Omek: Interview with Kemo Camara

Written by Nina Camara

For a long time, diversity and inclusion programs have mostly been driven by governments and the corporate world. So, what happens when minority communities come together to create a solution for a fair representation themselves? Kemo Camara, the founder of Omek, discusses the importance of being the change you want to see and the platform he designed to connect and empower African diaspora professionals and their allies.

Tell us a bit about your professional journey and experience with diversity initiatives before you started Omek.

For the past 15 years, I have been in a unique and privileged position to meet, speak with, study, and work with hundreds (if not thousands) of biculturals of African descent from all backgrounds and professions, from boardroom to classroom across Africa, United States, and Europe.

I was born in Guinea and grew up in the United States where I got my education and started my professional career. Since a young age, I have tried to understand how you move a country from point A to point B. When I moved to the United States I wanted to learn everything about the capitalistic system, economy, and finance.

Having that drive I first decided to work in banking. I made my way to leadership, managing people, building strategies and so on. That was something I was really passionate about, especially the managing aspect of it. I grew up in a large family so community was extremely important for me, though I hadn’t realised it at that time. Now, in hindsight, I am connecting all these dots, but back then I was really just passionate about bringing people together and building teams.

Throughout this time, I was also doing community building through football, NGOs, local and national associations. I found myself becoming a bridge between my community and corporate world. I would learn technical skills at work and then apply them to my community work, and use my community building skills to build team spirit at work.

After moving to Germany, I completed my Masters in Development Economics and International Studies. For my thesis, I surveyed over 200 people in the African diaspora around the world and began to see a more holistic view of the community. Their answers reflected my own personal experiences and added validation to the need for innovation within our community. That is when I began to ideate around a collective effort and set out to create a platform designed to connect and uplift the African diaspora community.

How would you explain Omek’s mission to a potential member or a partner?

Our mission at Omek is to amplify the talent, energy and voices of biculturals of African descent. We know this community is highly-educated, talented, and filled with untapped potential. By bringing biculturals of African descent together, we will empower them with tools and resources to create the change they have always wanted to see.

Our online platform provides our members direct access to each other where they can find their next co-founder, graphic designer, software developer, mentor and more. Our events, members activities, and career opportunities are designed to help them grow and succeed.

We also work closely with strategic brand partners to provide direct access to a pool of top diverse talent, authentic community engagement, event programming, workshops, and masterclasses.

What would you respond to people who might see this kind of initiative as exclusive?

Building a community of like-minded people with shared experience and values is one of the most sustainable ways to create inclusion. Omek is a space for our members to expand their social capital, support each other, and help integrate other members into their new community, city, and society.

I’ll give you an example. When I left the United States and moved to Germany with my wife and our son, we didn’t know anyone. It was through finding people with shared passions and experience — a group of African students and football players — that I managed to quickly integrate into Germany. Through this community, I made new friends, found a barbershop, joined a football team, and most importantly, they provided me with a community that I could be a part of and contribute to.

The same thing happened when we moved from Nuremberg to Amsterdam. Through building Omek, I had the opportunity to connect with a lot of biculturals born and raised in The Netherlands. They opened their network of friends and colleagues (from all backgrounds and experiences) helping broaden my social and professional networks.

Now, I’m in the position where I can welcome new members and provide a support system to facilitate their integration process and help build their sense of belonging in their new society.

Which projects that the platform delivered are you most proud of?

Because our aim is to make connection and collaboration normal among the bicultural community, I’m happy to say that there are many collaboration projects that have happened through Omek that I’m proud of.

In spring 2021, Omek designed and hosted a Talent Lab for bicultural professionals of African descent with Adidas. The Talent Lab was an exclusive 3-hour online event designed to bring together Adidas leadership and talent acquisition teams with the Omek community to engage, learn, and build trust with each other. Activities included panel discussions, skills-building workshops, info sessions, 1-on-1 recruitment, and a networking session.

On the platform we have a ‘Collaboration Exchange’ space where our members exchange opportunities for collaboration and partnership. Recently two of our new members connected and collaborated on a marketing campaign for Eastpak. It has been a pleasure to see almost every week more partnerships taking place on the Omek platform.

What’s next for Omek?

That’s a good question. For the next few months, the idea is to hone in on fostering member engagement and delivering value. We not only want our members to meet and interact with each other on the platform but also have access to opportunities, resources, and a support system for their personal and professional growth.

In the next five years the goal is to make Omek the home of the global bicultural community where our members can connect both online and offline anywhere and anytime around the world.

As for brand partners, Omek will be the preferred place to get access to top diverse talent, for authentic community engagement, and for insight and trends on biculturalism. Lastly, we want to work with international and public institutions to see how we can better leverage the knowledge and expertise of our bicultural talent for social economic development purposes.

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