Every now and then a genius emerges from Africa and stuns the world. This time it is Wendy Okolo making history as the first black woman to bag a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering at NASA. However, this is not the first time Wendy Okolo is making history.
At the age of 26 back in 2015, Wendy Okolo became the first black woman to bag a doctorate degree in aerospace engineering. She obtained both her BSc and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Arlington. During her undergraduate days, she was a member of the African Student Society at the University of Texas at Arlington. While in the university, Wendy Okolo also served as the president of the society of women engineers.
Wendy Okolo’s Family And Career
Wendy Okolo is one of the six children of a family whose origin goes back to southeastern Nigeria. She regards her sisters Phyllis and Jennifer as her heroes. According to Wendy, they used their day-to-day experiences to teach her biology and other sciences.
Her first stint with NASA’s Orion spacecraft was during her undergraduate days as an intern with Lockheed Martin. As a graduate student from 2010 to 2012, she worked as a summer researcher at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). At this time she was part of the Control Design and Analysis Branch. During this period Wendy Okolo said she had to fight imposter’s syndrome. She felt she was not good enough to work with such an elite team.
“I was like I am sure these guys are so smart, what am I going to bring in.”
Her first impact on the team was fixing a system error code. According to her, “that fixed the imposter syndrome for a while”. Today, Wendy Okolo works at Ames Research Center as an aerospace engineer. This is one of the major research center belonging to NASA in California’s Silicon Valley.
Black Engineer Of The Year Award 2019
In February 2019, Wendy Okolo won the “Most Promising Engineer” at the BEYA Global Competitiveness Conference Award. The award from the U.S. government is a recognition for her contributions in aerospace engineering. Today, Wendy Okolo uses her position to inspire young girls to pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). She shared the award on her Twitter handle with the caption, “#beya #beya2019 @BlackEngineer thank you for the honor!”
— Dr. Wendy A. Okolo (@wendy_okolo) February 17, 2019
Currently, in NASA’s Ames Research Center Okolo works in the Intelligence Systems Division as a special emphasis programs manager. Okolo’s other major achievements include predicting GPS faults in drones. Wendy Okolo, through STMD-ECI project, is also working on improving spacecraft’s maneuverability during entry, descent, and landing. The STMD-ECI project is worth $2.5 million dollars.
Top 10 Current African Heads of State
Africa battles hunger, poverty, lack of basic infrastructure, corruption, and a host of other challenges. Of all these problems, corruption seems to be the most endemic that is sapping the life out of the continent. Many believe corruption and lack of sincerity of the leaders is the bane of Africa. However, there are few African leaders that are redefining leadership in Africa. These leaders are taking steps towards transforming the condition of their people for the better.
From economic policies to fighting corruption to infrastructural development, these leaders are matching words with action. The top 10 current African Heads of State are ranked based on Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI), safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development. Since corruption is considered the bane of Africa, ranking emphasis will be on Transparency International CPI.
Paul Kagame (Rwanda)
President Paul Kagame gets the number one spot on our list of Top 10 Current African Heads of State. Rwanda does not have the lowest corruption rating in Africa, however, in just under two decades of Kagame’s leadership, a country that was divided and poor is now growing at a rate comparable to emerging economies like China.
Before assuming office as the president, Paul Kagame was the commander of the rebel forces that ended the 1994 genocide. 6 years later, Kagame was sworn in as President to a country that was as divided as ever with mounting challenges. In addition to poverty, revenge killings were going on unchecked and corruption was rampant. Rwanda had lost its way and needed direction. Kagame prioritized two main objectives – one was to unify his country and the second was to pull his country out of poverty. He invested time in understanding how other emerging economies such as China, Thailand, and Singapore had transformed their economies. Based on what he learned, he put together a government development plan for Rwanda called Vision 2020 with a goal to transform Rwanda into a robust middle-class economy by 2020. The Vision 2020 serves as a roadmap with 44 clear measurable objectives tracked by the government and private consultancy firms.
Rwanda now has a CPI score of 56% which places the country 48/180 as compared to other countries in the world. Similarly, IMF/ADB estimates that her economy will grow by 7.8% by 2019/2020. Safety and rule of law, as well as human development, has increased tremendously since the genocide to 64.2% and 69.9% respectively in 2017. Additionally, Rwanda has an IIAG good governance score of 64.3% which places them at 8th on the continent. President Paul Kagame gets the number one spot on our list of Top 10 Current African Heads of State for his efforts in transforming Rwanda’s trajectory in less than two decades – restoring peace and fostering economic and infrastructural growth.
