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Rwanda’s women in tech: Leading the digital revolution

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When she was a little girl, Jeanne Yamfashije wanted to be a doctor. Her goal was to make her parents proud and serve her people.

The 29-year-old IT specialist did not become a doctor but she has certainly fulfilled her other wishes. For the past five years, Yamfashije has been working with a project that promotes science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) among girls in Rwanda.

The group, called Girls in ICT Rwanda, offers mentorships, boot camps and a competition to encourage innovation among students. The organization reaches 500 girls each year.

“I am serving my people by making sure that women reach where they want to be, especially in the area of IT,” she said.

“My message to young women is: ‘Always believe in yourself, work hard and smart to achieve what you want, and seek help. Walk away from your comfort zone … Become women with vision and goals.’”

Yamfashije is a graduate of the Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, a local branch of the technology-focused American institution.The university, which is being co-funded by the African Development Bank and the Rwandan government, aims to create Africa’s next generation of technology leaders, and encourages them to apply their highly sought-after skills where they are most needed: at home. Since the university opened its doors in 2011, 90% of its students have remained in Africa.
Sylvia Makario found her way to Carnegie Mellon after hearing about the school while she was completing the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship in the United States in 2015.

“I got drawn to Carnegie Mellon University Africa, particularly due to the pan-African vibe to it, which enables you to interact with different perspectives from various corners across the region and learn to collaborate to deliver solutions to cross-cutting issues in the continent,” she said.

Makario, who is Kenyan, co-founded Kigali-based data company Hepta Analytics in 2017, together with other graduates from Carnegie Mellon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hepta Analytics is a gender-balanced outfit, with 50% male and 50% female ownership. It wants to be part of the digital revolution in Africa, using data to help organizations reach their full potential.

One of Hepta’s greatest accomplishments was a product it designed for the Samburu Girls Foundation to assist women affected by genital mutilation. The RecReporter system connects callers to social workers via a toll free number and records messages as well as mapping the location of the caller for easier tracking within a certain radius.

Such undertakings have found fertile ground in Rwanda, which has established a ministry of ICT and innovation in order to position itself as a knowledge hub in this part of the world. The East African nation has also become a global leader in promoting gender equality, which is enshrined in legislation.

In November 2019, Rwanda will host the Global Gender Summit, a biennial event organized by multilateral development banks, including the African Development Bank.

Also Read Lillian Barnard: Tech Enthusiast And First Female Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa

Makario is looking forward to the opportunities on offer in Rwanda and elsewhere on the continent, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area, which envisions a borderless continent that would increase trade among its 55 states.

“My ultimate goal is to see businesses in the African continent use various tools to make quality decisions, based on data and not guesswork. We are working day and night to help more organizations reach that objective,” Makario said.

African Development Bank

Technology

The Internet as an Investment Tool: How to Leverage It

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By Syd Dickinson

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a sudden throttle to an already expected recession. It is now looking to be a worse financial crisis than the 2008 debacle and the “Great Depression”. Despite that, financial experts note that this actually marks a great time for smart investments. With reduced financing costs and better market penetration opportunities among other benefits, investors can expect an active market that can still yield returns with the right tools.

Much of what is keeping the market active in this time of crisis is the advent of digital resources and the internet. If investors can tap into the well of the World Wide Web’s enterprises, then it can be the most valuable tool in their arsenal. After all, it carries all the necessary assets to leverage on the market.

News Sites and Social Media

Arguably one of the staples of modern media is the torrent of real-time updates that continuously get uploaded on a regular basis. Even with the advent of social media platforms, new consumption habits have changed, and the common public has come to expect quick turnouts with reliable information. As much of investment and trading is reliant on picking up on the most relevant news and market trends, being able to have a 24/7 connection to global numbers and updated data is truly valuable. Of course, what sites you need to follow will likely depend on where you’re situated or where your assets are concentrated. But even Google’s main news page can be a good place to glean some relevant insights. Global market news sites like Reuters and MarketWatch are great sources of information, as well as more regional pages like Business Africa Online.

Research Resources

Adequate knowledge is what keeps investors from taking unwise risks and putting themselves in the red. Having access to the right resources is a must, if only to decrease the inherent risk that investment already brings. With the internet, various websites, applications, and learning platforms are right at an investor’s fingertips.

There are many trustworthy resources available now for both new investors and the more experienced ones. Among these is Dotdash’s popular online financial website, Investopedia. It’s not so much a news site but a finance education site and since its introduction in 1999, it has become one of the most regarded resources for encyclopaedic information on investment as well as relevant reviews, ratings, and trend reports.

Heat Maps

Another core factor for investors is market movement. Assessing the performance of different sectors and assets informs the modern investor of what their next viable move can be. This is where tools that can help investors to accurately monitor and visualize movement come in. FXCM’s trading heat map is very useful for investors and traders. It’s a reliable asset tracker as it covers historical market data and provides real-time market movements in various categories. This tool becomes even more essential for individuals who keep a diverse portfolio, as they can simultaneously monitor forex, cryptocurrencies, stocks, commodities, and more.

Analytics and Calculations Software

Active investment requires foresight that may have once taken years to develop. Though this learning curve still exists, there is a lot of software that makes the process much more accessible to the less experienced. Analytics tools aid investors in staying ahead of the curve, especially during a time when fluctuation can be volatile in core avenues of investment.

That goes hand in hand with investment calculators, which are crucial for private investors considering the value of their potential investments and how much return of invested capital they can expect. In fact, there are even government-funded digital resources like the South Africa’s compound interest calculator that investors can make use of.

