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‘The Impossible Does Not Exist’

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At a time when Kenya was focused on developing its infrastructure, Lillian Wambui Chege was more concerned about developing the youth.

“Working with our youth also teaches me the impossible does not exist. Every day, we see youth from difficult situations driving change in their own lives, transforming local economies and turning corporations into billion-rand businesses. I have seen young people go from having very little job prospects to climbing the corporate ladder becoming successful entrepreneurs,” she says.

Chege is the co-owner of CareerBox, a company that recruits, trains and places the youth in jobs; her solution to Africa’s problems.

“I’ve always been committed to contributing to Africa’s transformational agenda,” says Chege, who was raised in a small town west of Nairobi, Kijabe, and went to school at Rift Valley Academy (RVA), an American school.

“Although RVA was a boarding school, I was a day scholar and had the privilege of growing up with my sisters and parents. Since my mother is no longer with us, I take comfort in the fact I could see her every day during my formative years,” she says.

READ MORE: From Monrovia To The Movies

She completed school and RVA was her ticket to America, where she attended Calvin College, a liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she graduated in political science.

“After college, I moved to New York City and had a series of jobs from working in a law firm, woman’s reproductive health advocacy, accounting and ultimately ended up in philanthropy working for the Rockefeller Foundation,” she says.

It was at the Rockefeller Foundation her career developing the youth shaped.

“I co-designed an initiative called Digital Jobs Africa. This was an effort to leverage the proliferation of ICT infrastructure on the continent to connect young people to jobs.”

This was a tough time for her country of birth.

“At the time our African countries were – and continue to – investing billions in infrastructure development and the continent played host to the fastest-growing economies. Unfortunately, the youth unemployment was at crisis levels and was threatening the security of our countries,” she says.

“Kenya was experiencing post-election violence, events fuelled by high unemployment and disenfranchized youth who had the education, skills and will to work but no jobs,” says Chege.

READ MORE: ‘A Cultural Hybrid

The foundation’s offices were in the country and the events were poised to undo decades of investments and contributions into the country.

“We spent an incredible amount of time and money accessing was best to intervene. We conducted extensive landscape analysis to identify key sectors that had the ability to absorb large amounts of youth into the workforce with relatively short training. We landed on the business process outsourcing sectors and decided to intervene in six countries, including Kenya and South Africa,” she says.

The countries were selected based on the government’s commitment, private sector investment and willingness of the youth to work.

CareerBox takes on youth from disadvantaged communities.

“Our innovative model has been successful. The government recognized by the government as part of the National Development Plan (NDP). We are on target to reach our goal of impacting 100,000 by 2020,” she says.

READ MORE: Highly Adaptable And Totally Indestructible

Chege’s role with CareerBox is to come up with expansion strategies and she sources capital for their headquarters in Durban, South Africa, and offices in Nairobi with 50 employees. Through support from international donors, they intend to relaunch in Soweto so they can transform the township and contribute to the government’s township revitalization process.

Chege travels to South Africa regularly because she believes more investments are coming to the country.

“Globalization and the growth of our economies have enabled many like me to be able to work across borders. It is also the diaspora that is also helping drive an incredible amount to business to the continent. I consider myself blessed to straddle multiple cultures, disciplines, and markets. This enables me to drive high-impact work that serves not only those with access but also more importantly, those who are marginalized,” she says.

Chege says the support of her team has enabled her to keep empowering the youth.

“As a result of this co-dependency, we communicate and meet frequently. They need my skills as much as I need theirs. This respectful way of working enables me to work and deliver on my responsibilities, most internationally-driven,” says Chege.

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Get Set Mo!

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Morongoa Mahope feeds her love for extreme biking with petrol and adrenaline. The funds for her pet passion come from her nine-to-five accounting job.

About 10kms north of the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in South Africa is another racetrack, where superbikes and sports cars are noisily revving up their engines, getting ready for a practice run on a cold Wednesday afternoon in Johannesburg.

