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4 Groundbreaking Innovators to Honor UK Black History Month

UK Black History Month 2021 is a time to celebrate and honor the achievements of Black innovators and entrepreneurs around the world.

Throughout history, people of Caribbean and African descent have been marginalized, targeted and discriminated against. In an effort to change the narrative, and bring awareness to the many contributions of Black people around the world, the United States created ‘Black History Month’ in 1976. Eleven years later, it was adopted by the United Kingdom.

To celebrate UK Black History Month this October, we want to highlight a few notable innovators who are significantly influencing change in society.

Notable Innovators to Celebrate

1. Farida Bedwei

Farida Bedwei is a renowned Ghanaian innovator and disability activist, known for her contributions to software development and disabled persons. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Bedwei sits on the board of Sharecare Ghana to advocate for the rights of disabled people and provide logistical aid to in-need children and adults.

Bedwei’s company, Logiciel, LTD, is a fin-tech organization that launched its flagship product Zigloi in 2013. Zigloi is disrupting the banking industry across Africa by offering accessible microfinance loans to populations that previously lacked access.

As a female entrepreneur, Bedwei has received multiple awards for her contributions including The Most Influential Woman in Business and Government in Africa in 2013.

2. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

A force to be reckoned with, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson is a particle physicist and one of the first African women to earn a Doctorate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

During her time at MIT, Dr. Jackson championed diversity and inclusion by forming the Black student union and traveling throughout the Midwest to actively recruit Black students; something MIT had never done before. Through her efforts, she increased the number of Black students from two to 57 after the first year.

Dr. Jackson also worked at Bell Laboratories between 1976 and 1988, where she conducted breakthrough research on the portable fax, touch-tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.

Currently, Dr. Jackson sits as the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Throughout her 22-year tenure, the Institute has made significant investments in both new and existing academic, research, and residential facilities.

3. Corville Allen

Corville Allen

Corville Allen has worked at IBM for the past 20 years, and is known as a ‘Master Inventor’. With more than 250 distinct patents filed under his name, Allen has focused on innovation in the fields of natural language processing and advanced cognitive algorithms within the healthcare industry. Three of his patents, US9015730B1, US10417313B2, US20070033594A1, have been cited over 50 times, providing the foundation for other inventors to evolve his technology and create new real-world solutions.

As a senior leader, Allen now provides mentorship to young inventors on how to navigate the patent system and helps promote a culture of innovation at IBM.

Figure 1: A citation map for Allen’s patent “US9015730B1”. On the right hand side, we can see all 63 patents that are currently citing Allen’s patent.

4. Olugbenga Agboola

Olugbenga Agboola is a Nigerian software engineer and the CEO of Flutterwave. Launched in 2016, Flutterwave has grown at an astonishing rate, and in 2021 it reached unicorn status.

Abgoola started his career developing fintech solutions for multiple tech companies and financial institutions. It was through this experience that he noticed how payment processing could be simplified in Africa. While many African countries had strong payment systems, none of them could communicate with each other. Flutterwave allows businesses to accept payment from their customers anywhere in the world, making it easier to facilitate payment and expand business beyond their national borders.

Outside of Flutterwave, Agboola has joined Endeavour, a nonprofit organization that supports high-impact entrepreneurs around the world. He also currently sits on multiple boards such as the Corporate Council of Africa and Great Life Alumni Association.

Author Bio

Christian Aqueci

Christian Agueci is a Project Manager on the client growth team at PatSnap. He graduated from Laurier University with an undergrad in biochemistry and a Master of Business Administration. During Covid, Christian took up a few hobbies including gardening and running. He plans to run his first marathon in the spring of 2022.