From the 3-5 May 2017, the world had their eyes on South Africa as the coastal city of Durban hosted the World Economic Forum on Africa with over 1000 global leaders from across the world. This year, the forum explored the theme of harnessing the opportunity to enable access and to empower the economically excluded in Africa by Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership, an economic opportunity that has bypassed millions of Africans.
The Future of Africa, Booming Youth
In attendance were young and old executives, entrepreneurs and WEF’s Global Shapers community whose presence was an opportunity in answering how we can employ one of the continent’s most valuable asset of its booming youth, and African leadership. As a young person, I cannot express how discouraging it was to see an overwhelming number of youth delegates who were in attendance, not having many seats at the WEF speaking series of panel discussions, I’m hopeful that 2018 will orchestrate a different story.
The 2015 UN Department of Economic Social Affairs, Population Division report revealed that the youngest country in the world at present is Niger, with half of the almost 20 million population under 15 years old. The country, with Somalia, Angola and Zambia will by mid-century be the youngest countries. Fast forward to 2050, and the continent of Africa will be youngest continent. In fact, as we speak, Africa has the youngest population worldwide.
I’m of the belief that in order to unlock the potential of Africa’s economic growth and development, the appropriate policies, strategies and investments must be employed to empower women and youth, as to complement the concept of inclusive growth and shaping Africa.
How do we include women and youth in the design of policy and solutions that’ll empower them and the continent? ONE Africa highlights the theme of the Demographic Dividend as an opportunity to employ the appropriate policies and investments in education, employment and empowerment, particularly for women and youth. To take it a step further and expand on the idea, ONE Africa hosted a WEF panel discussion that was moderated by their Africa ambassador, Bonang Matheba, shining the ONE Africa Inclusive Growth strategy of equity and equality of education and increased budget spend on education, and finance flows and transparency of it.
Unpacking Inclusive Growth
“For growth to be inclusive, it needs to touch the lives of many African people. For us to have inclusive growth, we need to ensure that people from the rural and urban areas, and informal and formal are also benefitting from growth. And we know that from a social and economic point of view, women across sectors face harder hurdles in getting education opportunities and work twice as hard in the workplace. For ONE Africa, growth that does include and recognise women, is not inclusive growth.” says ONE Africa Interim Director, Nachilala Nkombo.
In my conversation with Nkombo, the underlying theme of the exchange acknowledged that in order to achieve inclusive growth, it won’t be a silver bullet. Certain frameworks will not necessarily create jobs, but will create enabling environments for job creators and creations, as well as owners and drivers of production.
The Demographic Dividend at Play
In order to achieve the objective of the Demographic Dividend, to be in a position where the working-age population (also are economically engaged) have fewer dependants and more capital in the household, the stakeholders need to be they who have their objectives set on the opportunities of the African challenges with lesser lip service and more action.
Quite prominent in the ONE WEF panel discussion was the call to action from government, and the pot of gold promises they have, with lesser accountability strategy. Inclusive growth needs responsible and responsive self-organising leadership who have a sense of urgency, and an agenda and strategy of implementation and communication, to mitigate movements like #FeesMustFall . In my conversation with Nachilala Nkombo, the conviction of an empowered, skilled and knowledgeable youth population that’ll drive growth, create opportunities and drive change echoes is what ONE Africa has done, and the work and engagement being done at present.
For the ecosystem, investing in young people should be no afterthought but, instead, an opportunity to co-create with stakeholders (between corporate, private and youth sector) in policy creation and discussions that are centred around the real needs of young people.
This can be achieved with self-organising stakeholders that are building an environment that is conducive for creation of means of production and empowerment of lives through sustainable inclusive growth measures.