At first glance at the Zwartkops racetrack is a melange of male drivers and mechanics.

But also revving up a superbike, the one numbered 83, is Morongoa Mahope from Mahwelereng in the Limpopo province of South Africa.

READ MORE: ‘From Zero to Hero’: The Queen Of The 800 meters Caster Semenya

She is about to clock 270kmph on her black bike, tagged #Mo83 in pink.

When she is not burning rubber on the racetrack, Mahope is an accountant working for an advertising agency in the city.

“When I started [superbiking], it was mainly only for leisure because I love the sound bikes and cars make. I’m a petrol head and just wanted it to commute to work,” she says.

Morongoa Mahope

Her journey started in 2013 when she convinced her husband and family about buying a superbike. Her family was initially apprehensive and viewed superbike racing as dangerous.

Her husband finally relented and Mahope went for a day’s training to see if she really would be interested in the bike before investing in it. The 36-year-old sports fanatic succumbed, and indeed pursued her wish.

“I still have my first bike; it’s a green and black Kawasaki Ninja 250cc. I was just using it to [go to] work until I met a biking club, the Eagle Bikers Club Limpopo,” she recalls.

Mahope was riding with the club, doing breakfast runs between Johannesburg and Limpopo; but, in 2015, they took a trip to Nelspruit in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa.

READ MORE: Making Up For Millions

Navigating the mountainous, curvy roads, Mahope was overtaking men with her small 250cc bike at the bends.

She was then goaded by her fellow riders to try the racing circuit.

“I went to the track and met a superbike racer; Themba Khumalo, and I started following his journey. I spent more time on the track, practising so I could start racing in 2016. The love for the sport was getting deeper and deeper,” says Mahope.

Khumalo, a professional superbike rider who has raced in the European Championships, says he met Mahope at Zwartkops and it was her first time at the track, and she was quite fast at the corners.

He went up to her to introduce himself because it was rare to see a black woman on a racetrack.

READ MORE: Higher Revenues And Greater Optimism: Female-Owned Small Businesses Are Gaining Ground

“I then took her through the fundamentals of racing and the basics; the type of bike she would need and the equipment. I could see how committed she was and how quick she was learning, and her lack of fear. She was going farther than where she was,” says Khumalo.  

However, her male counterparts were not impressed with her pace on the track; they remarked negatively about her. But Mahope didn’t let the minimizing comments derail her mission.

Unfortunately, Mahope was involved in an accident during training on Valentine’s Day in 2017 and fractured her clavicle before her first race. That took her off the bike for six months.

She joked about the incident with friends, but they persisted and told her it’s an unsafe sport. That encouraged her even more; she wore her helmet and gloves, clocking higher speeds than ever before on her superbike.

Indeed, it was a learning curve. A few months later, she was invited to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe to race.

READ MORE: Shopping for ideas

Her first official race was the same year as the injury; it was a club race in Delmas, Mpumalanga, at the Red Star Raceway. She had never been on the grid nor practised how to stud, but for her, it was more about the experience despite the shivers and nerves.

“I finished the race and I was second last. It’s part of how you start but you will improve to be better. And now, I have lost count of the races I have competed in,” she says.

Mahope is racing in the short circuit series for women who use the 250cc, being the only black woman to participate. She also participated in the Extreme Festival tour series, a regional race in which she used her Kawasaki Ninja ZX600cc, racing men with bigger and louder bikes.

“I am the first black woman to be in the grand prix and the challenges that I faced were having to teach myself a lot of things. I had to learn how to ride on the track, the speed, the decelerating, all was new to me. I wasn’t helped.”

Mahope started at a late stage with the sport, and had to put in more time and effort in a short period to get to where she is currently.

READ MORE: Linda Ikeji : Nigeria’s Queen of content raking in millions

Today, she assists women who are starting with the sport.  

