The 2021 Acumen Academy West Africa cohort consists of leaders who are tackling issues of poverty and injustice.
This year’s cohort brings together 23 leaders from across Anglophone West Africa - Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia. The group, made up of 52% women, includes extraordinary individuals in academia, for-profit, government, and nonprofit institutions – working together across lines of difference. From supporting smallholder oil-palm processors in rural Liberia to harmonizing the standardization of goods produced in Abia state Nigeria, these Fellows are challenging the status quo and rebuilding systems in their communities and sectors.
Over the course of the year, the Fellows will learn with — and from — each other in a series of virtual seminars about how to strengthen their ability to influence people and systems on behalf of the poor and the vulnerable. Here, competence meets character and urgency meets action as Fellows engage with Acumen Academy’s leadership development curriculum grounded in practices that reinforce the collective.
At the end of the Fellowship’s first year, Fellows will join our global community of 780 social innovators—who have made an impact on more than 8 million lives across the world—to share in a lifelong journey centered on creating a world that assures dignity for all.
The West Africa Fellows Program is generously supported by Ford Foundation, Global Affairs Canada, Hazon Holdings, and Mitsubishi Corporation.
Read more about the 2021 West Africa Fellows and how they are redefining success through their work.
Abdulai Deadehwai Swaray
Abdulai is a Development Practitioner and a Child Rights Activist. He is founder and Executive Director of Pikin-to-Pikin Movement; one of the leading National child protection non-governmental organisations in Sierra Leone. He has experience working with programmes to improve the lives of women and children. He has implemented programmes/projects with donors and partners that have impacted the lives of the beneficiaries and has received awards for his work.
Abiodun is Global Rights’ Executive Director, with core expertise in human rights and governance. Currently, her work spans several portfolios which include programmes on Access to Remedies, Women’s Rights, Natural Resource Governance, Civic Space Strengthening, and Security and Human Rights programs. Her work focuses on programs that address governance failures that exacerbate the disenfranchisement and the violations of the rights of the poor and marginalized, women, and victims of discrimination.
Alari is a Private Sector Development Specialist at the World Bank. Her specific experience includes providing technical advice to governments on Entrepreneurship Ecosystem building, Investment Climate reforms, SME Finance, and Financial Inclusion. She is involved in the design and supervision of multi-million-dollar projects across Africa. She is passionate about youth and women’s economic empowerment and supporting them to access tools needed to contribute effectively to economic growth and social development.
Bill is Founder and Executive Director at Rebuild Africa Inc, an organization that invests in the education of children living in poor and remote communities in Liberia. He is a social entrepreneur and general development practitioner with more than 20 years’ experience in national and international development programs in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and the United States. His technical program expertise includes education, microfinance, skills training, housing, education, and agribusiness.
Ehime is Founder of Sweetkiwi. Sweetkiwi is an artisan creamery using local dairy to create highly nutritious products to support local farmers and the dairy value chain in Nigeria. She recently led a team to launch Sweetkiwi successfully in the US market and has partnered with brands like Pepsi, LVMH & Guinness. She is an OXFAM 'WIP' award recipient and a Visa Business Grant Recipient, a GS10k Women Awardee, and was named one of Nigeria’s 100 most inspiring women.
Faridah is a social entrepreneur. She is a business consultant, currently serving as the principal consultant at Sustainable Impact Hub. She is also co-founder of the Association of Northern Women Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit empowering Women by reducing poverty and gender inequalities through entrepreneurial training, mentoring, access to finance, and market. Faridah holds a bachelor's and master's degree in Economics from the Usmanu Danfodiyo University and is also an alumnus of the Enterprise Development Centre - Pan Atlantic University.
Hafsah is Founder and CEO of CoAmana, a company supporting 15,000 small businesses and farmers with digital market access. She is a behavioural economist with years of experience in design, data, and field testing of micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) finance and market information products. Hafsah has a dedicated history of driving the use of digital and financial solutions to alleviate poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Hafsah holds a master’s degree in Applied Economics from the University of Cape Town.
Isaiah is the founder of Beamsity, an EdTech organisation that uses Smart Proprietary Audio-to-Text technology for offline multi-language learning for rural students, farmers, and low-income earners. Isaiah is empowering everyone with the knowledge to excel irrespective of language, literacy, or location barriers. Before founding Beamsity, Isaiah ran FBIS, a technology company empowering telecommunications’ agent for the digital advantage. Isaiah holds a degree in Computer Science and is a Certified Entrepreneur from Pan-Atlantic University.
Jewel N. Thompson
Jewel is an award-winning social impact strategist with more than ten years of experience working with NGOs, social enterprises, and start-ups. She has been invited to speak on her work and facilitate training and workshops within the United States, Europe, and Ghana. She is an assistant lecturer of entrepreneurship at Ashesi University and the founder of Eco-Launch, a Ghanaian based business advisory firm that supports early growth African social impact startups seeking to expand their offerings globally.
Landing is the Chairman (Mayor) of Mansakonko Area Council in The Gambia. He also serves as the President of The Gambia Association of Local Government Authorities. Before becoming Mayor, Landing worked for the Department of Youth and Sports as a Youth in Development worker for more than 15years. Landing holds a postgraduate diploma in Population and Development from the University of The Gambia, and diplomas in Youth Work, Management, and Micro and Small Enterprise Development.
