There is no denying that Dr. Unoma Ndili Okorafor is a boss, and a busy one at that. The Nigeria-born innovator and social entrepreneur sits at the helm of four separate organizations. She holds founding, principal and CEO positions at Herbal Graviola, Herbal Papaya, Radicube Technologies, and most notably, the WAAW (Working to Advance STEM Education for African Women) Foundation. Both Herbal Graviola and Herbal Papaya are Texas-based businesses, offering customers a host of edible health and wellness products. Radicube Technologies sits on a different end of the spectrum, aiding companies with Big Data, Analytics & IT Transformation solutions to help them grow their businesses. WAAW, Okorafor’s brainchild created to bridge the gap between women and men exploring careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, was actualized toward the end of her extensive schooling.
Dr. Hania Morsi Fadl has officially set a precedent in her home country of Sudan. The radiologist has thrust the need for women’s health services into the national conversation. Fadl is the founder and CEO of Khartoum Breast Cancer Centre Sudan, the only breast cancer clinic in the country. The non-profit, which opened in 2010 with help from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, offers comprehensive breast care service including an assessment clinic, radiological and pathological assessments, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In Sudan, cancer rose from the tenth to the second most common cause of death. Her all-inclusive center has seen more than 15,000 women and diagnosed over 12,000 cancer cases in men and women, all for affordable (sometimes free) costs.
Joy Chebet Bii is a self-described go-getter and dream chaser. It makes sense, as the 21-year-old has hit the ground running as a software engineer in her community. Bii is fresh off of earning her BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and ready to dive into her field head first. Currently, she is a Solutions Architect at Shimba Technologies in Nairobi, where the company provides corporate mobile-related solutions for clients like Samsung, Heineken, Intel, IFC International, Ericsson and more. Prior to working at Shimba, the Kericho, Kenya native spent time as a business development and administration intern for Cyntonn Investments and a DevOps engineer for Nano Digital Limited.
It is always inspiring to witness black women excel in the sciences on a global scale. South African geologist, Tshiamo Legoale, has shaken up her field before hitting the age of 30. Legoale, 27 and full of charisma, received one of the highest international awards, 2017 FameLab International Champion, for her metallurgical research last year.
Amel Ben Abda decided early on to commit to a lifelong career in mathematics. Now, she wears several hats. On one front, the Tunisia-born STEM role model is a university professor and lecturer with a career spanning more than 20 years. The National Engineering School of Tunis (ENIT) professor studied at the Faculty of Sciences of Tunis and ENIT, walking away with upper level degrees in Fundamental Mathematics and Applied Mechanics. Even more notably, she defended the first Tunisian theses in Applied Mathematics, PhD.
Funke Opeke has an air of sureness and confidence about her, especially when it comes to moving West Africa’s telecommunications space forward. She is the CEO of MainOne Cable, a telecom service and business solutions network launched in 2010. MainOne provides wholesale internet services to eight countries in West Africa for everything from government agencies to educational spaces. To accomplish this reach, her company had to lay 7,000 km of fibre optic cable across the bottom of the ocean from Portugal to Nigeria.
“If a bacteria produces a pigment, how do we work with it to dye textiles?” Materials designer Natsai Audrey Chieza asked this seemingly simple question to a packed room during her 2017 TED Talk. The talk, centered around reducing pollution in the fashion industry while creating amazing new things to wear, reflected her position at the intersection of design and biotechnology. She is keen on designing for post-petroleum material futures through Faber Futures, where she is the founder and Creative Director.
South African self-taught coder Baratang Miya grew up in an atmosphere of racial division and calamity. Her expectation to succeed as a young black child was, therefore, minimal. Most of her high school days were spent fighting apartheid, allowing her very little time to think about creative inspiration. However, she belonged to a dance club that took trips to Mmabana Cultural Center in Mafikeng, two hours from her Klerksdorp home. And it was there that she was exposed to art that triggered something inside of her.
Dr. Urenna Onyewuchi grew up a firm believer in discipline and the pursuit of excellence. The Houston-born, Nigeria-raised engineer grew up in a strict family with a focus on education. Scoring a 95 on an exam was not good enough if her classmate scored a 96. Onyewuchi, therefore, strived to be the best in any field she worked within. Now, at 31, she’s using the same drive to pursue the things that bring her heart genuine fulfilment.
Mennat El Ghalid learned early on that science is at the root and the heart of life, and that the scientific method is essential to solving any problem. The Egyptian mycologist, born in Cairo and based in Paris, has spent the past eight years of her research career studying fungal infections in humans and how to treat them, ultimately fulfilling a deeply rooted love for discovery. El Ghalid, who received her Masters at Université Paris Diderot (also known as Paris 7) in France and her PhD at Universidad de Córdoba in Spain, is specifically working to determine the 3D structure and function of proteins involved in the pathogenicity of Candida albicans, the main cause of fungal infection in immunocompromised and critically ill patients.