My profile of the week is Sierra Leone’s Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education Dr David Moinina Sengeh. “The Inclusion Guru”
Say you visited the Nyali Clothing designer store in Sierra Leone and you happened to bump into a gentleman, with flowing dreadlocks, a baby on his back and rapping away, what would you think? You will most likely smile dismissively and move on thinking it must be some happy go luck guy hanging around. The odds are that you just walked passed, the owner of the store, a rapper and lyricist but more especially Sierra Leone’s Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education and Chief Innovation Officer for the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation. David Moinina Sengeh. He is my profile of the week.
David Moinina Sengeh is a Research Scientist at IBM Research Africa, Nairobi. His research is at the intersection of applied analytics/machine learning and healthcare with a focus on Africa. He was born and raised in Sierra Leone, received his PhD at the MIT Media Lab, where his research in the Bio mechatronics Group focused on the design of comfortable prosthetic sockets and wearable interfaces. This work was at the intersection of medical imaging, material science, human anatomy, computer- aided design and manufacturing. An alumni of UWC Red Cross Nordic, and Harvard, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture and Planning, Program in Media Arts and Sciences, 2016. The theme of his theses was: “The use of a novel residuum model to design a variable-impedance transtibial prosthetic socket”. He is an IBM Researcher and a TED Fellow. He made it on the Forbes 30 Forbes Under 30 in Technology for 2013, the Wired Smart List 2013, winner of the Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize, and won many other awards. He has been invited to give talks at institutions like the United Nations, corporate and academic organizations on topics related to education, youth innovation, prosthetics design and more.
He is the President and co-founder of the international NGO Global Minimum Inc. (GMin). Currently, GMin’s main project is Innovate Challenges; the first-ever competition created to foster a culture of innovation among high-school students in Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa. Innovate Challenges is a mentorship program and set of workshops where youth can get help in transforming their ideas into tangible solutions. GMin was one of three winners out of 1000 nominees for the Rockefeller Foundation Next Century Innovators Awards in 2013. Previously, GMin led the distribution of over 16,000 mosquito nets to cover over 28,000 people in Sahn Malen chiefdom in Sierra Leone.
Dr Moinina had for a moment as an undergraduate considered becoming a medical doctor. However, the history of violence in Sierra Leone and the prevalence of amputees drove him towards drove him towards the engineering side of healthcare. He had seen the suffering of those with prosthetics as they struggled with their artificial limbs. He now decided to concentrate on working on the kind of technology that will help the designing of comfortable interfaces for the human body.
Researcher, scientist, Minister (as a matter of fact the youngest ever Education Minister in Sierra Leone) mentor to the youth, artist, lyricist, and a highly solicited inspirational speaker, the inevitable question is how does he do all of this? His answer to this is simple. He is drawn toward the problem solving. Which is a resultant from the love for service which he inherited from his father who was a teacher and his mother who was a typist. He easily laughs about the idea that people look at him strangely because he has dreadlocks or dresses differently. He attributes this the culture and certain cases to stereotypes inherited from colonialism. He is repulsive to the statement always made about the fact that the youth are the future of the country. He strongly believes that the youth most own “ the now”. The future will be too late, so it is important the youth to act now.
Digitalization, to Dr. Sengeh is the key towards development. He has started with his Ministry and through his position as the officer in charge of innovation he is pushing digitisation. He has been known to say his conscience guides him and he pays no heed to negative forces and politically motivated critics.
He has been able to make it possible for pregnant girls to go back to school During a zoom conference last year he was spotted with his 10-month-old daughter on his back. The picture of this event went viral causing him to he comment that, if it was a women who did it would not have gotten such publicity; just because many would have found the image completely normal and ordinary. This exposes according to him serious issues about gender equity. Many men after this it is said posted pictures of themselves to show what the did at their homes.
According to Africa’s premier Pan African magazine the New African. Which classifies Dr. Sengeh as one of the most influential people Africans for the 2020, “ his success in implementing policy is based around two factors, trust from your leadership, to give the bandwidth to do things, but then again once given the bandwidth, you need to be able to measure success (and failure) and to be accountable”.
By going where others do not dare in the interest of making the lives of the citizens of his country better, Dr. Sengeh is definitely a star in his country and most definitely their “Innovation Guru”. In words of one of his songs “I do this for me, I do this for her, I do this for this who never can do this”.