According to a survey report done last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Africa plays an important role in St Louis’s economy, politics, and culture. Africans are part of the city’s growing foreign-born population, establishing themselves as prominent entrepreneurs, university star athletes, musicians and community leaders.
St. Louis’ educational institutions, local large corporations and area non profit organizations have tapped great talents from African Immigrants in the region.
Here is a list of a few Africans Immigrants who are holding senior positions in corporate America.
Yemi Susan Akande-Bartsch, PH.D.
President & CEO, FOCUS St. Louis St. Louis, Missouri
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Yemi Akande-Bartsch is President & CEO of FOCUS St. Louis and Director of Leadership St. Louis. She is charged with providing direction and oversight in positioning the region’s premier leadership organization as a valuable community asset for developing and engaging citizens for the betterment of the St. Louis region. She develops and implements strategies to ensure program quality, content, and delivery for the community, FOCUS members and FOCUS leadership alumni. Through six leadership programs and numerous citizen engagement initiatives, the organization impacts 5,000 people each year.
Recognized as an accomplished, innovative, and visionary leader specializing in implementing strategic plans and organizational development, Akande-Bartsch has led FOCUS St. Louis since 2014. She oversees efforts to achieve financial sustainability and fund development goals by developing opportunities for regional partnerships and collaborations through professional relationships with a wide variety of civic, business, and government leaders. In addition to directing the acclaimed Leadership St. Louis program, she has spearheaded the Coro Women in Leadership Program, Experience St. Louis Program, FOCUS Impact Fellows Program, and What’s Right with the Region Awards. Akande-Bartsch joined the organization in 2012 as V.P. of Leadership and Alumni Programs and Director, Diversity Leadership Fellowship.
Akande-Bartsch spent ten years of her career in the Cleveland, Ohio area prior to relocating to St. Louis. She held senior leadership roles with Cleveland Leadership Center to drive positive community change as Senior Director of Civic Education and Director, Civic Leadership Institute. She also served as Director of the Cleveland Executive Fellowship, providing oversight of a new fellowship program to recruit young professionals to remain in the region.
With a passion to educate young people and mentor them to achieve success, Akande-Bartsch has held key teaching positions at several universities including Assistant Professor, Communication at John Carroll University, Adjunct Faculty, School of Communication at Cleveland State University, and Adjunct Faculty, Communication Studies at Kent State University. Additional experience includes Associate Director of Recruitment for IES, a premier international education organization. She also served as host of a radio show, “Making the Case” on WJCU in Cleveland which featured conversations with established and emerging leaders from a range of organizations and government entities.
As a leader in the community, Akande-Bartsch is affiliated with and/or serves in key roles with various organizations. She serves as a Board Member of The Sheldon Arts Foundation, St. Louis Regional Chamber, and Downtown St. Louis, as well as Board Chair, Subdistrict Commission of Missouri Botanical Garden. Other commitments including Member of the Association of Leadership Programs, Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, St. Louis Forum, and Urban Land Institute Advisory Committee. Akande-Bartsch was honored as a Diverse Business Leader by St. Louis Business Journal in 2019, as Female Executive of the Year from Queen’s Ministry in 2018 and received the Most Influential Business Award from the St. Louis Business Journal in 2017, and Who’s Who in Diversity in 2016.
Akande-Bartsch holds three degrees from the University of Oklahoma, including a PH.D. in Communications, Intercultural, Political and Organizational Communication, an M.H.R. in Human Relations and Organizational Development, and a Master of Arts in Public Relations, Journalism & Mass Communications, and Marketing. She earned her B.A. in Speech Communications and English from Southwest Baptist University. Akande-Bartsch has written many articles and editorials for publication and has been featured as a guest speaker and presenter at numerous national conferences as an authority on a wide range of topics.
President & CEO Claim Academy
Ola Ayeni founded St. Louis-based Claim Academy, which is helping to solve the massive software developer shortage in the Greater St. Louis area and nationally. Through their coding bootcamp, Claim Academy trains people to be software developers in just 3-months. According to the St. Louis Business Journal, there are more than 10,000 tech openings in the St. Louis region. His academy has a 93% placement rate in companies and his students on average make $67,000 to start even without a college education. Ola is also the founder of eateria.co, an Arch Grants-winning, St. Louis-based digital marketing platform designed specifically for restaurant, food and hospitality businesses.