Danny Faure (Seychelles)
Seychelles has the best CPI score in Africa (66%) which makes them the least corrupt country in Africa. This score ranks Seychelles 28 out of 180 countries in the world. Seychelles President Faure came into power on October 16, 2016. Before then he served as the country’s vice president between 2010 and 2016. Seychelles has an overall governance score of 73.2. This ranks the country 2nd in Africa. Safety and rule of law and human development stands at 74.8% and 83.8% respectively. There is also high participation and respect of human rights in Seychelles (70.5%). Investors and job seekers will also meet a high sustainable economic opportunity (63.5%).
Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana)
Botswana defies all the negative indices peculiar to many African countries. The BBC described Botswana as the most stable country in Africa. Before becoming the nation’s 5th president on April 1, 2018, President Mokgweetsi served as the education minister. Botswana has the second least corrupt public sector in Africa with a score of 61% on CPI. Compared to other countries in the world, Botswana ranks 34/180. This is not only the second best in Africa but also trumps prominent Asian and South American countries. In terms of security and rule of law and human development, Botswana scores 79.6% and 72.5% respectively. This is also one of the highest scores on the continent. Respect for human rights is also high (63.3%). According to the IIAG, Botswana has an overall governance score of 68.5%. Botswana’s economy has remained fairly stable. The nation has also moved away from the mono-diamond economy to explore other sectors including tourism.
Hage Geingob (Namibia)
There are only three African countries that score above 50 on CPI and Namibia is the third. Namibia has a score of 53% which ranks it 52/180 on global transparency index. It also ranks 4th out of 54 on IIAG’s governance index.
Prior to becoming the president on March 21, 2015, President Hage Gottfried Geingob served as the country’s first Prime Minister from 1990 to 2002. Geingob has virtually been on the corridors of power since 1990 and his experience is evident in Namibia’s high safety and rule of law and human development rating of 77.1% and 63%b respectively. Namibia is also one of the top-ranked African countries in terms of human rights (74.9%).
Macky Sall (Senegal)
Senegal has a CPI score of 45/100 and ranks 67/180. Macky Sall has displayed a transformational leadership since coming into office in April 2012. Based on IMF projection, Senegal shows all the signs that it will become the sixth fastest growing economy in Africa before Q4, 2019, pegging its economic growth rate at 6.7%. President Sall has also raised Senegal’s safety and rule of law to 67.1% while human rights and human development are pegged at 67.8% and 59.5% respectively. Senegal now has an overall governance score of 63.3% and ranks 10th in Africa based on IIAG.
Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa)
Since the end of apartheid on April 27th, 1994, South Africa has become a model for other Africa countries in many spheres. On February 2018, Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn into office after his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, was indicted for corruption. However, South Africa has a CPI score of 43% which ranks the nation 73/180. Upon assuming office, Ramaphosa pledged to prioritize land reforms and economy. South Africa’s economy remains the second largest after Nigeria’s economy. The country also has an impressive safety and rule of law score if 66.7% which is close behind Senegal. South Africa has the second highest human rights score after Namibia (74.4%). The country’s sustainable economic opportunity and human development are 65.1 and 65.6 respectively. It is ranked 7th in Africa for good governance by IIAG.
Beji Caid Essebsi (Tunisia)
President Essebsi is a product of Tunisia’s December 21, 2014 revolution. Since his swearing into power on 31st December 2014, President Essebsi has taken bold steps to restore the people’s lost government confidence. In terms of public sector transparency, Tunisia scores 43% occupying position 73/180 in the world. Tunisia is generally safe (62.0%). The country also has a high human rights participation score of 67.3% and human development of 65.4%. In overall governance, Tunisia occupies the 9th position in Africa with a score of 63.5% by IIAG. With a more stable society, Tunisia’s tourism sector has grown tremendously. However, a recent increase in taxes has brought protests back to the streets.
Saadeddine Othmani (Morocco)
Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani was appointed a prime minister in April 2017. In collaboration with King Mohammed VI and parliament, Morocco has become a reference point for a classic example of good leadership—particularly in Northern Africa. Like South Africa and Tunisia, Morocco has a CPI score of 43% and shares the same position with the other two countries. However, Morocco ranks lower in safety and rule of law and human development (61.9% and 61.6% respectively) compared to the other two countries. But Morocco has better sustainable economic opportunities than the other two (68.3%). According to reports, Morocco retains a place as one of the biggest economies on the continent with FDI hitting 36.75% in November 2018. Sadly, Morocco still has one of the worst human rights participation in Africa (41.8%). In spite of that, it claimed IIAG’s 15th spot out of 54 countries in Africa for good governance.
