist Oduak has interviewed designers Vivienne Westwood, Jason Wu, Ozwald Boateng and Donna Karan. She also profiled hip-hop mogul Sean 'Diddy' Combs, supermodels Beverly Johnson and Naomi Campbell, comedian Mo'Nique, and India's Sabayasahci Mukherjee. Currently she is working on a book on copyright law in Nigeria. In the book she hopes to explore music law and its associated copyright laws in the industry.
On her prolific and diverse career Oduok credits "self-discipline and a great support system." But most importantly Oduak credits her success to her mother who provided an example of strong womanhood. "It is never about me," she says. Oduok urges her admirers to "learn the freedom in being self-disciplined, be honest with yourself, be honest with your community, have confidence in yourself, and know the value of giving back."
Boxer, model, actor, producer, writer, philanthropist; Ngoli "Ngo" Okafor simply refuses to fit in one box. Two-time Golden Gloves boxer started boxing at the late age of 31 and within three years he had won two championships. At the same time Okafor became one of the most popular black male models. He has worked with stars like Mary J. Blige and Lil' Kim and has been featured in Men's Health, Vibe, Vogue, and the Wall Street Journal. As an actor he has been featured in a film alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and worked on soap operas and TV shows.
A year ago Okafor founded the Champions Spirit Foundation after spending time in Nigeria and training with boxers who had no place to train. The community centers will offer children a space to train as well as more generally an alternative to spending time in the streets.
"Ngo" is looking to continue work in films as a producer, director and writer acting as a bridge between Hollywood and 'Nollywood. Currently he is raising funds for the Champions Spirit Foundation and he is hoping to start working on the first center in the coming months. Okafor is continually forging a new identity for successful Africans outside of conventional industries like law and medicine.
Born in Johannesburg, South African artist Lira is known for her emotional ballads and uplifting songs reflecting her personal journey. "Growing up I saw the power of music at work among my family members and within my South African community" says the multi-platinum selling artist. It is this belief in the power of music that has driven Lira's music that seeks to bring a message of hope and comfort to its listeners. She adds, "I think there's enough negativity out there in the world (particularly Africa) and I have no desire to add to it. People seek solace in music and I want mine to be an uplifting experience."
Her debut album All My Love released in 2003 became incredibly popular partly due to the lead single's reaching a Billboard #2 spot. Since All My Love, Lira has released four more albums culminating in her 2012 American debut Rise Again. Throughout her career the singer has maintained and developed a unique fusion of soul, funk and African sounds.
Lira is a role model for many girls in South Africa. Through her music, Lira inspires girls to dream beyond their townships and to be involved in grassroots initiatives in South Africa. To the aspiring musicians, Lira advises, "honor thyself and never compromise on your beliefs. Take everyone's advice into consideration and respect that as much as yourself. Know that the final decision must be yours as you are responsible for yourself and the message and decisions you represent and put out there."
Liberty and Justice
"Be in service to others" says Liberian-born Chid Liberty, co-founder of Liberty and Justice, Africa's first Fair Trade Certified apparel factory. These are words he takes very seriously and has put them into practice by building a company that is ever growing and changing women all over Liberia. Liberty and Justice, formerly known as Sustainable Global Sourcing, is a brand whose mission is to assure sustainability of the apparel industry, partnering with companies like PrAna, Haggar, Itochu and FEED. Liberty's factory in Liberia provides employment for women in Liberia and the entrepreneur's credo is one he seeks to impart to the women who work in facility.
He firmly believes that Africans should maintain control of African economies and politics, a mission that starts with empowering women and working with them to transform their communities. Part of his passion for his work is derived from a past where he spent his childhood travelling around the globe with a father who was the ambassador to Germany. He was later forced to relocate with his family to the United States when turmoil broke out in his home country. It was not until 28 years later in 2009 that Liberty, inspired by the Liberian Peace Movement, would return to Liberia.
Liberty's accolades include the SVN Social Innovation award in 2011. He has also been recognized by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for his enduring leadership. He also serves as an advisor to several organizations that seek to combat global challenges such as Fair Trade USA, GIIRS and Opportunity Collaboration.
In the coming year Liberty looks to expand his business and continue opening opportunities for others. In what he refers to as the "Made in Africa" model, he invites other entrepreneurs from different parts of Africa to emulate the Liberty and Justice model by enabling communities in Africa to achieve true economic freedom.
