By Charndré Emma Kippie
AFRICA TECH WEEK VIRTUAL SUMMIT 2021
Systemic digital transformation requires a multilayered platform of cooperation between companies, government and civil society – and Africa Tech Week, which took place on 5-6 May 2021 in Cape Town, provided a unique opportunity for exactly this dialogue to take place.
Topco Media hosted the Virtual Summit and Awards Ceremony, which was geared towards driving economic growth in Africa through digital transformation strategies, and creating awareness around the Future of IT and the trends that are defining the new normal, in 2021.
Africa Tech Week 2021 has played a pivotal role in strengthening investment in start-ups, and providing knowledge and skills to individuals, businesses and societies struggling with digital transformation, by providing a platform for attendees to network and make new connections to further their careers and personal growth.
This pioneering tech summit gave organisations the best tools to be able to incorporate the latest technologies into their business to make them more efficient, productive and accelerate their performance to match organisations that are exponentially growing 10x faster than legacy businesses.
WOMEN IN TECH LEAD THE WAY
Included in this year’s event, was an amazing array of phenomenal women paving the way for inclusion in tech, as well as moderator Vuyolwethu Dubese, Innovation Consultant and Corporate Moderator.
Vuyolwethu Dubese is a multiple award-nominated professional in impact and inclusive development, and innovation strategy. Over the past five years, she’s served as a Startup Partnerships Lead for Africa for global intelligence firm, Thomson Reuters and as an Impact
Acceleration Associate at investment and advisory firm, Impact Amplifier and served on boards. During this period, she has also worked with organisations like Foundervine, World Bank Group, Standard Bank, UCT Graduate School of Business, UNDP Africa and Accenture, Seedstars World, Redbull and Global Startup Awards to mention a few through her expertise. As a moderator, she’s graced the stage at multiple high-level engagements in and outside of South Africa including the USAID Global Entrepreneurship Week, and the Timeless Women’s Conference and Gala Dinner in Rwanda to mention a few.
Top Women in Tech speakers included:
- Dr. Marian Croak: Vice President of Engineering, Google
- Lindiwe Matlali: Founder and CEO, Africa Teen Geeks
- Nomfundo Clementine Tshabalala: Director-General, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries
- Dr. Rachel Chikwamba: Vice President/Group Executive, CSIR
- Dr Justina Dugbazah: Senior Programme Officer: Education and Social Development African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), Ghana
- Yemi Keri: CEO Heckerbella, Co-founder Rising Tide Africa, Nigeria
- Refilwe Ledwaba: Founder and CEO, Women and Aviation, SA
- Dr. Anino Emuwa: Founder, Avandis Consulting, France
- Zahra Baitie: Head of Partnerships & Programs Africa’s Business Heroes prize, Jack Ma Foundation
- Honourable Emma Inamutila Theofelus: Namibian Deputy Minister of ICT
- Suzanne Morel: County Manager, South Africa, Mastercard
- Nelisa Zulu: Head of Card and Payments South Africa, Standard Bank
- Marloes Pomp: International Strategy & Partnerships – Netherlands AI Coalition & Dutch Blockchain Coalition, Netherlands
- Veronica Motloutsi: Founder, Smart Digital Solution, SA
- Janine Rebelo: Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, ThinkWiFi Pty Ltd
- Shubna Harilal: Managing Director, Gijima Technology Services
What’s evident, based on the key takeaways from this year’s virtual discussions, is that women are no longer accepting ‘no’, forging a way beyond limiting structures and creating their own space within Tech – building a better future for aspiring future women technovators.
TOP TECH TIPS FROM LAST YEAR’S SUMMIT
- We need to see tech more like a ‘team sport’ where everyone has a role to play…If you’re not failing, you’re not learning. As long as you learn from the failure and can make it into a space where eventually it leads to success. That’s the nature of progress. — Dr. Marian Croak
- Startups looking to solve a problem, with a good team that leverages technology, makes them worth investing in…The more female investors we get on the continent the more we will reduce the funding gap for female entrepreneurs. — Yemi Keri
- Technology is the key…And collaboration will be the solution to the current digital divide. — Dr. Anino Emuwa
- To scale impact in Africa, digitised startups need inclusion and women. — Refilwe Ledwaba
- A recently connected continent like Africa, becomes a new market for entrepreneurs; a magnet for those seeking to make their mark on the world stage. — Zahra Baitie
- It starts with corporate governance that is more feminist in nature than patriarchal…We have an important role to play in women become the forerunners of the 4th industrial revolution. — Honourable Emma Inamutila Theofelus
TECH WINNERS FOR 2021
Along with the 2-day virtual summit, Topco Media took the opportunity to accolade the cream of the crop who are excelling within Africa’s technological sector, awarding a few phenomenal women in tech with top honours in a few celebratory categories.
WOMEN IN TECH AWARD WINNER: JACQUELINE AYLETT, FLEXIROAM AFRICA
This award goes to a woman who has shown outstanding IT excellence and innovation over the past 18 months, demonstrating overall responsibility for IT strategy and vision in their respective organisation. The women in tech award recipient also demonstrates a great approach to leadership and how it influences the actions and activities within the organisation/business.
Jacqueline Aylett is the dynamic Founder and CEO behind Flexiroam Africa — closing the digital divide with a pioneering connectivity solution. She is a global citizen who believes that travel is essential for discovering new business partnership opportunities, and for purely just feeding the soul. Jacqueline is a Generation Xer who is more akin to the i-Generation. She is drawn to a world where anything is possible and is quite the visionary. Jacqueline also inhibits a keen interest in the impact of technology on the future of society at large.