Nana Akufo-Addo (Ghana)
The only reason Nana Akufo-Addo is not among the top three on the list of top 10 current African Heads of State is that Ghana is still struggling with a corrupt public system. Ghana scores 41% on CPI and ranks 78/180. After coming into power in January 2017, President Akufo-Addo left no one in doubt that he is taking leadership in Ghana to the next frontier. Today, key good governance statistics tilt in his favor. Take, for instance, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in conjunction with the African Development Bank (ADB) is projecting a growth rate of 7.6% in 2019/2020. In terms of overall governance, Ghana is 6th in Africa with an overall score of 68.1% by IIAG. Ghana scores high in safety and rule of law (70.7%), human rights participation (73.0%) and human development (69.9%).
Roch Marc Christian Kabore (Burkina Faso)
Like many of the Top 10 African Heads of State, President Kabore was courting absolute power before becoming president. Kabore served as the country’s Prime Minister between 1994 and 1996. The banker also served as the president of the country’s National Assembly between 2002 and 2012. Since becoming the president in 2015, Kabore has made sweeping changes. Burkina Faso now has a CPI score of 41% and occupies position 78 out of 180 countries. Burkina Faso enjoys good safety and rule of law (59.1%) as well as human development (54.8%). However, Burkinabe has to face the reality of below average sustainable economic opportunity (49.6%). As far as IIAG governance ranking goes, the country ranked 16th out of 54.
Like every other continent in the world, Africa has myriads of challenges. However, these courageous African leaders are taking bold steps to address them. Obviously, the list of top 10 current African Heads of State can change drastically if the focus key indicator changes. However, which other African leader do you think deserves to be on the list? Let us know your reasons in the comment box below.
Microsoft Wants To Promote Digital Transformation in Africa And Here Is How
South Africa is the home for Microsoft’s first data centers in Africa. The two data centers are located in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The new data centers are serving Azure, with Dynamics 365 and Office 365 scheduled to be added by end of 2019.
The company had, in 2017, announced that it plans to have data centers in South Africa. Overall, the multinational technology company has 54 cloud regions announced around the world.
Data Centers and Digital Transformation
The new data centers in South Africa make Microsoft the first global provider to offer cloud services from data centers in Africa. The company aims to help in promoting digital transformation in Africa.
The location of the data centers in Africa means regional users are guaranteed of resilient cloud services, enhanced security, compliance needs, and data residency. Furthermore, the new data centers will help promote global investment, improve access to the Internet and cloud services in Africa, and increase business opportunities in the region.
Projections from IDC–International Data Corporation–indicate that adoption of the cloud services will generate around 112,000 jobs in South Africa—by end of 2022. The data centers will facilitate improved environment for building digital businesses. Nedbank for instance, plans to utilize Microsoft Azure to increase its agility, customer focus, and competitiveness.
Furthermore, Azure provides companies with data privacy and security. This makes it a suitable service for banks like Nedbank. The Peace Parks Foundation and eThekwini Water have also signed up with Microsoft for computing services.
Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service. It can be used for building, testing, managing, and deploying services and applications through Microsoft data centers. The service supports different tools, frameworks, and programming languages.
Users of Azure can enjoy instant computing resources on demand. In addition, businesses or individuals using the service do not have to build on-site data centers or have server cooling environments. Also Azure users do not endure maintenance costs, electricity costs, and use of floor space. As such, Azure brings down the costs of computing.
Microsoft’s Investment in Africa
Microsoft has a 30-year history of operations in Africa. With over 10,000 local partners on the continent, the new data centers in South Africa add to the company’s long list of investments in Africa. The expansive investments in Africa took a new direction with Microsoft’s launch of 4Africa Initiative in 2013.
The initiative seeks to facilitate the company’s engagement with startups, partners, and governments. The aim of these engagements is to help the youth develop locally relevant technology, 21st-century skills, and affordable access to the Internet.
Other global tech giants with plans to open data centers in Africa include Huawei and Amazon. Facebook announced it will set up a content review center in Nairobi, Kenya.
