First woman to take out Royal Academy of Engineering Prize

First woman to take out Royal Academy of Engineering Prize

Engineering

Charlette N’Guessan is a 26-year old Cote D’Ivorian technology entrepreneur running her own company from Accra, Ghana. Last Thursday, she won the Royal Academy of Engineering’s prestigious 2020 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation – its first ever female recipient.

N’Guessan won £25,000 (AUD $45,227) for her work building a system called BACE API. The technology uses Artificial Intelligence and facial recognition to verify the identities of African people remotely and in real time. Her company aims to change the way cyber security functions and reduce identity fraud, which is a prevalent issue in Africa and across the world. 

BACE API can be used with existing applications and systems for identity verification and is aimed at financial institutions in Africa.

The technology works by “matching the live photo of a user to the image on their documents such as passports or ID card,” N’Guessan told CNN. “For the person trying to submit their application, we ask them to switch on their camera to make sure the person behind the camera is real, and not a robot. We are able to capture the face of the person live and match their image with the one on the existing document the person submitted.”

N’Guessan was awarded the Africa Prize for Innovation in a virtual award ceremony last Thursday. The Royal Academy of Engineering released a statement, noting the significance of technology like the one BACE provides for African communities specifically.

Rebecca Enonchong, a Cameroon entrepreneur and judge for this year’s prize, said in her statement, “It is essential to have technologies like facial recognition based on African communities, and we are confident their innovative technology will have far reaching benefits for the continent.”

N’Guessan is the CEO and co-founder of the Ghana-based software company, BACE Group, which she started thinking about while she was an engineering student at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

“We talked to tech entrepreneurs. That’s when we noticed that there is a huge problem with cyber security with online services and businesses,” she told CNN.  “We decided to make our contribution as software engineers and data scientists by building a solution that can be useful for this market.” 

The young technologist credits her father for encouraging her to pursue her passion and interests in science and technology from a young age.

“He inspired my choice for studying STEM. I was actually really good in science-related courses. After high school, I went on to study software engineering at university,” she said. “I will be happy if people are inspired by my story, being the first woman to win the Africa Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation and by my work as a woman in tech.” 

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