Ruby Igwe is on a transformational journey to empower tech innovators and entrepreneurs in Africa.

Ruby Igwe is one of Africa’s youngest female tech leaders who continues to light her path following an illustrious decade of professional work. Currently, she serves as the pioneer Country Manager, Nigeria at Sand Technologies (ALX Africa); a global technology brand where she leads a 50-member team in Nigeria on the mission to shape and empower the next generation of technology innovators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders with access to in-demand tech skills, lifelong opportunities and networks that would transform their lives and livelihoods.

The decision to shape and drive innovation within the tech industry is a unique one as it offers perspectives that are equally unique — paving the way for progress both locally and globally while empowering others to dream big and achieve their goals in this sector. To achieve this, Igwe employs a strategic approach to driving societal change through community-wide tech literacy and leadership training. Through ALX Nigeria, she has impacted over 145,000 unskilled youths in Nigeria with tech skills and rewarding jobs, of which over forty per cent is female.

In addition, she has accumulated multiple awards under her belt in the process including: the prestigious AOT Social Innovation Award and Gage EdTech Award. As a valuable tech ecosystem leader passionate about culture and infrastructure, she co-founded and continues to support Archivi. ng, a tech startup actively contributing to the critical mission of preserving Nigeria’s history through the digital documentation of newspapers. Evidently, Igwe is largely driven by authentic leadership and quality service, while continuously breaking down barriers, she is actively inspiring emerging leaders to pursue their passions and aim for the stars with their professional aspirations.

Impressively, she is also a creative powerhouse. Igwe is an award-winning film writer and producer. Her short film, Samaria won several international awards, including the ‘My 1st Short Film’ award at the Stockholm Film Festival, Sweden. Moreso, she is a versatile author of two published books on Amazon. Her overall story is one that demonstrates perseverance and resilience. Igwe is proof that hard work can lead to both a fulfilling career and life.

She is also a teacher at heart. She teaches Corporate Law at the Centre for Law and Business and mentors thousands of youths in communities like ALX, Co-Create, Women-in-Tech, YALI among others. She holds a degree in Law from the University of Kent and a certificate in Leadership from Beni-American University. By fostering a culture of excellence and diversity in the tech and creative spaces, Ruby Igwe is ultimately building a community where people can feel valued, supported, and empowered. Through such action and impact, Igwe is raising the bar, while challenging stereotypes and inspiring the next generation of innovators to reach new heights and strive for greatness in today’s digital landscape.

As one of Africa’s youngest female tech leaders, can you tell us what inspired you to pursue a career in technology and leadership and how your journey led you to your current role as Country Manager at ALX Nigeria?
I would attribute my journey into leadership and technology to two factors: first, an act of divine providence, and second, the dynamic changes in the world of work. I believe I belong to the class of leaders that Shakespeare described as “born great” and “others with greatness thrust on them.” My position as the first girl and child in my family meant I had to take responsibility very early in life. I was raised to embrace leadership values such as service, empathy, hard work, and selflessness. Thankfully, I had biological role models within my large and closely-knit family who consciously prepared me for my future. My natural disposition earned me several leadership positions, from my primary education to my tertiary education. Cognitively, I knew I would be a leader all my life, so I approached every work and play from a leadership mindset. It’s a God-given gift and privilege that I have consciously nurtured under the tutelage of family and career mentors.

On the other hand, I wasn’t always a tech natural. With a background in law and a lineage rooted in the creative arts, most of my career experience was in business operations, customer service, project management, content creation, and film production. Then, COVID-19 hit the globe. Just as the pandemic brought a shift to global work life, I had to make a mental adjustment from content creation for creatives to an explosive journey in tech. And my tech career kicked off with Sand Tech Technologies, of which ALX Africa is an arm. I served as the country activation manager, during which I oversaw talent acquisition and management for a period. When the position of Country General Manager was open, I hesitated because I thought I was new in the organization, but some executives encouraged me, and I got the role as pioneer, first female, and youngest country manager in the region. This is my second year in the position and third year in the organization.

Can you share your experiences as the pioneer country manager at Sand Technologies (ALX Africa)? What are some of the challenges and successes you’ve encountered while leading a 50-member team in Nigeria?
Sand Technologies is a global company that implements digital transformation projects for leading organizations and governments around the world. You can imagine it’s an innovative, fast-paced, and competitive place to work. I applied for the role of Country Manager at ALX Nigeria upon kind recommendations by other managers and executives. This suggests how much the organization recognizes potential and motivates employees to do more. Even though I was the youngest and first female Country Manager in the African region, I received a warm welcome and I have since enjoyed so much growth under the leadership of our CEO, Fred Swaniker. The work culture is so warm and inclusive.