International Consultant- Thione Niang Group
When he arrived in New York City Thione Niang had only $20 in his pockets, today he runs a successful organization and is President and CEO of Thione Niang Group firm. He serves as the National Co-Chair of Gen44 for President Obama and former Chair of the International Affairs committee for the Young Democrats of America. Originally from Senegal, Niang is a model in the African community for those that wish to find success in the United States. He started his career in politics as a volunteer in Ohio working for Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell, campaign manager for Ohio State Senator Shirley Smith, and campaign manager for County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones. He would move on to become a Regional Field Organizer for Obama for America and would later become the National Chairman of the Young Democrats of America College Caucus. Niang's history in Ohio proved particularly important recently when he served as one of the key strategists and organizers in the Obama campaign's recent win in the battleground state.
In 2009, determined to give back, Niang founded the Give1Project, an organization that "aims to engage young people as leaders in creating and building strong and healthy communities." These young people in the Give1Project are trained and mentored to become future leaders in their respective countries and communities. The organization currently operates in 16 countries with main offices in Washington DC, France, Japan and Senegal. In addition to the Give1Project, Niang has started a soccer school back in his home village of Kaolack in Senegal. He will also be going back to rebuild his childhood school early next year.
Throughout his years in the United States, Niang has dedicated his energy and time to working with youth to get them more involved in the political process. He has worked in many countries to engage youth into a peaceful and democratic election such as Sierra Leone. In particular he wants to work with young Africans in hope of changing Africans involvement in the American political process. "You can do more for Africa if you are more involved in shaping American policies that affect Africa and Africans."
Munyang Reath Kher
Humanity Helping Sudan Project
Since 2005, the world has been hooked on the line of staggering awareness raised by many regarding the Lost Boys of Sudan. Today, the 20,000 displaced boys are now young men, each with a varied yet common past. Manyang Reath Kher was a lost boy and survivor of the Sudanese civil war, and although his memories of the war are tainted by the loss of life and separation from his mother and siblings, he has taken this experience and shaped it into a mechanism of change. Kher lost his father and was separated from his family during the war, he encountered more challenges and isolation coming of age in refugee camps hunger, fear and abuse posed great obstacles in his everyday life. Fortunately, Kher was able to move to the US when he was 17; he is now attending college at the University of Richmond.
Kher is now the director and founder of the Humanity Helping Sudan Project, an organization he founded to create awareness of the adverse conditions caused by war and displacement Sudanese refugees suffer while inhabiting camps in Ethiopia. The organization makes strides to improve the quality of life on the camps by creating projects that ensure that refugees are able to learn skill sets beneficial to their future. Fishing, agriculture and gardening are examples of skill-sets that enable the refugees to find work to take care of themselves and their families. The organization buys land and gives it back to the refugees so they can implement these adapted skills to live a sustainable life.
The results so far have been applause worthy, but like most nonprofits they face challenges. Kher points out that spreading awareness and inciting engagement especially in the United States has been challenging.
Kher further notes that Southern Sudan being a country in its own right has mean a loss of significant support and aid from United Nations organizations like the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, a group that greatly helped in curbing the food and water shortage in the camps. Now more than every Humanity Helping Sudan is important for Southern Sudanese refugees.
Jessica Horn is a feminist activist and founder of Akiiki Consulting, a consultancy focused on women's rights, health and social change. Before founding Akiiki, Horn played an integral role at other organizations such as donor Sigrid Rausing Trust and African women's network Amanitare. She is also a founding member of the African Feminist Forum. When we caught up with Horn to talk about her work it quickly became clear that she is interested in progress and change at the most fundamental level: "the politics that I convey in any public forum...[are] in fact a collective politics and not only my own. It is an African feminist politics grounded in an understanding that we need to redistribute power at all levels, we need deep transformation!"
In particular, Horn's work both as an activist and poet reflects the life experiences of African women: "In my poetry I explore violence, beauty and the mixed landscapes of African women's lives...We live in our bodies- a reality that means that all injustice as well as all liberations play out on our bodies. Take the issue of HIV. We know that the reasons young African women are up to 6 times more likely to be living with HIV than young African men [are] not just a question of biology or the patterns of viral transmission. It is result of the fact that young women are more likely to be coerced into sex, as well as social norms that make it harder for women to negotiate condom use. Health issues are unavoidably justice issues, our bodies are the first site of struggle!"
While Horn's activism takes shape in a number of different ways, the main thrust of her work is supporting efforts around expanding health, rights and choices around women's bodies, including on violence against women, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS. Despite an ever growing industry of "aid work" in Africa, Horn reminds us that "African struggles are not only struggles for 'basic needs'--food, safety in your own community, access to healthcare, dignified work--these issues will only be resolved if we tackle how power is used in society."
