STEM WOMEN: 5 Reasons To Be Proud according to Black Panther

We need more STEM Women in Africa.

In 2018, Black Panther solidified its place in pop culture as one of the greatest movies of all time. In addition to highlighting #blackexcellence, the movie also normalizes African women’s place in STEM.

This representation in popular culture is especially important considering WEF reports a 47% global gender gap in STEM.

If you are an African STEM woman, here are 5 reasons you should be proud of according to Black Panther.


1. You are Ingenious

Wakanda is nothing without its Vibranium, and no one knows how to leverage this special resource better that Shuri – the Black Panther’s sister.

Throughout the movie, we can see how Shuri’s inventions have helped the Wakanda’s advancement in technology. From Blank Panther’s nanotechnology suit to the sound-absorbing sneakers, Shuri’s inventions solved a lot of problems for both Wakanda and her brother.

Shuri should remind you of why you are a STEM Woman – to create, invent, innovate and deliver life-transforming solutions to the world. The next solution the world needs is in you!

2. You are Important

While the movie is not called “The STEM Women of Wakanda” (Marvel, we wouldn’t mind a spin-off), if you take away Shuri’s inventions, the Black Panther would be a very different film.

As a STEM professional, you may never get billboard-sized recognition you deserve, but that doesn’t make your work any less important. Your solutions behind the great things your organization speaks volumes about how valuable you are.

3. You are Emotionally Strong

For those of us, especially in engineering, we see ourselves in positions to exercise physical strength but how about emotionally? Angela Bassett was the perfect actor for the mother of our superhero. Queen Ramonda was an embodiment of strength!

Sometimes, we see our products or solutions come to life only to die a few months or years later. Many times, we even see our ideas die before they see the light of day. No matter the odds, we are wired to stay strong and not give up.

4. You Know Your Stuff

Shuri, the STEM Gem of Wakanda, knew her stuff. She could explain anything to you and knew the workings behind everything powered by Vibranium. You could never catch her off guard.

Women continuously have to prove themselves in every professional field. It’s a much tougher battle in male-dominated STEM fields. As a But for you, you prove this wrong every day you step into the office and do what you do.

As a STEM woman, you prove your worth every day by dazzling all with the depth of knowledge you have. Take pride in your investments to improve yourself every day!

5. You are Multi-Talented

Not only was Shuri a tech guru, she was also a warrior. She did not opt to stick to her lab but got involved in what made her work valuable.

As an African STEM woman, you have a unique perspective the world needs. You have been blessed to do so much, you should never feel streamlined to stereotyped functions. You can always step into new vacant shoes and know what to do – because you can!


Are you a #STEMWoman? Share this post and tell us what you are most proud of accomplishing.

Contributing Editor: Judith Abani

Wakanda is closer than you think: Amrote Abdella spotlights the real African innovative tech stories

The real Vibranium of Africa is its people and its potential - @amroteab Click To Tweet Amrote Abdella spearheads Microsoft’s investments in Africa across 54 countries, working closely with her team to enable and accelerate digital transformation opportunities. She was recently named one of Africa’s Top 100 Young Business Leaders, ranking 12th out of 100 leaders who are playing a major role in the continent’s economic development. Before becoming Regional Director, Amrote was 4Afrika’s Director for VC & Startups, where she worked with start-ups supporting the innovation ecosystem in Africa. Amrote writes about some of 4Afrika’s real-world heroes and amazing tech start-ups in Africa.
  Since the release of Black Panther, the world has been captivated. The action-packed and fun fantasy movie has been embraced for its representation of black people generally, and Africans specifically. Another key element of the film’s cult-like status is the appeal of the fictional and futuristic African country, Wakanda – full of tech innovations and ultra-modern urban development. But how removed is the world of Wakanda from our own? As a continent, Africa has many advantages that are driving us closer to that aspirational vision: economic growth in many states that is outpacing much of the world, and a youthful population with an entrepreneurial bent. And unlike Wakanda, we aren’t afraid to share our innovations. Microsoft 4Afrika has been playing their part in Africa’s digital transformation. We have been supporting businesses, government projects, startups and young workers through empowering changes in internet access, service delivery enabled by tech and economic development.  Launched in 2013, 4Afrika’s approach has seen them partner with projects of high impact that are driving Africa’s technological awakening. The following are some of 4Afrika’s real-world heroes.

