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Highly Adaptable And Totally Indestructible

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Zimbabwe native Arikana Chihombori-Quao wears many labels beyond her always-stylish designer suits. She’s a physician, founder of medical clinics, and an entrepreneur who includes among her properties, the historic US-based Africa House, and South Africa’s Durban Manor Hotel.

But the one label she embraces with the most pride is that of Ambassador to the US on behalf of the African Union (AU).

“In this new position, my mandate is to promote the longstanding and historical, cultural and economic relations between Africa and the US,” she states. “More importantly, to mobilize the African diaspora, which we define as ‘people of African descent living outside of Africa’.”

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It’s the perfect job for a woman whose passion and pride for Africa and the diaspora is deep-rooted.

“I have seen diasporans come to the Americas with absolutely nothing, but through hard work, they are now professionals in a position to look back and take Africa to the next level. They are highly adaptable and totally indestructible.”

She counts herself among them.

Like many first-generation immigrants, Chihombori-Quao traveled to America to pursue an education.

A graduate of Fisk University and Meharry Medical College, she holds a Bachelors degree in General Chemistry, a Master’s Degree in Organic Chemistry, and a Doctor of Medicine Degree.

“I intended to go back home after school,” she says. “But then I got married, had children, and my family back home dwindled. Suddenly I realized I’d spent more than half of my life in America. The reasons for going back home were no longer there.”

READ MORE: Israel Is Home From Home For This Ethiopian

After completing her medical residency in 1992, Chihombori-Quao settled in Murfreesboro, Tennessee – located in the southern region of the US – to open a medical practice. Soon after, she, along with her husband, Ghanaian physician, Saban Nii Quao, opened a chain of family medical clinics in the state.

Her entrepreneurial DNA led her to purchase the historic Durban Manor Hotel – once a whites-only all-male hotel and club – now a place for cultural heritage tourism and intellectual engagement. In a greater ironic twist, she purchased a 15,000-square-foot plantation, sprawled across 30 acres of land on the hills of Gallatin, Tennessee, christening it Africa House.

“We encourage Africans to look at it as a place where they can not only hold lavish events but have something they can call ‘their home’.”

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Alongside her career and business investments are her humanitarian efforts to promote women’s rights around the globe, and improve healthcare systems in Africa.

During her tenure as Chair of the African Union-African Diaspora Health Initiative (AU-ADHI), she led a delegation of medical professionals made up of other diasporans and ‘Friends of Africa’ living in Tennessee. They used their own money and resources to travel back to Africa on missions in Malawi, Equatorial Guinea, and elsewhere, to improve healthcare in the most deserved regions. The delegation donated supplies and trained healthcare workers in the various district and regional hospitals.

Still committed to engaging and promoting the efforts of the diaspora, Chihombori-Quao now does so through her new official role as the AU’s permanent ambassador.

“It begins with reaching out to the diaspora,” she explains. “It takes a village to raise a child. There are many who say ‘Africa doesn’t matter’. We need to come together as one to raise the physical boundaries in Africa. But to do that, we need first to decolonize the black mind. We need to take time to sincerely inventory who we are and how we were colonized; otherwise the battle is going to be lost.”

Billionaires

Quote Of The Day

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We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

– Folorunso Alakija, Billionaire Businesswoman

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Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Entertainment

Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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