Data from the 2015/16 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey reported that South Africa’s rate of established businesses was at 3.4% (more than below Africa’s average of 8%), while necessity-driven entrepreneurship was up 18%. To complement this statistic was the Total Early-stage Activity (TEA) which had increased, while the rates of these phases of TEA remained relatively low. With 62% of businesses closed South Africans and only between the ages of 25 and 44 are the most entrepreneurially active, why would current societal pressure blur the opportunity of being employed (and educated)? After all, is that not one of the values and impact of entrepreneurship, social or not?
It seems the greater cause of entrepreneurship is being totally missed at present with the aspirations to make it the latest trend without consequence to its opportunity of job creation. Starting a startup is no glamorous venture. It’s beyond scheduling Instagram posts with #MotivationMonday captions, uploading a picture of a “Meeting well done, can’t wait for what’s to come” when in actual fact you got a call a day later and lost the deal you thought was putty in your hands. Beyond the glamour frenzy, downplaying the aspirations of an employed peer because entrepreneurship is the only way to actualise one’s dreams and monetize passions, is what has been irking me for some time. Are we ever going to recognise and introduce the opportunity of Intrapreneurship to aspirant workers and entrepreneurs without the worry of being an entrepreneur with a lack of resources? So what is this concept of Intrapreneurship all about?
Intrapreneurship is a fairly recent concept that has a key focus on employees who are drivers of innovation in the company and have grand appetites for risk and return on investment. Intrapreneurs are more than in it for the paycheck, it’s innovating and crafting business value with the bigger idea of advancing not only their growth in the company, but the vision of the entity and adding value to the culture and employees of the company aswell.
For the aspirational entrepreneur, intrapreneurship is a platform to hone your entrepreneurial skills with all the resources at your disposal and the opportunity to fail fast and build and grow a business or product within the company. Intrapreneurship is the opportune playground to kickstart your entrepreneurial journey. And should one have no aspirations of being an entrepreneur, is intrapreneurship still for them? Absolutely! The concept is ideally about leadership, recognising and fostering growth to become a truly innovative leader. Entrepreneur or not, everyone with a role and responsibilities expectant to be remunerated for their services needs these skills.
With the high income inequality, underemployed, unemployment, weak job creating capacity in this country and the GEM highlighting that the job growth aspirations of entrepreneurs likely declined 4 times in 2015, the opportunity to intrapreneur has never been more ripe.
The rise of the entrepreneur does not have to equivocally bring shame to the employed, or a salary be seen as a bribe to pay off one’s dreams. Believe it or not, you can actually be both, an intra- and entrepreneur. If you are of the opinion that a salary is a pay off of one’s dreams and you’re pursing entrepreneurship, whose dream will you be paying off?
Clichés have maintained their reputation because of the baked truths that lie in them. The lexicon meaning of what a cliché is, is described as “an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.” Operative keywords from this definition are “effect and “meaningful”, with the common denominators as evident in this definition being time and relevance of these factors to a person’s circumstance. A cliché that’s quite meaningful to me is: “Your Network is your Net worth”. Do you still consider this cliché meaningful, or has it lost its original meaning?
Allow me to recall my introduction to the startup ecosystem, how I got my feet wet in the industry. It was in 2013 and I had accompanied a friend of mine to this social enterprise that he wouldn’t stop talking about and where he was running his business from, which was Hubspace Khayelitsha . In his humble swag, then Managing Partner of the Hubspace, Melilizwe Gqobo introduced himself to me and continued to facilitate introductions to me with the entrepreneurs and organisations within the Khayelitsha (and greater parts of Cape Town ecosystem). He intrinsically became my first dot connector. I became a Hubspace regular almost every Mondays (I was interning at Live Magazine from Tuesdays – Fridays at the time) and that was how the relationship building began. And, what had made the relationship valuable was that I made it my business for him to know as much as I do about and of him as he did about me, so that when the moment came for a chance to be introduced to an opportunity, I was someone on top of his head that he could connect the dots to.
In essence, I had to build my relationships before I could use them.
No one likes to be used, everyone appreciates leverage. This is how you build value around the relationships that you’re desiring to get something out of.
