Spotlight: Ghana’s Regina Agyare Honu Paves The Way For Girls In Tech
Regina Honu had dreams of becoming a rocket scientist, but when she presented a high school science project to her teacher, she was told: "It's impossible. Girls don't build rockets. You will end up in the kitchen."
Today, Honu is the founder of Soronko Solutions, a software development company and social enterprise startup based in Accra, Ghana. Her company and its nonprofit arm teach African youth how to code and use technology to solve social issues. Honu joined Worldview to talk about her motivations and vision for technology in Africa.
On being a Ghanaian woman in science and technology
Regina Honu: Being in a male dominated field, you constantly have to prove yourself, and when I started there wasn’t a lot of encouragement. I was told that technology is difficult, so it’s not for girls. But I used my femininity as an advantage to help me advance my course.
On what motivated her to take the plunge into entrepreneurship
Honu:, I would always put the snooze button on the dream of starting my own company because I was so scared. But I went despite the fear, and it was really about making sure that girls reach their full potential.I saw technology as a tool that would enable us to do that. I was so determined to bring social change and I felt that I could use technology to do that. I felt that it’s very important that I leave a legacy for the next generation of women. So I want to make sure that we’re equipping them to be successful, that we’re equipping them to reach their full potential.
On the work coming out of Tech Needs Girls
Honu: We teach girls from 6-18 years old how to code and create technology, so they work on building websites and mobile applications.e have girls that go on to build projects that are really socially inclined. There’s one girl who created a legal app to help young women know their rights. We had another girl who started a foundation that works with maternal issues because her mother suffered when she was giving birth. All of our girls keep blogs and that gives them a voice to discuss social issues. They’re using technology to create amazing products but also to help themselves think critically and build confidence.
On the importance of mentorship in her organization
Honu: For a young girl, it’s so aspirational to have another mentor, a woman, that you can relate to. Somebody like you, who looks like you, someone who can understand the challenges and struggles that you go through.
McDonnell: Did you have mentors?
Honu: No, so that’s why I’m trying to correct that. The only mentors that I had were Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and that can never be a relatable story to me, but those were the only ones I knew.
On her experience in the Ghanaian educational system
Honu: The challenge we have in our educational system is that it’s based on quantity and not quality. So it’s all about rote memorization and just passing exams. It’s all about checking the numbers. So when you’re studying you’re not really learning how to problem solve or think critically, you’re just learning how to get a grade and pass the exam. I really want to change that.
First I want Africa to be a bedrock of innovation. I want us to have the skills to solve our own problems. I want critical thinking and problem solving to be the agenda, and I want girls to lead that charge.
McDonnell: I think people don’t really think of Africa as a place with innovation. That is one of your other missions, to make people think differently about Africa.
Honu: Exactly. I want to change the single story. When people think about Africa, I want people to stop thinking about war, famine and disease. I want Africa to be a continent of innovation and I want people to think about us as having great natural resources and also great human capital, so I really want to develop that and really change that narrative.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. It was produced by Steve Bynum and edited by Vera Tan. Click the 'play' button to listen to the entire interview.