Sadly, in South Africa, there is no national league for women to race and represent the country despite finishing in the top three in the 2019 races.

With all her achievements thus far, Mahope’s salary sustains her motorsport passion.

“Racing is very expensive; the more you practise, the more you get better and the more you spend money. On practice day, I spend about R3,000 ($206) and would practise twice a week at different tracks. In total, I would spend R18,000 ($1,235) a month for the track excluding the travel costs to the track and race day,” she explains.These costs cover tyres, fuel and entrance to the tracks.

A sum of about R40,000 ($2,744) can get you geared up for the bike and track.

It just shows this daredevil accountant can balance both the books and the bike.

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Africa’s Most Dynamic Thought-Leaders, Industry Game-Changers And Icons Of Social Activism Set To Feature At The Exclusive FORBES WOMAN AFRICA 2020 Leading Women Summit

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Africa’s most dynamic thought-leaders, industry game-changers and icons of social activism are set to feature at the exclusive FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit presented by Mastercard (#LWS2020KZN) and hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal government – taking place at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC Complex in Durban on Friday, 6 March 2020.

For the 5th edition of this globally-renowned event, panellists and speakers will engage with the impactful 2020 theme, ‘The Ceiling Crashers 2.0: Power with Purpose’. The day’s thought-provoking discussions will be followed by the highly-anticipated FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Awards Gala Dinner which celebrates the continent’s most influential female ‘ceiling crashers’ across a number of key categories. 

“The FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit has grown to become one of the biggest female-empowerment events, boasting a high calibre of attendees and unparalleled speaker line-up,” said Renuka Methil, Managing Editor of FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

“This promises to be the biggest instalment yet, featuring female pioneers and path-breakers across the continent. Audiences will be exposed to dynamic discussions about the growing the number of women in leadership – something government and business really need to factor into their strategies. We will also get to grips with a new discourse that focuses on dismantling power structures and the need for truly inclusive cultures in business and society.”

This highly-anticipated event, which is hosted annually in honour of International Women’s Day, is expected to draw an audience of around 1 000 leading women. Through hard-hitting talks, fireside chats and insightful panel sessions centred on ‘ceiling crashers’, attendees will be inspired to make meaningful changes within their own industries, secure in the knowledge that they have the support of these innovative allies. This year’s programme promises an influential mix of leaders in healthcare and business; advocates of social and environmental activism; award-winning artists and internationally-renowned stateswomen.

For the first time, FORBES WOMAN AFRICA will be releasing its own list of ‘Africa’s Most Powerful Women’, many of whom will be attending the summit. The list will be published in the March issue of the magazine, outlining those who have been leading ideas and industries while purposefully contributing to nation-building and positively impacting the lives around them.

The FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Awards Gala Dinner, which is hosted the evening of the summit, is an opportunity to recognise the trailblazers and role models who have created a new narrative within their industries. By challenging authority and ‘old school’ traditions, they are enabling future generations to live in a better and more equal world.

Beatrice Cornacchia, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Mastercard Middle East and Africa, said: “African women are a vital source of innovation, prosperity, and economic growth. Yet inequality and exclusion still hold women back in many aspects of their everyday lives – from growing their businesses to having the financial tools to participate in the formal economy; from joining the C-Suite to following their passions. We are proud to partner with FORBES WOMAN AFRICA as we believe that it is only by bringing diverse perspectives to the table that we can unlock Africa’s possibilities to women.”

Managing Director of the ABN Group, Roberta Naicker, said the organisation was excited that the KwaZulu-Natal government would, once again, play host to this illustrious event, which serves to highlight the continent’s most influential female leaders while also shining a spotlight on this beautiful region. “A summit of this calibre showcases that KZN is being positioned as a world-class events’ destination. We are excited to have renowned speakers and attendees will get the opportunity to engage on hard-hitting issues during the summit, while also affording them the chance to enjoy the many recreational tourism sites and activities for which KZN is renowned.”