Music to our ears

Damola Taiwo, Dolapo Taiwo, and Tola Ogunsola are three entrepreneurs who have come through the 4Afrika community and are transforming streaming music in Nigeria through their MyMusic digital music platform (MyMusic.com.ng). MyMusic not only gives users access to home-grown music favorites but has a chatbot that helps users discover new songs and download the ones they love. This bot – built on Skype – was showcased at the Microsoft NexTech Africa conference, and is one of the new technologies that has helped MyMusic grow to 700 000 active monthly users. Their success is largely rooted in local knowledge – understanding the peculiarities of the cash-driven market. Given this, their smart use of airtime-as-payment lets users buy songs with a single click. It’s a viable business which creates a powerful ripple effect that supports and monetizes African musicians.

Pay it forward

Another growing Nigerian start-up supported by 4Afrika is SpacePointe. Sayu Abend and Osato Osayande started this omnichannel platform with the explicit purpose of supporting business owners. They do this by offering an innovative mobile point-of-service application designed for the Nigerian market. This helps thousands of online and offline businesses transact, and streamline their sales, marketing, and payment processing. Theirs is a superhero narrative of financial inclusion and economic growth in action.

Creative culture

When it comes to creativity and storytelling, Hollywood certainly doesn’t have the market fully covered. Nigerians and other Africans are creating new characters, challenges, and scenarios every day that are engaging local target audiences. 4Afrika grantee Gamsole, for example, has created 50 new mobile games for the Android and iOS platforms in the past two years. Gamsole games have had over 10 million downloads.  Most recently, in partnership with Diamond Bank, they created Dreamville on Azure, a digital financial platform that lets youth plan their future, save, chat and develop their financial literacy – all while playing games.

Skills for good

Our real-life tech heroes are also using their top skills for good. They are also partnering with other heroes of the non-profit sector to contribute to meaningful change in Africa. The MySkills4Afrika project has supported four Nigeria non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in their cloud journey. This has, in turn, helped them automate many administrative processes so they can spend more time on their transformative work. These include Junior Chambers International, United for Education Foundation, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, and Technology for Sustainable Development. In partnering with the essential NGO space, we are amplifying the trans-formative effects for thousands of more people.

In the cloud, on the ground

Because of Africa’s documented historical infrastructure woes, we have become a continent famous for “leapfrogging” traditional infrastructure. Cloud makes sense everywhere. But this is more so in Africa, as it provides the means to scale up without costly infrastructure development. It overcomes the issues inherent in legacy technology and software. It also reduces the significant barrier that a difficult and broadly distributed supply chain can become. Through strategic use of cloud services, young African entrepreneurs are enjoying the same options as their established global counterparts.

The next wave

The real Vibranium of Africa is its people and its potential. The next superheroes of trade, purpose-drive entrepreneurship, and technology are waking up today in Lagos, Accra, Johannesburg, Yaoundé, and Cairo. They are already discovering their abilities and nurturing their dreams. Let’s celebrate them and tell their stories. Just as much as we relish a different African narrative on the silver screen. This article was written by Amrote Abdella, Regional Director, Microsoft 4Afrika.
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Nnedi Okorafor: All hail Black Panther

All hail Black Panther!

For weeks on end, Africa has been celebrated across continents. There has been a glorious showcase of its beauty, wealth, culture, resilience and diversity, on screen. 

From both young people and the people, many around the world have come out to embrace the African heritage. The Wakanda fever has seen people dressing in African fabric, rocking natural and bald hairstyles, and chanting Xhosa battle cries. 

But, beyond the outstanding representation of African culture, the Black Panther production also featured award-winning actors of African descent such as Kenya’s Lupita Nyong’o, Zimbabwe’s Danai Gurira, and Uganda’s Daniel Kaluuya. 

Currently, Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor is writing the ‘Black Panther: Long Live the King’ comic book. Using her unique brand of storytelling, Nnedi hopes to inspire others to re-create the African narrative. 


With a worldwide box office record or $897 million according to Forbes Magazine, Black Panther has had a phenomenal influence on the world. Originally a comic book, this story has changed the narrative of black characters in comic books and in the media. And instead of the typical American superman, we are now seeing an African, black, superhero!

But this is not it! Other than T’Challa’s superhero skills, we see women who do more justice to #girlpower than Wonder Woman or Cat Woman ever would. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Ramonda (Angela Basset) and Shuri (Letitia Wright), showcase the strength and power of women who slay!

Writing about women who slay is something that Nnedi is familiar with. Her award-winning Afrofuturistic novels combine culture and science to break the limits and the usual narrative of girls can do.

This passion is what led her to bring her unique brand of storytelling to Wakanda land. As the latest writer for this Marvel comic series, Nnedi seeks to remind us that our stories as Africans, as women and as superheroes, need to be heard.

Nnedi Okorafor

 

In changing the African narrative, we help the world recognize that Africa can create solutions towards the world’s development. But more importantly, we showcase the depth and diversity of the African people and their heritage.

