While Sierra Leone gained its independence in 1961, 53 years ago, its historical value in respect to the advancement of Africans across the globe and the pioneering nature of Sierra Leoneans dates back at least 200+ years. In the 19th Century, Sierra Leone was hailed as the “Athens of West Africa”, specifically for the central role it played to the education of West Africans who attended the prestigious Fourah Bay College in Freetown, the first westernized university in West Africa.
Many of Sierra Leone’s older pioneers and changemakers started out in their 20s and 30s. It was around his late 30s, in 1874 that Sierra Leonean Dr. Africanus Horton published the very first account of Sickle Cell disease in the world. Sierra Leonean Dr. J.F Easmon was in his late 20s when he became the first in the world to coin the name ‘Blackwater” to the Malaria disease when he wrote “The Nature and Treatment of Blackwater Fever” in 1884. In his late 20s, the world renowned Sierra Leonean Composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was invited to the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904.
More recently however, the ingenuity of Sierra Leoneans is being demonstrated at an even younger age, along with the recognition that come with the amazing goals they set out to accomplish. As the country recently celebrated its 53rd Independence, it is incredible to see that young Sierra Leoneans continue to represent the symbolic nature of the “Athens of West Africa”, even if in this era, their achievements manifests itself around the world, in their respective academic and career fields, whether it is in London, Freetown, or D.C..
This is the first part of a list of 30 Sierra Leoneans under 30 who are making great strides in their fields in Sierra Leone and across the world. They, along with others who will certainly be on the next set of lists that follow, continue the tradition and custom Sierra Leoneans before have set in the advancement of Africans everywhere.
1) David Sengeh
27-year old Harvard Graduate in Biomedical Engineering, Sengeh has recently taken over the world of Technology. The current MIT PhD Candidate has collected numerous prominent awards and accolades, especially this year. Sengeh appeared on Forbes 30 under 30 of those changing the world in Technology for 2014. He was one of four winners of the very prestigious 2014 Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize Competition. Global Minimum, a global organization presided by Sengeh, recently won the Rockefeller Foundation Next Century Innovators Awards. Global Minimum (GMin) facilitates Innovation competitions and labs in Sierra Leone, Kenya, and South Africa. Sengeh was recently selected as a TED Fellow and he delivered a TED Talk in March on “The Sore Problem of Prosthetic Limbs”.
2) Vickie Remoe
She is taking on the world, industry after industry. A Columbia Graduate in Journalism, Remoe is a pioneer and trendsetter in whatever she sets her sights on. Emerging in the mainstream as a Sierra Leonean Blogger with her popular “Swit Salone” blog, Remoe went on to produce her own Talk Show, ‘The Vickie Remoe Show’, which gained much attention both in Sierra Leone and its Diaspora. In a country where media has had its critiques in objective reporting and authenticity, Remoe re-introduced the vigor and reliability of classic Sierra Leonean journalism, which dates back to being one of the first for blacks internationally. Much recently, Remoe has ventured into the world of print media with her very successful Magazine, ‘Go Woman’, distributed in several countries in West Africa and online in the Diaspora. Go Woman has generated a dedicated audience in the Diaspora and especially locally in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Remoe also launched her own media and communications company called Vickie Remoe & Co. Remoe is also the Business and Brand Strategist for Printex, a prominent textile manufacturing company based in Ghana.
3) Janice Williams
A Graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and Virginia Tech, in Political Science, Government and International Affairs, Williams is emerging as a voice to reckon with. Williams served in the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Niger and Guinea facilitating community development programs geared towards socioeconomic development. Williams recently co-founded the Sierra Leone Empowerment Network (SLEN), a global network of Sierra Leonean Professionals. In early 2014, Williams relocated to Sierra Leone to become Country Director of Global Minimum’s newly established program, InLabs. The Lab, recently launched at a Secondary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone is a first of its kind. It follows in line with Innovate Salone, another GMin Initiative, and fosters the aim of providing a platform for students in Sierra Leone to be empowered and have access to developing innovative solutions for their communities. Williams has also emerged as a strong vocal advocate for women issues, especially in Sierra Leone.
