“You will never do anything in this world without courage. …………………………….It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor”– Aristotle.
Bekele’s short profile on PDF
Ms. Sophia Bekele is a business and corporate executive, an International entrepreneur, corporate governance & risk management specialist, international policy advisor on ICT, internet and development issues, governance and ICT activist and a philanthropist.
Through education, entrepreneurial experience and international exposure, She has performed superlatively in roles that straddle both the public and private sectors. She is involved in high-level policy advisory boards. She has obtained a truly global experience in today’s corporate culture having worked in America, Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, and with various international, inter-governmental, national government & private transnational corporations.
She is the Chairwoman of GEDA Group, a pan-African investment company with interest in strategic sector of Africa’s economy, currently heavily vested in technology, Financial, Media and Real Estate sectors. She is the founder of the widely acclaimed Yes2dotAfrica campaign and recently enlisted as African Women to Watch, as one of top two leading ladies in Africa’s ICT sector and the New African named her one of 50 African Trailblazers – A future made in Africa. She is the founder and CEO of CBS International and affiliate SbCommunications, also founder and Executive Director of DotConnectAfrica.
Ms. Bekele’s present focus is on DotAfrica – a new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) for the Africa geographic name that will be introduced and delegated for operation under ICANN’s new gTLD programme. She currently oversees the DotAfrica new gTLD initiative of DotConnectAfrica Trust. DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA), is an organization that is spearheading the DotAfrica Initiative. DotAfrica (‘.Africa’) is one of the new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) that will be delegated to the root zone of the Internet Domain Name Structure (DNS) by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a US-based institution that is at the apex of Global Internet Governance. ICANN has a formal contractual relationship with the National Technology & Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the US Department of Commerce.
“The .africa TLD is Africa’s response to the benefits of a unified continental domain on the internet. It is a new idea which will be guided by the ICANN policy embodied in the rule-book that’s a process which is both competitive and “bottoms up” – Sophia Bekele, Enterprise Technology Magazine, 2011
Multinationals Ms. Bekele’s early career is marked working for multinational consulting firms and large financial/banking companies in Corporate America such as PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Bank of America, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi/Union Bank of California, San Francisco, to mention but a few. From these initial corporate environments, Sophia gained invaluable practical experience in business management in diverse areas such as information systems security/auditing and control, IT quality assurance, technology risk assessment of financial markets and instruments, technology and project management in private international and transnational corporations.
CBS International Ms Bekele then broke-off from her Corporate career to focus on international technology issues and Third-World technological development, using Africa as a base model. Most of Ms. Bekele’s work in these years has been associated with CBS International, a company she founded and serves as President and Chief Executive Officer. CBS International is a consulting company based in Walnut Creek, California, USA with focus on, technology transfer to emerging markets, technology procurement, project-based capacity building, technological project management, internet/intranet systems integration, information systems security/privacy, auditing and corporate governance. Bekele also set up an affiliated company SbCommunications Networks Plc. (SbCnet) based in Addis Ababa dedicated to serving emerging economies. Her work during these years in global development included, a UNOPS (United Nations Agency for Project Services) – sponsored Internetworking project (e-government initiative) for the Organization of African Unity (AU) African Union General Secretariat campus area network. Ms. Bekele put together the entire project management strategy and structure for the enterprise technological deployment of the sophisticated Fiber-Optic based information technology infrastructure. CBS International handled technological inputs and services procurement while SbCnet provided strategic technology integration services and field management.
“Capacity Building Comprises of the most challenging of projects. We have to build indigenous skills as we enhance institutional capacities” — Sophia Bekele, UNPAN (PPP E-government) 2009.
Following the above, Ms Bekele’s has won a precedent setting “Bid” reversal, on a major government contact, which has vindicated her and her company. Here, Ms Bekele’s project involvement was as a Project Director for the Implementation of an Integrated Data Networking Infrastructure Supply and Infrastructure installation project at the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (House of Peoples’ Representatives and House of Federation), also e-government initiative funded by consortium of donor agencies. In this project, her company SbCommunications Network, plc (SbCnet) was the Prime Contractor and handled all front-line liaison and project services delivery to the Parliament and works closely with its foreign partners CBS International, USA, and a South African company Dimension Data Holdings.
It is almost possible to assume that the private press has, for all practical intentions narrowed down on the ‘sensationalist‘ value of the story without considering the core values of the process at stake and the precedent setting process at work in this matter. Precedence is being set, because this is the first time since the renaissance of our democracy that an illegally awarded contract on a national scale project has been successfully suspended, cancelled and reversed in the interest of higher ideals. -Sophia Bekele, Addis Fortune Weekly 2002
She has also challenged the private sector over her views of what turned out to be the illegitimate formation of a Stock Exchange. To her vindication, the government eventually rejected the proposal for the share dealing group in November 2002. As a follow-up, though there was no direct link with Bekele, in April 2008 the Ethiopian government launched a commodities exchange market, aimed at boosting fair trade and stabilizing its food market.