Consequently, leading ALX Nigeria and its innovative team has been both fulfilling and rewarding. Our mission is to develop at least 3 million ethical, entrepreneurial, and empowered African leaders by 2035. We know that, as the most populous country on the continent, our work in Nigeria is so significant to the overall purpose. At the beginning, I must admit, there were challenges within the team to mentally accept the realities of female leadership given the socio-cultural nuances and biases that exist across Nigeria. Through empathy, humility, and authentic leadership, I quickly gained trust and confidence within the team. Also, offering tech courses and training across Nigeria is very tasking. As one of the leading tech accelerators in Nigeria, we face the challenge of getting the attention of youths in Nigeria who already grapple with other serious challenges such as hunger, poor access to the internet and tech accessories, etc. Despite these challenges, we work so hard, enhancing tech and entrepreneurship skills among youths and women, and contributing directly to unemployment, entrepreneurship, and workforce development in Nigeria. So far, we have directly affected over 145,000 youths in Nigeria with better livelihoods. Today, we boast of over 200,000 in online community strength across the 36 states of Nigeria. We are helping hundreds launch innovative tech businesses, and exclusively leading multiple cohorts of women-focused tech training and business pitches, attracting partners and supporters like Mastercard Foundation, Holberton, Explore AI Academy, LSETF, 9Mobile, Healthtracka, Herconomy, and many others. Within just two years, we played a pivotal role in improving the livelihood of countless lives and fostering a generation of skilled and empowered individuals, of which over 40% are female; and achieved multiple awards and recognition in the process, including the prestigious AOT Social Innovation Award in 2023 and the Gage Awards for EdTech in 2024.

Through ALX Nigeria, you’ve impacted over 145,000 unskilled youths, with over 40 percent being female. What specific programs or initiatives have you found most effective in empowering young women in tech?
Apart from our courses and flagship programs, one of the most effective and successful initiatives for women’s empowerment has been the “Pitch-Your-Business” competition, which we organize in partnership with the telecom giant 9Mobile. Let me quickly state that, against popular belief, we receive a very high number of applications from women for our programs. Over the years, we have seen the number of our ALX learners increase from about ten percent to forty percent female participation. Now, the Pitch-Your-Business competition celebrates home-grown business ideas and innovations among young tech innovators. We encourage submissions from youths and select winners through a panel review system. I am pleased to inform you that the winners of the last two editions are female tech innovators.

Our mission is to develop at least 3 million ethical, entrepreneurial, and empowered African leaders by 2035.

Ruby igwe

Beyond technology, you are also an award-winning film writer and producer. Tell us a bit more about this, your experience leading up to becoming an award-winning filmmaker, and how you balance your creative projects with your demanding role in tech leadership.
I was born into filmmaking. My mum, the legendary Amaka Igwe, was a seasoned professional in the field. She was good at her craft, and as an “invited guest,” I was exposed to the trade, learned the lingo, mastered stillness when the camera was rolling, and got caught up in the hustle and bustle of the production office or the costume department. As a child and teenager, I had extensive exposure to the creative process, from developing story ideas to the technical aspects of production. This environment sparked an interest in the craft. I also helped my mother cut scenes before she edited them, and at some point, I was proofreading and editing scripts en masse. When my mother realised, they weren’t chores but fun to me, she doubled down. This meant I had unparalleled access to her mentorship and guidance. She trained me to write and produce, and faithfully attended her classes. Her experiences, challenges, and successes provided invaluable insights and inspired a similar path.

Today, I write stories and produce films because I do not see myself as just a tech leader but as a builder. I build organizations and national infrastructure through my work at ALX Nigeria, I build my country through community engagements, and I strongly believe I can build people through the power of storytelling. Because I approach my creative projects as a calling, I create systems that help me manage my other commitments. My counsel to women who want to do more is that they should create and value support systems around them. There is no need to abandon your calling or get so overwhelmed when you can leverage people around.

Ruby igwe

Your short film, “Samaria,” has won several international awards. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this film and its impact?
Chiemeka Osuagwu and I produced the short film ‘Samaria.’ The film seeks to tackle issues relating to girl child rights. Shot in the heart of Lagos, the 15-minute film spotlights the struggles an average girl child faces in Nigeria. The film features a versatile cast that includes the talented Baaj Adebule and new faces: Ife Eninla, Judith Ochasi, and Gbemisola Oluyemi. Samaria looks at the stark realities young girls face daily because of their gender.  It is a creative tool for drawing the attention of stakeholders and policymakers for pragmatic solutions to the challenges of the girl-child.