4) Kelvin Doe
Before he turns 18 in October this year, Doe would have accomplished in the last few years more than most have in a lifetime. In his early teenage years, Doe created his own generator and battery using scrap material he found laying around. With the tools he had created, he then decided to create his own radio station, which he was able to broadcast throughout his community. Doe represented his Secondary School during the 2012 Innovate Salone competition and became one of the Finalists. Within a year, Doe became the youngest Practitioner at MIT, a panelist at Maker Faire, a sit-down with the President of Harvard, and a YouTube video with over 4 million views. Doe then ventured on to the infamous TEDxTeen, which he participated in, hosted by Chelsea Clinton. He was also a featured speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative annual conference. Doe joined Kenyan Actress Lupita Nyong’o on MTV’s top 10 Changemakers for 2014.
5) Daniel Moijueh
At 28, Moijueh is an accomplished Businessman. An MBA Graduate from the University of Maryland and graduate of the American Institute of Diamond Cutting, Moijueh is one of the few Sierra Leonean diamond jewelers in the United States. An Iraq War Veteran, Moijueh is also the founder of MOI (Minds of Intelligence) Foundation, which is dedicated to addressing the issue of illiteracy in Africa. Moijueh was recently featured on the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) Top 30 under 30 for 2014.
6) Heyden Adama
25-year old Heyden Adama Bangura is taking the entertainment scene by storm. With some of her singles getting over 100,000 hits on YouTube, Heyden is a rising star in the music industry in Sierra Leone. An Actress and Model, Heyden has been featured in several African magazines and popular online media such as Zen Magazine and Nigeria’s The Herald.
7) Chernor Bah
Having shared the stage with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, there is little that Chernor Bah hasn’t accomplished in the International Development field. Bah was co-founder of Children’s Forum Network, the first national children’s organization in Sierra Leone. Bah became the first to ever be awarded a youth fellowship at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). He then worked as Brand Specialist for Nike in Ethiopia. Bah currently chairs the Youth Advocacy Group, which is an initiative of a global campaign for education launched by UN Secretary-General. Bah was recently awarded by the Women’s Refugee Commission for the strides he has made towards global change.
8) Richmond Denzel Garrick
Garrick began to play the piano at the mere age of 3 and by 12 he had memorized a sonata by Mozart. Emerging as one of the best Sierra Leonean Classical Pianists, Garrick has mastered several classics of the greats including Bach, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Joplin. Garrick has dazzled several audiences in New Jersey with his prowess with music.
9) Kei Kamara
Kamara is already a world renowned professional Soccer player at 29. He played soccer while at California State University and also with Orange County Blue Star with United Soccer Leagues Premier Development. Kamara then went on to play for Sporting Kansas City for several years before playing for Norwich City of the English Premier League in 2013. Kamara returned briefly to play for the Sierra National Football team, Leone Stars. Much more recently, Kamara signed on to Middlesbrough Football Club of the Football League Championship.
10) Lamin SaWaneh
Super Blogger, SaWaneh has recently hit the social media waves with storm. In a short period of time, SaWaneh’s Facebook Page has received over 250,000 likes. “Howiviewafrica” set out to rebrand the image of Africa into a more realistic, contemporary, and positive image. SaWaneh, a Wayland Baptist University student has already been recognized by several media outlets including PRWeb and Lubbock Avalanche Journal. His blog and Facebook Page has gone viral, even making its way unto the Huffington Post as a reference for getting balanced perspectives on Africa.
11) Ruby Kamara-Johnson
Ruby Kamara-Johnson connects beauty and brains in a way that is difficult to choose one over the other. Kamara-Johnson studied Mining and Mineral Engineering at Virginia Tech University with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. In 2012, she became the 5th Miss Sierra Leone USA. She has made great strides in adding value in how beauty is viewed in her community, as well as the advancement of girls and women through the organization she founded, When You Believe Foundation. Her foundation has been featured in MTV Act and Afro Elle Magazine.
12) Jeneba Tarmoh
24-year old Tarmoh has already won a gold medal at the Olympics. Attending Texas A&M University, Tarmoh took part in the NCAA Track & Field competitions, helping her university to become champions between 2009 and 2011. She represented USA in the 4 by 100 metres relay at the 2012 Olympics, helping the team win gold. She has won several awards including a silver medal at the 2013 World Outdoor 4 by 100 metres relay.