In addition to winning a $50,000 Arch Grant in 2013, Ayeni was the grand prize winner for the MillerCoors “Tap the Future” Business Plan Competition, the winner of Microsoft Bizspark in 2012, Braintree Business Award in 2012, the St. Louis Business Journal Diverse Business Leader Award in 2014, 100 St Louis to know in Business in 2017 and several others.
Ola’s company Claim Academy is the recipient of the coveted Community Building award by Facebook in 2018.
when Ola is not working to change lives at Claim Academy and not with his family, he performs several civic duties. He has served on Downtown Partnership Board, St Louis Promise Zone Workforce Board, Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship Board, Co-chair MaCarthur Foundation Workforce Board, and recently the Integration Advisory team of Greater St Louis Inc.
President and CEO Vitendo4africa
Geoffrey Soyiantet, A native of Kenya, Soyiantet moved to St. Louis after graduating from college in Nairobi. He is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit, Vitendo 4 Africa whose mission is to welcome, connect and empower African Immigrants through educational and outreach programs in Missouri.
In Swahili, “Vitendo” means “action.” Vitendo 4 Africa exists to provide immigrant and refugee families with direct services and interconnected resources to improve their quality of life. A majority of Vitendo’s program participants enter the U.S. through the Diversity Visa program, also known as the visa lottery where no one receives any government assistance. Thus, Geoffrey becomes the lifeline for these newcomers as Vitendo offers services including increasing awareness of nutrition, home buying, and youth mentorship programs, workforce development, healthcare access, business startup, and referrals to other agencies.
Geoffrey is co-founder and the Board Chair of the St. Louis African Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote business and trade in the African Continent and St. Louis Region.
He also serves on the advisory committee of the St. Louis Mosaic Project, sits on several other boards in St Louis, and still finds time to host cultural events, sit on community education panels, and answer the call when a collaborative opportunity arises.
Geoffrey has served as a commissioner in the Environmental Quality Commission in the city of Florissant for a period of six years.
Geoffrey has received numerous awards and recognitions including Mary T. Hall Equity Award by United Nation St Louis, Immigrants Making a difference in St. Louis Award, Immigrant Advocate Award and others.
Geoffrey is a cohort member of FOCUS leadership St Louis class of 2018/2019. He continues to work hard to promote immigrant entrepreneurs and community integration in St. Louis.
Geoffrey has a bachelor’s in Economics and master’s in business administration from Lindenwold University. He lives in North County with his wife and three kids.
Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Centene Corporation
Adewale (Walé) Soluade, a Nigerian-born American citizen is the Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Centene Corporation. In this capacity, he is responsible for overseeing the design, implementation and continuous improvement of the company’s diversity and inclusion programs and policies. He also develops and maintains strategies, measurable goals, and objectives that link diversity and inclusion to critical business initiatives while evaluating existing programs for effectiveness.
After graduating from high school in Nigeria at 16, he attended the University of Central Missouri near Kansas City, where he earned a bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration. He then continued on to obtain his M.B.A, with an emphasis on Leadership and Management, from Fontbonne University. He is a Certified Diversity Professional (C.D.P) through the Institute for Diversity Certification.
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Bofenda Bokulaka Illonga’s music, dance and storytelling performances culturally enrich men, women and children. He has traveled around the world celebrating and sharing his heritage with others. His appearances have included schools, universities, art and music festivals, international business events, and private social functions. Bokulaka educates and entertains audiences.
Bokulaka has toured internationally, performing throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and the United States.
Matifadza (Mati) Hlatshwayo Davis, MD, MPH
Dr. Hlatshwayo Davis received her medical degree from Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and a Master’s in Public Health Degree from Case Western Reserve University. She completed her internal medicine residency at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. She went on to complete her Infectious Diseases fellowship at the Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM), also completing a one year dedicated non-ACGME HIV fellowship and a two year dedicated Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) fellowship. She was a Clinical Instructor at Washington University School Medicine for two years and an Associate Program Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases fellowship program. She was also in the leadership of the Office of Inclusion and Diversity at the WUSM where she wrote a policy dedicated to addressing patient bias against faculty, trainees and staff with an accompanying toolkit and curriculum for the residency program. Dr. Hlatshwayo Davis is an Infectious Disease physician at the John Cochran VA Medical Center where she is the Lead HIV Clinician, Graduate Medical Education Coordinator, and Outpatient Parenteral Antibiotic Therapy supervisor.