Finally, through her contribution to Black Panther, Nnedi hopes to challenge people to rearrange their thinking. It is possible to create a new Africa. By telling these stories of Africa’s great future and her present achievements, we will create this new world that others have no option but to believe in!


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Meet the women taking their place as CEO’s in Kenya

A lot has been said about women entrepreneurs in Kenya.

Women have distinguished themselves and we have trailblazers like Tabitha Karanja of Keroche Industries, Flora Mutahi of Melvin’s Tea, Gina Din Kariuki of Gina Din Communications, Judith Owingar of AkiraChix, Lorna Rutto of Eco posts, Ruth Mwanzia of Koola Waters, Shikha Vincent of Shikazuri and Michelle Ntalami of Marini Naturals to name a few.

Entrepreneurship is mainly about business skills, determination, resilience, networking, and social impact. Women are working their way into this area and are slowly but surely making headway.

A lot of focus and support has been given to women entrepreneurs through grants, training, access to finance and favorable government policies like Access to Government Procurement (AGPO) to name a few. More women are encouraged to participate in this sector.

Women in the corporate world have an uphill task to get their place and break all the glass ceilings. Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook, in her book LEAN IN, gives insights into what the life of a woman in corporate America is and how to maneuver it.

According to Fortune.com, there were 27 women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies as at January 2018. How about corporate Kenya?

I admire women in the corporate world because apart from the normal barriers they encounter and overcome, boys club mentality, patriarchy, high technical skills, experience, glass ceiling mentality (Gender stereotyping), sexual harassment, inflexible working conditions and integrity.

The corporate world is harsh and cutthroat. The impact is mostly measured in terms of PROFITS and PROFITS. Only recently have corporates embraced a wider scale to measure the impact of CEO’s to include social impact, teamwork, employee innovation and customer retention to name a few.

This shift gives women a chance to shine as their natural skills of collaboration and teamwork are an asset.

Entrepreneurship is forgiving on the requirements of higher education and experience. A person with a basic education can quickly become a business mogul. However, in the corporate world, experience and education have a lot of weight.

The current trend to consider leadership, softer skills and strategic leadership has made it more accessible for women.

Due to gender roles and social pressure, many women in the past were not in a position to access higher education and therefore did not get promotions to enable them to rise up.

Currently, women are taking up chances to improve their education hence giving them more edge to compete in the corporate world. Experience is a matter of time; men had an advantage of this. In the last 20 years, women have proved that given a fair chance they too climb the corporate ladder right up to the top.

Why do we need women in CEO positions?

 

People in the corporate world manage a large amount of money and direct how it is used. Gender diversity has also been proven over the years to increase profits and performance of corporations.

Therefore, further inclusion of women has been proved to attract talent in the boardrooms where innovative solutions are created. Invariably more women-friendly products and policies emerge from companies that are managed by women. After all, women are 50% of the consumers of products and services.

The simple fundamental reason why women should be in the corporate world is that it’s fair and inclusive to do so.

In Kenya, we have many distinguished ladies at the helm of corporates and organizations. This has increased recently, but to date, only 2 women lead corporations listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange i.e. Maria Msiska of BOC  (until 2016) and Nasim Devji of DTB Bank. We can do better.

Here are examples of Women CEO’s in Kenya:

  • Jennifer Riria is a pioneer of women in CEO position and has been holding this and similar positions in the microfinance and banking industry for 20 years. She is the CEO of Kenya Women Holdings that has a subsidiary Kenya Women microfinance Bank which is a leading bank for women entrepreneurs. She is a Ph.D. holder and has a Degree and Master degree as well.

 

  • Stella Njunge: CEO of Sanlam Life, part of Sanlam Kenya Group. She has over 15 years’ experience in the insurance industry,  a CPA(K), CPS(K), and holds a degree and masters. Stella also has over 16 years’ experience in Insurance.

 

  • Catherine Karimi: CEO of APA Life part of Apollo Group a leading insurer in Kenya. She has 18 years’ experience in Insurance industry, a degree, postgraduate certificate in Actuarial Studies, and is a member of Chartered Insurers (UK).

 

  • Rita Kavashe: is the CEO of General Motors East Africa, Kenya with 35 years’ experience working at GM. She has a degree and postgraduate certificates and rose through the ranks.

 

  • Phyllis Wakiaga: is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers. She has a law degree, Higher Diploma in Law and Human Resource Management, Master Degrees in International Trade and Investment Law and Business Administration.

There are many more female CEO’s in Kenya. The common items in their profiles are EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE.  This is a true testament that education is an equalizer.