“It is better for us to have a proper open stock market where market forces determine the price of a share and security instruments…and should not be left to the machinations of a Share Dealing Group…the truth of the matter is that Addis Ababa Chamber of commerce cannot be both the sponsor and the regulator (oversight) according to the by-laws of the group… Government is the only agency that could put the regulatory frameworks and principles under which a proper stock exchange or commodities exchange can exist.” -Sophia Bekele, Addis Fortune Weekly, 2002
As such, combining her career in Controls and business exposure, she developed a reputation for having centrist views over public policy issues. Ms. Bekele has made very significant contributions to the enshrinement of transparency, accountability, probity and fairness, and other anti-corruption measures in the conduct of government procurement actions in Ethiopia; in addition to other significant inputs made towards the paramountcy of civil governance and regulatory issues in the conduct of governmental and private sector affairs. To her credit, this interest in ensuring higher ideals, underlining justice, transparency, accountability, probity and issues of illegality, in all of these are a matter of public record.
With these registered successes in ICT project delivery, Ms. Bekele was appointed in 2001 by H.E. K.Y. Amoako, then Executive Secretary and UN Under Secretary General of Uniterd Nations Economic Commision for Africa (UNECA), to serve on the Advisory Technical Committee (ATAC), an expert UNICT Taskforce sponored by UNECA. The ATAC formulated policy and recommendation and provided technical guidance and direction on the implementation strategy especially how to bridge the digital divide between the developed countries and Africa. In her tenure at ATAC, Bekele co-authored the ‘Common Position for Africa’s Digital Inclusion’, which was developed in response to the ECA Conference of Minister’s Resolution 812 (XXXI) The ‘Common Position’ was a blueprint that reflected Africa’s ICT position which was communicated to various global forums such as the G8 DOT Force, ECOSOC, the UN Task Force, World Economic Forum, NEPAD initiatives, etc. She has since used this identifying framework for other ICT projects and Internet-Centered activities that are geared towards building a 21st-century e-enabled information and knowledge driven society in Africa.
In 2003, Bekele was also the East African Representative to the African Regional Network (ARN). Following such, in 2008, she has also served on the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development (UNGAID), an initiative started by the former United Nations Secretary-General, and chaired by the Chairmanship of Intel’s CEO Craig Barret, and in 2009 at the United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN/ITU) where she was representing the private sector in discussions about Public Private Partnership, e-government and MDG implementation.
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
Following service in the AISI Steering Committee in December 2005, Ms. Bekele was elected by the NomCom, under the then Chairmanship of Dr. Vinton Cerf, as the first African to serve and hold a seat on the gNSO (generic Names Supporting Organization) Policy Advisory council of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), that advises the ICANN Board on gTLD (generic Top Level Domain Name policy). In this position, Ms. Bekele contributed to global public policies that guide the development of the Internet, including the new gTLD policy and processes affecting .asia, .com, .net, .org etc. During her tenure, Sophia was also instrumental in initiating policy dialogue over IDNs as well as the formation of a IDN working group within ICANN. She was later credited for championing the inclusion of the global IDN community within this policy dialogue. As a result, Ms. Bekele was also nominated to chair ICANN’s IDN Working Group at gNSO. She was very influential in drafting the IDN policy guidelines as well as developed a framework for leading a language group. Additionally, Ms. Bekele has initiated the formation of the African grouping within ICANN.
“…I am most interested in the issues of emerging economies and the use of ICT and the growth of Internet or lack thereof over these environments. Therefore, the policies developed by ICANN over issues governing the global Internet particularly domain names could determine the gap in the digital divide within these economies…” Sophia Bekele, Statement of Interest 2005-2007
“On 11th December 2010 the International Domain Resolution Union endorsed the dotafrica project for DotConnectAfrica stating that “ Ms. Bekele, as a former gNSO advisor to ICANN, you have worked hard and long to champion Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). You have made the case within ICANN for a policy development process that will see IDNs in service of the world community. And you have done so successfully.” Endorsement— International Domain Resolution Union (IDRU) Global IDN Group
“An invasion of armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come.”- Ms Bekele Commenting on resistance to IDN policy.
Ms. Bekele’s has various written testimonials by the founders and pioneers of IDN Technology towards her contribution and championship of the IDN policy work at ICANN. Ref: ICANN WIKI
During the above period, Ms. Bekele has been advising in corporate development/communications programs for various start-ups and OTC within the US. Ms. Bekele’s advisory services in this area includes actively contributing to the short term and long term growth targets through planning and directing all aspects of the corporate business development, venture capital activities, due diligence, developing deal pipelines, deal negotiations, business plan valuations & modeling , strategic proposals that lead to global commercial alliances public relations strategy formulation and execution, and establishment of corporate governance guidelines. Ms. Bekele and her company assist various U.S. Clients in the public/private markets, primarily in corporate governance and risk management areas, including the recent Sarbanes-Oxley ACT, GAAP & PCAOB. In these areas, her selected clients has included OnScreen Technologies, Inc. (OTC), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq) BDO Sieldman LLP, Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco (FHLB), Genentech Corp (Gene).