It’s cool to know people and be a business card hoarder, the true measure of your network is not how many people you know, but in turn how many of them know you and your product offering. Because, at the end of the day, the net worth in your network is in how many people you’re able to be connected to with the intention of growing capital – social or monetary. Therein lies networking 101.
I get the frustration or the exhaustive expectation of the “Your Network is your Net worth” to be an agile prototype of how fast you’ll get somewhere or to someone, but everything need nurturing before it comes into fruition – this including relationships, professional and personal. In order for someone to invest themselves, their vision and power to pursue the alignment of your objective(s) to their resources, you need to prove yourself worthy. In order for this phrase to have the meaningful impact, effect and mileage in your networking and network, validate what net worth means to you and in which capacity of capital you regard to be of value to you with a particular contact and circumstance. It’ll be in your best interest to manage and expect expectations.Your network goes beyond a Twitter following, email threads or a business card that’s collected dust in your room or office. It’s the “Hey, here’s an article and I thought you’d be interested in this piece especially since …” reach out, an honest and sincere “Let’s do lunch/coffee and catch up” with no ulterior motives or a “I would like to apologise for my radio silence and let you know I/we are still very excited about the prospect of working together…” email.
People change and updates happen in their lives and their companies (employed by or owning), how you nurture your relationships is up to you, because at the end of the day, that’ll gauge the value that someone is able to bring into your business and/or personal life. Do it with kindness, do it with tact. Think about it like this, ever downloaded that application from Playstore of Apple store and agreed to have them push notifications because you thought it in your best interest to be kept up to date about the app? And then the spamming works on your nerves because the notifications are never relevant? Wouldn’t you like more tailored notifications that can enhance your experience with the app and knowledge sharing? This is the same application with networking. How?
Use the engagement engine that’s data at your disposable about your network to retain and convert, be it to drive purchases, revenue or however you measure net worth for that particular network.
My time is currently being seduced by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, the ultimate feminist intelligence-backed and manifesto for women in the world (who are fortunate enough to access this kind of resource) engaging their will in lead in the workplace and outside of it. The book is authored on the foundation of not only Sandberg and her experiences, but the data that supports the reality of feminism as much as it exposes the world’s commitment to keeping feminism as a promise, and nothing else. The reality is that in the workplace and outside, women’s voices are not heard equally, and the rallying cry of this book, is calling women (and men) to lean in.
It’s no secret that the space of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a white, male dominated space, and in every capital technology city and corporate one encounters. This is why I’m obsessed with being a Mentor and Sponsor advocate – so many young women professionals need this knowledge sharing. A 2012 McKinsey report surveying more than 4000 employees of leading companies found that 36% of men wanted to reach the C-suite level of jobs compared to only 18% of women. Admittedly, I cringed when I came across this finding. Granted, not every woman aspires to be a CEO of a company, but for young ambitious women like me who would, representation matters, and we need more of them to be there and so that we can lean in. And, because of having such representation in my network, I ended up hacking my first lean in.
I had just penned my first resignation from a digital agency and wanted to immerse myself into a job and career with more of STEM and startup focus, not knowing that a responsibility of two months would lead me to it. Immediately after my resignation, I had an advisory meeting with my mentor, where I expressed to her my current state of thinking and the direction that I wanted my life to take. A few days later she told me about an opportunity to assist her at coordinating a hackathon for “a company, you’ll see it when we get to the meeting, but I know it’s right up your alley”, and indeed it was, also the company turned out to be Thomson Reuters (no biggie, right?). A week later my mentor received a call that she needed to be in London for about 5 weeks with Mozilla, and told me that she and my current boss had decided that they’re entrusting me to be capable enough to handle being the project manager of the hackathon. The first thing that went through my mind was nothing, because my insecurities arrested my mind, and secondly, it was a Thomson Reuters hackathon, were these two women insane? The fact that they, whom together have almost 45 years in the technology, product development, digital and innovation industries entrusted my capabilities to execute this job was eclipsed by my insecurity. You’d think with the experience they bring to the table, I’d trust their decision to trust me, and whatever potential they saw in me. I didn’t feel deserving, as though they were doing me a favour as opposed to deciding on merit. Sound familiar? I wanted to pay a penalty for my potential with doubt. I wanted to silence myself, even though I wanted to lead with ambition. The job I was entrusted with couldn’t house both feelings, something had to give.
