The African diaspora is spread all over the six continents and is blessed with some of the greatest minds who have been making waves across the world. From entrepreneurs running multimillion-dollar companies to scientists and GM of some of the most popular basketball clubs in the NBA, here are some inspiring citizens of the African Diaspora you should know about.
Bertin Nahum, a native of the country of Benin, is a Beninese-French entrepreneur born on November 14, 1969, in Dakar, Senegal. Nahum is one of the founders and CEO of Montpellier-based Quantum Surgical. He founded the company initially in 2002 and is specialized in designing, developing, and marketing surgical assistance robots. In 2016, Quantum Surgical was sold to Zimmer Biomet.
Bertin Nahum attended his studies in France at the National Institute of Applied Sciences, based in Lyon, where he obtained a degree in Engineering. He also studied Masters in Robotics at UK’s Coventry University. Nahum amassed valuable experience in medical engineering after he collaborated with notable surgeons. With this experience, Nahum decided to start creating medical technology devices to improve surgical interventions. In 2002, he began Medtech S.A. after winning the national innovative start-up companies contest held by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research.
Bertin Nahum’s first company was Medtech S.A., which he launched in Montpellier in 2002. The company developed minimally-invasive surgical equipment. The company’s first robot was named BRIGIT and was designed to assist physicians in the minimally-invasive placement of knee prostheses. In 2006, Medtech sold its entire patent portfolio for BRIGIT to Zimmer In., an orthopedic surgery company. The proceeds were reinvested in a new research program that led to the company discovering ROSA robot, which has been used with patients suffering from a wide range of diseases, including hydrocephalus, Parkinson’s, and drug-resistant types of epilepsy.
In 2013, Medtech went public and was fully acquired by Zimmer Biomet Group in 2016. Bertin Nahum remained in charge of the company until January 2017 when he, alongside three other former associates, founded a new company called Quantum Surgical. The company was also based in Montpellier and, just like his previous company, it dabbles in the field of minimally-invasive surgical robotics, but now focusing on the treatment of cancer. In 2018, Quantum Surgical managed to raise $10 million in a Series A funding round led by Ally Bridge Group. With Bertin Nahum, it was always venturing into the field he knows very well and created a solution to one of the biggest problems in the field of health. In 2012, Nahum was listed among the top 10 revolutionary High-Tech Entrepreneurs by Discovery Series magazine based in Canada. He was ranked fourth behind behemoths, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and James Cameron. Piece of advice from Nahum; always be optimistic and positive.
Silas Adekunle is 29 years old. He developed the world’s first-ever intelligent gaming robot, which got him a partnership with Apple and Amazon. Adekunle was born in Nigeria and migrated to the United Kingdom when he was just 11 years old. Since his childhood, he has been extremely obsessed with science and new technology, which made him play a lot with Lego robots and watching videos to try and learn how to build robots. Adekunle graduated with a first-class degree in Robotics from the University of the West of England.
His company, Reach Robotics, is an augmented reality gaming company that focuses on developing intelligent robots for gaming, as well as for STEM education. His partnership with Apple is a distribution deal that enables him to sell his products in Britain and the United States. He featured in the Financial Times list of the ‘Top 100 minority ethnic leaders in technology’ 2018 edition. After raising about $7.8 million in funding, Reach Robotics launched MekaMon gaming robots in 2016, which combined Augmented Reality (AR) with a four-legged toy robot. The company also launched MekaMon 2.0 in December 2018.
Most of you use Instagram and Snapchat daily as well as Instagram, but I bet a few of you have heard about Iddris Sandu, the brain behind the technology running these tech giants.
Iddris Sandu is 22 years old from Ghana and started learning to program when he was just ten years old, on his own. He was later discovered by a designer from Google, who offered him the prestigious internship at the company’s headquarters. When he was 13, he started working on various programs, including Google Plus, Google blogger, and many more. He also developed a mobile application for his high school that helped students navigate their classrooms. At 16, Iddris developed mobile software that even caught the attention of the then United States President Barrack Obama, and was invited to the White House where he was given an honorary presidential award. Iddris Sandu is living in Los Angeles and has accomplished virtually everything, including creating an algorithm behind Uber, Snapchat, and Instagram. He thinks of himself as a “cultural architect” who aims “to level the playing field” between young minorities and the Silicon Valley.
Iddris Sandu was attracted to technology when he saw the first version of the iPhone. He was quoted saying, “I got super excited. I thought the device was going to change the world. The reason why the iPhone was so important was that it was the first time regular consumers could develop for other regular consumers. Before, you had to work at a tech company for multiple years to be able to offer any sort of input or create an app. But Apple made it to the mainstream. I knew the future.”With his huge drive to make a change among the African youths, this tech genius has already made considerable strides to becoming an inspiration to the next generation of influencers, as well as entrepreneurs.
