Pan-African Weekend: Meet the 2015 Young Africans Committed to Excellence

Sandra Appiah May 05, 2015

Clemantine Wamariya

ClemHeadshots-5373Nationality: Rwandan
Current position(s): Keynote Speaker at Peace Is Loud & Human Rights Advocate
Education: MBA, Yale University
Topic of Interest: Storytelling and Growing and Investing in Leaders

Clemantine Wamariya is a passionate social entrepreneur and human rights advocate who has committed her life to developing African human capital through the power of storytelling and education advocacy. She uses personal stories of her childhood in war-torn countries and refugee camps to inspire thousands of people to persevere despite great odds.  As a charismatic and authentic public speaker, Clemantine began with an audience of only five students and has since shared her message with over 100,000 people. She has been a four-time guest on the Oprah Show, a speaker at TEDx, Chicago Ideas Week and at many university campuses and distinguished organizations.

In 2011, President Obama appointed her to serve on the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Clemantine also serves on the Women for Women International Board. In recognition of her dedication towards improving the lives of others, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organization recently described Clemantine as “a compelling storyteller and fierce advocate for girls worldwide.” Drawing from her own life experience, Clemantine’s human rights advocacy focuses on ensuring development and mentorship for underprivileged African Youth. She is committed to connecting the brightest young Africans at American colleges and universities with professional opportunities at global companies where they can thrive.

F2FA: What makes you proud to be an African?
CW: My country, Rwanda, especially the youth; I am very proud to see what a country can achieve when everyone and every resource is use to make a country stronger than it used to be.

F2FA: What inspired you to go in to your field?
CW: Growing up in war torn countries and refugee camps inspired me to go into the field I am in. My purpose in life is to remind people that there are others who are struggling to exist within spaces of war and poverty. I would do anything to make people understand and see those suffering. As of now I use stories to engage with people to know that they have an opportunity to take care of those who are suffering. I want to take the stereotype of what a refugee is or what a war survivor looks like and say, “that is me.” I believe that my mission in life is to bring awareness to the experiences I have lived and millions are living in today.

F2FA: What do you see as the way forward for Africa to fulfill its potential?
CW: Africa’s development is in the hands of the wellbeing of our people, ownership of our stories and taking responsibilities for all of our actions: in this room, in diaspora, those in slums, in refugee camps and in prisons. Africa’s future lives in the questions we dare to ask and the definitions and terms we create for ourselves. But mostly importantly, we must re-define what kind of leaders we are to whichever action we take to be apart of Africa’s development. We must do everything to become honest and mindful leaders who value people, planet and profit. However, in order for Africa to fulfill its potential, we need to: get to know each other. We need to work together. We need to invest in the wellbeing of our people, health, education and leadership.

F2FA: How important is homegrown innovation to reaching this end?
CW: In terms of homegrown innovation, I would repeat what I learned from my dear friend and mentor Magatte Wade: With any innovation, we need to be original in our approach, we cannot create the Facebook of Africa or the Hollywood of Africa, we need to do better, we need to allow our imagination wonder in order to create something west, east, middle east can learn from. We must not copy.

F2FA: With Africa soon having the largest youth population in the world, what can governments and communities across the continent do to properly engage and stimulate the youth and effectively harness their power, energy, and creativity?
CW: Listen to them and then create opportunities that offer leadership and skills training, they are the wealth of the continent. Invest in them, their wellbeing, education and skills.

F2FA: What advice would you give to young people about finding their life’s purpose and path?
CW: To get to know stories and labels that holds you down, get to know them very well and work on rising above them everyday as a practice. Don’t just be a consumer, create, create, and create to share!

F2FA: What are you looking to accomplish that you haven’t accomplished yet?
CW: Connecting Africans in order to join effort to take care and invest in those who truly need our support in our continent and outside of it.

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