29 May 2018

Africa: Ms Geek Africa Is Encouraging Girls From Across Africa to Use Technology to Improve Everyday Life

Photo: allafrica.com
Left: Niger's Salissou Hassane Latifa who was crowned Miss Geek Africa 2018. Top-right: Video screenshot of the Ms Geek 2018 winners. Bottom-right: Transform Africa Summit 2018 logo.

Girls in ICT Rwanda celebrated the fifth anniversary of Ms Geek with the second edition of Ms Geek Africa, a competition that judges women on brilliance rather than beauty

The Ms. Geek Africa competition, which focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), has concluded its second edition. The contest champions female tech wizards and was started in Rwanda in 2014 as "Ms. Geek Rwanda" but has since expanded to include other African countries under the unifying banner of Ms. Geek Africa.

The first edition of the contest happened in 2017, when Girls in ICT Rwanda, in partnership with Smart Africa, opened the competition to all Smart Africa member states, during which the very first Geek Africa was crowned at the Transform Africa Annual Summit. The winner was Ruth Njeri Waiganjo of Kenya. She developed a mobile phone application called Safe Drive, which is an intelligent way to protect road users and respond to transport problems like frequent accidents.

"When a driver wants to get insurance, they don't have the data showing the behaviour of this driver on the road. All they rely on are personal details. Isn't this a risk they are insuring? Technically, they should know the behaviour of the driver," Waiganjo told the New York Times.

This year's Ms. Geek Africa is Salissou Hassane Latifa, 21, from Niger. Her winning design is an app that gives basic information to enable bystanders to administer first aid to accident victims before emergency services arrive.

Latifa told KT Press, "37% of all accidents in my country are road accidents... Through this App, we can all be fighters and rescuers without necessarily being professionals."

Ms. Geek Africa is designed to inspire African girls to become a part of solving the continent's challenges using technology and encourage them to choose a career in STEM. It is open to girls and women aged 13 to 25 and its finalists receive business training. The overall winner receives financial backing to help actualise her idea.

Long noted for its progressive stance on equality, Rwanda, the birthplace of the contest, is leading the way in the empowerment of women and girls on the continent. Rosine Mwiseneza, the 2016 winner of the Rwanda-only Ms. Geek contest, told the Guardian newspaper that she hopes the contest grows in prominence and that Rwanda's tech culture will evolve to be more inclusive and progressive, echoing the modern history of the country. "In this country it is still not easy for a woman to stand on her own, but there is change," she says. "The future is not for men only. It is also for women."

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