17. Lilian Ajayi
Global Connection for Women Foundation (GC4W)
Lilian Ajayi founded and leads the Global Connections for Women Foundation (GC4W), a not-for-profit organization that seeks to tackle one of the problems outlined in the Millennium Development Goals, established by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) (a list of eight concrete goals including the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment that UNDP hopes to confront by 2015).
Before forming GC4W, Lilian studied International Relations at Harvard University and worked at the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations. She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Nigerian American Agricultural Empowerment Program (NAAEP), established by her mother, Chief Temitope Ajayi. NAAEP aims to eradicate extreme poverty and curb youth unemployment in Nigeria.
GC4W is founded on a three-prong approach connecting, educating and empowering marginalized women in the world. Lilian hopes to empower the women she reaches with GC4W through the commitment of the GC4W "champions," (a group of leaders committed to the foundation's progress), as well as through grass roots programs that are uniquely tailored towards the needs of local women.
When we asked Lilian about GC4W's main thrust, she told us that it is an "organization that believes in all women and their right to create new opportunities for themselves and their communities, [we work with] women and young girls in underserved communities across the globe...It is said that even great things have tiny beginnings and it is my hope that as GC4W grows, our story and success is added to that lineage."
"Before you know me, you have to know Congo," says Kambale Musavuli. Musavuli was born and raised in the Central African country and emigrated to the United States 14 years ago. At 31, he is the National Spokesperson and Student Coordinator for Friends of the Congo, a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington that supports social justice work while focusing on bringing about a peaceful and lasting change in Congo. Musavuli has an extensive knowledge in an array of topics including labor rights, corporate accountability, and environmental and social justice. He has also worked with local activists on issues like raising minimum wages, ending police brutality, and improving the immigrant experience. It is this perspective that facilitates his work as a research consultant for government agencies, film projects, and finance groups.
"Some people say that I am married to my work," he says. Musavuli believes what is happening in the DRC presents serious ethical quandaries. In his spare time, he travels to speak to students, community organizers, global leaders, and religious groups to talk about those issues and possible resolutions.
"Almost 6 million people have died in Congo, and nobody knows about [it]," he reminded us.
As a human rights activist, Musavuli also believes in the economic viability of his home country which continues to house a great array of natural resources.
K&A Private Equity CEO Ephra Kazadi was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa. When he was still a child, Kazadi and his family moved to Paris.
Kazadi received his Bachelor of Science in International Finance from Ecole Superieur de Gestion et Finance in 2004. A year later, he received his Diamond Grader certificate from the International Gemological Institute. He then started his first diamond consulting company in Mbuji-Mayi, Congo where he traded diamonds between Africa, Europe, and the United states. And although the company went bankrupt, Kazadi said it made him wiser. This was "one of the best experiences of my life because I learned what it is to be in charge," he said.
In 2008, he started a mining and metals consulting firm in Paris to compete with Middle Eastern and Chinese investors in Africa. Profits from that endeavor helped kickstart K&A.
K&A invests in companies that concentrate on mining, agricultural production, oil and gas extraction, and construction products. The company aims to nurture the relationship between American investors and African businesses by recruiting and creating new jobs. Earlier this year K&A relocated to New York in order to be nearer to American investors that are increasingly showing more interest in the African market. It is the first African fund on Wall Street that primarily targets African businesses.
His success has led him to be named on Forbes Magazine's "Africa's Best Talents" list. While K&A is fundamentally a business venture, Kazadi is also clear that its mission is grounded more generally in African progress: "we know that we can bring change and improvement in Africa," he says.
Les Nubians is an R&B duo composed of sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart. Best known for their song "Makeda" in the US, the Grammy nominated duo are among the most successful French speaking music groups in the world. They trace their beginnings to a reggae band where they shared a stage for some time before breaking off on their own. Proud of their African heritage, the duo chose the name Les Nubians in order to represent their connection to black music. When describing their influences they speak in grand terms: "[it's like a] tree growing from the rootsâ€¦we were combining African traditional chants to gospel, to Caribbean music, soul, and jazz and even jungle music." Since becoming a duo the group was awarded "Best New Artist" from the Soul Train Lady Soul Awards, two NAACP image award nominations, and a Grammy nomination for their first album Princesses Nubiennes.
After releasing several albums under major record companies such as Virgin Records and Triloka Records, the duo recently decided to release an independent album that has been well received in the United States and in Japan. "We've basically lived and experienced the changes in the music industry for the last fifteen years and it gave us a chance to be artistically free and to get away from a lot of politics â€¦ it gives us more freedom in terms of artistic projects that [were] difficult to do since we were assigned to a major record company. We had the privilege to be groomed by a major company and to cultivate a major following."
