Amanda Obidike is a social innovator and founder of STEMi Makers of Africa. She is a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, where she studied business administration. Her work and career are focused on the empowerment of women and girls through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). She is Executive Director of the Sir Emeka Okwuosa Foundation, 2022 Honorary Laureate of the Humanitarian Award Global, recipient of the 2022 Innocent Chukwuma Prize for Social Entrepreneurship and Gender Empowerment; a Goldman Sachs honoree and also a recipient of Techwomen100 Global Achiever. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE, she talks about her work in STEM, the reasons behind the various awards she has collected and what she would do if she were Minister of Science and Technology, among other things
You have a degree in business administration. Do you work or have a career in business or administration?
I studied Business Administration at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. I have over 10 years of non-governmental organization (NGO) management experience and have acted as a consultant and advisor to community-based organizations and businesses on scaling their impact using data.
You have managed to carve out a niche for yourself in the humanitarian field. When and how did you start this journey?
I was raised in a family that understood selflessness, going back to the years when my mother was a staff member in the Church In The House (CITH) department of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
I remember that my siblings and I would always wait for my mother and be the last to leave the church after the service because of work commitments. I started volunteering at age 11 teaching Bible stories to children ages 4 to 10 at the Good News Club.
This drove me to serve in the non-governmental sector. I grew up understanding that fulfillment comes from sacrificing my time, resources, and intellect for social good.
Her focus in community work is technology and STEM education. Do you have certifications in these areas? If so, list them and where did you get them from?
Yes I do. I love STEM and look forward to a more refined education system with an “Africa by Us, for Us” approach. I have a certification in STEM Education from the Open University, UK; promastery in Artificial Intelligence and Data Analysis, IBM; Python Programming Certificate from the University of Wolverhampton; Certified Augmented Reality Expert, Global Tech Council; Java programming and MySQL: DBA certification, IBM; and applied AI Witt Deep Learning, IBM.
You are the founder of STEMi Makers Africa. Tell us about it and what kind of work you do with it?
I founded STEMi in 2018, recognizing our fragmented education system and the lack of practical teaching tools that could be integrated into a 21st century classroom. It was a call to refine classroom pedagogy for educators to move from theory-based teaching to hands-on learning and to serve as educational mentors.
STEMi Makers of Africa is an international NGO that promotes employment and innovation, empowering talent with emerging technologies and forward-thinking skills to excel in STEM pathways so they can contribute to the development of our changing workforce.
You were recently honored with the 2022 Humanitarian Award Global Honors Award. What is the award about and what does it mean to you?
The Humanitarian Award Global recognizes 50 leaders who are doing amazing things in their diverse fields around the world. It is an honor to be among this number, and it is also an encouragement for us to continue our vision of making Africa habitable for its people in innovative ways.
What were your achievements or what work did you do to earn the award?
It’s difficult (laughs). My answer may not be specific, but I remember when someone from Ghana reached out to me and let me know that they nominated me because of our work in bringing young women and girls into technology.
We have a Project Kuongoza mentoring program that runs annually in 22 African countries and three MENA nations, where young women and girls are matched with and mentored by subject matter experts and trainers in the diaspora, connecting them with resources for their professional and personal advancement . The project also instills in them the confidence they need to excel in the workplace and in their communities.
The impact has been tremendous and we are so thankful for the professionals who devote their time, energy and resources to watching our girls grow
. How would the award affect your work and career??
I think it’s great that it gives us the visibility and the network. We want to do more.
We want potential partner organizations to join the mission of young talents developing sustainable solutions with STEM. We also need educators to serve as knowledge panels and inspiration for the younger generation to understand that our nation’s economic growth depends on research, innovation and development using STEM.
You were also recently awarded the Innocent Chukwuma Prize for Social Entrepreneurship and Gender Empowerment. What is the award about and how do you feel as the recipient of the award?
The Innocent Chukwuma Social Entrepreneurship Award commemorates the life and legacy of Innocent Chukwuma, who served as director of the Ford Foundation’s West Africa office from 2013 to 2021. Mr. Innocent directed the Ford Foundation’s work in the region with admirable humility. Grace and exceptional knowledge of the challenges and opportunities of civil society and governance.
The LEAP Board of Directors unanimously agreed to create an annual award in honor of Innocent Chukwuma and I am delighted to be the first recipient of this noble award and recognition.
She is also an honoree from Goldman Sachs and the Techwomen100 Global Achiever. Why were you given these awards?
I have to say that 2020-2021 has been a wonderful year of awards and recognition. I was a 20 Global Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Program Fellow for leading one of the most innovative technology companies in Africa and creating a positive impact in my community.
TechWomen100 Global, UK was also one of those that paved the way for future generations of tech talent and empowered adolescent girls and women to excel in STEM.
If you were Minister for Science and Technology, how would you ensure young people get basic education in tech and STEM education?
My vision is to break through the legacy wall of fragmented and disconnected educational institutions. I will approach this challenge from the bottom up. When I say base, I mean educators and institutions. 65 to 73 percent of educators do not have access to enhanced knowledge about science and technology curricula that would need to be integrated into a modern classroom or university.
If current trends continue, by 2050 about a third of Africans, a billion young people, will lack basic math skills. Millions will be unemployed and unproductive.
I look forward to reviewing existing mechanisms, building bridges and creating a framework in which we can develop our human and social capital through education, reward outstanding innovation and the skills revolution, and emphasize science and technology in all educational institutions to contribute to the realization of the Contribute to Agenda 2063 Vision of a prosperous and fairer Nigeria based on sustainable development.
What kind of Nigeria would you like to see after the 2023 elections? And what can you do to contribute to such a Nigeria?
I hope for a better Nigeria. We are not where we should be with such amazing, brilliant and remarkable young people that we have in Nigeria. I hope and pray for fewer japa plans by young people where we can rebuild our nation together with better leadership.
Apart from your humanitarian and charitable work, what other jobs or commitments do you have?
I recently joined the UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab as an expert. It is a way of lending technical expertise to provide organizations and countries with more inclusive, equity-weighted and SDG-oriented policies. On this occasion I translate inclusive guidelines, generate knowledge together and help in the development of result declarations.
What are your future prospects? And where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to consolidate my work even more. I would love to serve as a global advisor and policy expert helping organizations and nations align their social impact and ensure over 100% outcome in their outcomes.
Who are your support systems when the stress/pressure comes from work?
And what do you like to do in your free time?
Family is everything to me. I fall back on my mother and my sister. Your word has always been a soothing balm and you help me to become a better person.
When it comes to switching off, I’m more of a reserved person. I would always prefer to be inside, watch a movie and sleep.
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