Her passion for community engagement, diversity and inclusion and patients living with HIV (PLWH), culminated in her becoming the co-chair for the Fast Track Cities initiative in St. Louis which in collaboration with the city and county health departments as well as all the major HIV community organizations in St. Louis, is dedicated to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. This culminated in her being appointed to the City of St. Louis Board of Health where she helps lead the city and region in upholding the highest possible medical and public health standards. Dr. Hlatshwayo Davis is now a national and international medical contributor on CoVID-19 with a particular focus on marginalized populations, and has been featured on CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, MSNBC, amongst others. She has also written two opinion editorials in Newsweek. She is an Associate Editor for Disparities and Competent Care for the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). It is not surprising that Dr. Hlatshwayo Davis is now nationally and internationally recognized for her Infectious Diseases expert opinion. To that end, she has done a large number of webinars and invited talks in academia and the community nationally.
Dr. Hlatshwayo Davis’s research interests include HIV retention and the impact of CoVID-19 infection in marginalized populations. She is the co-PI for a study comparing the impacts of CoVID-19 on HIV between St. Louis, Missouri, and San Paulo, Brazil. She was also the clinical co-lead for a regional CoVID-19 Population Prevalence grant where she brought her expertise in Infectious Diseases and roots in the community to write protocols for the management of CoVID-19 positive individuals, design a program to provide wrap-around services to those in need, and manage a workforce around this clinical response effort.
Dr. Hlatshwayo is active in medical education where, in addition to being the Graduate Medical Education supervisor, she also serves on the IDSA Medical Education Community of Practice Mentorship Work Group and the Grants for Emerging Researchers/Clinicians Mentorship committees. Additionally, she is on the Board of Directors for the IDSA Minority Interest Group. She mentors four trainees and has given over twenty lectures as well as invited talks including Medicine Grand Rounds at the John Cochran VA Medical Center and Orthopedic Grand Rounds at Washington University. This culminated in her being recognized as one of the Chiefs of Service at the John Cochran VA Medical Center.
President and CEO International Institute
Arrey Obenson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Institute. Prior to that Arrey, Obenson was Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Transformunity, a consulting firm that harnesses opportunities of corporations and organizations to transform the world.
Obenson actively engages actors from all sectors of society – businesses, governments, and civil society—to identify their opportunities and develop strategies to achieve growth. Obenson is a visionary leader and world-class facilitator who has inspired and engaged audiences of 50 to 5,000 in nearly 100 countries
Prior to founding Transformunity, Obenson served as Secretary General of JCI, a global network of 150,000 young active citizens in more than 100 countries. In this capacity, he led the implementation of the organization’s overall strategy and supervised a team to advance the mission of the organization and empower young people to create positive change. For 17 years, Obenson led the organization at various levels, including Director for Africa and the Middle East, Executive Director and Deputy Secretary General. Obenson is also an author of a book published in 2021 called Bridging the Opportunity Gap.
Obenson is a barrister at law and member of the Cameroon Bar Association. He holds a Master of Law degree from Washington University in Saint Louis, United States. He lives in St. Louis Missouri with his wife, Victorine, and is gifted with two boys..
Yinka Faleti, 2020 Democratic nominee for Missouri Secretary of State.
Yinka Faleti was the 2020 Democratic nominee for Missouri Secretary of State. Yinka campaigned throughout Missouri over the course of 21 months, inspiring over one million votes while raising over $1M in a state with contribution limits and during a year filled with COVID. The Kansas City Star said this about Yinka: “Of all the candidates The Star Editorial Board interviewed this election season, Faleti was easily the most impressive.” (Kansas City Star, October 19, 2020). Had he won, Yinka would have been the first African American to be elected statewide in Missouri’s 200-year history.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Yinka immigrated to the United States at the age of seven, arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport. Growing up, Yinka was no stranger to poverty. In search of where they could thrive as an immigrant family, his family moved often—from New York to Virginia to Florida to Mississippi and finally to Texas.
