The Visiola Foundation’s 2015 Annual Gala Dinner took place on Saturday, May 2nd at the beautiful Thought Pyramid Art Centre in Abuja. The Gala was attended by distinguished STEM professionals, industry leaders, and professionals from various other sectors. Dr. Rabia Salihu Sa’id, winner of the prestigious 2015 Women in Science Elsevier Foundation Awards, gave the Keynote Address. Dr. Sa’id was honored by the Elsevier Foundation for her contributions to nanoparticle physics, computational mathematics and atmospheric physics, as well as for her efforts to encourage young women to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Engineer Valerie Ifueko Agberagba, a founding member of the Abuja Chapter of the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN) and National President of the Association in 2005 – 2007 also spoke at the event. Engineer Agberagba shared her passion for the growth of the engineering profession and underscored the importance of overcoming existing gender stereotypes in the field to encourage more women to pursue rewarding STEM careers.
During her remarks, Mrs. Lade Araba, the Founder and President of the Visiola Foundation, indicated that the Foundation is committed to nurturing, mentoring, and educating high-potential girls and young women in the STEM fields to build a pipeline of leaders and innovators who will help to transform African countries. She explained that as Nigeria and other African countries become more industrialized, they will require technically competent professionals with cutting-edge expertise in the STEM fields. The Visiola Foundation believes that its investment will help to address high unemployment rates, boost innovation, and overcome other important developmental challenges facing the region. She explained that the Visiola Foundation aims to educate and mentor 1,000 female STEM professionals over the next five years.
According to UNESCO (2012) and the 2013 Ibrahim Forum Facts & Figures published by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation,
Africa as a region produces the lowest share of engineering graduates, has the lowest physician-population ratio, and contributes the least to global innovation, among other things. In order to capitalize on its vast natural resources and large youth population, the continent must strategically invest in building the technical competencies that will equip graduates to think innovatively, solve problems, be flexible, and adapt to a changing global market.
Dr. Debisi Araba, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Visiola Foundation explained that members of the Board of Trustees, as well as professional and corporate friends of the Foundation also mentor the scholarship recipients. He noted that the Foundation currently partners with Lead City University (LCU) in Nigeria and is finalizing partnership plans with Ashesi University in Ghana, and the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in South Africa. These trailblazing institutions share similar values and are committed to raising a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders to help transform the African continent.