Stanbic Bank’s Yaza Kara shares insights on the tech scene in Zambia

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Yaza is thrilled about the future of tech in the country.

It’s an exciting time in Zambia, especially where technology is concerned. The country has recently experienced a change in government and with that has come a renewed focus on technology by the Ministry of Technology and Science, spurring a hive of activity in the tech space in Zambia. The timing is perfect as world tech trends continue to evolve rapidly from older technology such as AI, robotics and blockchain to newer technology such as metaverse and NFTs.

“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,” says Yaza Kara, head of innovation, partnerships and agile project office at Stanbic Bank.

Looking at the corporate and private entities in Zambia, Yaza believes that corporates have realised how strategically critical technology is in driving positive customer experience and ultimately revenues. “In my opinion, technology in an organisation can be equated to the same way that blood flows through the human body. An organisation’s different business units are the equivalent of different human body parts and it is the technology that allows for essential connectivity so that all parts work together. Simply put, technology enhances organisational efficiency,” she explains.

Yaza goes on to say that perceptions about the role of technology experts have also changed, and tech experts are no longer viewed as people who are hired to ensure that you are able to send an email, but as vital strategists within the business, implementing business strategies through and by using technology. The tech leader is now a business leader, intertwined into one.

However, she notes that while the role of the CIO has become increasingly important in many organisations, the gender gap is also widening and she would like to see more women entering the technology space and occupying senior management roles.

Women in tech

Survey results from a focus group in Zambia revealed that 76 percent of the respondents working in IT or studying IT have less than 11 percent female representation in their teams or classrooms. Yaza is passionate about women in technology and has great plans in the pipeline to usher more women into the technology industry. “Young girls need to start appreciating technology from an early age and there is a dire need to enable professional women to excel as they ascend technological corporate ladder. The message is simple and straightforward, technology is not just for boys or men, girls and women can also succeed in the technology space,” she says.

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,” she adds.

State of the tech professional

In Zambia, there are a good number of tertiary institutions that produce high-calibre technology experts and while some tech professionals study, stay and work abroad, they are seemingly coming back to Zambia to set up fintech and other IT solution companies.

“In my case, I had applied for permanent residency in Australia because of my technology qualification. I was granted the residency, lived and worked in Australia, but decided to come back to Zambia because I believed that I would add more value in my country of origin,” she explains. Yaza has witnessed this first-hand how IT professionals who had left Zambia to work abroad, are returning as techpreneurs, having had numerous engagements from IT professionals who have chosen to come back to Zambia. “It is a welcome development as we strive to grow our Zambian economy with the use of technology,” she says.

A nail-biting profession

According to Yaza, technology is a nail-biting industry, especially if an entity is customer centric and is focused on customer experience and satisfaction. Systems must be constantly available, it’s a non-negotiable requirement.

“So much depends on IT in any organisation, and with that comes a lot of pressure. You don’t even realise how important sending an email is, until you can’t send one, or make a payment or phone call, which all rely on a computer or a server, somewhere,” she says.

“You need to be able to cushion any issues that might arise, through well established business resilience – don’t wait to hear about a system failure from your customer, you have to know in good time so that you can quickly remediate. It is also critical that you have the right team with the right skill sets in place, coupled with the right leadership.”

To unwind, Yaza enjoys spending time with her family. She has daughters and says that their great senses of humour are a much-needed distraction from the pressures of the tech world.

As far as career aspirations are concerned, Yaza is hot on the heels of her CIO husband and hopes to continue climbing the technology leadership ladder. Eventually establishing her own technology solutions entity as well as closing the gender gap is also high on her agenda.

 

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