Remarks by Public Affairs Officer Dehab Ghebreab Women’s History Program “Code for Impact” Training Access Bank, Lagos (March 9, 2016)

I’m Dehab Ghebreab and I’m the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consul General in Lagos.  Thank you for inviting me here this afternoon to celebrate Women’s History Month and speak on the importance of girls’ and women’s immersion in Science Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, STEM fields.  We are delighted to partner with HACEY Health Initiative, Access Bank, Microsoft, and Technology for Development to support “Code4Impact,” training program for 70 young women.

It has been three years since the United Nations declared October 11th theInternational Day of the Girl Child. And teaching computer coding was among the most popular new initiatives to help girls build the skills they need.  Teaching girls the STEM fields has also been highlighted as an important step to bridge the digital divide.   We are proud to have partnered with HACEY in the past two years to help girls lean computer coding.  Let me add that the HACEY team has done extraordinary work to advance women’s issues, including in health.  Please give them a big round of applause.

We at the U.S. Department of State are extremely proud to support innovative and fresh endeavors to help girls and women close the digital divide.  We support these efforts through DEMO AFRICA, and do so in partnership with both the public and private sectors under the umbrella of the Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS AFRICA) partnership.

In 2014 and 2015,  with  significant support from the Government of Nigeria, the trajectory only continued to rise upward in making LIONS and DEMO AFRICA the pavilion platforms to promote and strengthen innovation entrepreneurship on the continent.  How many of you are familiar with LIONS and DEMO Africa?  I urge you to read about it.

The U.S. Government needs no convincing that Africa’s time is now, and we are taking advantage of key opportunities to support innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the continent, and that support comes from the very highest levels. Coming off of the heels of the historic US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington in 2014, the topics of economic growth and partnerships were a common thread throughout the various pillars of the summit.

Now, some of you may have been asking yourselves – why is the U.S. State Department interested in supporting partnerships like LIONS or initiatives like DEMO AFRICA?  Well, we’re committed to promote what we believe is one of our greatest strengths – entrepreneurship and innovation.  American entrepreneurship is legendary – as embodied by luminaries such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – it’s admired around the world and it has changed the way we operate.

In fact, one of our LIONS AFRICA friends and partners, Dr. Susan Amat of Venture Hive, based out of Miami, FL, says that, “The American dream is not home ownership, but entrepreneurship” – and that’s something Americans know very well.

So by promoting entrepreneurship, especially among students and young professionals – in other words the next generation of innovators and inventors and really harnessing their energy and creativity, we – all of us in this room and beyond – are contributing to a culture of innovation and collaboration that creates opportunity and economic prosperity around the world.  And let me ask you who will be part of this forward looking movement?

There is a wider movement across the continent, of technology-driven companies that are created in Africa and are developing real-world solutions worthy of real investment and global attention. Now, this is the awakening of the African economy that provides an opportunity for key players to forge partnerships for mutual economic benefits.

The LIONS AFRICA partnership continues to seek out talent among the great resources that the African continent has to offer. As the startup and innovation ecosystem keeps developing, LIONS AFRICA and the State Department will be there to promote capacity building and mentorship, provide a platform to amplify your passion and ideas, bring credibility to Africa’s emerging startup environment, and drive interest and investment to technology-driven startups and businesses that could be the next game-changers.

And while the work of the U.S. Department of State continues, I encourage you to read more about DEMO Africa and LIONS Africa to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in exploring new partnership opportunities, leverage each other’s financial and network resources, and most importantly – not allow the passion and incredible talent to go to waste.  I ask you to empower yourselves by learning more about LIONS and DEMO Africa.

Furthermore, President Obama’s Spark initiative represents the best work being done by the U.S. Government to advance entrepreneurship around the world.  Launched by President Obama in 2009, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) is a preeminent annual gathering that links emerging entrepreneurs from around the world with leaders from business, government, and innovative organizations.  GES showcases the latest trends, training, and technology available to emerging or aspiring entrepreneurs, along with providing a powerful platform for policy discussions with government leaders. The 2016 GES will take place June 23-24, at Stanford University.

Another initiative that has helped young innovators is the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST), which creates a network of entrepreneurship, angel investors, mentors and others to strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems in 86 emerging economies across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. GIST empowers young innovators through networking, skills building, mentoring, and access to financing to develop startup solutions that address economic and development challenges. GIST includes an interactive virtual network with online programming, a global annual Technology-Idea (Tech-I) competition, and startup boot camps.  Two Nigerians won top awards at last year’s Nairobi GES.  Mojisola Ojebode’s innovation earned her three awards in different categories for a total prize $25,000.   She won 2nd place idea, best in Agriculture and best female entrepreneur with her bioresources start up.  And Blessing Mene won 3rd place startup with her UNFIRE innovation.  I’m happy to inform you that GIST Women’s Village in Lagos will take place in May and we are helping with logistical support.

And in last June in San Francisco, I’m sure you know about it, four Nigerian girls (high school students) from Cross River State made us proud by winning the global 2015 Tecnovation first prize which included $10,000.  Their project focuses on health and waste management, an issue that is a major problem in Nigeria.

I hope the examples inspire you to be more innovative unleashing APPs that solve serious challenges that exist in your communities.