Ime Archibong is Nigerian born and the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at the social media giant, Facebook. His roles include directing activities at the company while leading the team on fast-tracking product strategies by establishing partnerships, unraveling new business opportunities with leading firms across various sectors, and driving product integrations. Archibong has been seen with CEO Mark Zuckerberg on many occasions that he is sometimes referred to as his deputy, and has contributed significantly to transforming the company into something beyond just a social media platform. He is one of the most trusted people at Facebook, and you will see him with the company's top brass at every function and trip.
Archibong is the key to Facebook’s 10-year vision: Connecting billions of more people around the world to the internet, and to Facebook. The vision entails the company investing in all kinds of new hardware, including drones and antennas, and work with partners all around the world to facilitate the internet connection and into the Facebook community.
At Facebook, Archibong ensures that internet access is affordable as well as raising awareness on the benefits of being online and not just on Facebook alone.
Before joining Facebook, Archibong was an Advanced Technology Business Development Professional at another tech giant IBM, where he focused on licensing the company’s storage research portfolio. It was at IBM that Archibong started his software engineering career, and was stationed at Systems and Technology Group, before being moved to the corporate strategy team and business development team.
Archibong holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Yale University, as well as an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is also one of the 40 Under 40 Tech Diversity launched in 2015 in Silicon. The individuals in this group are considered to have heightened the focus in the tech industry to embrace diversity.
Our next entry is a lady who has been a source of inspiration to many young women in Africa, Fumbi Chima. Mrs. Chima is from Nigeria and has been the Chief Information Officer for FOX Networks Group before joining Adidas in November last year (2018). At Fox, Chima delivered global leadership to technology and operations team across 70 countries, changing the culture to one of innovation, transparency, interdependence, accountability, and impact. It is a position she held with so much distinction that the sportswear giants Adidas decided to poach her. She holds the same role at Adidas.
Before her stint at Fox Network Group, Chima worked in a similar capacity at the fashion giants Burberry and online retail store Walmart Stores, Asia. Throughout her career, Chima has been responsible for operational management and IT security.
Fumbi is an advocate of diversity, inclusion, and women. She is currently spearheading an effort to create mentoring opportunities for African women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – STEM. She is also on the Advisory Board for Diplomatic Couriers. She is also a non-Executive Director for Global Sources, as well as a member of the United Nations Digital Task Force, which works to enhance the digital economy in Asia. Fumbi also serves on the board of the World Affairs Council as well as a member of the International Women’s Forum and Executive Leadership Council.
Fumbi Chima is an experienced, ROI-driven business leader with a broad experience leading the world’s largest global IT companies. Mrs. Fumbi holds a Bachelor’s degree in politics and philosophy from The University of Hull, United Kingdom. The fact that she held a Chief Information Officer role in Information Technology, a field that is still dominated by male, is something to greatly admire.
Dr. Osatohanmwen Osemwengie was born in Edo State, Benin, Nigeria. He left Nigeria in the 1980s for the United States of America, where he becomes an integral part of the American armed forces. Osemwengie is worldwide known for his powerful drone armies in the world. His drones are operated by the United States Army for surveillance to gather important data, information, as well as take out terrorist camps.
Osemwengie is one of the highly learned individuals, boasting seven master’s degrees and three doctorate degrees. He served at the College of Education in Benin as an administrator, where he scooped the Educator of the Year award for securing funding used to design, develop, and implement pre-service teacher education programs.
In 2008, Osemwengie enhanced his stocks in the field of robotics after he coached robotics in the world robotics championships as well as a software engineering mentor to robotic teams. Osemwengie has also worked with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and has managed to successfully send drones to various planets, including Jupiter and Mars. According to him, he worked on the prototype of Mars Curiosity Rover that has been roaming the surface of Mars for over 4 years now, and was quoted saying, “we are now working on the next rover set to launch in 2020.”
Dr. Osato founded the Open Robotics University in 2011 in the United States, and is described as one of the first tuition-free engineer-granting university in the world that “enables anyone to further exercise their talents and expand their knowledge into all fields related to engineering.”
Ashitey is the chief engineer of a team created to design robots for NASA missions at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, California, United States. He was one engineer that worked at the Mars Exploration Rover project in 2003 and the Phoenix aircraft that discovered water on Mars in 2018, as well as the Mars Science Laboratory in 2011. Ashitey is the team leader of the system of the craft that is used in NASA’s InSight mission to Mars.
Ashitey was born in Accra, Ghana, and his fascination for space exploration started when he was still a young boy. He finished his secondary education at the Ghana Secondary Technical School and left his country for the United Kingdom to further his education. He received his Bachelor of Engineering in Avionics at the Queen Mary University of London in 1991. It was in 1999 when he had a breakthrough after Joining NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He instantly rose through the ranks to become the team leader that designed the Mars Rover robot that landed on Mars.Ashitey has won numerous awards, including the JPL Mariner Award in 2006 from MER “For outstanding leadership in the analysis and resolution of the IDD unstows anomaly on Opportunity Rover.” He also won an Outstanding Engineer Award in 2007.
