“If you were to scan my heart, you will see it has the shape of Africa.”
A Cosmopolitan Childhood
Born in Côte d’Ivoire (West Africa) in the late 1970s to an Afro-European mother and American father, Swaady Martin spent her childhood in West Africa. Having done much travelling with her family since infancy, she sees herself as a child of the world – or what she calls a ‘Panafropolitan.’
“I grew up travelling, and visiting museums and galleries,” she says, “and so I was exposed to much art, design, fashion and culture at an early age.”
Swaady, who attended school in Côte d’Ivoire, France and the UK, remembers:
“From early childhood, I wanted to make a difference in the world, especially in Africa.
“I also grew up with parents who nurtured my consciousness of the role we must play in the bigger scheme of things and especially in Africa. “When you are born African you are born with a responsibility”, my dad would say. “
From a young age, says Swaady, she was determined to be an agent of positive change in Africa, to be part of the solution.
A Business Leader Emerges
After her studies, Swaady spent 11 years with General Electric Co. where she held leadership positions in several divisions across the world, with her final posting as GE Transportation’s Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and acting-CEO for GE South Africa Technologies.
During her tenure, she developed GE’s first business strategy for Africa. Swaady made rapid progress at this stage of her career. “I was passionate about this, too,” she says, “And I wanted to make a difference in Africa.
Then, says Swaady, after helping to grow and run a part of GE, she felt the urge to build and run her own.
Seeing African Opportunity
“The more I worked across Africa for a global company,” says Swaady, “the more I experienced and saw the opportunities that exist in Africa, while all the time honing my leadership and business skills.”
Like a true entrepreneur, Swaady saw opportunity where others saw problems.
Brands Infused With African Culture And History
While developing Yswara, Swaady decided to share Africa’s history with the world.
“I did a lot of research on African history and culture, and I found so many fascinating things gems that I wanted to share with the world. I also believe that everyone in the world, Africans included, need to gain knowledge of Africa history.
We need to preserve, safeguard, enhance and promote Africa’s rich culture and history,” she says. “And make it accessible. We must emphasize the greatness and glory of its civilizations and its on-going legacy.“
A Return To Business That Benefits All
For too long in Africa, Swaady says, the extraction method has been the business norm. It was adopted during the era of slavery and colonization, but still persists as a business model today, enslaving the African continent.
“We must return to our origins of Ubuntu, our African DNA,” says Swaady, ”to ensure we participate as a community where doing good is at the core of our business. It is our responsibility to run businesses that benefit all involved.”
A Business That Makes A Contribution
My business is my contribution to making a difference,” says Swaady.
Swaady describes herself as an authentic Afro-Entrepreneur, or an ‘Ubuntrepreneur.
We’re often labeled as social entrepreneurs,” she says, but explains that this way of doing business is at the core of African culture, and is in fact centuries old.
A New Africa Rising
Now is Africa’s time, says Swaady. “This diverse, magnetic continent is rising in countless arenas, inspiring us with its vibrancy and authenticity.”
Her YSWARA brand honors the past to embrace the future, she says.
“It is our desire to bring the refinement and richness of African culture to Africa and the world – to celebrate this vast and diverse continent.”