Fem Bosses: Sophia Bekele – Executive Director & Founder of DotConnectAfrica
This week Innov8tiv magazine brings you the story of Sophia Bekele Eshete, an exemplary Fem Boss of Ethiopian ancestry. Sophia has achieved great success as a business woman, tech-entrepreneur, corporate executive, ICT international policy advisor, deals in issuing of internet to both private/public sectors, risk management specialist and an ICT activist.
Sophia Bekele was born in Ethiopia and is the daughter of a success-driven father Ato Bekele Eshete Wolde Michael, who was the Founder & Board Director of the United Insurance,S.C and United Bank,S.C; which are among the first private banks ever to be established in Ethiopia. It’s pretty obvious that Sophia hails from a successful background, she attended school at a private Catholic High School after which she traveled to the USA for higher learning.
In the United States she undertook a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Analysis and Information Systems at the San Francisco State University, then after joined the Golden Gate University for an MBA in Management of Information Systems. She also obtained professional academic training in Certified Control Specialist (CCS), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and the Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT) which is a certification only given to professionals with competent knowledge and proficiency in IS Audit, Security and Enterprise IT governance principles and practices.
Her exemplary academic achievement gave her the golden opportunity to be recruited right from college by Bank of America as an IT Auditing and Information Security expert. This field was highly dominated by men at that time. She advanced her career further into Corporate Governance and Risk Management which allowed her to be promoted to a managerial post with PriceWaterhouse Coopers and UnionBanCal Corporation. At present she travels the globe doing her work, in between her homes in California, Walnut Creek and Africa, whereby she has established successful businesses in all these areas.
At the beginning of the year 2000, Sophia moved away from her Corporate Career and focused on international technology issues and 3rd World development of technology using Africa as the base model. It was then that she founded CBS International and served as the CEO. This company is based in California and served as a consulting company primarily focusing on the transfer of technology to the emerging markets. She also started another affiliate company, SbCommunications Network, plc (SbCnet) with headquarters in Addis Ababa. SbCnet specializes in Systems Integration Technology Integration and supporting services.
From these two companies, Bekele won many international contracts dealing with large scale projects like the IT infrastructure for Organization of African Unity (AU) General Secretariat as well as integrated data networking infrastructure for the parliament of Ethiopia. In the AU project, CBS International handled the service procurement and technological inputs, while SbCnet dealt with field management and strategic integration services for technology. In Ethiopian parliament project SbCnet acted as the prime contractor handling all front-line liaising including delivery of the project services to the parliament. SbCnet worked closely with CBS International partners in the USA and the South African company Dimensions Data Holdings.
In reaction to the rise in major corporate scandals in the USA back in 2004 particularly in Enron and WorldCom, Sophia shifted her focus back to US. Through her California-based company, she started advising US-clients in private/public markets especially in Risk Management and Corporate Governance areas in order to keep them from being adversely affected by the major corporate scandal happening in US at the time. She can proudly boast of high profiled clients like the Genetech, Intel Corp, NASDAQ, Federal Reserve Bank, OnScreen Technologies, and BDO Sieldman among others.
In 2005 to 2007 she worked at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) serving on the council of Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO). She was an asset in the initiating policy dialogue over IDNs including in the developing of framework that leads a language group. She then formed an IDN working group in the ICANN and brought global voices of IDN to ICANN. In this period she was appointed as the chair of ICANN’s IDN Working Group at the IDN community.
She then turned her focus to Africa again in 2006, to launch “a new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD)” for the Africa geographic name that she was also championing during her appointment at the ICANN. This project is already up and running and is delegated for the operations under the ICANN’s new gTLD Program. At this point Bekele started the DotAfrica initiative because of her rich experience she has in the ICT industry. Establishing the DotAfrica under a startup of DotConnectAfrica (DCA) and introduced it to Pan-African inter-governmental organizations in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) as well as to the African Union Commission (AUC) having received an endorsement for DCA.
With the DCA endorsement she started a global campaign for DotAfrica under the Yes2dotAfrica Campaign, which received a huge amount of media coverage and lead to her honorary mentioning in The New African Magazine. At present time, Ms. Sophia Bekele oversees the DotAfrica (.Africa) new gTLD initiative under the umbrella of DotConnectAfrica Trust ( a non-profit and non-partisan organization). Serving as the Executive Director of DCA Trust as well as the CEO of DotConnectAfrica Registry Services Limited (Kenya) and thus making it as one of the best Fem Bosses of the modern times.