Seni Sulyman was born in Nigeria, in the year 1985. He is currently the vice-president of Global Operations at Andela, an engineering company that is responsible for building a network of African technology leaders and software developers to help companies, as well as the continent as a whole, to build better products and overcome the tech talent shortage. With over 1000 African developers working from various hubs, Andela aims to grow a million more home-grown software engineers in the next ten years. This dream is being facilitated by Sulyman, an engineer and Harvard-trained business executive.
Before joining Andela, Sulyman had worked with HP, Konga, CardinalStone, Bain & Company, and Bristow. Besides working at Andela, he is also the founder of the AYPAfrica, a company that nurtures skillful and talented young Africans to achieve self-actualization.
He joined Andela back in 2016 as the Director of Operations for Nigeria. He later moved up the ranks to the Country Director of Nigeria in 2017. Under his short time with Andela, the organization has grown its Nigeria branch by over 400%, after the launch of a state-of-the-art technology office in Lagos.
The famed fashion designer is behind rap star Kanye West, and also the founder of the luxury brand called Off-White. In 2018, he was appointed the artistic director at Louis Vuitton, a move that made him the first African-American to hold that position in the history of the company.
Abloh’s parents are Ghanaians and he was born on September 30, 1980, in Rockford, Illinois. He is a trained architect, but he found a breakthrough in the international fashion scene in 2009 after he joined Fendi as an intern alongside rapper Kanye West. They were both sent to the company’s Rome office, where they began a collaborative relationship.
In 2018, Abloh was named by the Time magazine in the list of 100 most influential people in the world.
Abloh partnered with Kanye West’s companion to launch the RSVP Gallery in Chicago. This retail fashion store became very popular for selling a blend of fashion apparel. One year later, in 2010, Abloh was appointed by Kanye West as the creative director of DONDA, and in 2012, he worked as artists’ director for the West’s famous rap album with Jay Z, Watch the Throne. In the same year, Abloh founded his own company called Pyrex Vision. Using his new company, he purchased deadstock clothing from Champion for $40 and screen-printed, then sold them at over $550. But he closed Pyrex Vision a year later because he didn’t want the company to be a commercial enterprise, but rather an artistic experiment.
In 2013, Abloh launched his first-ever fashion house and second business when he founded Off-White. The company was based in Milan, Italy, and according to Abloh, it was “the gray area between black and white as the color off-white.” His launch was aided by New Guards Group, who had previously helped other designers and brands. His business took off instantly, starting with Paris, and then China and Tokyo, as well as his home country, the United States.
Abloh displayed his collections at the Paris Fashion Week in 2014. His clothing line was also selected as a finalist for the LVMH Prize but lost to Marques’ Almeida and Jacquemus. He launched Off-White in Tokyo, Japan, but diversifying to furniture arm under Grey Area. In 2017, Abloh helped design a new collection in collaboration with Nike called “The Ten,” where he designed a wide range of the company’s bestselling shoes to date.
Recently, Abloh has partnered with the furniture giant IKEA to design new furniture for houses and apartments. The new collection will be titled “markerad,” which means ‘clear-cut’ in Swedish. Abloh wants the collection to include furniture with modern designs.
In 2018, Abloh was named the artistic director of Luis Vuitton. His first-ever collection of Luis Vuitton was showcased at the 2018 Men’s Fashion Week held at the famous Palais-Royal gardens in Paris, France. And the first person to wear Abloh was the pop star, Rihanna.
Abloh’s designs have been in high demand, and he even designed outfits for Serena Williams that she wore during the 2018 U.S. Open.
Dr. Philip Emeagwali
Dr. Emeagwali is often credited for inventing the world’s first supercomputer capable of performing over 3 billion calculations in one second. His work is often associated with the advent of the internet as we know it. But there has been some discourse as to his actual contributions to computer and network development over the years.
Philip was born in 1954 in Akure, Nigeria. The Nigerian Civil War of 1967 halted his early education for some times and even served in the Biafran army when he was 13 years old. However, he completed high school after the war through self-study. He was awarded a scholarship and moved to the United States to pursue his higher learning education at Oregon State University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, in 1977. He also received a master’s degree in Ocean and Marine Engineering from the George Washington University in Washington D.C., as well as a second master’s degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Maryland.
Dr. Philip has been often referred to as the “Bill Gates of Africa,” and before even the real Bill Gates, he was receiving accolades for his application for CM-2 massively-parallel computer in 1989.
