Nomso Kana is a South African nuclear scientist. Right for Education spoke with her about her work, empowering women in STEM, and nuclear power in Africa.
R:Ed: Please tell us about yourself and your work?
I am a daughter, sister, and mentor to many but work as a broadband infrastructure entrepreneur. I have a background in nuclear science and computer science. My companies are in the integration of energy and telecommunications sector.
R:Ed: What challenges have you had to overcome to get to where you are, and what opportunities lie ahead for you?
I will start off with my discipline of work – the are lots of setbacks for women in STEM, they are even more for African women since its dominated by males. African women in STEM face similar challenges such as lack of mentorship, stereotypes and implicit biasness in their work. I have overcome those challenges through reaching out to accomplished women in the industry, indirectly getting mentorship from them, ensuring my work is accurate and always leading with competence and confidence in my tasks. There are a number of opportunities that lie ahead of me, one of them is building fixed broadband infrastructure, cross terrestrial fibre highways and connecting underserved communities through geo stationary satellites and stable energy infrastructures throughout the continent.
R:Ed: What are your main achievements and what are you most proud of?
My academic achievements, the international and national recognition and accolades. I most proud to be selected by the South African president HE Cyril Ramaphosa to be a commissioner on the fourth industrial revolution group in his office.
R:Ed: How important is STEM education for African youth and what more can be done to more actively promote it?
Africa needs to fully industrialize and implement technology to solve its socio –economic and economic challenges and compete globally. The need for STEM professionals is needed more than ever! STEM must be promoted from the household and in early education – most importantly it must not be “genderised”! Nope Physics is not for males ONLY!
R:Ed: What advice would you give young aspiring female entrepreneurs in Africa?
My advice to budding female entrepreneurs is that, don’t be afraid to seek help, recognize and embrace your uniqueness, your contribution matters! Seek out environments where you can learn, put that learning into action and be part of big things that shape our world for better!
R:Ed: You are already an inspiration to many but who are your own heroes, and why?
Women who have gone against the odds to bring forth their visions inspire me greatly, I look up to female leaders who are able to jump from one sector to another, for example, the Executive Director of UN Women, Dr Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, she moved from being a teacher to an ICT practitioner in education to a politician! That is inspiring!
R:Ed: Finally, what kind of a future does nuclear power have in Africa, why is this important and what challenges need to be overcome?
When one travels from the South to the North of Africa at night, you hardly see any lights on the ground. Our continent gained the name of a dark continent not because of the unending civil wars but the lack of electricity.
The continent is richly endowed with raw materials that make the reality of nuclear energy seamless however the lack of political will and enthusiasm for progress keeps the continent’s growth very slow!