Feruz Gebremeskel: This Lawyer & Entrepreneur is Building a Platform to Reverse Africa’s Brain Drain
www.sheleadsafrica.org | March 26, 2017
Meet Feruz Gebremeskel. She prosecuted criminal defendants in courts of law, produced and directed movies performed songs that inspired many, graduated with honors. She is a researcher, JSD candidate and the founder & CEO of two social enterprises. Is there anything that this woman can’t do?
“Be open-minded but skeptic at the same time. Ask questions and demand answers”, Feruz Gebremeskel often says. When it comes to challenges, she has never been crestfallen, has never stopped aspiring to change the world. “When we face a challenge, I think our primary task should be, to begin with asking good questions. Because almost all of the time these questions eventually lead to great answers and solutions to the problem at hand.”
And so, ever since she was young, Feruz has worked hard to stand up, speak out, and become an incredible inspiration.
Feruz was born and raised in Eritrea. The early years of her life were during the Eritrean War for Independence, in which the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) fought against the Ethiopian Government. This war lasted well into the early 90s. After Eritrea had gained independence, Feruz finished most of her schooling in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea.
Having a childhood during wartime increased Feruz’s interest in justice. She studied law at the University of Asmara, graduated and worked as a prosecutor at the Attorney General’s office of the country. In 2009, she relocated to the United States to pursue her studies, but her heart and soul continue to breathe for her African roots.
Where do you currently find yourself as a student and entrepreneur? Could you tell us more about the two social platforms you have founded and run as the CEO?
Presently, I am a researcher, currently working towards my Doctorate of the Science of Law (JSD) at St. Thomas University of Miami, Florida.
My research focuses on Law, innovation & technology. My plans include working in the field of social enterprise law, artificial intelligence, and animated innovation or robotics. I think the world of intellectual property law in the future of self-driving cars, internet of things and artificial intelligence is going to be pretty interesting. So I am looking forward to indulging myself into this adventure.
One may have several talents that he/she could offer to the world. If all these qualities can be integrated and directed to serve one main goal, I think that a lot can be achieved. When I make films, songs, do research or found organizations, all of these activities are aimed towards one big goal, the promotion of human rights and dignity.
For example, in 2013, I put together a short film called Dilemma. The story was about a wedding counselor who falls in love with one of her clients. But there was much more to it than that. There is a discussion of cultural practices, women’s rights, and moral code. In 2014, I also worked alongside Raee Productions to direct and produce a compilation of short films entitled Ab Asmara which highlighted the struggles and hopes of Eritrean refugees and immigrants.
I have always been fascinated by how the sharing economy markets (when formed and maintained properly) can positively change the world. They create micro-entrepreneurs, more jobs and can potentially stabilize the global economy. The inspiration for creating native apples & AfroPros come from this way of thinking. I wanted to create systems where social capital is valued and being who you are is celebrated.
What inspired you to form Afro Pros?
Human capital flight is one of the major issues that is draining Africa. We have to work harder in creating sustainable political and social systems so that the push factors for unnecessary immigration are stopped. While working on that, we also should get creative and find smart ways to utilize these intelligent minds we’re consistently losing to the western world.
AfroPros was created in support of this idea. I aim to use Afro Pros as a way to reverse the ‘brain drain’ that continues to grip Africa and make the future brighter for the continent than ever before. I work as the CEO and founder, and I consider myself fortunate to work alongside incredible professionals throughout Africa and in the diaspora due to war, social instability, and uncertain economy. Through AfroPros, these professionals get valuable connections abroad by using the flexibility of the gig economy.
So, what would you say is your ultimate goal for both Afro Pros and Native Apples?
I want Afro Pros to be a center where organizations —government, non-governmental, or businesses— could refer to appropriate and relevant services that represent and promote sustainable development in Africa.
Native Apples looks at the issues I hope to combat with a different lens. With Native Apples, I asked myself, ‘What can I do as a native that no one else can?’ I realized that I had a heritage that others may be interested in. Then I thought, what if others could use their unique cultural practices as a side hustle?
So the main highlights of Native Apples are sustainable travel, global citizenship, and authentic experiences. Native Apples allows people throughout the world to buy, sell, or rent ‘native’ services and products —like, for example, learning native languages or sitting in on a coffee ceremony.
Sometimes, people overestimate the state’s power and political will to protect or respect human rights while underestimating individual change makers to have a similar or even more positive effect. The Native Apples platform highlights the latter; it gives people the opportunity to do good in the world and help others to succeed.
For example, some members used the platform to raise funds for refugees in need of immediate assistant by hosting a food party. By raising the necessary funds and spreading the word they are protecting refugee rights (one of the fundamental basic human rights).
There is a tango master who teaches classes. In 2009, UNESCO listed tango as one of the cultural heritages of the world. This fact automatically makes this dance teacher a cultural rights promoter,(the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). We also have educators and researchers who support indigenous people’s right to quality life by helping them list their products for sale in the platform.
What do you hope to portray to the younger generations of African women?
To think differently. Try and experiment with things, make mistakes and learn from them. Explore new horizons. Capitalize on what you already have. Believe in yourself. Have clear goals, and remember that those goals do not have to make sense to others as long as you see them clearly. Be social innovators and impact creators who tackle societal and environmental challenges. Be effective altruists.
Create your own system for self-mastery. This is to say that you can learn things from teachers, gurus, and idols, but you are unique in your own way. It should be your responsibility to create rules and disciplines that fit your uniqueness. Last but not least, be open-minded but skeptic at the same time. Always ask questions and demand answers.
A preview of song made by Feruz (from Eritrea) Ahmed( from Egypt) to highlight the struggles and hopes of refugees/internally displaced people