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Africa’s most powerful women in tech 2013

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As South Africa pays tribute to women on Friday 09 August, National Women’s Day, ITNewsAfrica is afforded the opportunity to reflect on the role that female technology professionals play in growing the continent’s ICT sector.

Besides a general tribute to women in South Africa, the public holiday is always associated with the contribution made by women in the development of the country’s multi-racial, democratic society – and advancement in all fields, including science and technology.

Events like the 1956 mass demonstration by the Federation of South African women against the imposition of the pass laws form part of the historical significance of the Day.

More recently, the world was reminded of the global relevance of women in society when, on Friday 12 July 2013, the name Malala Yousafzai was etched into the annals of United Nations (UN) history.

The Pakistani teenager, who made worldwide headlines after surviving a gun-shot wound to the head, inflicted by the Taliban, addressed the global body at its headquarters in New York and spoke of the general rights of women and that of young girls to education.

Yousafzai emphasised the power that lay in education, stating that “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first!”

The history of Africa is marked with the contributions of people from all walks of life, who have given of their time, their industry and passion to ensure that this voice is always heard and never silenced.

In the world of science and technology, a focal point for governments throughout the continent, this spirit continues to inspire innovation.

With the capacity to connect being top of the list of priorities in both developed and developing economies, the scientific and communications technology communities are combining expertise to strengthen Africa’s overall capability.

Today more women take up central leadership roles in progressive ICT and telecoms enterprises than has been the case in the past. Today there are many women who impart their knowledge and experience daily in order to strengthen and sustain endeavours within these critical areas of the economy.

We take this opportunity to list- and pay tribute to twenty of the continent’s most powe


Ory Okolloh

Ory has been covered extensively by global business, financial and technology press, primarily for co-founding Ushahidi.com (the Swahili word for ‘patriot’), which, as the site explains, is “a non-profit tech company that specialises in developing free and open source software for information collection, virtualisation and interactive mapping.” She also the co-founder of Mzalendo, a parliamentary watchdog site.

She was ranked in second place on ITNewsAfrica’s Most Influential Women in Science and Technology feature list and has been profiled by Forbes.

A respected figure within African and global technology circles, Okolloh is described by Forbes as “a Harvard-trained lawyer, activist and blogger…. widely acknowledged as one of the most influential women in global technology.”

Okolloh this year joined Omidyar Network as a director overseeing investments. Prior to this appointment she held the position of Policy Maker for Africa within Google and is strongly associated with the promotion of Internet access for African users, encouraging content creation and is vocal about the representation of women in ICT.


Professor Tebello Nyokong (image: Cathy Pinnock)
Professor Tebello Nyokong (image: Cathy Pinnock)

Professor Tebello Nyokong

Professor Tebello Nyokong, Director of the Nanotechnology Innovation Centre at RhodesUniversity, won the Africa-Arab State 2009 L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science for her pioneering research into photodynamic therapy, which looks at harnessing light for cancer therapy and environmental clean-up.

Nyokong is the third South African scientist to receive this award.

Professor Nyokong was born in Lesotho on 20 October 1951, but spent most of her first eight years outside her country of birth. In 1977 she graduated from the National University of Lesotho, having spent her spare time doing research on the role of chemistry in everyday African life, and obtained a Canadian International Development Agency Scholarship to undertake post-graduate studies.

Four years later she graduated with an MSc in chemistry, and after further study received a PhD from the University of Western Ontario in 1987. She then applied for – and was given a Fulbright fellowship for post-doctoral study at the University of Notre Dame in the United States. At Rhodes, Nyokong trains PhD Chemistry students.

In 2010, Prof Nyokong was awarded honorary doctorates from the Walter Sisulu University and the University of South Africa (UNISA). Prof Nyokong has been inducted into the Lesotho Hall of Fame.


Dorothy Gordon (Future Media Forum)
Dorothy Gordon (Future Media Forum)

Dorothy Gordon

Dorothy K. Gordon is the Director-General of Ghana’s Advanced Information Technology Institute, the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT (AITI-KACE),

Dorothy has achieved worldwide recognition for her expertise in international development, as well as her contribution to the development of Ghana’s ICT sector. In June AITI-KACE, together with partners, hosted Ghana’s annual Innovation Week to showcase local tech talent.

In addition to the continuous support of training and research initiatives in India and Africa, she holds several positions of influence, including Chair of the Commission on E-Government for the World IT Forum (WITFOR), as well as President of the IPv6 Forum Ghana and member of the Champions network of the UNGAID – UN Global Alliance for ICT Development.


Eve Dmochowska

Eve Dmochowska is a web strategist, educator and entrepreneur focused on strategy, advice and education for corporate companies. Eve assists these businesses to better understand the potential of the Internet for business success.

She works with the science park, based at the Innovation Hub, Pretoria, South Africa.

Eve runs a personal blog, ‘Of Relevance’, and is a regular contributor to various leading online media platforms in Africa.

Her portfolio of online projects include New Media Journal, a publication aimed at marketing professionals keen to learn about the power of new media, ThemesandStuff.com, which showcases WordPress Premium Themes.

