Photo by Judd van Rensburg for the "AFRICA YOUR TIME IS NOW" campaign created by Papama Mtwisha
12 April 1980: President W. Tolbert of Liberia was brutally murdered in a military “coup” by 28 years old Master Sergeant Samuel Doe. A few days later, Tolbert’s cabinet members were publicly executed. This coup started a vicious circle of violence, instability and impoverishment. A descent into hell familiar to many Africans.
I was about 3 years old then, and my family had settled in Liberia 6 years before. As soon as the airport reopened, we fled the city, leaving everything behind - including my father - and found refuge in Dakar, Senegal where my mother had some family.
What do you remember when you are only 3 years old and pushed to the edge of life?
Memories are blurry, scattered in the labyrinths of your unconsciousness. The only memories that remain vivid are the consequences and the impact such events has had on your life.
You learn that material things don’t matter as everything can disappear overnight. You are free and grounded.
You discover that love is stronger than war. I would lose sight of my father for 25 years until we were reunited. You become a knower, not anymore a believer.
You decide whether to look at life as a glass half empty or half full, letting the traumas of civil war haunt and drag you down, or choosing to embrace them. You are an optimist.
You understand how one person can change the course of your life and who you become. You are purposeful.
You consider that destiny may be a dice. You didn’t die but went on to a future full of unexpected opportunities and great successes. You are humbled and grateful.
You remember forever that you had to flee, un-rooted from the comfort of your material home. You realize that you will never find “home” in a place. It is within you. “Home” is your soul.
And later on...
- Swaady MARTIN is a serial entrepreneur and author. She has ~20 years experience in Business Management, Brand Building and New Business Model development working with the multinational GE (General Electric) and various entrepreneurial ventures (family businesses, start-ups). She is the founder & CEO of YSWARA, a social enterprise; transforming African agricultural commodities locally to contribute to the reversal of the African commodity trap. Swaady is also the author/creator of the “Luxe Ubuntu” concept, an inclusive business model providing economic value and meaningful income to all the members of the supply chain, who participate in the production of products.
In January 2018, she launched SHIFT WITHIN, a self-development platform offering courses, programs, workshops, retreats and gatherings promoting mindful living.
She has received numerous distinctions and awards. She is an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow and was named “The Queen of African Luxury” by FORBES in 2013. The same year, she was named by the same publication (FORBES), one of “The top 20 young Africans building the future of Africa”. In 2014, she was listed on Oprah Winfrey’s “O’ Power List” and named one of the “Youngest Power Women in Africa” by FORBES. In 2011, Swaady was named “New Leader of the Future” by the Forum of Crans Montana.
- Prior to pursuing her entrepreneurial interest, Swaady had a successful 10-years career at General Electric Co. where she held leadership positions in several divisions across the world with her last posting as GE Transportation’s Director for Sub-Saharan Africa. Among others, she developed GE’s first strategic plans for Africa. She is the author of the A.F.R.I.C.A business model for accelerating the growth of multinationals in Africa which was recognized as a Best Practice and shared at various ivy league business schools (INSEAD, Wharton, Harvard) and business forums (Medef).
- Swaady is a strong advocate of conscious entrepreneurship, consciousness, women empowerment and leadership. Among other things, she led the GE Women’s Network for Africa, supports various leadership initiatives and participated in the set-up of the Africa 2.0 and the African Leadership Network (ALN), premier networks of young African leaders. Passionate about communities’ development and bottom-of-the-pyramid challenges, Swaady spent 2 years helping bank the unbanked in Nigeria supporting the work of Paga, a mobile payment company.
- She is a Board Member of the African Leadership Institute (Afli), member of the Impact Committee for the I&P IPAE2 Fund and a Trustee of the Nirox Art Foundation.
- Swaady has authored MALAIKA AND THE ANGEL, a collection of spiritual tales and co-authored with Anna Trapido THE AFRICAN ART OF TEA (to be published 2018-2019).
- Swaady holds a Masters in Economic Sciences from HEC Lausanne University of Lausanne, Switzerland) and an MBA from the London School of Economics (LSE), NYU Stern Business School and HEC Paris Business School.
- Swaady has lived in 11 countries across Africa, Europe, the United States and Asia.
- 2015 – Won the “2015 Emerging African Brand” award by Brand Africa
- 2015 – Nominated as a Rising Talent at the 2015 Women’s Forum for the economy & society,
- 2014 – Named one of the 40 women on Oprah Winfrey’s “O Power List 2014”
- 2014 - Named one of “the 20 young Africans building Africa’s future” by FORBES
- 2014 - Won the "Africa Economy Builders" award
- 2013 - Named one Africa’s top business woman by New African Woman and Les Afriques
- 2012 - Named one of “the 20 youngest power women in Africa” by FORBES
- 2012 - Awarded a Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellowship
- 2011 - Named “New Leader of the Future” by the Crans Montana Forum
- “Malaika and the Angel”, October 2017
- “The “Africa” Framework for start-ups in tough places”, INSEAD Knowledge, August 2016
- “Towards a definition of authentic African luxury: LUXE UBUNTU”, Palgrave Macmillan (April 2014)
- “Africa’s growth opportunities”, HARVARD Business School Review Blog, October 2011
- “Reflections on Leadership”. Chapter 9 in the book “Sushis and Tapas: life stories of young women”, September 2011