13) Jonelle Williams
An American University Graduate, Williams graduated from the School of Public Affairs and emerging as a policy guru in his community. He is a member of the National Scholars Collegiate Society, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity Incorporated. Williams is also a Board Member of the American University Alumni Association. Currently serving as the Deputy Executive Director for the Sierra Leone Policy Watch (SLPW) Think Tank, Williams helps to steer the Think Tank, which aims to improve policy decisions in Sierra Leone. One of the recent issues SLPW has set out to address is the role of the Sierra Leone Diaspora in nation-building. Williams was also co-founder of DC Today…DC Tomorrow, an organization that aims to foster community service for teens in District of Columbia.
14) Hawa Kualamah
Award nominated Actress, Kualamah has already graced the red carpet at the World Music and Independent Film Festival, from her debut lead role in “I am an American” in 2012. The film, directed by June Daguiso and produced by Cameroonian Blaise Christian Sitchet quickly rose in popularity in the indie scene. Kualamah, who was born in Sierra Leone and attended Speciss College in Zimbabwe is actively pursuing her career in Acting in the United States and something may be in the works very soon.
15) Jerrie Kumalah
Recently featured in The Baltimore Social Innovation Journal earlier this year, 27-year old Kumalah has set out on a mission to transform Baltimore alleys into spaces for artistic creativity and strengthened community activities. With aims to pursue her PhD in Public Health, Kumalah received her Graduate degree from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She currently works as an Analyst in the Mayor’s office in Baltimore.
16) Sarran Lan Jabbie
She hasn’t claimed herself to be a Super Model yet, however it doesn’t seem as though the Universe will wait until she makes up her mind. One of her professional photographs went viral on Social Media recently and received over 40,000 likes and comments. Jabbie serves as member of the GWB Commission, which hosted their 6th annual Green White and Blue Ball this year. In her humanitarian ventures, she is co-founder of Edushare, a non-profit organization promoting self-esteem and empowerment for girls. One of her main passions is in marketing and she is an aspiring marketing guru, among other things.
17) Michael Bonny Bassey
If you’re an avid follower of Big Brother Africa, then you probably saw Bassey as one of the contestants in 2013. A Graduate of African Studies and Drama from Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Bassey has been acting since the tender age of four. Since then, he has acted in over 10 movies, including “The Change” and “Beyond Sacrifice”. Bassey won Best Actor at the 2013 Youth Excellence Awards in Sierra Leone and his Acting career continues to grow with new offers from Nigeria and Ghana.
18) Michaela DePrince
One can only conclude that DePrince was born to dance ballet; she has proven to the world time and time again that it is natural to her. At 19, she has already taken on the world with her talent, dazzling a global audience on shows such as “Abdallah and the Gazelle of the Basra” in Netherlands, “Le Corsaire” in South Africa with the South African Manszi Ballet Company, and in the US with the popular TV Show “Dancing With the Stars”. DePrince is featured in the acclaimed documentary, “First Position”, which covered her experience in the biggest ballet competition in the world, the youth America Grand Prix.
19) Margotu Margai
Margai is yet to turn 25 and she has already landed a role in one of the highest grossing films of all time. She was a student of the Italia Conti Stage School, which also boasts Naomi Campbell and Russell Brand as members of its Alumni. She played the role of a pupil in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”, a British Film which was the third highest grossing film in the world in 2010. Margai continues to pursue her acting career in the UK.
20) Lovetta Kamara
A student of New England Sports Academy, Kamara is a rising gymnast with tremendous potential. In March of this year, she won two gold medals at a competition in New York and made 1st all around for level 9 and made it to her regional to level 10. By April, Kamara qualified to compete at the Eastern National Convention in Florida. She continues to develop her skills at the Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club. Her ultimate mission as a gymnast is to compete at the Olympics.
21) “Nadia Marie” Sasso
She wears many hats, including Digital Storyteller, Brand Curator, Social Entrepreneur, Fashion Consultant, and Media Strategist. Sasso is co-founder of Yehri Wi Cry (YWC), a non-profit organization that addresses birth and delivery rates for women in Sierra Leone. Sasso has received several awards and acknowledgments including the Young African Committed to Excellence Award by Face2Face African magazine and Posse Foundation’s Ainslie Alumni Achievement Award. A Graduate of Bucknell University, Sasso was listed among Katie Couric’s “Next Generation of Female Leaders”. Her latest project is a documentary film called “Am I?” The Film, which follows women of West African descent, addresses the issue of identity development and issues they encountered dealing with their West African and American cultural experiences.
