10 inspirational women working in science and technology in Africa
It’s International Women’s Day so there’s no better time to highlight 10 amazing women who are working in science, tech and development on the continent.
1) Esther Kunda
While she was still a university student, Esther Kunda helped create Sarura, an automated SMS-based app that allows farmers to access timely agricultural information, and better market key products. Since agriculture accounts for a third of Rwanda’s GDP, such apps will help the country’s many smallholder farmers to pursue more sustainable and efficient methods of agricultural production. Kunda is also involved in programs for young women through the MsGeek competition, which helps young women showcase new technology. We look forward to seeing what else this dynamic woman achieves!
2) Professor Tebello Nyokong
The African Union presented South African chemist, Professor Tebello Nyokong, with the Kwame Nkrumah Scientific Award in recognition of her efforts to advance science on the continent. An internationally renowned scientist, Professor Nyokong has been commended for her pioneering research into photodynamic therapy for cancer treatment. Read on for our interview with this inspiring scientist and researcher
3) Dr. Kopano Matlwa Mabaso
A Rhodes scholar from South Africa, Dr. Kopano Mabaso is studying for a PhD in Population Health at Oxford University. Her research focuses on health policy and systems research, with a special emphasis on building resilient health systems. Alongside her academic research, Dr. Mabaso founded Transitions Foundation, an NGO whose mission is to provide high-quality education for all of Africa’s children. Not satisfied with being a trailblazer in public health and education equity, Dr. Mabaso is also an accomplished novelist, having won a number of international awards for her books ‘Coco’ and ‘Spilt Milk’.
4) Dr. Julie Makani
Julie Makani, a Tanzanian researcher, is one of the most prominent haemotologists in Africa, and her work on anaemia and Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) has led to new understanding of the illnesses. Although SCD is a major cause of infant mortality on the continent, virtually no systematic studies have been conducted and there is limited data on the most basic issues, such as the common complications. In an interview with the NIH Catalyst, Makani noted that, ‘while the disease has been known for a century now, only one drug exists to treat it. We need to conduct research to diversify the treatment options and alleviate the burden of this pathology in Africa’. We wish Dr. Makani the best in her crucial fight!
5) Blessing Kwomo
Given her aptitude for mathematics, Nigerian entrepreneur, Blessing Kwomo, was encouraged to become an engineer. However, she decided to harness her talents to help solve health problems facing lower-income families, such as typhoid fever, cholera and tuberculosis. Just before her 19th birthday, Kwomo launched De Rohoboths Therapeutic Studio, which offers a holistic approach to healthcare, and aims to assess a patient’s living environment to address the root cause of infectious diseases. Our hearty congratulations go to Kwomo for being named one of the 2015 finalists of the Anzisha Prize, which celebrates Africa’s most innovative entrepreneurs.
6) Linda Waireri
With a strong background in international development, Linda co-founded the Engineering Lab Africa, a programme designed to drive innovation and creativity through Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Through interactive and practical workshops run with partners such as the Philips Africa Research & Innovation Hub, students learn the technical and design skills needed to become innovators.
7) Naadiya Moosajee
A native of South Africa, Naadiya describes herself as a ‘serial social entrepreneur’. With a background in engineering, Naadiya decided to set up WomEng, a social enterprise developing the next generation of women engineering leaders around the world. At present, WomEng operates in South Africa and Kenya, but aspires to expand into West Africa. We look forward to following her impact!
8) Dr. Nagwa Abdel Meguid
Originally from Egypt, Dr. Meguid is a renowned geneticist who has identified a number of gene mutations that cause common genetic disorders including the fragile X syndrome. In 2002, she was recognised for her groundbreaking work with the L’Oreal UNESCO Award for Women in Science for Africa and the Middle East. Alongside her research, Dr. Meguid is actively involved in training and teaching young physicians and scientists. We hope that young Egyptians are inspired to follow in her footsteps!
9) Juliana Rotich
Following a fiercely contested presidential election in 2007, Kenya erupted in violence, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths and the displacement of over 500,000 civilians. The widespread unrest inspired Juliana Rotich to co-found Ushahidi.com, a software platform that allowed citizens to report incidences of violence and have them mapped out via Google Maps. Since then, Usahidi has become a veritable ecosystem of open-source crowdsharing software that makes it easy for people around the world to disseminate and collect information about a crisis. After her success with Usahidi, Rotich joined the founding team of BRCK Inc, a hardware company that had developed a robust, self-powered, mobile WI-FI device that connects people to the Internet in areas with poor infrastructure. We look forward to following Juliana Rotich on her mission to make things, fix problems and help others!
10) Jamila Abass
Abass is the co-founder of MFarm, a Kenyan mobile software company that gives smallholder farmers vital market information via SMS and helps them reach consumers. In this way, the app creates an ecosystem of knowledge exchange, aggregation and opportunity spotting that will help farmers move into productive commercial farming. Best of luck to this amazing innovator!