Alumni of the Month  |  2019-03
March 21, 2019

From Reno to Guinea-Bissau, Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumnus is Enabling Entrepreneurs

The 2019 Global Entrepreneurship Summit will take place in the Netherlands in June, and we are checking in on a visionary exchange alumnus who attended the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit in 2017! As an entrepreneur, Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI) alumnus Adulai Bary is “always looking for the next thing to create, or for that next big world to conquer.” However, Adulai’s main goal is to bring victories back to his home country of Guinea-Bissau. He is the founder and CEO of InnovaLab, which is the only institution in the country that is focused on providing training opportunities and small business/startup support programs for entrepreneurs working in social impact sectors like education, agriculture, health care, and infrastructure.

Adulai noticed that Guinea-Bissau is at risk of becoming a society where only part of the population is able to use and benefit from technology, so he took action to empower his local community. He saw that young entrepreneurs needed educational opportunities, mentors, and a network of stakeholders to support their projects. To fill this need, he created InnovaLab, a pioneer innovation accelerator in Guinea-Bissau. Soon after founding InnovaLab, Adulai was chosen for the Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) where he studied Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Nevada-Reno. He says that the Mandela Washington Fellowship “was the beginning of an adventure, [and] also new contacts.”

For Adulai, “the fellowship adventure in Reno and Washington, D.C. was … a set of inspirations to boost what we do back home.” After participating in the MWF, he expanded InnovaLab’s activities to include promoting economic development by working with new companies and contacts. He inspires entrepreneurs to create business plans, collaborate, network, and mentor other creative people. Through Adulai’s leadership, vision, and skilled management, he has successfully hosted technological networking events, hackathons, and the first Africa Science Week held in Guinea-Bissau. Adulai also opened a digital literacy center, which enables his community to improve their communication and technology skills free of charge. Additionally, he developed an online platform to mentor new, up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

Adulai is always looking for ways to help lead his local community to a brighter future. In an effort to bring the MWF experience to others in his country, he received a reciprocal exchange grant to bring over two U.S. professors from the University of Nevada-Reno to Guinea-Bissau, where he organized a series of outreach events for them. These exchanges were a rare and welcome opportunity to strengthen the people-to-people ties between the United States and Guinea-Bissau.

In addition to his work with InnovaLab and his community outreach, Adulai is also a sought-after resource in the Mandela Washington Fellowship alumni community in Guinea-Bissau and in the region. He is seen as a role model by his peers and his nation. He currently serves as Guinea-Bissau’s Ambassador to the Next Einstein Forum, an initiative of the African Institute of Science and Mathematics. In 2018, he received a West African Youth Award as one of the 100 Most Influential Young People in West Africa.

Even after all his success, Adulai stays grounded and says that you can’t forget your origins, because “no matter how far you roam or how successful you think you are, forgetting your roots –can – and will – diminish your success.” We congratulate Adulai on being named the March 2019 Exchange Alumni Member of the Month, and we are excited to see the lasting impact he will have on Guinea-Bissau.