Having worked in the banking industry for 20+ years and being as enthusiastic as I was, nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. I was used to a very structured and highly regulated environment, which in many ways has very little room for creativity. As such, nearly 2 years ago, I would never have envisaged what my journey at Impact Africa Network would be.

Introduction to Impact Africa Network and Mark Karake's Vision 

When I met Mark Karake, the founder of Impact Africa Network he talked about his 10 10 10 vision, and while I craved a great professional challenge at that stage in my life, my initial thought was, ‘This guy is crazy!’. Upon encouragement, he added me to a Slack project channel, and I watched firsthand the interaction, level of engagement, articulation, passion, and energy I had never witnessed before among 20-year-olds.

The Journey Working at Impact Africa Network

my journey working at Impact Africa Network as the COS

Seeing this firsthand and my innate passion for mentoring young people to brilliant, competent, accomplished creatives resonated with my North Star. The innovation fellowship program inspired me the most and inspired me to work at Impact Africa Network. The program is a 12-month innovation fellowship for talented college graduates, allowing them to work on well-vetted ideas with like-minded peers under the guidance of an experienced leadership team and global mentor network. I became completely sold on the idea of nurturing the next generation of innovation leaders in Africa and being a mother of three (3) young adults, to say I was hooked is an understatement. I WAS ALL IN!

Benefits of Working at Impact Africa Network

As someone deeply immersed in the Impact Africa Network (IAN) community, I've witnessed firsthand the incredible benefits our fellows experience while working with us.

Professional Skills Development

Working at Impact Africa Network provides our fellows with a unique opportunity to develop their professional skills. Immersed in an environment that exposes them to real-world projects and cross-functional teams, our fellows gain invaluable experience that sets them apart in the job market.

Startup Experience

One of the most exciting aspects of working at Impact Africa Network is the opportunity for fellows to be directly involved in the ideation and startup creation process. By participating in this journey, our fellows gain firsthand experience in effectively validating ideas and bringing startups to life.

Professional Marketability

The startup experience at Impact Africa Network not only equips our fellows with practical skills but also enhances their marketability. Emerging from the studio, our fellows become highly attractive to prospective employers, thanks to their hands-on experience and demonstrated capabilities.

Being Part of a Founding Team

Perhaps one of the most thrilling prospects of working at Impact Africa Network is the opportunity to be part of a founding team. Should the project our fellows are working on evolve into a startup, they become eligible for equity consideration in the company, providing them with a stake in the success they helped create.

Pride in Impact Africa Network's Traction

Reflecting on Impact Africa Network's journey, I can't help but feel immense pride in the incredible traction we've achieved since our official launch in 2019. With 9 cohorts of innovation fellows to date and over 110 talented individuals involved in our journey, we've made a significant impact not only in the lives of these fellows but also in the broader community. 

The creation of over 200 jobs since 2019, along with 4 funded spin-outs in the market and the support of over 30 investors in our community, speaks volumes about the tangible results of our efforts. It's moments like these that reaffirm my belief in Mark's vision and the transformative power of the Impact Africa Network.

Personal Connection to Mentoring and Empowering Young People

Working at Impact Africa and looking back at how far we’ve come, I know this noble, exhilarating, fun, and ambitious journey, wrought with many ups and downs, is well worth it, as it also has a significant impact on my life as a professional and personally. 

The role I carry demands I apply myself fully and adopt an agile mindset. I have converted from a ‘What if’ perspective to a ‘Why not’ perspective and am an everyday lifelong learner. I have grown to embrace the unknown and especially the potential we have as a whole to make a difference in our world by moulding young minds into powerful, intelligent, and competent professionals.

I am humbled daily and encouraged to witness the fellows who don’t just say what they do, who don't just dream but follow through and execute while learning life lessons as they go. Truly, I wish this exposure for every young person.

Shaping the Next Generation of Innovational Leaders

Paulina Lanco with the Impact Africa Network team

I know that it takes a certain level of vulnerability and authenticity to show up every day and commit to doing the best for that young person who is just starting in their career—a daunting task it can be some days.

However, I can attest that it is well worth it and that through birthing our own projects and, as such, job creation, collaboration with universities, investment in other like-minded startups, and contributing our time through CSR to give back to our communities, our 10 10 10 every day becomes a reality.

This is the reason I believe in Mark Karake's vision. I get to shape the next generation of African innovators, experts, and leaders who are still writing their stories and who are scribes of this powerful narrative that is IMPACT AFRICA NETWORK.