The mission of the pan-African (F2FA) Weekend is to highlight and celebrate the individuals who are transforming Africa in this century. As part of this mission, Face2face Africa searched far and wide to find six of the brightest, most inspiring, and most promising young pan-African professionals who are already making notable impacts in African affairs.
More than just their current contributions, we chose these six burgeoning entrepreneurs, diplomats, and engineers because of the promise and ambition that we see in them. We believe that they are exemplars of the vanguard of the next generation of African leaders who will continue to shape and transform both the internal dynamics of the continent and the rest of the world’s view of us in the near and far future.
The 2014 Young Africans Committed to Excellence (YACE) Finalists will be honored at the African Union Mission (305 East 47th Street, NY, NY) on Friday, July 25, and will be provided the platform to discuss their work and vision for Africa. And now, in no particular order, meet the best of the next generation:
1) Jessica Matthews
Education: Harvard University, BA, MBA
Current Title: Co-founder & CEO, Uncharted Play, Inc.
Presentation Topic: Disarm & Inspire: Building Creative Confidence Through Play
As the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Uncharted Play Inc., Jessica drives the creative vision of an award‐winning social enterprise with a mission to foster well-being by inspiring people to lead playful lives. Jessica is a recipient of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Next Generation Award (2013), Black Enterprise’s “40 Under 40 Next Generation of Women in Power” (2012), the Scientist of the Year by the Harvard Foundation (2012), the “10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs” by Fortune (2011), and the Next Generation Breakthrough Innovator by Popular Mechanics (2010). Working with governments in the United States and internationally, Jessica was invited by President Barack Obama to the White House to represent small companies for the signing of the America Invents Act in 2012 and currently serves as an Ambassador of Entrepreneurship for Nigeria.
Face2Face Africa: What was your inspiration for starting Uncharted Play and what do you attribute to your success thus far?
Jessica Matthews: I started Uncharted Play to create a platform for rethinking play as a tool for impact and progress. I think highlighting purposeful play as the key element of our “secret sauce” has been a major part of our success: people want to and like to play, so it is easy to pull them in to our mission and help them change behaviors for the greater good — sometimes without it even feeling like they are changing at all.
F2FA: What do you love most about Africa?
JM: The people. In Nigeria, everyone is direct but truly loving; we’ll tell you what we think without apologies, but we mean no ill will beyond the statement. It’s refreshing. I also love traveling across Africa — whether in Tanzania, South Africa, or Morocco — and seeing where our differences and similarities lie as a continent. We represent the foundation of mankind — the beats, the food, the colors — it’s almost a spiritual experience.
F2FA: What is your vision for Africa, and as a member of the next generation, what are you doing to ensure this vision becomes a reality?
JM: I think Africa today is where Latin America was 15 to 20 years ago; it is ripe for investment and forward thinking to develop systems for growth. However, we have the benefit of learning from our predecessors, and thus, have a unique opportunity to establish leadership in business and social impact by designing the future we want with the tools available to us in this digital age.
Join Jessica and learn more about her story at the United Nations on Friday, July 25th. Click here to register.