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Lorna Enow, promoter of STEM to Cameroonian youth

Lorna Enow joined the AfriTech Hub as a volunteer in 2019. Three years later, she has become its president. Since her university studies, she has committed to encouraging the Cameroonian youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as advocating for gender equality in Cameroon’s STEM fields.

Lorna Enow wears many hats as a creative, as well as a digital and IT expert and STEM promoter. But for the 26-year-old Cameroonian, only one passion drives her: “art” and its creative aspect, to the point where she views “tech as an art.” Thanks to her creative side, the young Cameroonian has been able to commit efficiently to advancing STEM not only in her country but also throughout Africa.

The young woman, who is originally from south-west Cameroon, began promoting STEM in 2019. While enrolled in the “biochemistry” course at the University of Buea, which she ended up abandoning, one day she came across a page on social networks entitled “AfriTech Hub,” promoting STEM. Interested in the initiative, she contacted the founder and asked her to become a volunteer.“It was just a page on Instagram. At the time, they hadn’t done any work yet. After contacting the founder, I told her that I wanted to volunteer. She was a bit surprised and explained to me that volunteering didn’t bring in any money and I told her, of course, no problem,” she confides.

She began managing AfriTech Hub’s social networks right away, and very quickly, her interest in STEM promotion began to grow to the point where she decided to reorient herself towards “project management” studies at the University of Bamenda, and along the way, she acquired skills in coding, web development, programming languages, etc.

In charge of coordinating the NGO’s programs

While studying project management, she became the “program coordinator” in charge of managing the NGO’s initiatives, among which was the “Career Orientation Program,” a project dear to her heart given her personal experience.“It’s a very relevant issue and one that is particularly close to my heart and one that isn’t talked about enough,”she says. In addition to this, she led other initiatives, including the “mentoring program,” which supports young girls and boys in their studies, helps them in the choice of their careers, etc., thanks to a network of mentors around the world, as well as the “STEM Clubs,” where young people aged 10 to 17 are trained in coding electronics and robotics. Over the last three years, more than 5,000 Cameroonian students have benefited from the association’s programs.

Committed to promoting parity in STEM, the NGO also organizes bootcamps where young people, especially girls, are trained in digital skills. “We are working to create a pipeline of Cameroonian tech talents for jobs in the global tech market and ensure that girls are represented there,” she explains. To date, the organization has held two bootcamps and provided scholarships for girls to study online.

In 2021, the NGO also hosted the 1st edition of the “Women in Tech” Summit, aimed at bringing together Cameroonian women working in tech or wishing to get into tech. This first edition attracted big names in Cameroonian tech, such as Nelly Chatue-Diop, CEO of Ejara, Estelle Yomba, Programs lead at Google, she says with enthusiasm.”Women in Tech Sû’it” is intended to be a space for sharing, but also for raising awareness, also open to men, she says. “We also involve men, because when we address the difficulties of women, men have a significant role to play. If men are part of the conversations, if they understand what it takes to succeed as a woman in tech jobs, things will be different. Women will excel more in this area,” she explains.

Advocate for the development of Tech in Africa

Despite the fact that she is not often “taken seriously by people because of her young age,”as she confides, Lorna is nonetheless committed to the causes she cares about. “When people see me, they think I’m still so young, that I’m a kid, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. So most people don’t take me seriously,”she says.

As a strong supporter of African tech development, she advocates in particular for the adoption of tech-friendly policies in Africa. “Working without policies is impossible. That is something I try to discuss as much as possible. If we don’t have policies that take into account skills like these,  our efforts won’t work,”she believes.

She also urges financial investment in the development of African Tech. “Everyone wants Africa to be almost at the same level as developed countries. But what we don’t know is that there is a lot of money to invest for that”,she adds.

Now at the head of the NGO, the Cameroonian is more than determined to perpetuate the initiative, especially by coming up with new strategies to raise funds to finance the NGO’s activities. She also intends to launch an “immersive coding camp” to train engineers who will then be placed in different companies around the world. “Since Africa has the youngest population in the world but the lowest representation in the tech sector,”she says, “we aim to raise the representation of Africans in the global IT market.”By working with NGOs from other African countries that are also dedicated to the promotion of technology, the NGO, which is now active in Cameroon, hopes to expand its commitment to the continental level.

Danielle Engolo