His Connection Machine was the world’s most powerful computer at the time. It is an intrinsic supercomputer that, to program, it requires an in-depth knowledge of how all 65,536 processors are interlinked. The processing nodes of the computer are configured as a cube in some sort of the 12-dimensional universe, despite it solving problems arising from the 3-dimensional universe. For it to perform fast computation, he categorized the calculations among the 65,536 processors and squeezed performance from each processor. It took him over 1000 pages to describe all the hundreds of mathematical equations.
Dr. Marian Croak
While many people who are not tech-geeks may not know who Marian Croak is, her contribution to internet-based audio/video cannot be taken lightly. She is the brain behind the VOI technology, which enables platforms such as Vonage, Skype, and MagicJack to function. She is African-American with aPh.D. holder in quantitative analysis from the University of Southern California.
She started her career at AT&T, where she worked for over 30 years and served as Senior Vice President of Research and Development of the company. Dr. Croak predicted that IP and the internet would be a hit, which motivated her to develop a technology that would transform the internet forever.
Dr. Croak holds more than 125 patents in VOI technology and manages over 2,000 engineers and computer scientists responsible for AT&T’s enterprise and consumer wireline and mobility services. She is also the Google Vice President of Engineering.
Dr. Croak grew up in New York and attended Princeton University for a degree and the University of Southern California for doctoral in 1982, specializing in social psychology and quantitative analysis.
During her stint with AT&T, she championed the switching from wired phone technology to IP or Internet Protocol. She is credited for the use of phone network services to allow everyone to donate during a crisis appeal. When AT&T collaborated with American Idol to use a text voting system, it enabled 22% of viewers to learn how to text for them to take part in the show. She later filed the patent for text-based donations in 2005 to charity. This move transformed how people started to donate money to charitable organizations.
In 2013, Dr. Croak was inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of Fame and was elected Vice-Chair of ATIS, an organization focusing on technological development. She was also honored for “Outstanding Technical Contribution – Industry” during the Black Engineering of the Year (BEYA) Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Conference held in Washington D.C. in 2014.
Dr. Mathias Fobi
Dr. Matias Fobi is a Cameroonian native Bariatric surgeon behind the internationally recognized The Fobi Pouch procedure. He is based in Carson, California, and is associated with numerous notable hospitals around the region, such as Southern California Hospital and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Culver City.
He obtained his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College Of Medicine and has amassed over 20 years of experience in medicine. Dr. Fobi is known to have performed his famous procedures on several Hollywood celebrities, including Randy Jackson and Roseanne Barr.
Dr. Fobi, or MAL, as he is known to his close friends has been a Fellow of ICS for 24 years, and is the current Congress President of the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders Scientific Congress (ISO2010) held in Long Beach, California.
Fobi is also known widely as Hollywood’s weight loss surgeon and has made over 1000 surgeries in the United States. His patented procedures and inventions help other surgeons around the world too. He has conducted over 20 research projects in the field of surgical treatment of obesity as well as over 2450 lectures and presentations at local, national, and international stages. Dr. Fobi has contributed to more than 40 publications on the subject of obesity as well as Bariatric Surgery. He held the seat of the President of the California Chapter of American Society for Bariatric Surgery and the President of the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Foundation between 2006 and 2008.
His patented signature surgery – The Fobi Pouch – is a type of stomach-shrinking gastric bypass and has been adopted worldwide.
Bozoma Saint John
Bozoma Saint John's family background is Ghanaian, but she was born on January 21, 1977, in Connecticut, United States. Bozoma Saint John is a renowned American businesswoman and seasoned marketing executive who is currently holding the position of chief marketing officer at William Morris Endeavor. Before her current post, she was a chief brand officer at Uber and a marketing executive at Apple Music until June 2017 after joining the company as part of the acquisition of Beats Music.
Saint John, though, was born in the United States, grew up for a while in Ghana before moving back to the States when she was 12 years old. Her father was a member of the Ghana Army and a clarinet player.
Saint John has cited her father as her source of inspiration. In 1999, she received her English degree from the Wesleyan University, the same institution where her father received a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology.
She worked as Arnold Worldwide and Spike Lee’s DDB after college, as well as for fashion brand Ashley Stewart as a vice president of marketing.
Saint John also played a crucial role in bringing PepsiCo into music and festival-based marketing during her time at the company as the head of Music and Entertainment Marketing, and the department was also created from her idea that the company should focus on sponsoring music festivals as well as award shows. She left the company in 2014 and joined Beats Music after Jimmy Lovine personally recruited her. When Apple acquired Beats Music, Saint John became the head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes. She made headlines in 2016 after her presentation at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Many commentators complimented her personality and likened it to the company’s emphasis on the complete overhaul of iTunes and Apple Music.
Billboard Magazine included her in the top women in music, as well as featuring in the Fast Company’s 100 most creative individuals and AdWeek’s most exciting personalities in advertising. She is currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Endeavor.