“The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” Abraham Lincoln
DotConnectAfrica Her most recent venture is the establishment of the DotConnectAfrica Trust and DotConnectAfrica Registry Services Limited, which is well-known for its successful six year Yes2dotAfrica global awareness campaign for the .Africa Top Level Domain Name. Following the important experiences gained from her work as gNSO advisor to ICANN and successful achievement of IDN work for the global internet community, Ms. Bekele made a clear case for a DotAfrica (.africa) gTLD for Africa within ICANN and also introduced it to the PanAfrican organizations in Africa such as UNECA and African Union and the global public. She then received endorsements from both organizations in 2008 and 2009 respectively, and the global IDN working group for her DotAfrica Initiative.
As Executive Director of DCA Trust & CEO of DotConnectAfrica Registry Services Limited, she led a multi-national team of experts to prepare and submit an application for the DotAfrica (.AFRICA) generic Top-Level Domain on behalf of the global African Constituency in June 2012, to the US-based organization ICANN.
“Governments have a role to play, especially regarding the establishment of an enabling and supportive environment for ICT initiatives to thrive…. The problem is that this power to endorse is often interpreted and extended to include overall sovereignty over the new gTLD. We believe this should not be the case since it is monopolistic and anti-competitive coupled with problems of lack of transparency and accountability. Everyone should have a role in the process, and the boundaries that have been setup should be respected by everybody, with no exceptions or preferential treatment for governments and intergovernmental bodies.” –Sophia Bekele for CIO, March 2012
Key Roles The above positions in Ms. Bekele’s career play a pivotal role in building, guiding, and directing the overall future of the private/public sector in a collaborative fashion with members of Executive and Senior management and high level Public Authorities to identify, define and evaluate key strategic issues and develop appropriate policy and remediation guidelines to mitigate exposures
Speaking and Writings Bekele is also invited to speak on international foras to present her exemplary work in technology transfer, and her work was credited for bringing powerful advanced information technology to the developing world, with long-standing initiatives to bring the internet to Africa. She has made presentations at prestigious high-level meetings such as the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on ICT in New York, ITU “ConnectAfrica” Heads of State submit in Kigali Rwanda, and Stanford Women in Business in California alongside founders and executives of Pandora, YouTube, Gmail, and Yahoo, featuring people that have made great impact! Rebranding Africa with African Leadership Retreat in South Africa, and How to build a Top Level Domain Community in Munich, Germany.
She has been involved in public affairs commentary and advocacy and continues to write articles on technology for development, Internet Governance, regional economic integration, good governance, cyber security, business and politics; that have been published in different newspapers, journals and Internet web sites.
Public Service and Leadership positions Ms. Bekele was elected and served for two tenures on the Alumni Board member of Golden Gate University San Francisco; she is a Co-Founder and elected Executive Board member of Internet Society (SF Chapter)’. She was also elected member of ICANN Internet Corporation Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN) policy advisory council; elected and served as advisory member to ICT Policy to various United Nation Agencies including UNECA- (Economic commission for Africa) sponsored African Information Society Initiative (AISI) and the East African Representative to the African Regional Network (ARN), UNGAID, and UNPAN, where she represents the private sector in discussions about the economic development of Africa; a former Board Member of ISACA (Information Systems and Control Association), Bekele is currently a steering committee member to the World Affairs Council, Contra Costa. Over the years, Bekele has also served as an International Ambassador to various Rotary Clubs, where she has earned recognition of a Paul Harris Fellow for her contributions.
In 2013, Bekele was named one of the Top “50 Trailblazers” – A future made in Africa, in a ” Collector’s Edition”, published by the influential UK-based NewAfrican Magazine, which coincided with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the African Union/Organization of African Unity, and featured individuals “who are realizing significant achievements in their specific field of endeavor” and who are “breaking ground, making Africa proud and propelling it into a future of great hope.”
Also in 2013, Bekele was named as one of the “two leading ladies in Africa’s ICT sector” by “Bloomberg TV and enumerated in “African Women to Watch” a prime TV program, that “celebrates the most fearless, competitive and visionary African women of our time”, and explores “the women working hard to close the gender gap and shaping the continent’s social, political and economic landscape”.
In the same year of 2013, Bekele has also received many nominations including the TransformAfrica 2013 Continental Excellence Awards in ICT which was hosted by H.E Paul KAGAME, President of the Republic of Rwanda at Kigali Serena Hotel, 28-31 October 2013. In 2014 Forbes “Most Inspirational Young African Leader”. Recognizing her major contributions to her field, CIO East Africa in 2017 named her “Industry Trailblazer” and “Internet Governance Pioneer”
Education and Professional Competency Ms. Bekele holds an MBA in Management Information Systems (MIS) from Golden Gate University, San Francisco and a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Systems from San Francisco State University. She is also a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Control Specialist (CCS),and Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT), professional designations for competent knowledge and proficiency in the field of information systems audit, control and security and the governance of Information system.
Residency: Bekele travels globally for her work and shuttles regularly between her residences in Walnut Creek, California and Africa, where she has a firm based in business and family.