Our Team

The Baobab Network was started with two core missions; to help drive growth, innovation and investment across Africa, and to change the way that big corporates think about talent development, innovation and social impact.

Tom and Toby both spent three years working for big corporates in London, during which time they met hundreds of professionals desperate to develop their skills and have a social impact on the world. There weren’t very many programmes around that delivered both of these objectives, which is where the idea for The Baobab Network came from.

Between the founders, they have over 20 years experience living and working in Eastern and Southern Africa, and both share a strong passion to see the region fulfil its potential over the next few years.

toby hanington


Toby spent two years working at UBS Investment Bank as a Sales Trader in Equity Finance, helping to manage the bank’s relationships with its largest European Hedge Fund clients. He has also worked for Nomura Investment Bank in London and graduated from Bath University with a first class degree in Business Administration. Toby has spent time living in South Africa and Swaziland, including a brief stint as the coach of the Swaziland National Rugby Team.

Toby focuses on driving The Baobab Network’s Corporate Innovation programmes and passionately believes that entrepreneurship and the private sector can drive development and social change in developing parts of the world.


tom fairburn


Tom’s family have lived in Kenya since 1993 and he spent eleven years at school in Nairobi. Having also graduated from Bath University with a first class business degree, Tom joined J Sainsbury Plc in London, spending two years in a number of brand strategy and commodity buying roles. Tom has also worked for L’Oréal UK in their consumer products division. Tom fell in love with Africa when he was two years old, and has spent the last two decades travelling the region extensively, getting to know where the challenges and opportunities lie from a growth and development perspective.

Tom has taken the lead in start-up origination and consultancy, enabling The Baobab Network to work with some of the continent’s most exciting young businesses.


Richard Sears

Head of Ventures

Rich looks after all Baobab portfolio businesses, with a focus on growth, partnerships and fundraising. As head of Ventures, Rich’s role includes building awareness of our work across Africa, supporting founders with local growth, and also working to scale ventures internationally. Before joining The Baobab Network, Rich was part of the founding team at Yagro, the UK’s fastest growing AgTech start-up. Before that, Rich worked at a number of different start-ups, and is also a fully qualified teacher.

As a Cambridge and SOAS graduate, Rich is passionate about development and holds the world record for the furthest a TukTuk has ever travelled around the world, having traversed Africa, South East Asia and South America for 16 months in 2013 raising awareness about education.

Ben Wylie

Venture Builder

Ben oversees all of the work we do with our corporate partners, working closely with talent and leadership development teams to design world class, bespoke programmes.

Before he joined The Baobab Network, Ben had completed the prestigious Future Academy Residency at AKQA, one of the world’s most successful creative digital agencies. He is also Founder and CEO of Cue Glasses – an AI start-up that allows the visually impaired to detect people around them and develop situational awareness.

Ben has a passion for social impact and has spent time in Borneo developing innovative access to water projects.

Holly Simmons


Holly has been pivotal in helping develop The Baobab Network’s corporate partnerships in London, growing our community of big companies across the globe. Holly is entrepreneurial in her own right, and having won a National Geographic photography prize in 2016, she founded Piiksel, a website and application designed to allow individuals to sell their own photography through social media.

Holly has travelled extensively across Sub Saharan Africa, most recently spending a month volunteering at an orphanage in Kampala, Uganda, as well as working on our consultancy projects in Zambia, Rwanda and Ghana.

Josephine Vaillaud


Joséphine is currently in charge of business development and oversees programmes related to health, education and clean technologies. 

Before joining The Baobab Network, she worked in San Francisco to help the French start-up Inmemori launch its social service in the US and raise seed capital. She became involved in social initiatives, working with non-profits Martin de Porres and St Anthony’s to help San Franciscans in need. Before Inmemori, Joséphine worked at Qubit, a fast-growing digital marketing company, where she helped bridge the technical gap between corporate clients and software engineers.

Passionate about art, she has gathered an art community of a hundred thousands followers on social media and co-founded an art gallery with over a million followers on Instagram

Steve Castle


Steve has over 25 years board experience in the International Financial Services industry. Between his large corporate roles he also found the time to be a successful entrepreneur having founded, developed and successfully sold on two financial services companies. Steve is now a founding partner
at ABC Investors, a UK focused
Angel fund.


Andrew Sekandi

Ecosystem Advisor

Andrew supports our team in building an understanding of the business environment across Africa. Andrew trained as a Lawyer in Namibia before moving to London to work as a senior consultant in Control Risks’ Corporate Due Diligence team. Andrew has also worked at KPMG, and is now a Partner at Sofala, an African focused strategy and research firm. Andrew is an entrepreneur in his own right, and also chairs the Financial Services Working Group  at the Business Council for Africa.

Samantha Rockey

Corporate Innovation Advisor

Until December 2016, Sam was the Global Head of Leadership Development for SABMiller. Sam has also worked in strategy and transformation for the first democratically elected South African government and now is a founding partner at Thompson Harrison, a UK based consultancy focused on innovation in the corporate learning and development space.