22) Veralyn Williams
She asks the questions we all want to know the answers to, and the way she presents the stories behind each answer fits right into the dynamics of 21st Century Journalism. Williams is the founder of Veralyn Media, a very thought-provoking blog equipped with podcasts, YouTube videos, short documentaries and more. Williams started her journey in her teens, a member of MCC Theater’s Youth Company followed by Girls Write Now. Williams then became a Radio Rookie for WNYC public radio in New York. The rest is history so far. There is no doubt that the next topics Williams chooses to tackle this year will be even more intriguing than the very relevant and informative topics she’s covered in the past.
23) Tamika Turner
A Graduate of Miami University, Turner is already taking the world on. Turner recently received an internship offer for an internship with United States Senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown. She was selected to serve as a legislative intern at the Ohio Senator’s office in Capitol Hill. While in University, Turner was co-President of a Feminist Organization that fosters education about women issues through activism, her passion with the organization’s mission fits well with her knowledge base as she minored in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; her major was in Marketing.
24) David “Buba” Conteh
Multi-talented Conteh is a rising star in Sierra Leone in entertainment. His most recent single, “Ittaqualla” has become viral locally in Sierra Leone and in the Sierra Leone Diaspora. His music brings a different sound to Sierra Leone Hip Hop, giving it originality and melody that is rare. A lyricist in the local language, Krio, he has proven to be a skilled storyteller with his music. Currently the co-host of “Wetin Now”, the innovative television show brings the issues and current news to the forefront of television audiences in Sierra Leone as well as through social media to a global audience.
25) Nick Asgill
A natural at his craft, Asgill is already a force to reckon with in his industry as a seasoned Filmmaker. A Graduate of the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom, Asgill has provided his creative services to musicians, artists, television show hosts, and many others in the UK and West Africa. He directed the infamous “We Are Africans” music video, which featured several artists including popular Nigerian Artist, JJC. He has also worked on projects for Sierra Leonean artists such as Famous, Emmerson, and Alonzo. Asgill recently won a Sierra Leone Excellence Award for Best Photographer. He completed his short documentary “Routes to My Rootz” and is set to launch “Okada Life” soon.
26) Desmond Ellis
Ellis and his fellow team members of ‘SLENNERS’ are looking to change paradigms and foster a culture of professionalism among Sierra Leoneans. Founded by Lenton Davies, Janice Williams, and Ellis, the Sierra Leone Empowerment Network (SLEN) has already hosted a national Empowerment Expo, career workshops, and several professional Happy Hour events. Emphasizing on networking, mentoring, and professional mobility, Ellis and the SLEN Executive are looking forward to their first professional conference this year. Receiving his Masters from North Carolina State University, Ellis is currently an audit manager at Ernst & Young LLP.
27) Moiyattu Banya
She’s one of the most dedicated in her generation for the empowering of women in Africa, so much so that she made the difficult decision to relocate from her home in the US to Ghana, in order to pursue her passion for the advancement of women in Africa. She established ‘Women Change Africa’, an African women’s lifestyle brand that shares and celebrates the successes of young African women. Her blog has highlighted women such as Ghanaian-American Nicole Amarteifio, the creator of “An African City” and Patrice Juah, a Liberian Fashion Entrepreneur. A Columbia University Graduate, Banya has been featured by several media outlets, including AfroElle Magazine and OpenDemocracy. Banya co-founded ‘Girls Empowerment Summit’ with the Visao Foundation. The annual summit sets out to inspire and empower teenage girls in Sierra Leone.
28) Salieu Jalloh
His portfolio includes GQ, Sean Jean, Vogue, Bloomingdale’s, Tommy Hilfiger and Kenneth Cole. Jalloh has been modelling for over 6 years. He is signed to one of the major modeling agencies in New York, Red Model Management. He has been featured in the New York Times, Wonderland Magazine, and Io Donna Magazine.
29) Salifu Kamara (HUMANITARIAN)
Kamara exemplifies the essence of resilience. He transformed his struggle into inspiration and not only has his life changed because of it, he has also affected the lives of hundreds others. Kamara was crippled by polio in Sierra Leone at 14 however that did not break him but make him stronger. He ventured on a mission to use one of his most effective strengths, his voice. Kamara has since graced the floors of the United Nations, schools, and universities. He attended Clark and American Universities, studying International Development and Public Policy. Kamara just celebrated his first year anniversary working at the World Bank, pursuing his passion to impact the world.