Kemo Camara grew up in a close-knit community — a compound with nearly forty to fifty people living in it. People who were close family members, relatives and even friends. “We ranged in age, from toddlers to elders, and we all had our roles to play to maintain the fabric of this community. Some of us contributed by cooking, others cleaning, others building maintenance, and yet others through the laughter they brought to us all,” mentions Camara in a Medium post.
He calls this “human technology” as this is so complementary to human nature. “It was a sum of processes that allowed each individual, through playing a role in their community’s growth, to thrive,” he explains.
“My community and I found fulfilment through the roles we played for each other. As individuals, we all worked to support the community, but we also collectively worked to support each individual within the community. This meant I grew up knowing that, no matter what happened, there were forty to fifty people around who would protect and defend me.”
So, even after Kemo moved to New York and then to Germany, he always attracted to the idea of building something that would cultivate community. This idea slowly evolved into Omek.
Omek – Kemo
Founded in 2019, Omek is a community platform dedicated to the social and professional advancement of the African diaspora. It is designed to make connections and collaboration simple for the African diaspora professional and their allies.
After a successful career in the banking industry and corporate in the United States, Kemo and his family moved to Germany in 2015. There pursued his Master in Development Economics and International Studies where he evaluated the “African Diaspora Capital and its Impact on Socio-economic Development.”
During this time, he surveyed over 200 people in the African diaspora across the U.S and Europe and began to see a more holistic view of the community. According to Kemo, their answers to the survey reflected his own personal experiences and added validation to the need for innovation within our community.
His thesis produced two main findings — lack of equal access to opportunities and the need to connect with like-minded people and be part of something bigger than one’s self. He began to ideate around a collective effort and set out to create a platform designed to connect and uplift the African diaspora community.
Omek is an Amsterdam-based company. On being asked the reason why he chose Amsterdam as the base for Omek, Camara says, “For one thing, most people speak English in Amsterdam, which makes it easier for someone coming from the US to communicate and integrate into the community.”
“Most importantly, Amsterdam represents a mosaic of bicultural professionals of African descent (who are Omek target audience) from all over the world with different backgrounds and experience. These are some of the reasons that make Amsterdam the perfect place to start a platform like Omek,” he adds.
Empowering African diaspora talent
“Omek is more than a company. It’s the manifestation of the most fulfilling and empowering components of my life,” says Camara.
According to him, Omek aims to make connection and collaboration simple for the African diaspora talent with each and with resources and opportunities. It offers an integrated experience through a combination of digital and physical spaces and connects with partners — providing resources and support systems.
It also undertakes various initiatives to accelerate the social and professional advancement of African diaspora talent, as well as foster social equity and diversity. Talking about these initiatives, Camara says, “For the past year and a half, we have been focused on facilitating connection between the African diaspora professionals through our networking events, student program, peer groups, and Slack community. These connections have led to multiple businesses, jobs, and collaboration opportunities so far within the community. We have also organised Talent Lab events with our brand partners to provide career opportunities to many of our members.”
One such initiative is the African Diaspora Summit, which is a two-part virtual summit series organised by Omek. Last year, in November, the summit’s first part was organised, based on the theme “Bicultural Identity”. It was participated by 82 thought leaders and changemakers of African descent from across Europe as guest speakers, with 300 people in attendance.
African Diaspora Summit, Part 2 — Collaboration
Part 2 of the African Diaspora Summit will be taking place on April 16 and 17, with “Collaboration” as its theme. This event will include speakers/attendees covering a wide range of topics categorised under four tracks – culture, innovation, storytelling, and leadership.
Explaining why he chose “Collaboration” as the theme for Part 2, Camara says, “Guided with the strong belief that together is our only way forward, our aim for this summit is to demonstrate the importance of leveraging each other’s network to advance the African diaspora globally. So, we are partnering with over 20 networks and organisations and inviting over 170 speakers from around the world to come share their experiences, connect and inspire each other to collaborate.”
Bootstrapped and growing
Omek currently has a team of 12 people, including volunteers and its leadership team. “In the next few months, we intend to bring in some of these volunteers on a permanent basis as we successfully raise funds to support our expansion plan,” says Camara.
It is a bootstrapped organisation, and its main revenue stream is through partnerships with brands and organisations that align with its values and a need to access its talent and expertise.
Talking about Omek’s expansion plans, Camara says, “The strategy is to roll out our services and features in phase. So, for 2021 we plan to launch our digital community platform, the talent lab program, the Omek peer groups including our student program.”
It also aims to grow the community by 5 – 10K this year. In the next three to five years, it plans to launch its physical spaces and grow its digital community platform to over 500K members to build the largest pool of diverse talent of African descent in the world.