As their name might suggest, the duo has dedicated their career to exploring, rediscovering, and redefining African music. Les Nubians see themselves as a part of a greater movement in African cultural excavation: "we Africans need to re-appropriate, re-visit, re-interpret, the meaning of African renaissance. And continue to speak the pan-Africanism language, and continue the cause for a unified Africa."
Nakiso Maodza is the Director of Web and Online Services for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). ASME is a not-for-profit membership organization that provides engineers from multiple disciplines the opportunity to work collaboratively to solve some of the world's most pressing problems as a singular global community of engineers. Nakiso was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe and immigrated to the United States to attend college. He now lives in Brooklyn where he enjoys photography, ultra-running and rugby. He is also an avid oenophile and is a member of a small wine-making group in the local metropolitan area. He also serves as a member of the Brooklyn Arts Association.
Professional Nakiso is a digital technology strategist with a passion for solving complex business and social challenges using technology. He considers himself a futurist and practical idealist who lives to find transformative solutions that leverage current best practices as well as forward-looking ideals. When asked why he left the private sector to work for a NGO, Nakiso admitted to wanting to work for a NGO because he felt they had the most need for unique solutions to solve problems that would make a real impact in the world. Before joining ASME, Nakiso successfully led various enterprise level projects in the private and public sector for entities like KPMG, CUNY, and MTV.
Lastly, in addition to giving back to his community at large through his professional life at ASME, Nakiso also finds time to educate his immediate community. He has taught several courses as an Adjunct Professor at NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies and various undergraduate colleges within CUNY.
Lola Ogunnaike is a Nigerian-American journalist, whose work has graced popular print magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, Essence, and the Rolling Stone. She has worked at CNN as an entertainment correspondent for American Morning. Ogunnaike has also been spotted on VH1. "I was born a journalist. I've always been extremely inquisitive, have loved writing since I was a child and I'm a natural observer", Says Ogunnaike. She received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Virginia and her master's in Journalism from NYU.
In her decision to become a journalist, one of her biggest challenges was persuading her parents that journalism is a viable career options. However, through her success and hard work in the field, she has proven the respectability of the field to her family. One of these great successes was interviewing First Lady Michelle Obama in South Africa. On this experience, Ogunnaike states, "having the opportunity to speak with such a historical figure on the continent that gave birth to my parents was a real full circle moment."
Ogunnaike's secret to success? "Hard work is the key to becoming a successful journalist. While others are sleeping or partying, you must be working. It's also important to seek out mentors, people who will help guide your career, provide sound advice and keep you focused." It is no wonder she has been a success in her field. Lola Ogunnaike enjoys her work, and despite the acclaimed success, she has stayed grounded, staying connected to her African heritage.
Known as one of the top earning supermodels in the world, Liya Kebede is also a passionate philanthropist. Hailing from Addis Abba, Ethiopia, Kebede was discovered by a film director and later moved to Paris-- and eventually New York City--to pursue her modeling. Professionally, Kebede has maintained her spot as one of the most recognized in the field. She has also branched out by establishing and developing her own clothing line, Lemlem, that celebrates traditional Ethiopian styles.
In 2005, Kebede was appointed as WHO's ambassador for maternal, newborn, and child health care as well as one of Time's Top 100 people of 2010. She also started her own not for profit organization called the Liya Kebede Foundation. The mission of the organization is to promote low cost health-care strategies to ensure that women face fewer complications during child care and also to minimize health risks for newborns and young children. While her position as WHO's ambassador is particularly important, Kebede more generally serves as an advocate for maternal health care rights and issues.
Ger Duany is that towering, night black, gorgeous fashion model whose face you've seen on New York runways, CNN, the silver screen and in fashion magazines. The "I Heart Huckabees" star commands attention wherever he goes, but the only thing more stunning than his appearance is his passion for Africa. Ger was a student at the University of Bridgeport when he auditioned for the role of refugee Stephen Nimieri in the David O. Russell film, but quickly returned to campus after the film was completed. He was determined to complete his studies and become a counselor, inspired by the impact that the Lost Boys Foundation had on his life and the lives of countless others. Ger didn't leave Sudan for the US to become a model or film actor. More simply, he came in pursuit of safety, freedom, and education. Born into South Sudan's fight for liberation from North Sudan, Duany became accustomed to guns at a very young age. It was one of his mentors Mary Williams, founder of the Lost Boys Foundation, who suggested he audition for "I Heart Huckabees." While on set, he met Tyson Beckford, who recommended that he pursue a modeling career. With his public platform, Duany decided to share his life's journey in film-form. "Ger: To Be Separate," a documentary that he is producing with award winner Wanuri Kahui deals with his return to Sudan after 18 years away. Reuniting with his family and voting in the referendum that successfully divided Sudan into North and South, the documentary places its greatest emphasis on the state of the country. Inspired by the reassurance that "tomorrow can never be like today" and his peaceful hobbies--writing and photography, Duany continues to work tirelessly to make a difference in his homeland. Duany is also the Founder and Executive Director of Pibor Foundation, a group that cultivates independence by providing educational opportunities for individuals affected by war, famine and disaster in East Africa. His advice to those who aspire to success on the silver screen? "Practice, practice your craft. Anything is possible! Truthfully, tell your stories and let your internal dialogue out."