According to The World Bank’s 2021 outlook report, economic growth is projected to grow after the widespread introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine despite the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Strategic investment has become more accessible, and those who make use of the tools readily available in the digital landscape can expect to coast on this headwind.

By Syd Dickinson

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Digitalization in logistics – A user’s experience

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Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics (Source: Geraldine Mamburu)

In some cultures, children are sometimes named after events that would have taken place close to or during their birth.  Jokes around naming children Quarantine Buthelezi, Social-distance Moyo, or Pandemic Ndlovu, were circulating in 2020 and made for a good laugh, however, one couple in India took this a little too seriously and named their twin boy and girl, Corona and Covid.

Looking back, I do not recall ever coming across a proposal to name children after any of the variations around the word digital, after all, every second Point of View that was being released was around digitalization and digital transformation. It got me thinking, and realised that a lot of these terminologies are thrown about in the corporate space, but what does this actually mean to the end-user? How does the user interact, make use of, and appreciate digitalization?

Being in the logistics space has found me interacting with a lot more digital platforms over and above e-commerce, social media, and the all-so-dreaded-virtual-meeting platforms. My favourite most convenient app (which is currently the best thing ever since sliced bread in my books) has got to be Truck Fuel Net (TFN). TFN offers a cloud-based, real-time software management solution that helps me manage all my on-road refuelling and driver spend needs. Given that the bulk of operational costs in road freight is fuel, one must have their finger on the pulse and be on the constant lookout for the best price, over and above monitoring driver efficiency. The TFN Management system helps me decide, where, when, and how much the driver can refuel.

Sidebar – I’ve been driving a Ford Kuga 1.6 AWD for a few years (NB: No fire starter jokes allowed) and for such a small engine, that car can chow fuel – I’m talking 11 – 12km/100! I never used to fill up because it was painful watching all that money go down the drain. When I filled up the truck for the first-time round, let’s just say I needed to sit down because I felt a little dizzy.

Every day, we transport goods worth millions of Rands. It goes without saying that the safety and security of the driver, the goods we carry, as well as the trucks themselves, is of paramount importance. TFN’s solutions enable us to run a cashless operation. In the road freight sector, cargo, equipment, and increasingly drivers, are all targets for criminals and if we can take one incentive out of the equation, the better off we are.

Whilst on cashless operations, I would like to give SANRAL a standing ovation. Now, now, before your eyes roll all the way to the back of your head, let me just say that we might have qualms as “Gautengers” about how they went about the e-toll saga, but their app is such a lifesaver! With an e-tag fitted on the vehicle, I can manage my account quickly and securely. The app works in real-time, allowing me to be kept informed of my spend on vehicles. And lo and behold when I do forget to top up (because …you know …admin), I immediately get a notification the moment my funds are depleted, allowing me to top up immediately whilst the truck is still on route, contributing to a seamless operation. Well done SANRAL. Sometimes the government does get it right …sometimes.

The South African logistics sector contributes about 12% towards the GDP, according to Stellenbosch University and the World Bank. Of that percentage, approximately ¾ is attributed to road freight alone. With such modestly generous figures, it’s encouraging to see various organisations come up with digitally inspired solutions to cater to this industry.

This brings me to my most used platforms, Car Track and Tracker. I can only assume that before the advancement in technology, one must have had to have a great deal of faith, composure, and trust. Not to say that we no longer require these skills, but the ability to log onto these apps and be able to get real-time updates on the exact location of a customer’s goods in transit certainly prevents a blood vessel or two from popping (in the event that you cannot reach the driver.) As for Google Maps, it goes without saying, that this is the backbone of my interaction with these tracking platforms.

There are a bunch of other digital platforms such as Linebooker that I am still to explore as the business continues to grow. However, it’s been interesting to know that before we start thinking self-driven trucks (think of that one scene from Terminator, were the machine is operating the truck…but I digress) and other seemingly complex technological advancements aimed at this industry, there are still digital channels that make the day to day operations in logistics that much easier.

What other digital platforms are you using or have you heard off that have made a world of a difference in the logistics space?

Article by: Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics

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Technology

Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World

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Image source: Pexels

The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) produce innovation that drives us forward as a species. Despite the fact that women and people of color have often been at the forefront of new discoveries, their representation within the STEM fields is historically low.

As culture progresses in understanding toward the value of a diverse workforce, those seeking out the future leaders of STEM are reaching out to underrepresented populations – specifically, women and people of color. One such outreach is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, a global campaign established by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The event, which takes place this February 25, is run by teachers, volunteers, and STEM professionals, and includes engaging engineering-based learning activities that encourage young women to develop problem solving skills and indulge their interest in science and engineering.

The road to their future success was paved by the intrepid women who came before them, including these three remarkable African-American female engineers:

  • Kimberly Bryant: Seeking to create an inclusive technology learning space for young women of color, Ms. Bryant created the not-for-profit coding camp Black Girls Code. As of late 2019, the organization has 15 chapters, and Ms. Bryant has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion as well as one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath: An early pioneer of laser surgery for cataract treatment, Dr. Bath was the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first female African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, and the first female leader of a postgraduate ophthalmology training program.
  • Alice Parker: A housewife from New Jersey, Mrs. Parker developed and filed a patent for a gas-powered central heating system inspired by cold coastal winters. Her filing came before both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, a remarkable achievement for an African-American woman during her time.

More stories of African-American female engineers and  female leadership in engineering can be seen here:

To discover more about Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, visit NSPE online.

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