achievable to become a female programmer in Ghana and build a career in the field, even though it remained male-dominated.
“During my career, I have developed and built a diverse range of software systems relating to human-resource management and payroll systems, for mobile gateways, in respect of microfinance banking systems, and many others. However, I think that, from a social perspective, gKudi – the microfinance banking SAAS (Software As A Service) suite I developed for Logiciel – would prove to have been the most impactful of my systems to date.” She points out that the microfinance industry in Ghana has a reputation for closing shop and disappearing with the hard-earned cash of the economically disadvantaged. “Microfinance companies often experience cash flow crises because they cannot afford high-end banking systems that, at the click of a button, would show them the financial profile of their businesses. The gKudi system addresses this problem and is very easy to use,” she says. Bedwei has set up Logiciel with Derrick Dankyi last year. She says that it is crucial in her job to ensure that the company is always at the forefront of the technology industry in its particular market niche.
“This is very challenging, because you have to continuously assess the market and come up with ways of making the systems as user-friendly as possible. Against the backdrop of rapidly changing global systems, we still have to consider our own particularities that make tailor-made software development so important. Some of our clients are not very conversant with the usage of systems, so it is imperative that we make the systems as simple as possible from a user’s perspective, but without taking away the functionality required for banking systems.”
Her job, therefore, is one of finding simple solutions for rather complex sets of requirements. But Bedwei is comfortable with her chosen career. She poses the question: “Would I have chosen this field if I didn’t have the challenges I had? Maybe not. I started using computers at an early age; it was my medium of written communication, since I couldn’t write properly owing to my disability. In those days, I started programming with QBasic on a home computer at the age of eight – before the advent of personal computers, there were home computers which were used for word processing, gaming, etc. – and the rest is history.” Clearly, computers were waiting for her ‘to get in touch’. And, from the basics, she grew beyond what others were doing, like basic word processing or playing games, into her chosen career field. But Bedwei still has levels to rise to and new things to achieve. She explains: “I would like to push gKudi beyond the borders of our country and across the African continent in the next five years. Opportunities to roll it out exist in just about every country on this continent. In fact, it is perhaps less like an opportunity and more like a need which exists for such a system.”
Bedwei says it is good to know that, in her chosen career, she has been able to effect changes in her environment. “Most of the systems I have built in the past 15 years are still being used in various industries. In my current role, I intend to make a huge impact in the financial sector of emerging markets,” she says. She is passionate about development of people and business. In her view, “the government needs to do a lot more to encourage private enterprises to blossom, to provide greater access to funding for start-ups as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for instance, and to ensure that support is readily available and easy to obtain. We need a larger technical workforce consisting of personnel who have been exposed to the working environment whilst still in school (through internships, working vacations, etc.), thus making it easy for them to fit in from day one. There certainly is scope for companies and schools to join hands to expose youngsters to the world of work from an early age.”
Bedwei should know, since she is a product of exposure to a career path while still at school. “From a societal perspective, I think a lot needs to be done to the infrastructure to make public buildings disability-friendly. Even if the intention is there, it needs to be turned into a practical reality that allows all members of society equal access.” She believes that women do not have to take a back seat when it comes to their male counterparts. “I would like to encourage all women who have a vision to change the status quo in their respective environments to meet the challenge head on and do so. “By global societal standards, I have three strikes against me: I am black, I am a woman and I have a physical disability. I choose not to let these things define me. Instead, I go after what I want to achieve with passion and perseverance. Do not let your circumstances limit you – there’s so much you can achieve if you put your mind to it,” she says.
Going Against the Trend
Farida Bedwei is a pioneer who has set her sights on software development, thereby going against the trend in Ghana, where this industry is mostly male-dominated and male-oriented. Her career has been characterised by patience, passion and persistence.
Bedwei says: “Software development is largely a male-dominated profession, especially on the African continent. When I first started developing software in the late 1990s, I was one of a few female software developers in the country, and the only one at SOFT where I was working. “It was quite interesting when clients entered the office and saw me in the midst of all those young men, coding away – most of the clients expressed surprise when encountering this situation. “Throughout my career, I have had a number of female software developers tell me that they were inspired to go into this field because I had made it seem
by Ilse Ferreira