Solome Lemma is an ivy league visionary who founded AiD (Africans in Diaspora) after many years of research and self-reflection. She also co-founded the website Hornlight.org to provide a narrative of African realities that honors the subjects. A Stanford and Harvard alum, Lemma has gone to great lengths to give back to her people. She spent five years in a leadership position at the Global Fund for Children and worked with several African-based organizations, traveling to 25 countries on the Continent. Having left Ethiopia for the United States when she was eleven years old, she vowed to return home to contribute to the development of her people. After graduating she determined, based on her skills and passions, that the best way to give back to Africa was to provide a platform for development that utilizes the resources and ideas already abundantly available on the Continent. To those who want to make a difference in Africa she offers: "if you want to make a donation, give it to an African organization. If you want to volunteer, volunteer with an African organization." When we spoke with Lemma, she was sure to include her favorite quote by Indian author Arundathi Roy: "Another world is not only possible, she's on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully, you can hear her breathe."
You probably know her as the Katana-wielding Michonne on AMC's "The Walking Dead," but 34-year old Danai Gurira is a dynamic artist across the board. Gurira was born in Iowa to Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe. In addition to acting in several TV series, Gurira is a playwright with three critically acclaimed plays under her belt. Her first play was "The Continuum" for which she was nominated for several awards both as a writer and actor. Her most recent work, "The Convert" recently closed in Los Angeles and has received great reviews. "I love writing for other actors, women of African descent and people who are generally underrepresented," she said in interview to LA Times.
Gurira is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Before her current appearance in "The Walking Dead" she appeared on HBO's "Treme," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," "Lie to Me" and "Life on Mars." Her other credits include film appearances in The Visitor (2007), Ghost Town (2008), My Soul to Take (2010), and Andrew Dosunmu's Restless City (2011) and Ma' George (2012).
Despite her great success, Gurira has maintained strong connections to Zimbabwe. In 2011, she co-founded Almasi, an organization whose mission is furthering the development of the dramatic arts in Zimbabwe. With a Whiting Writers Award to add to her accolades, Danai Gurira has just begun. "You look at women like Lena Dunham, you look at how women are kind of crafting their own space on the screenâ€¦I want to add to that. I have no interest whatsoever in complaint. I'm more interested in pioneering the path," she recently told the LA Times.
Kemi Adetiba believes in investing oneself as a recipe for success and personal growth. Adetiba is known for her tremendous success and innovation as a woman in the Nigerian entertainment industry. Kemi was first exposed to the media industry by accompanying her father to various radio and TV stations. One of her first projects was headlining for the international detergent brand Omo. She began work as a radio personality on Nigeria's premier radio station 93.7 FM and her voice was nationally recognized as the signature brand for syndicated tv shows soul'd out and sunday at the seaside. She has won multiple awards for her work on television and film, ranging from the Nigerian future awards to being the first double nominee in the ceremony's history
Adetiba's love for radio and television inspired her to focus on a career that could engage all mediums. She enrolled in the New York Film Academy and cites this experience along with positive mentorship as integral to her success. Today she is one of Nigeria's top television personalities and TV producers, having hosted various television shows on popular channels such as MNet and one of Nigeria's most popular syndicated reality TV shows, Maltina Dance Hall.
Some of Kemi's most notable works as a movie director include her debut as a director for the music video "Ekundayo" by singer/songwriter TY Bello. The video was named Best Female Video at the 2009 SoundCity Music Awards. She also directed Nigerian soul star Omawumi's "Today Na Today" video which won Best Female Video at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards as well as Best Music Video at the 2010 SoundCity Awards in New York and was nominated for Best Music Video at the 2010 SoundCity Awards. Kemi is credited for adding value to Nigerian pop culture and creating amazing visual platforms for Nigerian music. She sees Africa as a potential source for prime entertainment and hopes to be in the forefront of the industry.
Famod Konneh, a Liberian born and a Bronxite as he calls himself, has a passion that was driven by his religious belief and inspired in part by Plato. "As we look for happiness for others, we find our own". He currently works for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office as the Community Affairs Coordinator. As a Community Affairs Coordinator, he plays a critical role in linking the resources of the District Attorney's Office to the community and helping local residents address quality of life crimes, as well as developing strategies for prevention.
