Meet the Boss: Barbara Birungi, director of Hive Colab/founder of WITU

6. And the worst?

Corruption is the worst and I just wish that the people who had the power to make changes – in the health sector, the education sector and all other sectors that are suffering in my country – would wake up and realise that the country they are running right now wrongly is actually going to be left to their children, and their children are going to suffer… and their children’s children… if we don’t develop the country right now when we have the chance.

7. Your future career plans?

We have a few women entrepreneurs in my country, that’s both in technology and general business, and I want to build a hub that is for women in technology and business to just encourage young women to start their own businesses. If they don’t have the skills, we will train them. If they don’t have the confidence, we will find ways of giving them the confidence… And also creating role models, a chain of role models – an ecosystem of women in tech and business entrepreneurship in the country so that young girls can see that women can do it… I want them to see that the sky is not even the limit, it is beyond the sky.

8. How do you relax?

Chilling with my children, that is my best form of relaxation. My daughter is two and a half and she is quite a talker. So she is always asking me things: “What is this mommy? What does it do? Why is it there?” It relaxes me answering all those questions, [as opposed to] those difficult questions from investors and startups and all that.

I have a son, too, who is five months right now and he is still too young to [talk], but we do have fun.

9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring businesspeople and entrepreneurs?

There is so much potential that is untapped in Africa. If you just look to your environment, to your community, there are so many problems that you can solve in all sectors in Africa. And if you just sit and think and look at the situations around you – even from an individual perspective, the issues that you are facing – and try and create solutions, then there is a job for everyone. Because I believe that, where Africa is going, it’s not going to get better with the job situation. Unless we wake up and become entrepreneurs and innovators, unemployment is going to become much worse… You don’t even have to go to university… just look, think, use whatever tools are available to you, and create a solution, and people will buy it and you will be making money.

If no one is employing you, employ yourself and others by creating your own business. That would be my biggest advice to people.

10. How can Africa realise its full potential?

For Africa to realise its full potential it would have to start with the educational system… It’s becoming a global world so competition for jobs (as well as competition for market and entrepreneurship opportunities) is not just going to be on an African level or country level. It’s going to become global competition. But what we are preparing our young children, or the generation that is now in school, is to be employees and think nationally, instead of globally. So I think for Africa to realise its full potential, we need to change our education system and train our young people to be innovators; to think, to be creative. We need to raise a generation of youth who think the sky is the limit, or even beyond the sky. And to do that we have to train and train and train so that we can keep up with the trends that are happening in the world and be relevant in the world.

Barbara Birungi founded Women in Technology Uganda (WITU) in 2010, an organisation that encourages, trains, mentors and supports women in technology and entrepreneurship. Birungi is also the executive director of Hive Colab, a tech business accelerator and incubator for startups which aims to build up the local tech capacity in Uganda and East Africa. Birungi has been leading the technology hub since its inception in 2010, and is an outspoken supporter of women’s empowerment using technology and entrepreneurship.