My desire to work in Africa was born approximately 10 years ago while in graduate school. Three of my close friends moved to Ghana to start businesses. One began mining gold and the other two started a hydroponics farm. I’ve always loved business and entrepreneurship, but I knew very little about either on the continent at the time. I began obsessing over anything that contained additional information about doing business in Africa. I constantly Skyped my friends and asked them more questions about their experiences and picked their brains for new ideas. During my final year of graduate school, I attended the Africa Business Forum at Wharton and was exposed to numerous companies that were looking to recruit talent to move to various countries in Africa. The feedback I received from employers was two-fold: One— they were looking for U.S. educated, African nationals that were interested in moving back to the continent, Two— they were looking for individuals who had experience working on the continent in some capacity. The only category I fit-in was— “Willing to pack all of my belongings and take my experience and talents to a new country, in a different continent and go all in.” It was not my time.
In 2013, I made my first trip to the continent and visited my friends in Ghana. Spending time in Accra and Kumasi and traveling 5 hours north in “the bush” to stay on a mining site. It was during this trip that my eyes were opened to the numerous opportunities that the continent had to offer. I was awed to see barbershops and other stores made out of shipping containers, logistic companies that only helped people purchase and ship cars from the U.S., a soul food restaurant that specialized in chicken and waffles, the list is endless. It dawned on me that Africa wasn’t just the future; it was the present. Shortly after I returned to the U.S., I had a long conversation with Jeanny David, a close friend, about my burning desire to work on the continent in some capacity and we continued that conversation on and off for the next two years. She encouraged me that my time would come.
On April 30, 2015 I received a forwarded email from Jeanny that simply said, “MLT making big moves. Figured you'd be interested.” I proceeded to read the rest of the email. It turned out that the Milken Institute, Econet, African Leadership Network and Management Leadership for Tomorrow were forming a partnership called, Africa Business Fellowship (ABF). The goal of the partnership was to take up and coming US business leaders and connect them with some of the fastest growing companies on the continent for up to 6 months. What an amazing opportunity! I could not pursue it. I was in the process of moving to the Greater Boston area and also set to get married in October of that year. I shuddered to think about letting my new bride know that I would be moving out of the country for up to 6 months, shortly after saying “I do.” Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe I would never get an opportunity to work on the continent.
On November 30, 2016 I received an email from ABF and the subject was, “Can you afford not to apply to the Africa Business Fellowship?” I sat at my desk and contemplated that question for 5 minutes and texted my wife, Tai for her opinion. The deadline was two days away, but we decided to see if we could get all of the paperwork in. I was able to submit everything within the next 48 hours and I was prepared to wipe the idea of working on the continent out of my mind forever. Weeks went by and between the holidays and intense focus at work, I forgot about ABF.
On February 9, 2017 my dream became a reality, as I accepted a 3-month placement with Duma Works in Nairobi, Kenya! Everything about my journey to this point has prepared me for my role as the Chief Human Capital Strategist with Duma, where I oversee Business Development/Sales, Marketing and New Market Expansion. I can’t wait to see what’s next on this journey!
Top image: Visiting Andela's offices in Nairobi. L-R: ALN ABF Program Director Adedana Ashebir, me, Career Directions Limited Fellow Ruth Lawanson, Liquid Telecom Fellows Alryl Koroma and Joe Mehari, Medanta Africare Fellow Nnenna Ikoro, and Mabati Rolling Mills Fellow Curtis Kidd Telemaque