20 Modern African Women Leaders Who Are Opening New Trails For Women
African women leaders are working in all spheres of life. Leadership in Africa has been male-dominated for centuries. However, that does not mean there have not been transformative female leaders in the picture too. Africa is a growing continent. It is experiencing social, cultural, political and economic growth, in which iconic African women have made and continue to make a significant contribution. These women have changed the narrative of African women taking the backseat by empowering fellow women, men, and children.
Many African women today are taking active roles in the different areas of life, politics the economy, name it. All that is owed to transformational African women leaders who challenged the status quo and opened the way for others to follow.
African Women Leaders
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Liberia
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is one of the great African women leaders have been democratically elected as Liberia’s 24th president. That is not all. Ellen entered history books as being the first female president of the African continent.
Her struggle for peace and democracy for her country led to her being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 2011. Ellen has since made many accomplishments while in government by boosting her country’s economy, security and international relations.
Ellen has been passionate about leadership and was very aggressive in fighting corruption and nepotism in the government when she was appointed the minister of finance.
One of her major accomplishments was erasing nearly $5 billion in crippling foreign debt after just three years of being in office, paving the way for foreign investment and boosting the annual government budget from $80 million to $516 million.
Joice Mujuru has done an impressive job for her country. The great African woman leader deputized Robert Mugabe by being the vice president of Zimbabwe between years 2004-2014. During her time in government, she was able to serve in different ministries including Women’s affairs where she played an active role in ensuring that the women in her country were empowered.
Joice is one of the women leaders that were able to get into the male-dominated scene at a young age of 25. One of her major accomplishments was protecting her country while in the army which saw her rise to the ranks of a member of general staff in the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army.
Aja Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang – Gambia
Aja Fatoumata has served as the Vice president of Gambia. This strong African woman has played an active role in the fight for human rights, more so, women’s rights. She was also in the forefront of fighting Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorial regime which saw the country’s citizens gain back their freedom of expression and association.
Sophia Abdi Noor – Kenya
Coming from a marginalized community in Kenya where women had no much power, Sophia Abdi Noor impressed many. Against all the odds, she managed to beat her male counterpart making her the first female elected Member of Parliament from the region. Since then she has tirelessly been fighting for the rights of women in marginalized communities: this has seen her win international awards related to women empowerment.
Diane Shima Rwigara – Rwanda
Diane Rigwara is one of the African women leaders who is very vocal when it comes to women’s rights. Rigwara has tirelessly fought against bad governance, oppression and many other forms of injustices despite the constant intimidation by the government. Her dreams of running for president has encountered all sorts of resistance including being accused of indecency.
Mbali Ntuli – South Africa
Mbali Ntuli is one of Africa’s youngest femaleleaders having ventured into politics at a very young age back at her University. Her political efforts saw her being elected as a ward Councillor. Like many other African women leaders, she faced a lot of violence and intimidation, but that did not stop her from making the political scene friendly for women.
Alengot Oromait – Uganda
Alengot Oromait is one of the youngest African women leaders more so, in the political scene that is very passionate about health policy, the environment, and gender issues. She has been recognized by Forbes as Top 20 Power Women in Africa. She became legislator at age 19, making her the youngest in African history. Alengot rose out of the obscurity after her father, Michael Oromait, died of hypertension on the morning of Saturday July 21, 2016. She succeeded him as MP for Usuk County. She beat eight other candidates vying for the seat, earning more than double the votes of the nearest runner-up.
Saara Kuugongelwa-Ahmadhila – Namibia
Saara Kuugongelwa-Ahmadhila is the current Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia. She also doubles up as the only female head of government of Africa. You should not get confused because her counterpart in Ethiopia (below) is the only head of State in Africa. She entered into politics when she received an appointment as the Director General of the National Planning Commission at the age of 27 in 1995. The Right Honorable also served as a minister for finance in 2003.
Sahle-Work Zewde – Ethiopia
Sahle-Work Zewde recently entered the rank of transformational African women leaders by being the only female head of state in Africa currently. This iconic African woman looks to change the view of the political scene. She shows the world that any gender can occupy any leadership position. She also looks to empower women to set foot in the political scene. Zewde was also the first woman to receive an appointment to head the United Nations Office to the African Union.
Joyce Hilda Banda – Malawi
Joyce Banda was the president of Malawi from 2012 to 2014. She founded and led the People’s Party in 2011. Prior to becoming the fourth president of Malawi she was the immediate former vice-president of the country. For these reasons, Banda broke two important records in Malawi and Africa of serving as the first female vice-president and president. Her leadership and contributions to the development of her country and Africa is immense. this is because she also served ministerial positions, as a philanthropic and activist.