Given equal opportunity and based on merit, women can excel and are excelling in the corporate world. Girls need to be encouraged to plan their career path early to help them reach the top CEO positions to bridge the current gap.

I look forward to more women taking up the CEO roles and reducing the barriers to getting there.


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What To Do When You Hit A Wall

Earlier today I was minding my business and driving back home and just as I hit the turn to my place, I saw the rear end of Porsche Panamera 4 sticking out of my neighbor’s wall.

After I got over the initial shock, I was like “Yup, that’s an accurate depiction my life”.

Since 2009 I have dreamed of visiting Lagos, Nigeria and every year I passionately talk about it, to a point of breathlessness. In 2017 after I took part in the Mandela Washington Fellowship (“MWF”), my determination hit an all-time high as I got to meet some incredibly smart, fun, talented people from the rest of the continent and I added 10 more countries to my list places I wanted to visit.

In October 2017, I saw the She Leads Africa SLAY Festival would take place on 17 February 2018 in Lagos, Nigeria and I decided that “THIS IS IT”.

I sped off to write the event organizers and put myself up for any type of speaking opportunities that were available and was given the “thank you for getting in touch, we will get back to you.”

But they didn’t know who they were dealing with. I kept idling like a Porsche, waiting to make my move and then it happened!

As I was idle on Instagram I saw an insta-story of a friend/ client and he was with one of the co-founders of the She Leads Africa publication! I decided it was time to switch up lanes and accelerate this process by making a client an offer they can’t refuse, reduced legal fees in exchange for an introduction to the co-founders.

In December, a few days after Christmas I emailed the co-founder with my spiel and she said yes! Then on the other side, I started my application for a Speakers Travel Grant (“STG”) which is one the perks for alumni of the MWF and I was like “Yassss, I am cruising!!”.

So how did I go from cruising to hitting a wall?

Over hustling

The quality of your hustle will determine the kind of results you achieve. Over-hustling is like over-revving the engine, its fun and creates noise but you actually aren’t going anywhere. I turned every trick in the hustler’s handbook! I am resourceful as heck and got some good results:

  • The event organizers invited me to the event as a speaker hosting a masterclass and sent me a Visa application letter.
  • The Southern Sun hotel in Ikoyi agreed to sponsor me with accommodation for the duration of my stay.
  • I was able to negotiate with customs officials to leave me 2 blank pages in my passport which is almost finished.

Some hustles fail:

  • When my STG application was bounced, I decided to send sponsorship requests to every single airline that flies out of OR Tambo and I put them on notice on Twitter. Putting companies on blast on Twitter only works when you can go viral. I had 11 retweets. No bueno.
  • I had 2 pages left in my passport! Travelling under those conditions is very difficult.

The contingency

I put a lot of my eggs in the STG basket instead of working on other leads that would lead me somewhere.

When the STG responded to me I had exactly 1 week to shoot a new shot, which led to the frantic ‘spray and pray’ approach with almost 15 airlines, rather than a targeted approach I had towards Southern Sun which led to success.

Counting the Cost

Applying for a visa generally takes 2 weeks, or it can be more but I decided to travel 9 days before I would need to apply for the visa which was really cutting it thin.

As I would be taking this trip during a work period, which is a time to make coin- I hadn’t set up coin generating targets for the trip- if anything I was going to spend time and money in non-income producing activities.

I didn’t account for the cost of time and the cost of money in undertaking this exercise from the beginning to the end. I believe in miracles, but God isn’t in the business of covering up for laziness and folly!

Know Your Audience

In applying for the STG I wasn’t able to show the people controlling the purse string what they wanted to see, which was a high impact business event that would change and improve my business in a measurable way.

They saw a one-day social event that happened under the guise of entrepreneurship and I was basically asking them to fund a weekend getaway!

On a side note: imagine how much fun it would have been to watch Black Panther in Lagos though!

Creating Value

I was very excited to be part of the She Leads Africa SLAY Festival, but I hadn’t really thought of how I would use this platform to create value beyond the day. My talk I prepared was fantastic, but I was going to end up in a sea of speakers because I hadn’t really finessed my differentiator.

The same applies to my relationship with the hotel I should have stayed at. Beyond tweets and pictures, I hadn’t really thought of a way to add value to their brand in return for their hospitality.

After the Porsche hit that wall, it was pulled back and reversed onto a tow truck. In the same way, I need to reverse and get back to the drawing board.

The driver of the car will have to repair that wall, in the same way, I have to explain and apologize to the people who were expecting me.I have set a 3-month target to go to Lagos and this time it will be a beautiful, paced and thought-out journey!


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