Nelson Mandela University has conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Information Technology on tech expert, Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho, in recognition of her impactful contribution to technology ecosystems and policy development across Africa.
The institution in a statement released on Friday said that the award will be conferred at the University’s graduation ceremony on 13 December.
Uwaje Begho, CEO of the Nigeria-based Future Software Resources Ltd., one of Nigeria’s leading digital and technology solutions companies, is a renowned digital transformation and brand marketing expert.
Over the years she has served on the leadership of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group Digital Economy Thematic Group, the Nigerian National IT Software Committee; and the Nigerian Electronic Voting Think Tank.
Her accolades include being on the Forbes List of Top Ten Female Tech Founders in Africa in 2014 and being selected as one of the Obama Africa Leaders in 2019.
She said, “The Honorary Doctorate is very unexpected, and it is most gratifying to receive it from a Pan-African institution of Nelson Mandela University’s stature.”
Uwaje Begho said: “We can be proud of Fintech unicorns like Interswitch, Flutterwave and Paystack that successfully paved the way for Nigerian and pan-African payments. However, as a continent our focus should be on innovating around emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and IoT as they hold immense potential as drivers for sustainable socio-economic development.
“We need to invest in young talent in Africa and a tech-supportive policy environment to ensure we move from consuming technologies to creating them. It’s exciting to see generative AI companies like CDIAL.AI emerging from Africa, founded by Nigeria’s Olayinka Lyinolokan.”
To create an enabling tech environment, “requires policy-making tailored to Africa’s unique environment, not copy-and-paste from countries like India or elsewhere,” she adds.
Addressing the international dimension, Uwaje Begho calls for internationally-recognised and enforceable laws and policies, facilitating confidence for investors in companies registered in African countries.
She highlights the missed revenue opportunities when policies and laws governing technology and the startup ecosystem are not consistent, thus forcing startups to register and raise investment in other jurisdictions.
To expand digital access, she stresses the significance of last-mile broadband penetration, to reach all areas in every country in Africa. She underscores the role of private telecom companies in extending broadband infrastructure to rural areas, emphasising the importance of forward-thinking leaders and reasonable right of way charges.
“I am pleased to see an increase in well thought through policies – like Kenya’s broadband plan, which is focused on enabling healthcare and education through the democratisation of Internet access.”
Quality education is an essential for talent development says Uwaje Begho who attended the German International School in Lagos before moving to Germany to further her studies, and in 2006 she graduated with a BSc. Hons. in Bioinformatics from Ludwig-Maximilians University (LMU) & Technical University Munich (TUM) in Munich.
She emphasises the need for educational institutions to keep updating their curricula to remain relevant and keep pace with global IT and digital development is of equal importance. To those who have just graduated in the IT field she says: “There are so many opportunities for problem-solvers and critical thinkers. What you need to know, however, is that your learning journey has only just begun, and you need to commit to lifelong learning.”
A firm believer in mentorship, Uwaje Begho regularly mentors founders in accelerator programmes such as Google for Startups Africa, WIA, W.Tec and Founders Institute Lagos.
“The increasing numbers of women in technology is a welcome development and we need to continue to put in the effort to get young African girls into technology and more importantly to ensure that they stay,” says Uwaje Begho who calls for more gender-lensed funding to empower and support female entrepreneurs on the continent.
“I am a proud member of the women only angel investment network Rising Tide Africa – a unique, trans-border women-oriented investment network funded by private investors who believe that they will bring about positive change by investing in the continent’s exciting start-ups and next generation to create a New Africa.”