The Founder and Chairwoman of GEDA Group Sophia Bekele was invited to speak on a Thought Leadership Keynote Panel, held by Quantum Global Advisory Board Symposium on 19th November 2015, Zurich, Switzerland, convened at the Zürich Marriot Hotel.
The Symposium was focused on the essential role and growing impact of female African entrepreneurs, business women and innovators on the Continents burgeoning growth trajectory and wider socio-economic development.
Africa has the greatest potential and as such has experienced tremendous interest from the global frontier especially on information technology and more so the benefits of the internet in day to day entrepreneurship leadership of social economic levels.
The organizers of the Quantum Global Symposium invited Ms. Sophia along with other Power Women on the Keynote panel saying “your work paired with the outstanding contribution to African life and your professional legacy is entirely emblematic of the themes we wish to address at the November Symposium.”
Sophia has been enlisted as an African Women to Watch, one of top two leading ladies in Africa’s ICT sector in 2013 by Bloomberg TV. Also, in 2013, the influential UK’s NewAfrican Magazine, an IC Publications group, named her one of 50 African Trailblazers – A future made in Africa.
Sophia initiated her talk by first thanking the organizers for inviting her and on their choice of theme, acknowledging the work of women entrepreneurs, in Africa, “which is also a timely and very relevant topic”, she said. She then spoke of her global experience in business and technology while bringing the innovative benefits of the internet to Africa. She drew upon her experiences working in Africa and having to introduce the Internet and ICT Technologies by bridging the digital divide. Sophia recalled her first ventures in Africa that included her various tech start-ups, and opportunities as well as the challenges of working in a male dominated industry.
“Despite”, she said to the audience, “since my early high-tech startups, I have always aspired and set up programs to allow girls to participate in the digital economy. I figure if girls see other women in leadership position, they will always have the courage to try.”
She discussed the “Miss.Africa” initiative she founded for similar objective, the first ever Pan-African initiative to empower women-in-technology and the current drive by the program announcing a Seed Fund in Africa that will provide grants to support women and girls in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields to launch or expand their own initiatives that will increase their digital opportunities in IT related training, jobs and leadership roles.
Sophia noted that the environment within the African continent and even globally has not yet fully matured to give the female participation the platform it deserved. She noted that
“women still struggle to make it through even though they have proved to be some of the best managers and innovators.
While encouraging the symposium, Sophia also advised the audience, “we no longer can look at women’s work from a “cottage industry” perceptive. Women entrepreneurs are achieving and contributing towards large scale projects in various industries“.
She responded to moderators question on how social media and technology would empower the next generation women and youth and create disruptive business models that would contribute to the global economy. She also touched upon the value of creating a diverse workforce that should benefit society as well as meet the business objective of organizations in a competitive global economy, saying“the global economy needs a diverse workforce that see beyond gender, race or religion “.
On Entrepreneurship, Sophia emphasized that “we need to avoid the situation as Entrepreneurship in Africa being currently being framed as the way for poverty alleviation, but to first see it as a way of providing a local solution that is of real tangible help to the community.” She said, “Entrepreneurship cannot also solve every problem, so we need perspective.”
In response to the moderators question on good governance, Sophia cited the recent survey report by Mo Ibrahim Foundation, stating “there has been no progress in governance since 2011, and so we are all impacted by lack thereof and it should be Africa’s priority.”
Sophia concluded by giving recommendation to the audience and those who want to invest in Africa to give priority to those who have “commitment in their work”. She said,
Entrepreneurship is a buzz word in Africa now, but Entrepreneurship is also not easy and it is not for everyone. It it is a lot of hard work. It requires a lot of commitment. One needs to a good balance of putting together a vision, talent, finance and a good plan of action to succeed.
The forum which was convened by the Founder of Quantum Global, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais and included other high profile keynote speakers which included the renown Mrs. Bineta Diop, Executive Director of intFemmes Africa Solidarité named 100 most influential by Time Magazine, Mrs.Andia Chakava, co-founder and Managing Director of Alpha Africa Asset, named among 50 people to watch in Africa in the 2014 Africa Report, and Mrs. Rolake Akinkugbe as a moderator, also a Vice President and Head Energy and Natural Resources of Lagos based investment bank. The audience were comprised of distinguished business executives, investors and governmental representative across Europe, Africa and the Americas.
Adapted from GEDA PR