Entrepreneurs in Africa
Sophia Bekele-Eshete: Restructuring Africa’s Social, Political and Economic Landscape
Ethiopia, women growth, international business and technology are all up on Sophia Bekele-Eshete’s list of growing interests. But somehow she has found a way to sum all her interests in one word; AFRICA!!!
She is undoubtedly one of the female veterans who have stood in the gap, poured out their hearts, repositioned the stake and restored the glory of Africa.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the third of six children to Ato Bekele-Eshete, a successful serial entrepreneur in Ethiopia, and a founder and board member of United Bank and United Insurance in Ethiopia, one of the largest financial institutions, Sophia remains a behemoth of change for the Continent.
Ms. Sophia Bekele-Eshete is a Business and Corporate Executive, an International Entrepreneur, Corporate Governance and Risk Management Specialist, International Policy Advisor on ICT, internet and development issues, and ICT and Governance activist.
She has maintained a successful career track record spanning over a decade of constant professional activity working for multinational Fortune 500 Companies and transnational business ownership /operation in the field of IT and Corporate Governance.
She started out as a young MBA, from Golden Gate University, San Francisco and continued on the ladder, one rung at a time. Today, she is highly acclaimed as an international entrepreneur who has built a successful career track record in fields that are traditionally male-dominated.
Sophia had her primary and secondary education at the Nazareth, school, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After graduating from secondary school, she and her older sister moved to San Francisco on the west coast of the United States, where their father had secured scholarships for them to pursue their University education.
Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Analysis and Information Systems at San Francisco State University and her MBA in Management Information Systems from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California, Sophia was recruited out of college by Bank of America, where she began working in computer auditing, a highly specialized emerging field that was hugely male dominated.
She then moved on advancing her career in Corporate Governance and risk management to hold managerial positions with UnionBanCal and Price Waterhouse Coopers where she managed consulting portfolios for several clients, including Barclays Bank, several healthcare clients, and many other organizations.
Although her job as a manager was very tasking, Sophia maximized the opportunity; sharpening her skills and gaining confidence. And soon, she was ready to launch out on her own.
She left Price Waterhouse Coopers and spent time travelling around world; fromEurope to Asia and then Latin America, mastering the intricacies of business, studying other cultures and the state of internet and technology development in different countries.
In 1998, the leading lady started CBS International, based in the United States, with a mission to transfer technology to emerging economies. At the same time, using Ethiopia as a base, she set up a local company, SbCommunications Network, in Ethiopia specializing in systems integration and also dedicated to serving developing economies.
Sophia is also a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Control Specialist (CCS), and Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT), professional designations for competent knowledge and proficiency in the field of information systems audit, control and security and the governance of Information system.
Currently, the power woman travels globally,propagating her work whilst supervising her offices in Walnut Creek, California, USA where she has also been a resident for nearly two decades and Africa where she has a firm business base and supportive family.
In 2013, she was named as one of the “Two leading ladies in Africa’s ICT sector” by “Bloomberg TV” and recorded in “African Women to Watch” a prime TV program, that “celebrates the most fearless, competitive and visionary African women of our time”, and explores “the women working hard to close the gender gap and shaping the continent’s social, political and economic landscape”.
In the same year, she was named Top “50 Trailblazers – A future made in Africa”, by the leading UK’s NewAfrican Magazine, an IC Publications group, “Collector’s Edition” which coincides with the continent’s 50th anniversary celebrations of the African Union, as those “who are realizing significant achievements in their specific field of endeavor” and features individuals who are “breaking ground, making Africa proud and propelling it into a future of great hope.”
Now in 2014, Sophia Bekele has been named “Top 20 Inspirational African Diaspora Professional Women in Europe” by ADIPWE List 2014, released on 28 March 2014 for the International Women’s Day, as a TechEntrepreneur in technology Transfer; “a list of African Women who have achieved phenomenal success, and inspire a new generation of African Women to share ideas to fulfill their potential to contribute to the rebranding of Africa and the development of the continent, by identifying opportunities to transfer the vast amount of knowledge gained in Europe and the rest of the Diaspora”.
Not forgetting that in 2005, she was elected as a member of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Council of the generic Names Supporting Organization (gNSO), the public-private internet governing organization for domain names. It served as a platform for the change maker to advise on policy related to internet governance, which happened to be a new field in the industry.
While serving as a policy advisor for generic Top Level Domain Names (gTLDN), Sophia was a major force in drafting the Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) policy guidelines, championing the inclusion of the voices of the global public to the policy process.
Thatearned her a commendation for contributing to the global Internationalized Domain Name community from the Internationalized Domain Resolution Union (IDRU) group. It was during her tenure at ICANN that she learned about the opportunity to launch a Dot Africa (.Africa) as a new generic Top-Level Domain for Africa.
One of her most amazing achievements was the establishment of the DotConnectAfrica Trust and DotConnectAfrica Registry Services Limited, which submitted an application in June 2012 to the US-based nonprofit organization that manages internet generic names to administer the global domain name DotAfrica (.africa) on behalf of the global African constituency.
DotConnectAFrica is popular for its successful six year Yes2dotAfrica global awareness campaign that its founder started during her term at ICANN when she initiated the (.africa) project.
A project she delightfully uses as a platform to move Africa to spot light and to launch initiatives to involve women and youth in Africa in the internet revolution.
Sophia’s counsel to girls and young women remains constant; “Get educated, no matter how long it takes, because education is an entry point for opportunity. Once you are educated, work hard, always strive to do better, and be persistent in following your dreams. Remember that entrepreneurship is built on many failures; if an idea doesn’t work out, don’t see it as a failure on your part, see it as an idea that didn’t work, maybe also an idea whose time may not have come. That’s what they say in the Silicon Valley in California in America, the world capital of technology entrepreneurship: “Oh, that deal didn’t go through, so he/she is doing a new start-up”. I recently read an article titled “Silicon Valley is stupid, that is why it works”. If one idea falls through, reconfigure your thinking and start on a new one without fear. Have a laugh with yourself about the one that didn’t work and let it go. Life is a journey and not a destination! God Bless”.
Like Sophia, your move in the right direction can change the face of Africa forever. The truth is that very many young Africans do not understand that a lot lies on their shoulders, for if they did, they would definitely act differently.
So my friend, wake up and do your part, a lot depends on you.
July 24th, 2014