As a Founder of Gold Arc Holdings (Pty) Ltd, and GM of its subsidiary Flexiroam Africa (a partner of Flexiroam Limited), Jacqueline Aylett is responsible for partnerships and distribution agreements. On a mission to create an African footprint for Flexiroam, she is focused on the inbound and outbound international travel sectors and securing market leadership for Flexiroam as the go-to data roaming solution.
Her business saw exponential growth within the span of two years. Her partnership with the AIDS 2020 Virtual Conference also saw Flexiroam make history – shipping sim cards to almost 1000 delegates in over 100 countries.
What key traits should outstanding women leaders work on?
- Confidence to back themselves
- Courage to be a pioneer
- Passion to be a learning machine
- Be an excellent listener and a role model to others
As a female leader, what have been the most significant challenges you have faced?
I think it would have to be juggling a multitude of roles and demands and learning how to say ‘no’ when you need to.
Who inspired you and why?
I am inspired by Dr. Veronica Bowker, my mother, who has always been an outlier. She taught me to be an independent thinker, the power of language, the importance of kindness, the principle of race and gender equality, the ability to think openly, the confidence to speak in public, the necessity to learn and the example that age simply doesn’t matter.
What type of environment is most supportive of women and girls with career and entrepreneurial aspirations in this country?
An environment that offers personal safety, inclusion, acknowledgement, respect, mentorship, as well as opportunities to learn and network with like-minded entrepreneurs.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Think broadly, travel widely and network extensively. You should also learn to share generously, operate fluidly, learn constantly, read voraciously, listen carefully, speak confidently, and dress impeccably.
What advice can you share with young women techpreneurs?
You are living in the most exciting time to be an entrepreneur. Believe in yourself and build a strong team to support you. Seek great mentors to guide you, advocates to promote you, financiers to fund your ideas and supporters who have your back. Exponential success and wealth is created if you can make money in your sleep. Acknowledge your successes and should there be failure, make sure you fail forward.
AFRICA TECH: DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AWARD WINNER: BLUE CODE AFRICA
This award recognises the company that is leading digital changes, disrupting the status across all industries. The winning company is one that demonstrates how they have developed the transformation within the company/in-house, and how digital has overcome a defined problem and made a positive impact. This tech award recipient also exhibits a digital platform that users experience to create more profitable and connected businesses.
Bluecode is a mobile payment solution that combines cashless payments via smartphones with value-added services and enables payments with merchant and banking apps. Founded in Europe, Bluecode has now expanded into Africa. Bluecode Africa is taking mobile payments into markets where its value as a technology payment service and scheme can make a significant difference for retailers, SMMEs and in the everyday lives of consumers. Bluecode Africa is focused on driving economic growth in the productive economy by unlocking opportunity and business potential with digital transparency.
Sampa Diseko, former Communications Executive for Bluecode Africa accepted the award on behalf of the company.
What does winning this award mean to you and your team?
We are honoured to be recognised for our mission and product capability to support digital transformation across businesses and stimulate real financial inclusion.
We have a solution that is designed to make payments transparent and inclusive, while facilitating emerging markets that are still cash-dependent. At the same time, we want to address connectivity constraints and help banks get more visibility and offer more value. This includes providing SMEs with the ability to offer value to their end customers from one digital payment platform. We appreciate that our product’s market value is being recognised.
Do you find it important to enter awards? Why?
It is important to enter awards and to be counted with a group of entities that share similar interest in positive change and outcomes. Especially for digital: just because it is digital, doesn’t mean it is better. It is what you do with it that matters and a distinct line can be drawn. We are moving into an age where we either feed into one large conglomerate that is all about data that controls the entire chain, or we work together as entities to offer the market fully-valued products and solutions. I believe no individual and no company can or should be an island. Awards support a collaborative opportunity for companies to engage as well as recognise efforts that inspire their teams to keep moving forward.
Any exciting plans for next year?
We have been making waves in our markets, and we look to be more vocal as we grow. We plan to keep expanding and increase our market engagement. At this stage, we have been working closely with our customers to help them implement their digital strategies. Next year, we will be working even harder and faster.
Any advice to others trying to improve their digital transformation?
Businesses need to stop thinking short-term. Instead they need to plan to be future-proof and flexible. Markets need payments that are appropriate for their market while also ensuring that they have the means for expansion.
Businesses should engage with digital entities that specialise in specific parts of the chain so that financial sectors can do what they do best.
There needs to be an offramp solution that takes focus and effort in order to be ready for the digital world. There will be a time where we are only digital, and it’s time to get ready and understand that it is ongoing and fluid. We will have no choice but to adjust and adapt. Think about what you could do and not what you once did. Hire right, partner right.
Any parting words?
The start and heart of Bluecode Africa was, and is, about real financial inclusion as set by our late Managing Director Muray Gardiner. Any digital company entering the market has a responsibility to drive value and it should not just add another layer of costs or weight to the chain. It must reduce and improve the status quo. Financial institutions need to look beyond the top tier percentile and upper-middle market as their cash cow. They must also include the lower middle market and the forgotten segments in order to reduce the clear gaps we see in society. This can be done by collaborating with digital market players that are designed to expand, grow and include individuals. It will allow the entire financial sector to be better, stronger, and far more inclusive than it is today.