This summer, Root Capital was delighted to welcome an impressive cadre of interns and fellows. I had the opportunity to get to know two of these rising stars more closely at our annual Africa regional training retreat in Saly, Sengal. Ousseynou Diome and Miriam Atuya are both members of the prestigious African Leadership Academy, and their stories and dreams for the future are striking.
Take Ousseynou, who conducted key value chain research for our Senegal office. One night, as we were wrapping up an intense day of training sessions at the retreat, Willy Foote took out his guitar—a core attendant at any Root Capital staff gathering—and we began belting out Western classics like Margaritaville and Hey Jude. When it became obvious that our Senegalese staff, our hosts, weren’t familiar with the songs that our Cambridge staff knew by heart, Ousseynou piped up, “Let’s sing the anthem.”
With that, he and a few of our Senegalese staff took the floor to sing the national anthem of Senegal, loud and proud (here translated from French):
Fibers of my green heart,
Shoulder to shoulder, my more-than-brothers,
O Senegalese, arise!
Join sea and springs, join steppe and forest!
Hail mother Africa, hail mother Africa
In a moment brimming with solidarity, it struck me how impressive Ousseynou was, this young man full of goodwill and dedication to his country and humanity.
Raised in a rural farming village in Senegal, Ousseynou’s academic potential was recognized at a young age. His mother and grandmother challenged him to academic success, and he thrived in the classroom where his accomplishments, intelligence and potential led him ultimately to the top of his high school class. Scouts from the prestigious African Leadership Academy (ALA) selected him to apply for a seat at its exceptionally prestigious high school, with access to a life-long network and cultivation to be one of the future leaders of the Africa. Ousseynou was one of 97 students to be admitted out of 5,000 of the best and brightest high school students in Africa—an acceptance rate of less than two percent.
Now on full scholarship at Bennington College in Vermont, Ousseynou was able to explore his interest in agricultural entrepreneurship during his internship with Root this summer—his second in as many years. He built upon research from his previous Root Capital internship on the local cereal value chain in Senegal and spent the past few months exploring ways in which Root could work with millet, corn and sorghum producers and processing companies throughout the region.
“What I appreciate most about my internship,” Ousseynou told me, “is the fact that I’m able to go and meet in person with local business people, local entrepreneurs. These are the people who are totally making a difference in the country, and I’m hoping to be one of them very soon.” Between Ousseynou’s dynamism, intellect and desire to contribute positively to all that he does, I don’t doubt for a second that his goal will be realized.
Miriam Atuya, also an ALA scholar, worked out of our Nairobi office this summer. During the retreat, she led a session as if she had spent her entire life training professionals on financial topics. Her internship with Root, however, was Miriam’s first foray into finance; she had only just completed her freshman year at Trinity College. Her poise, confidence and intelligence at such a young age are stunning.
Miriam focused on analyzing Root’s nonperforming loans in Africa this summer, and her internship took her to visit clients in Kenya, Rwanda and Senegal. She’s passionate about social enterprise and spent a year working at Sanergy, a sustainable sanitation enterprise in Nairobi, before college. After her summer internship with Root Capital, Miriam is confident that she’ll continue working with an impact-focused enterprise upon graduation. Whatever she chooses to do, Miriam’s competence and innate leadership qualities position her to take on her career with aplomb.
While Ousseynou and Miriam were the ones I got to know best, I was equally impressed with the rest of the cohort of Root’s summer interns and fellows. Undoubtedly, all of them are a part of a next generation who will help grow rural prosperity; I can’t wait to see how they do it. I hope that their lives will connect with Root again. A huge thank you to all of these talented and future social entrepreneurs. It was a pleasure to spend our summer together.
Sabrina Iga, Cambridge, Investor Relations Fellow
Catherine Wu, Cambridge, Strategy, Knowledge and Innovation Fellow
Mike Behan, Nairobi, Strategy, Knowledge and Innovation Fellow
Gabriel Chait, Colombia
Eileen O’Malley, Cambridge, Human Resources Intern
Brittany Collins, Cambridge, Investor Relations/Communications Intern
Michael Harrington, Cambridge, Accounting Intern
Saron Teckie, Cambridge, Lending Intern
Amelia Meadows, Cambridge, Strategy, Knowledge and Innovation Intern
Ousseynou Diome, Senegal
Alejandra Cabrera, Cambridge, Global Programs Intern
Miriam Atuya, Kenya