Mr. Konneh holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Liberia and a Master in Public Administration (MPA) from Baruch College School of Public Affairs. As a Bronx resident, he also chairs the African Advisory Council of the Bronx initiated in 2010 by the Borough President, Ruben Diaz, Jr. A Council of unique historic proportion; first of its kind in the nation, and born out of the desire to enhance interaction and communication between the African immigrant community and the rest of the Bronx borough residents. When asked what public Advocacy means to him he will tell you "Assisting and finding happiness for people by implementing the right policies".
His passion has led him to work with major and influential leaders as well as elected officials from being an advisor to the Borough President to an ordinary member of community organizations, working with members from different countries with diverse ethnicity and culture has all been part of his journey. This has created an experience that he says he has been able to use in many aspects of his career and ensuring that the advocacy for the African community in New York City reaches its crescendo. A trailblazer in the making and strong advocate for Africans he is one to watch being that his ultimate long-term goal is to serve in high public office.
Salami is behind the the new popular blog MsAfropolitian, a site that diffuses issues on feminism, gender, social and cultural subjects with relevance to the African diaspora and continent. A child of both Nigerian and Finnish heritage, Salami's inspiration for her now popular blog stems from iconic feminist thinkers such as Virginia Woolf and Simone Weil.
Salami describes her blog as "an expression of [her] hope to make a contribution, however modest, to unraveling myths surrounding Africa and African womanhood, Africa and its citizens - those who inhabit the continent - as well as those whom life circumstances have either reluctantly or willingly pushed to migrations and find themselves at an exciting, if delicate time of transformation."
When she is not blogging, Salami devotes time as an independent writer, commentator, speaker and media consultant. Recently, she launched the MsAfropolitan Boutique, an online shop featuring design by women of African heritage, an effort to celebrate the place and power of African women.
Salami does not limit herself and has set her sights to continually delving into the Africa continent and bringing contentious matters to the forefront through her blog, she notes, "the goal is to continue to write, learn, inform, discussâ€¦ MsAfropolitan is a blog that aims to understand, document and offer as much analysis as possible of this particular time in history."
Born in the Diaspora to an Egyptian family, this African policy analyst and activist has been active in the movement for social justice for over fifteen years. Hakima Abbas has worked on issues relating to self-determination, race, class, gender and sexuality. Professionally, Abbas is affiliated with various non-governmental organizations as well as the United Nations.
As a Pan-African feminist, Hakima has a vision for Africa based on liberation, self-determination and equity. She works to build a unified Africa whose resources are put towards the benefit of African peoples, an international system in which Africa's voice is powerful and a continent lead by progressive principles rid of all forms of oppression and fundamentalisms.
Hakima strongly believes in the power of the people to create transformation. She works to support Africa's grassroots movements for social justice at home and in the Diaspora with local and national action and a continental and global perspective and network.
As a human right activist, Hakima's goal over the next decade is to continue to contribute to Africa's transformation for the benefit of African people globally. In her own words, "Africa is the nexus for the future of the world and Mother Earth and I believe that Africans must dare to invent a different future, outside of what is proposed in dominant discourse, based on progressive principles that enable our self-determination and freedom. I firmly believe in the contribution of all Africans in all spheres towards this common vision.
Currently based in New York City, Babs Olusanmokun is an actor on both the stage and screen. A few of his past roles include spots on television shows like Law & Order (SVU & CI) and Blue Bloods. Babs has also starred in Andrew Dosunmu's Restless City as well as Ponies.
Having partially grown up in Brazil, Babs is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master and 2nd Degree Black-Belt. Today, Olusamokun is the first African born practitioner to receive the prestigious Black-Belt in the Brazilian art and is eager to bring his love of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Nigeria and other African nations. The actor also speaks fluent Portuguese and recently these skills to play the character Serrano in the blockbuster video game Max Payne 3.
Up next for this multi-talented actor is a role in Andrew Dosunmu's Ma' George. He can also be seen in Yale Repertory Theatre's A Year with 13 Moons. When asked about his future, Olusamokun says simply: "I intend to keep pursuing my love for the craft of acting. I also want to positively influence Nigerian and African youth with the discipline of the martial arts."
Adiat Disu officially hit the scene in 2010 with the establishment of the now notable African Fashion Week in New York (AFWNY), an event honored even by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his declaration that July 12-18 is officially AFWNY. In less than three years Disu, a young entrepreneur, has come a long way from college graduate to head-honcho at her very own company, Adiree, which oversees AFWNY. According to Disu, "the vision and mission for Adiree is to be an international branding agency that creates and uses innovative communication tools to establish mass contemporary or exclusive fashion, beauty, and home decor brands."
