From October 16-19, 2016, more than 5,000 of the world’s brightest young minds will converge on Boston, Massachusetts for the international Forbes Under 30 Summit. Representing Villanova University will be Vanessa Kungne, a graduate student from Cameroon who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in chemical engineering. The summit will add to Vanessa’s already extensive list of entrepreneurial feats that includes: being a finalist for Africa’s biggest entrepreneurial award, the Anzisha Prize; being featured in a CNN story on the development of young entrepreneurs in Africa; and being named to Forbes Africa “30 under 30” list.
Even more impressive is the hard work and dedication that has lifted her this far. After beginning her undergraduate studies at the age of fifteen and motivated by a history of diabetes in her family, Vanessa encountered the medicinal properties of the moringa oleifera tree (known in English as the drumstick tree). By the time she was seventeen, she was ready to launch her own business, Afya Tea—“afya” meaning health in Swahili. The natural remedies in the moringa leaves become infused in the tea, making it extremely healthy and helping it regulate blood sugar levels in diabetic patients.
Currently found in only a few stores in Cameroon, Vanessa expects Afya Tea to make great strides later this year with a crowdfunding campaign aimed at automating the production system rather than making everything by hand. She hopes her venture can spread throughout all of Cameroon and eventually internationally in order to help as many people as possible. “We believe that we should be able to find solutions to others’ problems and we seek to put a smile on people’s faces every day through our fortifying tea,” she explains. “Afya Tea believes in sustainable prosperity for all: people, planet and profit.”
As for the Forbes Summit, it offers a great opportunity for Vanessa to be recognized on an international stage and help grow her company. Not only do attendees get to view presentations from many well-known, successful entrepreneurs, but each participant also will give their own pitch and have the opportunity to participate in various competitions.