Tickets to the exclusive 2020 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit and Gala Dinner are available at a cost of R3499, available through Webtickets (https://www.webtickets.co.za/v2/event.aspx?itemid=1496991848). Tickets are limited and interested parties are urged to book early to avoid disappointment. There are also select opportunities to get involved with the event sponsorship, exhibiting at the on-site marketplace or by sponsoring a mentee. Please visit website for further details.

The 2020 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit is presented by Mastercard (@MastercardMEA) and hosted by KZN Provincial Government (@KZNgov). Keep updated on all the latest news and announcements on Twitter @LWSummit and join the conversation using the hashtags #LWS2020KZN #DOKZN.

Contact details:

Office: +27 (11) 384 0300

Sponsorship and exhibition opportunities: [email protected]

Media partnerships and press accreditation: [email protected]

Event-related queries: [email protected]

Website:www.Leadingwomensummit.co.za

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Female tech entrepreneur helps SMEs automate their human resources

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Chika Uwazie helps small and medium businesses find the right people and scale up with more sophisticated human resource systems in Nigeria’s booming economy.

Nigeria is projected to add no fewer than 200 million people to its current population of 196 million between 2018 and 2050. The country is also expected to surpass the United States (US), according to a 2019 Nigerian economic outlook report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). With such a swell in its population, the need to find the right talent has become a strategic imperative for organizations.

That is where Chika Uwazie comes in. The 31-year-old tech entrepreneur helps SMEs automate their human resources (HR) tasks to ensure they have the right processes in place to help them scale and be successful. Her own journey to success has been far from easy. The Georgetown University graduate, who spent 10 years as a competitive cheerleader in the US, made the decision to relocate to Nigeria after her little sister died due to complications from sickle cell anemia.

“When everything happened with my sister, I was at a crossroads. I had finished Georgetown and when you finish from a big school like that, you go into consulting with one of the big four. I said I don’t want to do that because that was not enough. I used to always get excited and light up when I spoke to my sister and we spoke about potentially starting something in tech and building a tech company,” says Uwazie.

Chika Uwazie. Photo provided

After her sister’s death, Uwazie decided to take the leap and build a company that was not only profitable but also made an impact. She started a tech company called TalentBase, a HR software company that provides an affordable and easy-to-use HRM platform solution enabling HR managers and growing businesses to simplify and organize their HR processes. Uwazie was determined not to let the vision she shared with her sister die. But first, she needed funding. 

“As you know, it is very hard for black people to raise money in the US, the bars are extremely high. I felt it would not necessarily be easier in Africa but I felt I would have more support if I came back to Nigeria to start a tech company and so that is why I came. And I felt like I wanted to have an impact. Tech is so oversaturated in the US and I felt like in Nigeria, there are so many things that need to be done.”

After almost a year of knocking on the doors of prospective investors, Uwazie got her big break through a colleague at Google who connected Uwazie with 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, which provided funding and support. The program required Uwazie to stay in San Francisco for six months, after which she was able to successfully raise more angel investment a year later to scale her business. This year, Uwazie stepped down from the CEO position at TalentBase to move on to her next venture, Career Queen.

“In Africa, and not just Nigeria, there is a human capital problem. Throughout the time I was running TalentBase, everyone kept complaining to me about how it was difficult to find good talent and this is why I started Career Queen, which is my second wind of entrepreneurship. It has been a crazy growth cycle and I didn’t realize how challenging recruitment is in Africa,” says Uwazie.

She spends most of her time recruiting C-suite executives and executive assistants for organizations in Africa, with a particular focus on women. And according to Uwazie, the numbers don’t lie.

“It has been proven, companies that hire women are 30% more profitable than those who do not have women in the team. The aim is to also get women a seat at the board table. A huge part of my vision now is starting this movement among women, making an impact in organizations and finding great talent for organizations.”

Only if there were more who thought like her.

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