Farida Bedwei, is a pretty Nigerian woman born with cerebral palsy about 38 years ago has conquered the challenging condition to become one of the most respected technologists on the African continent. Farida Bedwei, born 1979, in Lagos Nigeria, to parents of Ghanaian descent, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of ten days old due to Rhesus incompatibility. Cerebral palsy is an incurable neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination but does not interfere with the ability to learn.
Bedwei has steadfastly refused to let her disability affect her career trajectory. Today, as the co-founder and chief technical officer of software company Logiciel, she is considered one of the most powerful women in financial technology on the continent. In 2013, South Africa’s CEO Magazine named Bedwei the most influential woman in business and government in Africa for the financial sector.
Her greatest achievement, Bedwei says, is the development of a cloud software platform that is being used by 130 micro-finance companies nationwide. These institutions administer loans to their customers by sending a code to their mobile phones via SMS. That code can be exchanged for money at any branch, making small loans available immediately.
Bedwei reveals how tech can transform lives and how she defied the odds to find success.
Bedwei lived a nomadic childhood thanks to her father’s role at the United Nations Development Programme. As a result, the family resided in Dominica, Grenada and the United Kingdom before finally settling in Ghana when Bedwei was nine years old.
Bedwei was home schooled until the age of 12, and then continued her education at a government school where she was able to socialize with other children. Her family noticed her passion for computers, so it was decided for Bedwei to skip senior high school and enroll in a one-year computer course at the St. Michael information technology center. At 15 years old, she was one of the youngest in the class. A challenge, perhaps? But one she took in her stride.
Following her graduation, the passionate programmer began looking for work and found her dream role at Soft, a premier software company in the region.
Three years later, Bedwei was on the move again and soon found work as a senior software architect at Rancard Solutions.
After completing a one-year degree at the University of Hertfordshire in England, Bedwei returned home with a degree in computer science and continued working for Rancard. In 2010, she joined G-Life Financial Services in 2010. The system the company adopted wasn’t efficient for micro-financing, so with Derrick Dankyi, a fellow colleague at the company, they started building their own cloud software platform called gKudi.
Along with her business achievements, Bedwei prides herself on inspiring others through organizations like The Girls in ICT Committee, a group established to encourage more women to pursue IT careers.
She has won a number of awards, including the 2012 Special Award by President John Mahama of Ghana, the Maiden Award 2011 of the Legacy and Legacy Ideas Award and the 2013 CEO Most Influential Women in Business and Government Award Financial Secto.
She says: You can have a disabled child and it’s not the end of the world. There is so much that that child can end up doing given the right resources.”