Lehlé works at West Africa’s leading provider of business intelligence and news, BusinessDay Media, as the editor of the weekend publication. Lehlé also anchors and produces SDG-focused radio programs and events. Her engagement with policymakers, business leaders, youth, and the public contributes to shedding light on socio-economic issues including financial inclusion, impact investing, and financial literacy. She is the recipient of the Future Awards Africa for ‘intrapreneurship’ and was named one of the top 50 women in media in Africa.
Mahmud is Founder and CEO of J-Palm Liberia – an organization working to grow incomes for smallholder wild oil palm processors in rural Liberia. J-Palm builds mini oil-palm mills in rural communities that cut processing time by 90% and increase yields by 50%, resulting in more than 250% increase in smallholders’ income. J-Palm sustains this model by purchasing the previously wasted palm kernels from the farmers and processing them into natural skin and hair care products under its “Kernel Fresh” brand.
Michael is CEO and co-founder of Crop2Cash, a company that connects smallholder farmers to financial institutions to access credit. Crop2Cash makes credit from banks accessible to farmers using low-level technology like USSD and machine learning to analyse farmer performance. He has published papers in the International Journal of Computer Science and Telecommunications on the use of USSD technology to improve access to credit for farmers. Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Ibadan.
Molade is CEO of West Africa Vocational Education (WAVE), an organisation focused on leveling the playing field for young people to access the skills and the opportunity to get meaningful employment and become what they imagine. WAVE does this by offering demand-led programs and advocacy. She is also Chairperson of SWL, an NGO supporting women and children through empowerment, feeding, and educational programs. Molade has a master’s in pharmacy and 10 years of experience in business strategy and growth.
Monique is a passionate, service-oriented professional and co-founder of Petra Resources. Petra is a management consulting firm providing environmental and social evaluations and assessments to advise natural resource development projects across Liberia on regulatory compliance. Her approach increases community engagement and ownership and provides evidence-based policy and regulatory reform support to the government. Through her work, Monique also facilitates multi-stakeholder dialogue towards sustainability in natural resource sectors such as mining and oil palm.
Nelson Apochi Owoicho
Nelson is co-founder of Shammah Schools, a low-cost private school providing access to quality education to students from low-income backgrounds. Shammah Schools uses a flexible payment system that matches parents' income patterns and offers the parents guidance on planning and funding their children’s education. Nelson has consulted for UNICEF, WHO, UNCHA, and others. He is a LEAP Africa SIP Fellow and holds certificates in Social Sector Management and Social Change and Innovation from Pan Atlantic University and Kanthari respectively.
Nnaceesay Marenah is founder and CEO of Teach For The Gambia and is working on education as liberation. She is partnering with communities to build a pipeline of revolutionary leaders to transform the Gambian education system. Her vision is for every child in The Gambia to be seen, nurtured, and liberated. Nnaceesay is a keen advocate of Montessori education as well as decolonizing and indigenizing education in Africa.
Olivia is CEO of Pad-Up Creations Limited, a social enterprise in Nigeria that produces washable and reusable sanitary pads as a sustainable solution for girls and women in rural and low-income communities in Africa. She is also founder of Kommmb innovations, a company that recycles fabric waste from Pad-Up Creations Limited into educational toys, home décor, and soft furniture. She has a master’s in Business Administration and is currently a Ph.D. student in management at Texila American University.
Olumide is the Senior Technical Advisor/Deputy Unit Head at Sustainable Energy Access Unit of the Nigerian Energy Support Programme. He oversees the Mini-Grid Market Acceleration on framework/policy development, project implementation, high-level stakeholder’s management, promotions, and M&E. A clean energy expert with a vision to see 2million Nigerians electrified in three years, he was responsible for implementing six pilot projects providing electricity to more than 15,000 beneficiaries and advised the government on scaling, adding 40 mini-grid projects to benefit 175,000 people.
Ora Mato Barclay Keller
Ora is Executive Director of Girls for Change (GfC), an organization dedicated to promoting gender equality and empowering disadvantaged young women and children in Liberia. Ora has established gender justice clubs across high-risk communities and uses SAVAPP - an application that serves as a one-stop platform for women and girls to collect, report cases of sexual gender-based violence, and gain access to social services and justice. Ora earned a master’s in business administration from Cuttington University College.
Sam is Director-General of the Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency, an agency working to find new markets and ensure quality standardization for goods produced in Abia State Nigeria. The agency serves buyers from across West African countries. Sam is a lawyer with a specialisation in Environmental Law. He is currently a member of several Policy Groups and Plan Development Committees at the level of the federal and (Abia) State government.
Seun is a children’s theatre expert of international repute. He has championed several community projects in Lagos including, Bariga TV, Seaside Cottage Theatre, Bariga Adult Literacy Centre, Bariga Photo School, and the Bariga Fashion School. He is Founder and Creative Director of Footprints of David Arts Foundation supporting 7700 children in the Arts Academy, 1400 children in the Bright Achievers’ Schools (a free slum school project) and providing vocational training to more than 700 youths in photography and fashion.