Eve also manages the Internet Guide, an online magazine aimed at keeping readers up to date with Internet news.

Eve is a graduate of Boston University, where she studied economics and international relations. She’s the founder of Crowdfunding, a social project that helps to find investors for local start-ups. Crowdfunding won second prize at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s global entrepreneur pitching contest.

A recent project has been the launch of LegalZone.co.za, an online hub presenting South African lawyer profiles, in June 2013.


Emma Kaye

Emma Kaye is the co vice-chair of the MEF EMEA Board, a body that represents the regions interest within the global trade association.

She is also the South African CEO and Founder of a startup venture and mobile application called Bozza.

Emma studied business, marketing and computer programming at Oxford Brookes University before working in London in finance and software development. In 1995 she moved to South Africa and co-founded Triggerfish Animation with director Jacquie Trowell.

She is accredited with a number of award-winning commercials and television programmes. Her career highlight was Takalani Sesame, which was so successful that Triggerfish was asked to work with the Sesame Workshop in the US and other countries.

Emma started the first Animation Festival at Sithengi, Africa’s largest film market in 2001 and co-founded animationsa.org and animationxchange.

She later joined breakdesign, a studio that creates content and applications for mobile phones. In May 2007 she founded Gate7 and in 2008 Emma co-founded Mobfest – Africa’s first User Generated Mobile Content platform. The first channel was launched, fiction on phones, a Novel Idea. It is serialized fiction written specifically for the phone.

Emma was nominated as the first African to sit on the board of the Mobile Entertainment Forum and was the fist African to be selected as one of the top 50 global women in mobile entertainment.


Heather Ford (image: Wikipedia)
Heather Ford (image: Wikipedia)

Heather Ford

Heather Ford is a South African researcher, blogger, journalist, technology social entrepreneur and open source activist who has worked in the field of Internet policy, law and management in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

She is the founder of Creative Commons South Africa.

Ford graduated from Rhodes University, with a Bachelors degree in Journalism in 1999, her major was cyber publishing. In 2003 she went to Stanford University as a fellow in the Reuters Digital Vision fellowship programme and volunteered for Creative Commons, a non-profit organization that strives to increase the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.

Heather launched Creative CommonsSouth Africa, was project director of the Commons-Sense programme at Wits University’s Link Centre and co-founded the African Commons Project.

She was also appointed executive director of iCommons, a UK based corporation that seeks to improve the global commons by promoting collaboration amongst supporters of open education, access to knowledge, open access publishing and free software communities.

Her research and work in developing the commons led her to Wikipedia, where she serves as a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Advisory Board.


Florence Seriki (image: Numeris Media)
Florence Seriki (image: Numeris Media)

Florence Seriki

Florence Seriki is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Omatek Computers.

Omatek Computers Limited was one of the first companies to locally assemble desktops and notebooks in Africa.

Florence is a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers, Nigerian Computers Society (NCS) and the Institute of Directors.

She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and an MBA from the Lagos Business School.


Uche Pedro

Uche Pedro is a media entrepreneur and owner of the popular web property, BellaNaija.com. As the MD and Founding Editor of the online company, she aspires to make the site Africa’s number one fashion, music, style, movie, TV and beauty website.

Uche graduated from the Richard Ivy School of Business, University of Western Ontario, Canada.

She relocated back to Nigeria, established Bainstone, the parent company of BellaNaija.com, and in July 2009, quit her full-time job to focus her energies on building BellaNaija.com.

Eze was featured on CNN i-List on the 28th of September 2010. During the interview, Uche discussed the genesis and inspiration for the BellaNaija brand, social media and social media activism in Africa and future plans for BellaNaija.com.


Nnenna Nwakanma

Nnenna Nwakanma is a Free and Open-source Software activist, community organizer, development adviser and consultant originally from Nigeria.

She is represented on a number of industry-focused organisations, including The Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA), and heads up the Africa Network of Information Society Actors (ANISA) and the Africa Civil Society for the Information Society (ACSIS).

Nwakanma is one of the major Civil Society Actors in the World Summit on the Information Society; she represents the African Civil Society on the Digital Solidarity Fund, and advises on the Africa Information Society Initiative.

Nnenna is also Council Chair of the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, and also runs her own Platform of Development Consultants.


Thoko Mokgosi-Mwantembe (image: FM.co.za)
Thoko Mokgosi-Mwantembe (image: FM.co.za)

Thoko Mokgosi-Mwantembe

Thoko is the CEO of Kutana Investment Group. She has vast experience in South Africa’s telecommunication industry, (including Managing Executive: Consumer Sales and Marketing at Telkom.

Mokgosi-Mwantembe has held several senior positions including divisional MD for Siemens, CEO of Alcatel SA and CEO of Hewlett-Packard South Africa.

She serves as an independent non-executive director on the boards of Vodacom, Absa, Paracon Holdings and Knorr-Bremse SA.

Thoko holds an MSc in Medicinal Chemistry from LoughboroughUniversity and a BSc from the University of Swaziland. Thoko is a recipient of several awards including the 2007 BWA Businesswoman of the Year Award in the corporate category, ICT Achiever of the Year Award, Top ICT Businesswoman in Africa Award and ICT Personality of the Year.


