POWERFUL WOMEN IN TECH

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    Sometime ago, I penned a rather controversial list of Nigerian women in tech. It is a fact that African women on the continent are doing amazing things in the technology sector.
    Most of them are slowly leveling the gender playing field and shifting tech from the traditional all-male domain to an equal opportunity sector. We are not there yet, but the work of many African women in tech is showing through, from initiating efforts to teach young girls codes to building spectacular technology-based businesses among other exploits.
    These days, there are as many female techpreneurs, web developers, graphic artists and everything as there are men and it is a very welcome development. The scary thing about this very progressive development is that some of these African superwomen are not in the limelight.

    Nnenna Nwakanma — Nigeria
    This is not a name that readily comes to mind when you think tech, especially for the uninitiated — as it is not all up in your face. But surprisingly, Nnenna Nwakanma has an expansive online presence spanning social media and blogs.

    She is an internet and information advocate for Africa. As the African coordinator of the World Wide Web Foundation, she supports work on the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).
    In the same vein, Nnenna is the co-founder of the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) an African organization that promotes the free software and open-source software model as a developmental tool for the continent.
    Nnenna is working tirelessly to place unconnected Africa on the web and also ensure that everyone’s voice on the continent can be heard online.

    Irene Charnley — South Africa
    After 13 years spent with the National Union of Mine Workers coordinating its various operations; and being its negotiator, Irene Charnley went on to take up the position of the Executive Director of the MTN Group.
    In 1996, Irene joined Johnnic Holdings South Africa with a vision to refocus the company as a leader in the media, telecommunications and entertainment sectors. In 1998, she became primarily focused on telecommunications and ensured Johnnic Holdings became leading shareholders in MCell Limited(that morphed into the MTN Group in October 2002).

    It was under her leadership of MTN that Nigeria was connected to the telecommunications provider as she was instrumental in obtaining one of the three available cellular licenses at the time. She also helped MTN secure the second GSM license in Iran.
    Irene Charnley left the MTN Group in 2007 with over $150 million in stock and is currently the founder and CEO of Smile Telecoms; a mobile broadband operator with markets in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Nana A. Y. Twum-Danso — Ghana
    Before May 2016, the name was a complete mystery to me so I would not blame you if you are unfamiliar with it too. Unless you have heard the wonderful story of how MAZA is saving lives in Ghana, then there is every possibility that you might not have come across this name.
    Even after reading the MAZA story, there is more to this Emory University and Harvard-trained medical doctor than we all know.

    After a two-year stint with the Task Force for Global Health as director of the Children Without Worms, five years with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in different capacities, Dr. Nana went on to become the Senior Program Officer, Department of Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation until May 2015 when she decided to channel this wealth of experience into saving lives.

    By Victor Ekwealor

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