As 2020 draws to a close, it is a great time as ever to ‘do’. Most of us might not have an epiphany, we just have to start. Start where we are with what we have. Sabina Nforba’s journey so far attests to this. Sabina is a doer and our youth of the month. Below is a snapshot of her story.
Could you give us a brief overview of who Sabina Nforba is?
My name is Sabina Nforba and I am a Telecommunications Engineer at iEngineering Group, Cameroon. My passion for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) motivated me to co-found an initiative called AfriTech Hub. AfriTech Hub seeks to promote STEM education and skills development for young Cameroonians. In addition to this, I am an AWEC (African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative) fellow, and a TechWomen Emerging Leader. Finally, I am a certified foodie and an avid Twitter user.
What is the founding story behind AfriTech Hub ?
Throughout secondary school, I found myself as one of the few girls in science classes or programs. This spurred me in considering methods to show more girls how fascinating science is. This passion increased as I progressed from High School to Engineering School. Moving into the corporate world, I realized the urgency of STEM skills emphasized by their increased demand in every sector. While considering the lack of a pipeline to supply these jobs, I became even more passionate about helping young people develop the necessary skills to meet this growing demand. I was also very determined to demystify the running theory in Cameroon that there were not sufficient jobs. True, there are few opportunities, but acquiring the right skills through quality education places an individual in a better position to gaining employment.
What programs are run in AfriTech Hub?
We run Career Orientation and STEM awareness campaigns, STEM clubs, Mentorship and Skills development training.
What challenges did you/do you face in running AfriTech? What strategies have you designed to overcome these?
One of the biggest challenges we face carrying out our activities is having access to schools and consequently, students. Most school administrations we have come across hesitate to give us access to carry out campaigns on school premises. As a budding organization, we understand that this is probably a credibility issue. Therefore, we work even harder in the schools we already have access to and hope they spread our impact by word of mouth. This will in turn aid in extending our reach. Also, documenting our programs and sharing on social media helps.
You are a fellow of the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative and TechWomen. Congratulations on the work you put it to be selected for these prestigious programs. What advice do you have for anyone who looks at where you are and wants to achieve something similar but is confused about what to do?
Thank you and I would say, start now! I have met a lot of people who have groundbreaking solutions to the many challenges we face in our society. However, about 80% of the time these ideas only remain ideas. We struggle with implementation for several reasons that stem from fear: the fear of failure, fear of judgment, and fear of the market’s reaction.
I started AfriTech Hub without prior knowledge of entrepreneurship. I only knew I wanted to create impact and was determined to do whatever it takes to get this done. Along the line, my weaknesses stuck out like a sore thumb and this precipitated me to apply to programs like AWEC . These help me build the required leadership and management skills I need to emerge a better entrepreneur and leader.
My advice for anybody thinking of doing same and more is; Start as soon as possible. I live by the slogan start early, fail sooner and learn quicker.
There has been a lot of discussion on the benefits technology can reap for developing communities if properly utilized. A lot of these emphasize the need for highly qualified local talent. Do you have any suggestions on how such a community can be built in the Cameroonian context?
Education is fundamental to achieving any development goals. In order for Cameroon to grow human capital and provide the talents/skills needed to meet the growing demand of the tech sector, we need to start from the base – education. Our traditional education curriculum needs to evolve to include a more professional edge. Courses and programs that build skills such as creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking need to be introduced and explored. Learning should be more of an interactive session instead of the usual one-way learning with the teacher being the key player.
Secondly, mentorship is very critical in supplying a pipeline of innovators. A mentoring platform that connects stakeholders, investors, government, and interested personnel should be encouraged.
Finally, the government needs to strike more partnerships with civil society and grassroots organizations to better dispense programs that propel innovation and development.
What are some of the achievements you have had with AfriTech Hub and which you are most proud of?
Honestly, I lost track because each time I think we reached a milestone, some other thing happens and trumps it leaving me in awe. Nonetheless, each time any of our programs enlightens a student or motivates them to dream bigger, it makes me very humbled. A few weeks ago, a young girl gained admission into the University of Buea to do Computer Science because she had previously attended a career orientation session we organized. During the session, she decided Computer Science was the career path she wanted to pursue.
When news of her admission got to us, we shared it on our social media pages and two independent tech companies offered her internships when they read about her passion and drive even though she initially did not have the requirements to seek admission into this program. This was a win for her, for us, and for everyone working hard to sell the benefits of STEM to girls especially. Contributing to bringing one more girl into STEM will always be humbling for me.
What should we look out for from AfriTech Hub in the future?
A partnership with the Government to become Cameroon’s largest provider of education and career support for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. We will be working towards influencing the evolution of our country’s education curriculum to reflect the demands of the 21st-century job market. Expect groundbreaking innovations that solve challenges in the community and most importantly an increase in the number of girls pursuing STEM careers.
What do you think Cameroonian youth need to know or do to be the Better Breed?
We need to believe in ourselves and in our aspirations. If we accept that anything is possible, we will be more driven to pursue our dreams, smash our goals and impact not only Cameroonians but the world at large.