“If you were to scan my heart, you will see it has the shape of Africa.”

Swaady Martin

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.

An Academic Foundation

After completing her schooling, Swaady studied further in Switzerland, the UK, the US and France. Her academic qualifications include an MSc (Economic Sciences) and an MBA.

Discovering African History – In The West

While living and travelling, Swaady spent time in museums and art galleries, exposed to the art and history of everything she encountered.

“I was privileged to encounter and discover more about African history, art and culture through travelling.”

“In Europe I discovered more about the great African artists, artisans and artifacts, and about our past leaders and our history,” says Swaady. “I realized that most Africans do not have access to their own art, history, and culture, because so much of it is outside of Africa. I felt so strongly that more people should have access to this.”

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.

The Ah-Ha Moment That Started The Business

There was an ah-ha moment for her, says Swaady. “I realized that I could create the Swaady Group,” she says, “by merging several interests into one: my love for tea, my love for plants and flowers in general, my love for history and culture, my interest for nature’s healing treasures, and my passion for making a difference in Africa.”

Aware of Africa’s crippling commodity trap, Swaady was dissatisfied with the status quo, and wanted to help change that.

“African commodities are exported and then processed abroad. They are then sold at very high price back to us, and to the world. So little is realized in Africa. I saw farmers remaining destitute, unable to create a better life for their families, with the cycle of poverty being perpetuated. Launching Yswara and Akrafo , I wanted to start with tea and then branch into other agricultural commodities.” she says.

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.

Award-Winning African Brands

Among Swaady’s many awards and honors is her 2012 nomination as one of Forbes “20 Youngest Power Women in Africa.” She was also included as one of the 40 women on Oprah Winfrey’s “O Power List 2014.” In the same year, Forbes named her as one of “The 20 Young Africans Building Africa’s Future.”

Having recently being recognized at the Brand Africa Awards with the Emerging African Brand award, Swaady says she is grateful for the accolade.

“Launching the Swaady Group was a huge leap of faith for me,” she says. “I traded in my hard corporate skills in order to hone my knowledge in the fine art of hand-blending teas with a myriad of different flavors and health benefits.”

But Swaady Martin is happy that she made the change. “This award has reassured me that I’m making a significant contribution.

I really hope we can inspire more and more African brands to take on the world in a proudly African way”.

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.”