As an African entrepreneur who was born and raised on the continent, I am acutely aware of Africa’s developmental needs and the impact that appropriate initiatives can have, especially for low-income countries and those affected by conflict. Africa’s development agenda to date has largely been imported rather than homegrown. The result is that many solutions, while somewhat effective, fall far short of maximizing the full potential of the continent’s resources and people.
To achieve the transformative growth that’s needed, we must shift from giving static answers to today’s challenges to seeking and generating proactive, dynamic solutions. This dynamism is something that sets apart leading companies and countries around the world. This is a culture that I seek to cultivate in my enterprises and in communities.
Reliable access to energy and its effective usage will determine how much we progress as a continent. When my business partner and I launched Yeelen, we did not just want to be a solar energy company or a company that simply imported foreign products, solutions, or brands. We founded the organization to provide a better, more sustainable way of producing and utilizing energy at a lower cost, all the while contributing to a cleaner planet.
My vision for Yeelen, as a smart energy services company, was that it would eventually support households, enterprises, organizations, and institutions to operate more effectively and efficiently, positioning them for growth, job creation, and expansion in the delivery of much-needed services.
While launching Yeelen was my first step in applying my technical training and professional expertise to my passion for creating sustainable solutions, I have faith that it won’t be my last. I have always been driven by the promise of technological innovation for economic growth and support development.
Now, based on my personal experiences through multiple health care systems, I recognize how important these are for health services as well. I also realize that despite almost dying, I was very fortunate to have been able to get the specialized care I needed at critical times. Most people in Senegal, Mali, and neighboring countries lack access to appropriate diagnostic and preventive care, cutting-edge research, and novel medical technologies.
As we think about how we can use this experience to effect positive change to the health systems here in the USA and back home, Desirée has helped me understand that what would make a difference in health care is about much more than the technology. The culture and team atmosphere around the patient also make an incredible difference. For instance, the doctors are part of that impact but so are the nurses, who serve as strong patient advocates and who are often the ones who know best what happens with each patient under their care on a day-to-day basis.
Seeing how much the doctors rely on nurses here at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston), we realized that simply having additional trained professionals and support staff who could assist doctors and patients alike, could make a huge difference. What I appreciated about my care in Boston and at Sutter Medical Center (Sacramento) had as much to do with the experience of the medical team as with the equipment, technologies, and availability of resources.
So, my personal and professional vision has expanded. Beyond what I envisioned with Yeelen (an effective platform for transformative impact), with my story, I am in the position to make an even larger impact on the health and wellbeing of communities here and back home.
As a first step, I am establishing the Heartofagiant Foundation, a non-profit organization with a mission that is two-fold and which spans my family’s two homes – the USA and Africa.
First – Amplify patient voices to improve their heart health and vitality. Improved patient voices will lead to better health outcomes by improving the quality of medical decisions, and guidelines, through better patient education and greater patient involvement.
Second – Contribute to capacitating healthcare practitioners on the continent with the skills (including research capacity), tools (such as equipment, medication, facilities…) and support (promoting a culture of care, taking care of the care providers), to be able to offer effective treatments in Africa to people with conditions similar to mine.