February is the month of love. Romance and passion is not the only kind of love to be celebrated this month. Rather more importantly is the love of each human for his or her neighbour – the quest to make the life of someone else somewhere, better. It is therefore in the spirit of loving our world and giving back this month of February that LR rolls out our amazing first feature about a man who loves our world and gives back in a way that cannot be quantified.
He has been referred to as the “most powerful black man in the United Kingdom”. A quick Wikipedia check reveals he is ranked first in the Powerlist 2017, an annual listing of the United Kingdom’s 100 most powerful people with African or Afro-Caribbean heritage. However, on careful scrutiny, one finds that this man’s “power” stems not from taking but from giving back to his world with a very loving heart.
The philanthropy of this Tech-Entrepreneur whose education crisscrossed both the African and European continents is simply unique. He had his secondary education at Edo College and his university education at the prestigious University of Benin both in Nigeria. His MBA in Finance was obtained from the Cass Business School in London. Tom was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Technology for his contribution to the field of technology in the United Kingdom by the University of Wolverhampton in 2005.
Why I Created Africa’s First All-Girls Science Academy
By Tom Ilube
I am a technologist and an ‘education-philanthropist’. I am also an introvert geek with a deep desire to leave a positive mark on the world. In 2016, I created and launched Africa’s first ever all-girls science academy. I believe science and technology can have an exceptional impact on the world, hence, my inspiration to explore how I could help drive Africa’s development by inspiring and unleashing the next generation of scientists and engineers.
My mother was a teacher, in Nigeria, Uganda and the UK for many years, so I was drawn to education as the route to realising my ambitions. At 18, I enrolled to study Physics at the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria. There was a brilliant mathematician in my year and we often worked in class together. He was amazing and unarguably one of the brightest mathematicians I have ever met. Yet I have no idea what happened to him after our university days. He should be making contributions on the world stage but he is invisible. This situation seemingly is a waste of a beautiful mind. A situation that has happened to many most times, due to no fault of theirs but more often a function of where they are born.
This exceptional mathematician was the inspiration behind the African Gifted Foundation (AGF). What happens to you if you are born with a brilliant mind but grow up in difficult circumstances in a village, township or City? Does Africa get to benefit from your amazing talent? That is the challenge that I want AGF to tackle.
Whilst thinking about this challenge, I became increasingly aware of the gender imbalance in the world of technology and science. Girls go to school loving maths and physics in the early years, but when you get to A-level physics there are 25 boys and one or two girls in a class. So I wanted to create a world-class institution that was really attractive to girls who have a passion for science and technology. A space where they can talk about what it means to be a female scientist and how to build their careers.
This led me to open the African Science Academy (ASA) in 2016. ASA seeks to identify young women from across the African continent who love science, technology, engineering and maths, and to bring them into a dedicated environment where they can immerse themselves in this world. We hope that they will go on to great scientific and engineering careers, and related subjects, in Africa and make a real contribution to tackling Africa’s challenges with their skills and special abilities. Over time, we hope to grow the academy to having over 200 students a year from all corners of the continent.
As I listen to our girls at ASA talking and growing in confidence, I find their ideas are sourced from things they are passionate about – ideas that impact women as much as they do men. They are often interested in things that have an impact on people’s lives and not just the mechanics of things. With these young people growing up to become leaders in their fields, the next 30 years will be very exciting for science and technology in Africa. Our students will send a message to the world that African women are more than capable of taking their place alongside anyone, anywhere in the field of science.
Historically, the world hasn’t really felt the impact of what could be the most powerful continent. African technology and science needs to be nurtured and developed because it has the potential to completely transform the continent. I would love to see a series of “Silicon Cities” springing up around Africa and embracing the next wave of technology and scientific research. Often it is easier to move in innovative leaps and bounds in environments where old technology does not have deep roots.
To create and launch the African Science Academy for girls is my proudest achievement so far. When I am a very old man, sitting in a rocking chair under a tree with a blanket on my legs and someone comes and whispers to me that one of our ASA students went on thirty years later to win a Nobel Prize for Physics, I will be content.
The team members at LR while researching this man found that his humility belies his multifold impact on our world. This is because he not only understands the need to give back to society but more importantly he seeks to actively bridge the gender gap. We then did a blind poll to discover the one word LR team members thought would best describe all Tom and his team are doing for humanity. The result was the word – “awesome.”
Men like Tom have come to appreciate the fact that men are very strategically placed to empower their daughters. While on the flip side, mothers are best placed to raise the next generation of women-empowering and women-respecting sons. If you make your daughters cook every day for your sons with no “flexibility” in the roles, then you are already creating a dichotomy that will be a disadvantage to another generation. As a father if you educate your daughters and take your daughters out with you to some of your meetings or even to watch football matches with you, as well as reinforce her self-confidence, she will not keep quiet in a gathering of men like a mute or fall into the hands of the first lying man to tell her sweet lies. The Toms of this world understand their roles as co-drivers in the closure of the gender gap challenge. This is not surprising considering his appreciation of the strength in women as exemplified by his educationist and mentor mum. In his chosen niche of technology, he decided to take action and is determined to optimise the achievement of women today to help narrow the gender gap of tomorrow. He is educating and empowering not one, two or three – but many young girls.
We are really pleased that the “most powerful black man” in the United Kingdom has seen the gender gap and he is determined to close it.
By now, having met Tom on this “motivational platform”, you must have figured out how to become the most powerful black man or woman in the United Kingdom or wherever you find yourself. Our hope is that many of us strive to either share the spot with him or do better than him – the more, the better for our future.
We leave you these African Proverbs that are of relevance to Tom Ilube and his team’s mission and vision as well as to impact on your decision to give back and love your neighbour this month of February. Let us into your awesome thoughts, as you hit our comments section via your keyboards.
“ A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way”
Swahili, African Proverb
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
“Kindness is a language which the blind can see and the deaf can hear”
“When you educate a man, you educate an individual but when you educate a woman, you educate a generation”