Betelhem Dessie is a young woman with no respect for societal expectations and limitations. Her path to the big time is relatable yet still impressive. Ten years ago, her story began with an innocent request. She says, "On my 9th birthday I wanted to celebrate so I asked my father for money." Her father gave a reply African kids understand all too well: he did not have the money. Betelhem was, however, not going to let this keep her down and that hunger separated her from the rest of the pack. She started editing videos and sending music to customers' cellphones for a fee. In the end, she says, "I got about 90 dollars - then I celebrated my birthday." It was the beginning of her love affair with electronics.
Dessie's father sold electronics in Harar, Ethiopia and she simply plugged herself into the system and started learning. She worked on herself and improved her skills until she became the force she is now. She says, "I learned informally because I wasn't able to get classes in coding where I was raised in Harar." Is there anything not impressive about this self-taught genius? CNN says she is probably the youngest player in Ethiopia's growing Sheba Valley, the country's answer to Silicon Valley. This is Africa says she is running, "...five projects and has obtained seven patents; four of the patents are privately owned by her, while the remaining three are in collaboration with other organizations. One of Dessie's project, Anyone Can Code (ACC) is in collaboration with iCog Labs." She has also been active in helping young girls learn to code.
Her goals are perfectly articulated on her webpage where she says, "I want to implement projects that play key roles in the development of the community. I hope to continue this journey learn as much as I could, be successful in the field and build the capacity of ICT in Ethiopia by creating opportunities for others." This is a young woman on a mission and the world is simply not ready for her.
Africa's most pressing problems are all under siege. Innovators are not sleeping.
Header Image: Thomas Lewton