By Joanne Liou, Communications and Impact Specialist
At a milestone global science conference last week in Dakar, Senegal, Sylvia Mukasa, a 2014 fellow from Kenya, pitched in front of a live audience and a judging panel comprised of high-profile business, social, political and academic leaders. Her idea Afya Mama, a mobile health information service for mothers, was recognized as a runner-up in a competition for innovations that could “solve a big problem for humanity.” “Our objective is to consistently sensitize mothers with information on healthcare and best practices, linking them up with an expert in the case of emergency,” Sylvia said.
The Next Einstein Forum (NEF) has formed a team of 54 ambassadors, one from each African country, to champion African science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) globally. Of more than 300 applicants, Sylvia was selected to represent her home country of Kenya, along with Omnia Eteyari, 2013 fellow from Libya, and Michelle Sesay, 2013 fellow from Sierra Leone.
From March 8-10, Sylvia and Michelle participated in the NEF Global Gathering, an invitation-only event that united Nobel Peace Prize winners, heads of states and representatives from leading global corporations in Dakar, Senegal. Sylvia participated in the NEF Ci2i (Challenge of Invention to Innovation) competition and was one of 10 selected to pitch at the conference.
Since her participation in TechWomen, Sylvia has been active in her community, having launched Technovation in Kenya in 2015 and participating in the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. In October 2015, Sylvia was among eight TechWomen fellows invited to the 2015 Transform Africa Summit. Alongside her TechWomen cohort in Kenya, she helped launch Mombasa Girls in STEM Solve It, for which they received a grant from the 2015 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund. Supported by the U.S. Department of State, the Women’s Entrepreneurial Centers of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) officially launched in Nairobi, Kenya, in February 2016, and Sylvia is a trained mentor at WECREATE to assist women entrepreneurs through business challenges, educational programs on entrepreneurship and access to technological resources.
Since Michelle participated in TechWomen in 2013, she has worked closely with the U.S. Embassy Sierra Leone as a mentor for a program called Girls Going Strong, a platform to visit schools and talk to girls aged 15-19 to encourage them pursue STEM careers. She was also a mentee of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women in Business. At the NEF, Michelle was also appointed to organize activities with other ambassadors from 12 other countries, and she plans to establish the NEF Sierra Leone Chapter to encourage Sierra Leoneans to become the next Albert Einstein.
Although Omnia was not able to make it to Dakar, she will be participating in future activities with the NEF. When Omnia participated in TechWomen in 2013, her company, Mazadah, was a local IT training company, and since then, it has become a leader in its field in Libya. Mazadah is the strongest open-source technology service company in the Arab region, in terms of team size and qualification, and the most spread Red Hat Certified Training Partner in the region, with operations running in four countries and expanding. Beyond Mazadah, Omnia is planning a new project, Raakez, to support Arab startups in their business operations and help them increase their professionalism to scale efficiently and compete regionally and internationally.
IIE/TechWomen established a partnership with the NEF in 2015. As a member of the NEF, IIE/TechWomen will have access to the latest information on science and technology in Africa. The partnership marks a mutually beneficial relationship in regards to communications and promoting the programs and opportunities.