Since the creation of African Fashion Week, interest in African fashion has grown quickly across New York and beyond. But the goal is to extend this awareness to various fashion capitals in the world as Disu points out, "We began this concept and branding strategy with the idea that African Fashion Week can be birthed in all of our global fashion capitals thereby creating a strong African Fashion Calendar globally. Our goal is to build a team of partners and investors, without compromising the vision. All of these efforts are to say one thing: 'Fashion from the continent can compete globally and produce a steady base of consumers.'"
As a young entrepreneur Disu's interest in fashion is also grounded in ethically sound practices. To aspiring young people, Disu offers the following: "find clients, partners, and investors whose values align with yours. Reclaim your sanity and focus on building a strong foundation with individuals that ignite and (re-ignite) your passion. Touch lives positively, but foremost, eliminate the spirit of fear, you were born without it. The very foundation of my world: fearlessness and faith."
Flaviana Matata was Miss Tanzania in 2007 and the first Tanzanian contestant in a Miss Universe contest. Although she did not grow up pursuing a modeling career, she was encouraged by her friends to work her way into the industry. Matata was the 2011 Arise Magazine Model of the Year and has also been featured in several magazines including Glass, L'Officiel and ID magazines. She has also been on the runway for designers such as Tory Burch, Mustafa Hassanali, Louise Gray, Vivienne Westwood and Suno.
Matata founded the Flaviana Matata Foundation (FMF) in memory of her mother who lost her life on Lake Victoria. The foundation, which Matata calls her biggest accomplishment, is focused on two things: providing education for young girls and life vests to ships operating on Lake Tanganyika. Faced with the challenge of state bureaucracy, Matata has disciplined herself to be tenacious in making sure those girls attain an education and that there are safety standards for those who operate on Lake Victoria.
Joselyn Dumas' big break in Adams Apple has Ghana still buzzing. Ghanian TV presenter and actress Joselyn Dumas is the 2012 face of the Range Rover Evoque in Ghana. She has won multiple awards, including 2010/2011 TV Personality of the Year. The multitalented actress surprised many with her award befitting performance as Jennifer Adams in the 10 part mini-series directed by Ghanaian Director Shirley Frimpong. Despite this milestone, Jennifer says that her raw talent and determination has merely been tapped. "This is only the beginning of my career. I am grateful to God for the gift he has given me but I know that He has more in store for me" says Joselyn. A focused and fearless young woman, Joselyn is determined to excel and take her dreams by the horn.
As a successful actress, she has developed a mentorship program for aspiring actresses. To them, she advises, "wait for your time, stay steadfast and prudent in improving your craft, and never feel that you have arrived, because there is always someone out there working harder."
Joselyn credits her mentorship to her mother and former director Shirley Frempong, who she says is a smart, hardworking, principled and talented woman who believed in her and gave her a chance, when everyone else questioned her ability to perform. "I draw great strength from my mother. If it weren't for her, I would not have been where I am today."
Semhar Araia was born in New York to Eritrean immigrants. When she was 14 years old she visited her parents' home country: "this experience shaped my understanding of Africa at an intimate level," she says of the opportunity.
At 34, Araia is the founder and executive director of Diaspora African Women's Network (DAWN), an organization based in Washington that focuses on the next generation of the African diaspora's female leaders.
After living in Washington D.C for ten years Araia quit her job last year as a U.S Foreign Policy Analyst to focus her attention on DAWN. She has lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota ever since and is currently teaching a course entitled "Conflict and Peace in the Horn of Africa" at the University of Minnesota.
"I've learned that it is not all about work, but about balancing your personal and professional lives," Araia said. In April, she was honored by the White House as the 2012 Champion of Change. She is also the African Union's Diaspora Awardee of the Year.
In founding DAWN, Araia believes that "when you put a woman in a position of authority, they are most likely to work, encourage, and benefit an unwavering community with an interest in giving back," she says. With a transnational goal, DAWN has over 200 members from four continents who are committed to leading, networking, and providing job opportunities for women of African descent.
With an extensive background in conflict resolution, international development, and diaspora engagement, Araia hopes to build bridges and send messages of unity and partnership throughout the diaspora.
"If you want to make changes, you have to tell people what it looks like," she said. "If you believe, it will resonate."
For more information on DAWN, please go to
www.dawners.org, or search for DAWNInc on social media sites.
