Being placed with Thomson Reuters in Kenya felt serendipitous for me because I always knew I would return to Kenya one day; I just didn’t know exactly when. My first encounter with Africa was a lengthy visit to Kenya about 5 years ago and I instantly fell in love with the country, visiting many of its cities along the way. As a tourist (but with Kenyan-American friends), I immediately felt like their family and wondered if it would feel the same returning here as a businesswoman working for a global company. Luckily it did! Kenyan hospitality is certainly not confined to the walls of one’s home. Even in the workplace, both men and women treated me with such kindness and grace. They would often insist on seeing me all the way into my house after a ride from work, that I took tea if I was cold, or that I ate at least a second serving of scrumptious mandazis that they offered. One of the most memorable moments was a day that I was extremely saddened by back to back unjust police killings of people of color in the United States. Being far away from home and very upset, all of my co-workers made it known that they stood in solidarity with me and the #BlackLivesMatter movement which made me feel very supported in the workplace.
Over the years, I’ve traveled to a dozen or more countries in Africa but none will ever compare to Kenya - however a close second would be South Africa. I was fortunate enough to spend the first portion of my placement at the headquarters office in Johannesburg where I met many C-level managers and gained insight on how business leaders operate culturally across the continent. I am very grateful for this fellowship experience and all of the opportunities that it has afforded me. As a social entrepreneur with a focus on the Africa Diaspora, I’ve been able to meet industry leaders and attend valuable conferences in multiple countries that will aid me in growing my companies, Jelani Girls and Jelani Women, thanks to ABF! A great example is the opportunity ABF created for us to tour SHOFCO, a thriving non-profit organization in the heart of a slum called Kibera that operates a primary school for girls. Not only did I get to serve youth by giving motivational talks, but I also was able to establish a relationship with leaders in the organization who agreed to partner with my company to bring Jelani Women from the United States to participate in a full day of service with their school in November! My experience with the Africa Business Fellowship has reaffirmed my decision to dedicate my life’s work to linking more Americans to Africa. I look forward to staying connected to the next cohort and being an ambassador for this incredible initiative.