Felleng Sekha

Felleng is a partner within the Brunswick Group, previously non- executive director of Business Connexion, a South African black owned ICT company.

She was also the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) board deputy chairperson and has chaired the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and the National Telecommunications Forum.

Ms. Sekha holds a BA in Law from the Universities of Lesotho (NUL) and LLB from University of Cape Town, and a post graduate diploma in Media Communications and Information Technology law from the University of Melbourne.

Sekha has worked for the Centre for the Development of Information and Telecommunications Policy, Telkom SA as corporate accounts manager, MTN SA as GM for business development and led the team that successfully set up MTN in Nigeria from 2001 to 2005.

She currently owns an NGO, Platinum Ring, whose aim is to create entrepreneurial and career opportunities for young South Africans.


Zandile Mbele

Zandile Mbele holds the position of Executive Director at Dimension Data. She is also Chairperson of the MICT Seta, Chairperson of Plessey South Africa.

She has more than twenty years experience in the Media, Regulatory and ICT sectors and has served as an Executive for Regulatory Affairs at Sentech, a state owned signal- distribution company; she represented Sentech in the High Frequency Co-ordination Committee (HFCC) a sector member of the ITU.

She also served on the first Parliamentary appointed Board of the Universal Service Agency, an organisation tasked with bridging the digital divide in South Africa.

Prior to joining Sentech, Zandile held the following positions; General Manager: Group Corporate Marketing at Metropolitan Holdings and Managing Director at Hive Communications. Mbele has an MBA from DurhamBusinessSchool, an MA in Journalism from CityUniversity in the UK and an Executive Management Diploma from UCTBusinessSchool.


Dr. Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane

Dr. Sebiletso Mokone-Matabane has 25 years experience in the broadcasting, film and telecommunications sectors in the US and in South Africa. She is currently a member of the Presidential National Commission on Information Society and Development. In 2007 she won the South Africa Most Influential Business Women in Business and Government Award in the ICT category.

Mokone Matabane is the former CEO of Sentech and Co- Chair of Independent Broadcast Authority (IBA). Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts and an MS from the University of Syracuse, and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Texas.

Mokone – Matabane was a South African delegate to International Telecommunications Union Plenipotentiary, USA. She has served in various media related positions including the Texas Education Committee to review & develop new curriculum for radio, TV and related fields.


Doreen Ramphaleng-Motlaleng

Doreen Ramphaleng-Motlaleng is a Director at Informatix Industry Services, a software technology company based in Gaborone, Botswana.

Doreen was presented with the ‘Top ICT Businesswoman, 2009’ award by the African ICT Achievers Awards Board.

The Top ICT Business Woman award is conferred by the African ICT Achievers Awards Board to a recipient within the ICT sector in recognition of their significant contribution to their organisation as well as society at all levels. It recognises any deserving woman for achievement and excellence in the field of ICT in the private sector.

She is currently President of Citizen Owned Businesses in Information Technology (COSBIT) in Botswana.


Betty Mwangi-Thuo (image: Tech 360)
Betty Mwangi-Thuo (image: Tech 360)

Betty Mwangi-Thuo

Betty Mwangi-Thuo joined Safaricom in December 2007 and is charged with managing the New Products Division comprising the globally acclaimed M-PESA business and Safaricom’s Value Added Service roadmap for product innovation and GSMA projects. In June 2010 she was featured by MCI (Mobile Communications International) as one of the top women in mobile.

Mwangi has over 10 years experience in the telecommunications industry. Prior to joining Safaricom she was Chief Marketing Officer at Afsat Communications Ltd, responsible for developing and managing the distributor network for the iWay business in 26 African countries. She also worked with GlaxoSmithKline for a number of years in various senior management positions.

Mwangi is a Kenyan citizen and has a B. Eng (Hons) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Victoria University of Manchester and also has an MBA from the University of Leicester – both in the UK. She is also a Chartered Marketer and a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Kenya Institute of Management.


Isis Nyong’o

Isis Nyong’o is InMobi’s Vice President and Managing Director for Africa. Isis is currently managing InMobi’s African business strategy and facilitating the expansion of the company’s continental base.

Nyongo’o previously led Google’s business development initiatives in Africa, where she specialised in mobile partnerships and was responsible for the development of Google’s Africa content strategy.

She has spearheaded the development of mobile strategies in Africa for brands such as MTV and Google.


Funke Opeke (image: file)
Funke Opeke (image: file)

Funke Opeke

Funke Opeke leads Main One Cable Company in Nigeria. She is an experienced telecommunications executive who founded Main Street Technologies.

Opeke returned to Nigeria in 2005 as the Chief Technical Officer of MTN Nigeria Communications (MTN) after a twenty-year career in the United States.

Prior to her return, she was the Executive Director of Verizon Communications Wholesale Division. Subsequent to MTN, Ms. Opeke advised Transcorp on the acquisition of NITEL and briefly served as the interim Chief Operating Officer, post acquisition of NITEL.

She obtained a first degree in Electrical Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Nigeria and a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University, New York.


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