It was the latter that I gave up. I ended up working with an incredible team of women (with one man on the team) who hacked my insecurities and enabled an environment of thriving and leaning in. The execution of the hackathon was a success and my nervousness to fail that was on cue, lost its way to my expectations of the two day event. Through the hackathon we managed to mine some great ideas about land transparency through ICT, trended on social media on both days and enriched both civil, private and public sectors through knowledge sharing and engaging with creative business solutions.
The opportunity was mine to lose. And to be honest with you, spending time with these two women in the two weeks we had before the mentors’ London trip, and hearing their vision for young, black women in STEM and the private sector, their discussions were the answers to what I would do if I wasn’t afraid. It was knowing that there had to be more to life than stereotype threats, and having the confidence and humility to know that the women who invited me to the table, entrusted me to lean in and lead. This is why I’ve created this platform, so that I could lean in, by sharing my experiences, thoughts and conversations as a young woman in STEM on the continent, we need more of us in this space, a more normalised picture of women leading in this industry.
I was 21, and orchestrated my first life hack(athon). It was the audition that opened the door to the job that I enjoy doing the most, being an Innovation Project Manager with an opportunity to engage with private and public sector, together with startups to innovate with the mission to add business value and create social impact.
Hack it till you feel it, and believe it. Then embody it, and run away with the will to lead, and to feel deservingly have your mark made.
“I did not originally set out a career in technology. What excites me the most about working in innovation and technology, is the fact that it's a connector, a tool that connects me in Cape Town (Silicon Cape) to someone in Silicon Valley and that it enables people, from whichever LSM that you're from, to have access to information.”
I remember receiving the email in my inbox and that being the highlight of my day:
The Silicon Cape Women’s Sub-Committee invites you to participate in a series of video clips to celebrate women working in a range of technology roles in and around Cape Town.We are inviting you, as one of a hand-picked group of talented and dynamic women, because we think your voice should be heard. Whether you’re a developer, founder of a tech startup, making strategic technology decisions, researching and innovating new technologies or still working your way up from the ground floor - you have something to say to others who want to be like you!"
I ofcourse had a moment of "WHAT?" and then after rereading the mailer, connecting with my confidence and nothing but flattery and appreciation for the recognition. I had just turned 22, it was a big deal! To this day, it still is, and I had to recognize that. Having this website will now also enable me to converse with you, and be transparent as I can about my life, because at the end of the day I want to see more women and black girls in STEM, (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), Entrepreneurship and Innovation work space. This is what this video is about, appreciating and showcasing the many faces of women in STEM and just some of the ways you can be a woman in technology, shot in 2016.
I hope you enjoy my Silicon Cape Women In Tech Video Interview.
“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way. “ - Mary Anne Radmacher
My manager, Saidah Nash Carter, is always echoing this quote when we’re presenting our work to the innovation community or customers, and with each paraphrasing, the understanding deepens. Mary Anne Radmacher’s quote, contextualised in corporate innovation speaks to understanding the customer led innovation is an opportunistic collaboration which has the potential to add business value and create social impact.
Position yourself in God's presence and He will navigate His promises to you. In Him, the privilege that insecurities have over your worthiness are revoked.
The inaugural United Nations World Data Forum is currently being held in Cape Town and hosted by Statistics South Africa, and yesterday presented the first day of a content-filled day. Hosted at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the forum has been tasked with exploring how we can harness the power of data and how this platform can be used to empower the realization of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030.