Samaria has already won and received a few awards and nominations at international film festivals ahead of its release. It won the ‘My 1st short film’ award at the Stockholm City Film Festival, Sweden. The movie was nominated for ‘Best Nollywood Film—New Filmmaker’ and ‘Best Festival Themed Film’ at the Realtime International Film Festival, Nigeria. It also received two nominations for ‘Best Short Film—Nollywood’ and ‘Best Short Film—International’ at the Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival, Canada.

Co-founding Archivi.ng showcases your commitment to preserving Nigeria’s history. How did you identify the need for this digital documentation project, and what impact has it had so far?
Archivi.ng is a non-profit actively contributing to the critical mission of preserving Nigeria’s history through the digital documentation of newspapers and other materials, and then making them accessible to everyone online. This is critical, as so much of our history and any country’s history is documented, to what made it to the front pages daily. I am passionate about culture, our creative industries, and infrastructure development.

Fu’ad Lawal leads the charge here and has been working tirelessly with a formidable team of staff, supporters, and volunteers. So far, we have 4,029 newspapers scanned, over 60,000 pages scanned, and $23,073 raised thus far. We are also currently fundraising for our next phase of operations. I’m excited about this project and the doggedness of our team, and I am looking forward to being even more hands-on than I have been able to be lately.

With your extensive background in law, tech, and creative industries, what advice would you give to young aspiring female leaders in Africa who are looking to make a significant impact in their fields?
I am a product of self-belief and quality mentorship. Even if you have people around you who are willing to push you up the career ladder, if you do not have strong self-belief, you will not be a successful leader. I urge aspiring female leaders in Africa to consciously set down mental barriers and face their fears. I believe the biggest challenge is the mental limitations that most women put on themselves. They must seek support from other women and even men instead of competing against one another and hampering their chances of securing more opportunities, even in nuanced positions.

As a young girl, sit down and ask yourself some questions. What do I want to be? What do I need to get there? What are my chances? What advantages do I have, and what odds may be stacked against me? Who is already doing what I want to do? Reach out and get a mentor in your field of interest. This will make your journey faster and more rewarding. I believe Africa will only realize less than half of her potential if female leaders hide in the shadows. Girls, this is your moment of glory. Seize it!

In your opinion, how can companies encourage a culture of diversity and inclusion in Africa to make your field a more accessible and welcoming space for the youth?
Organizations should design innovative tech initiatives and programmes that will allow youths from different ethnic groups within Africa to sit together and share ideas. The challenges in Africa require a corporate approach; unity must be fostered by rolling out youth-centered programmes such as tech competitions, business pitches, and more. I believe Sand Technologies (ALX Africa) is a good model for companies in Africa. ALX has deliberately built a global brand that is a safe space for youths. The key success factors are simplicity, innovation, energy, zest, and community. On community building, ALX doesn’t just tech-train. It consciously developed a thriving learning community, the largest across the region, which fosters peer collaboration, prototyping, wholesome soft skills development, and lifelong learning among learners. This model led to a high rate of applicants seeing their programmes through because of the community-first approach. Companies should build youth-friendly ecosystems that boost innovative conversations.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for ALX Nigeria and the broader tech landscape in Africa? How do you envision the future of tech innovation and education on the continent?
ALX Nigeria remains committed to our vision of empowering three million youths across Africa by closing the skill gap and technical challenges through the delivery of in-demand tech skills to raise competent and ethical leaders across the continent. With the growing influence of artificial intelligence (AI), the future of tech innovation and education will depend largely on the effective use of AI tools. There is a current AI boom that is fueling global market gains. The market size is projected to reach US$305.90 billion by this year, showing an annual growth rate of 15.83% between 2024 and 2030. Countries like Singapore, Canada, and New Zealand are leading in AI, and Africa must jump in quickly. We are often reactive in the technology industry when we actually have the potential to be market leaders if only we could have faith in home-grown innovations and our talents.

At ALX Africa, we recently launched one of Africa’s flagship programmes on AI, called the AI Career Essentials (AiCE). It is an online six-week programme that empowers the learner to use AI tools to accomplish professional tasks, ace interviews, and solve complex problems. We expose our learners to technical and knowledge skills that will position them to be industry competitors within a short period. I encourage Nigerians to enroll and learn basic AI skills to boost their careers. Also, after going through the Software Engineering program, there is an Applied AI course where learners can try their hand at building tools of their own.