We got a sneak peek from Yaza Kara and Hendus Venter.
There are similarities and differences between the South African tech scene, the rest of the continent, and the rest of the world. Our CIOs frequently paint a picture of the local IT scene’s advances, challenges, and what IT leaders should prioritise moving forward, but you rarely get a perspective from across the border.
CIO South Africa wanted to change that, and earlier this year we profiled Stanbic Bank’s Yaza Yara to get a different perspective, as well as Henders Venter, a South African CIO working abroad.
According to Yaza Kara, Stanbic Bank’s head of innovation, partnerships, and agile project office, things are looking up in Zambia’s tech scene. The country has recently experienced a change in government, which has resulted in a renewed focus on technology by the Ministry of Technology and Science, sparking a flurry of activity in the Zambian tech space.
“The Ministry has strongly come on board, driving several initiatives such as building resilient infrastructure, enhancing tech skills and promoting innovation and digital transformation. The tech space is moving at a faster rate than ever in Zambia, and I am quite pleased that the Ministry is taking a deliberate position on technologically transforming the country,” she said.
She went on to say that perceptions of the role of technology experts have shifted, and that tech experts are no longer viewed as people hired to ensure that you can send an email, but as vital strategists within the business, implementing business strategies through and through the use of technology. The tech leader has become entwined with the business leader.
However, the more things change, the more they remain the same, regardless of where you are on the continent. Transformation is a global issue, and the gender gap is widening, she says. She would like to see more women enter the technology space and hold senior management positions.
“The biggest challenge for women in tech is firstly, trying to get a foot in the door as a woman and secondly, elevation and getting into more senior positions. “It isn’t about the skills set; we have extremely capable women. It’s more about closing the gender gap and closing the underrepresentation of women in the technology industry,” Yaza says.
Read more: The tech scene in Zambia
In the UAE, Hendus Venter, group CIO at Jubaili Bros, is flying the South African flag high. After four years, he is still spreading the spirit of Ubuntu thick and fast in the Gulf.
“Working as a global CIO in a multinational organisation can be a rewarding opportunity to learn and grow, but it’s not without its challenges,” he says.
True to his roots, Hendus has applied some of his distinctively South African characteristics in society and the workplace abroad. “We laugh loudly, we work hard, we love unconditionally, we are expert ’braaiers’, and we have made it our mission to share our hospitable and welcoming nature, as well as to spread that spirit of ubuntu overseas – something inherently South African that does not exist elsewhere,” he explains.
South Africans, according to Hendus, are simply unique, period! He says that South Africans are distinctive because of who we are and the leaders we produce. A South African CIO is excited not only about the technologies, but also about the impact of those technologies in communities, because South Africans are very community-driven in our approach.
And we all know that our CIOs wear many hats, so why not wear them all while remaining patriotic and true to your roots?.
“CIOs wear three hats: a country hat with the communities we serve, an African hat because this is the continent that distinguishes us, and a global hat because we are a powerhouse of change, but if we do not use our powerhouse of change, our voices will be drowned out quickly,” he concludes.
Read more: Flying the South African flag high abroad