Peter Jallah IV is an Account Director at the Newsweek and Daily Beast Company and the CEO of Africans in the Media and Creative Industries (AMCI). Founded in April 2012, AMCI serves as a launch pad for exploring the professional and social impact of African media and creative professionals. The AMCI platform is also the first membership-only association that brings together extraordinary talents who have made remarkable achievements in the media and creative industries.
Peter Jallah grew up in Liberia until the civil war broke out in his native country and his family moved to the United States. Over the years, Peter worked in different sectors in the media industry and it is through this experience that he was compelled to create a distinct and robust platform that connected African media professionals (who were not journalists) within the diaspora.
In his interview with Applause Africa, Peter spoke of how challenging it was for him to get into the industry. "Once I got in, the second biggest challenge was figuring out how to apply, improve and maximize my skill sets, so that I can continue to be marketable." Self-determined, Peter was able to find a way to overcome these obstacles by following a very simple methodology - networking. "I've worked with several companies in my career; some are Fortune 500 companies while others are mid-size or startups and I realized establishing relationships with folks at the upper echelon of each company early on in my career played a major role in my development," he said. For those who are aspiring to work in the media industry, Peter advises;
"Seek out media professionals that do specifically what they aspire to do in the industry." Peter continued, "I also think that learning about the vast amount of career opportunities that they could potentially embark on in the industry is equally important."
Bessie Akuba Winn-Afeku
A former beauty queen turned photographer and creative activist, Bessie Akuba Winn-Afeku is on a purpose driven mission to change the world through photography, new media, and the arts. This former Miss Black Georgia USA has truly breathed life into the clichéd beauty pageant phrase, "Make the World a Better Place". A native of Ghana West Africa, Winn-Afeku moved to Georgia at the age of seven. After several years of being in front of the camera, and on stage, Winn-Afeku decided to create art from behind the scenes. She specializes in lifestyle and portrait photography. However, strongly believing that the arts can affect social change, Bessie combines her passion for photography, video documentaries, and theater to capture extraordinary images and stories that affect viewers at their core.
When she is documenting stories with her camera, she can be found blogging for the Huffington Post. She is the owner of "Fabulous Do-Gooder Productions", which specializes in producing documentary/narrative film and video, theater, and integrated media that engages, entertains, and enlightens. Bessie is the founder of the "She is Me Program", a 501c3(?) non-profit organization that empowers young women through the arts, positive role models, and giving them the power to create their own media. Bessie launched "I am The Change" in 2011 which is a photography campaign, brand, and soon to be book that captures the images of everyday people visually declaring their purpose in life.
Bessie Akuba Winn-Afeku has been featured in ESSENCE magazine, EBONY magazine, recognized as Atlanta's 2010 Power 30 Under 30, and is listed in the 2010 edition of Who's Who in Black Atlanta.
Few African artists have broken into the realm of Western contemporary pop songwriting and production to the degree that Dapo Torimiro has. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Dapo made the move to Los Angeles in order to be closer to the heart of the music industry. Before his widespread American success, he was a member of the four-piece Nigerian R&B/Soul outfit Kush. The band released their debut album The Experience, a Christian themed project, via the DKG Music, Inc. record label in 2003.
If anything, The Experience served to kickstart Dapo's solo career as a behind-the-scenes jack-of-all-trades. The multi-instrumentalist embarked on a short but inspiring stint as a touring and studio musician, acting as the keyboardist for Lauryn Hill's road-band in 2006. This opportunity, along with other notable appearances on the road, paved the way for Dapo's role as a songwriter for American pop and R&B acts. Most notably, one of Dapo's songs, "Quickly," landed on American crooner John Legend's 2008 album Evolver. The song prominently features pop singer Brandy and was co-written by the now headlining singer Frank Ocean. Together, Dapo and Frank Ocean (aka Lonny Breaux) penned several other pop songs for Justin Bieber, Michael Archuleta and Brandy.
Dapo has maintained a steady output of songwriting and production credits on the American pop charts. While his name may not ring out to the same degree as those for whom he writes, it is certainly the case that this humble musician is shaping American sounds nonetheless.
Fatima Bocoum is originally from Mali but travelled around the world as a child of diplomats. At seventeen she began hosting her own television program, Vi2o Hit, on the Africable network, a network established in 2004 in Mali by and for French-speaking Africans. A little more than a year ago Bocoum established a self-named 'Haute couture' fashion line with a specific focus in swimwear (meaning they specialize in custom, high fashion and high quality pieces).
BOCOUM, the brand, was clearly a natural fit for its creator: "I grew up with a passion for fashion, and would tell everyone that I would become a fashion designer. I simply never saw
myself doing anything else...BOCOUM is a brand that caters to women who dare to wear unconvent