Yinka’s big break came through education. He graduated as valedictorian of his junior high school in Florida. In lieu of his last two years of high school, Yinka attended and graduated from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. From there, he accepted an appointment to and graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Upon graduation, Yinka earned his commission as an officer in the active-duty U.S. Army and served over six years as a combat arms officer in tank units. Yinka attained the rank of Captain after two back-to-back deployments overseas to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring prior to 9/11 and Operation Enduring Freedom in response to 9/11.
After his Army career, Yinka moved to St. Louis to attend and graduate from law school at Washington University. He then practiced as an attorney at the global law firm of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and subsequently as a state prosecutor at the Circuit Attorneys Office, where he worked for justice for victims of abuse, assault, and burglary.
Sensing there was even more he could do to help his community, Yinka accepted a position as senior vice president with United Way of Greater St. Louis. There, he led the fundraising and volunteer engagement divisions, raising $300M over four annual campaigns to help one in three people in the Greater St. Louis region. From the United Way, Yinka went on to lead as Executive Director of the successor nonprofit to the Ferguson Commission, Forward Through Ferguson. He led the organization to serve as conscience and catalyst in helping to inspire the St. Louis region on a path to racial equity.
Yinka lives in St. Louis with his wife, Ronke, and their four children.
President and Founder of Missouri Young Professionals Network.
Brian Barlayis a native from Sierra Leone, West Africa and an alumni from Saint Louis Community College- Meramec. At Meramec, he was the president of the International Club, cofounder/President Black Student in Education and Empowerment Club, Archer Peer Leader Dan was actively involved with TRIO Student Support Services and Student Activity Council.
Brian attained his Bachelor of Arts from SLU majoring in International Studies, Foreign Services, Sociology with an emphasis in Urbanization, Immigration and Demographics. At SLU, Brian was a MLK Scholar, McNair Scholar, Atlas Intern, student adviser for African Student association and he was also actively involved with Black student alliance. Brian is currently acquiring his master’s in leadership and Management with an emphasis in Organizational Development and Project Management at Webster University. At Webster, he is the graduate assistant in the of office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, he the Ambassador for Student Inclusion for SGA, and Vice President of AAAC. Outside of higher education, Brian has interned/volunteered with International Institute, Urban League, United Way, Action St. Louis, and was a student Ambassador for Missouri Department of Higher Education.
Brian is the founder and former president of Missouri Young African Professionals; he is a strategic consultant for Vitendo4Africa; Community Research Consultant for Washington University; and an Engagement Manager for Claim Academy.
He is passionate about the African community in St. Louis and he hope for St. Louis to have a unique African presence through inclusion in art, music, food, and community involvement. Furthermore, he is passionate about creating new ways and being part of unconventional projects that seeks to elevate the African immigrants’ community for success and upward mobility. He draws his leadership styles and ideologies from the doctrines of Black consciousness, tenets from the late President Thomas Sanka, and the belief system of transformative leadership and compassionate leadership.
Owner Dellwood Pharmacy LLC
Rebecca Mawuenyega, is a pharmacist, a native of Ghana, and the owner of Dellwood Pharmacy LLC in the city of Dellwood. Rebecca has been working hard to help the St Louis community get access to multiple COVID-19 vaccines. Rebecca Aku has been very actively involved in educating and creating awareness to stop the spread of COVID-19 in North County.
Starting in March, Dellwood pharmacy in Ferguson has been receiving 200 doses a week. Mawuenyega brings in up to 10 temporary workers to help dispense the shots.
She owns and runs Dellwood Pharmacy in the city of Dellwood at 9944 W Florissant Ave, St. Louis, MO 63136.
She was recently featured on CNN as the first black owned pharmacy to give COVID -19 vaccine in St Louis.
Dellwood Pharmacy offers a wide variety of services to fit individual needs. Please check out their specialty services or contact them for further assistance.
Debecca graduated from Kwame Nkruma University of science and technology in Ghana 1990 with Bachelor in pharmacy. She got her pharmacy license in Ghana and worked there for a year before she relocated to the US in 2004. Since then she has worked in the hospital setting, long-term care pharmacy, and retail pharmacies.
Her passion is preventive care medicine as well as good management of chronic diseases.