Cedric Foudjet ’12 used his experience at Concordia to connect current students with medical innovators in Africa.
Foudjet grew up in Cameroon. There he was surrounded by family members and peers who used their intelligence and imagination to create new technologies and ideas.
So when Foudjet came to the United States, he was surprised that his peers had different perceptions of Africa.
“It was more about hungry, sick kids with flies flying over their heads and dilapidated infrastructures,” Foudjet says. “I was very mad and frustrated because I knew deep down that this was not an honest and accurate representation of the continent that I called home.”
Still, he appreciated that his new American peers, like his African peers, had the drive and ability to create new technologies – and a desire to make a difference.
While studying biology and business at Concordia, Foudjet participated in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program. The program introduces undergraduate students to medical and scientific innovations, while giving them experiences in the fields of intellectual property, marketing and business development.
Through the interdisciplinary experience, Foudjet learned the steps a medical product goes through before it is placed on the market. He also realized a similar learning model could benefit innovations on another continent.
“It is not that Africans lack the innovative and creative ability to create breakthrough knowledge and technology, but rather they lack the tools, resources and networks to turn their ideas into impact,” Foudjet says.
Inspired, he founded New Afrique Centre for Innovation and Leadership. NACIL is a program that pairs undergraduate students with African innovators. Concordia students are currently working on a heart-monitoring device being developed in Cameroon.
The team is composed of four to six students, half majoring in science and the other half majoring in business. Students learn about the culture of Cameroon and the reasons the innovation is needed. They then evaluate and improve the device, look for manufacturers and develop a plan to commercialize the device.
Gaya Shivega ’15, a student from Kenya, participated in the program last year.
“I was able to apply the skills I have gained from my classes,” she says. “The multidisciplinary approach opened up my mind to different perspectives from other majors as well.”
Students conduct research from October to March. They present their information at the Celebration of Student Scholarship and then send their findings to the African entrepreneurs.
Dr. Krys Strand, associate professor of biology and program director of neuroscience, helped Foudjet establish the program with Concordia students.
“I love the fact that Cedric is full of energy and he’s got these wild, grand ideas that he makes happen,” Strand says. “I think that it’s a full circle example of what Concordia students can do once they leave this place. Not only is he providing more opportunities for our students, he’s also doing something real and effective in his home country.”
Foudjet hopes to do more of that.
“Five years from now, I hope to partner with more schools and give opportunities to more students across America to discover the Africa of innovation and creativity,” Foudjet says. “I hope to put their knowledge to work so together we can transform Africa.”