Louise Mushikiwabo – Rwanda
Louise is an African woman leader that is doing great things. One of her achievements is her role as secretary general of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF). She has successfully done the job of bringing together 58 countries and regional governments hence ensuring that there is a peaceful coexistence among the people. Previously, she was the Foreign Affairs and Cooperation minister. Before that, she was the minister of information. Additionally, she also served as the Rwandan Government Spokesperson.
Ngozi Okonji-Iweala – Nigeria
Ngozi Okonjo is one of the African women leaders that is making a difference in the modern world. This transformational leader is looking to make the digital environment, especially twitter safer and healthier for the over 300 million users being in the board directors. Among her other accomplishments is holding several positions at the World Bank. Previously, she served as finance minister for two terms in Nigeria.
Fatma Samoura – Senegal
Fatma proves to the world that every job can be done by any gender. She is the highest-ranking women in the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) governing body. She is the first woman to attain the rank in FIFA as secretary-general, and is doing a great job which has, in turn, motivated even the younger women to achieve goals that previously proved impossible. She features in this list due to her immense recognition worldwide. Forbes named her as number one in the Most Powerful Women in International Sports in 2018. Additionally, the BBC recognized her as one of their 100 women.
Amina Mohammed – Nigeria
Amina has served in the top ranks in the United Nations. Her job is to ensure that the African child, both boy and girl have everything they need to make their dreams come true. Before taking up the UN job, Amina served as Minister of Environment of Nigeria. She also previously worked closely with the president of Nigeria to realize the Millennium Development Goals. Her contributions to African leadership and development is immense and spans many years.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma- South Africa
Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma is a South Africa politician and apartheid activist. She has served as government minister in many dockets including the current Minister in the Presidency for the National Planning Commission for Policy and Evaluation. Popularly known as NDZ, Nkosazana served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under president Mandela, Mbeki and Motlanthe. When her former husband of 16 years Zuma took over as president, he moved her to Home Affairs. She has served in the AU and harbored dreams of un-sitting Zuma as the President of the National Congress. this dream was put on hold by Cyril Ramaphosa.
Martha Karua – Kenya
Martha Karua is known as the “Iron Lady” of Kenya due to her no-nonsense approach to leadership, politics and activism. She is one of the pioneer female legislators in the East Africa leading economy. As a lawyer by profession, Karua has made immense contributions to family law in Kenya. She came to political limelight in 1992 when she was first elected as member of parliament for Gichugu constituency. During her time in politics, she served as a minister in the ministries of Justice and Constitutional Affairs as well as Water Resources Management. Her last attempts at presidency and later gubernatorial positions were unsuccessful. However, she remains a force to reckon with in Kenyan politics.
Winnie Byanyima – Uganda
Winnie Byanyima is one of the African women leaders that are relentlessly fighting for human and women’s rights. Her fight against poverty is inspirational too. As a result of her competencies, she has been serving as the executive director of Oxfam International which is a global humanitarian relief organization. Previously, the served as a member of parliament in Uganda for 11 years. Additionally, she has the capacity to professionally shift gears from diplomacy, aeronautical engineering and politics.
Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka- South Africa
Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka looks to use her post as the Executive Director of UN Women. One of the major achievements is serving as South Africa’s deputy president. She leads in efforts of fighting for gender parity in politics, equality and equal pay for women.
Samia Suluhu Hassan-Tanzania
Samia Suluhu Hassan is the very first and only vice-president in Tanzania. She is the second vice president in East Africa after Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe who served between 1994 and 2003 in Uganda. She was the running mate of John Pombe Magufuli who clinched the presidency in 2015. Previously, she served as the member of parliament representing Makunduchi Constituency. In addition to this, Samia also served as a minister in various dockets in Zanzibar and Tanzania.
Hanna Tetteh – Ghana
Hanna Tetteh has served in many government positions in Ghana. The peak of her achievements was her appointment in 2013 as Minister of Foreign Affairs by President Dramani Mahama. Additionally, she has a background in law and therefore well versed in her duties. She is also perfect in showing the world the leadership material she possesses. For these reasons, she is a darling to the public in Ghana.
Africa is proud of the female leaders above; they have made an enormous difference and played a significant role in challenging stereotypes around women.
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