2020 Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation winner, and the first woman to win the award, Charlette N’Guessan, 26-year-old CEO of BACE Group, talks on her pride in thriving in a male-dominated industry and facing into the issue of cybersecurity in Africa.
Charlette N’Guessan is an Ivorian woman, passionate about the use of technology at the heart of business innovation.
I have a background in electronics and software engineering, and I am currently a student in Data Science and Machine learning.
Also certified in digital identity and co-author of the AI Book published by Wiley in April 2020, I am a co-founder and CEO of BACE Group.
In 2017, I decided to start my career as a tech entrepreneur. The same year, I was selected as the first French-speaking woman to join MEST, a training program for tech entrepreneurs based in Accra, Ghana. This is where I met my co-founders, and together, we decided to study the local market. We noticed that cybersecurity is a huge problem, especially in Africa, because the growth of online businesses, and the enthusiastic embrace of new technologies on the continent, have not been matched by an equivalent commitment to cybersecurity.
As data scientists, software engineers, and users of these services, I and my co-founders, therefore, decided to create BACE Group in September 2018, a disruptive startup with the objective of helping African businesses, in particular financial companies, fight against online identity fraud and to contribute to financial inclusion.
We noticed that online identity fraud is increasing on the continent at a staggering pace and financial institutions are spending a lot of money to meet the “Know Your Customer” regulatory requirements since the majority of African countries have issues with identity schemes.
Our solution, BACE API, is a digital identity verification system using facial recognition powered by AI. Our solution enables financial institutions and online businesses facing KYC issues and online identity fraud to verify their customers’ identities even remotely. BACE is built on high-security standards and can easily be consumed by any systems.
The verification process with the BACE API consists of:
- Prove that the person is alive, real and does not correspond to a robot.
- The person behind the screen corresponds with the photo on his identity document. The client is who they claim to be.
- The data is then extracted from the identity document (The surname, first name, and identification number of the person).
- All data is then matched with facial biometrics in an issuing authority.
Note that our product is an efficient solution responding to the impact of COVID19 on businesses. Using our product businesses can now authenticate and onboard new or existing customers without having to show up in person. The whole process is transparent, secure, remote, and digital.
The main drawback we face is that we have studied our market, and the need is real, but regulations do not facilitate the process, generally for local startups. Plus, companies don’t trust technology the way they claim. We are aware that we use very advanced technologies, so we must educate our market and create a climate of trust.
My proudest achievement to date is to be the first woman to win the Africa Prize. This award means a lot to me because I have evolved in an ecosystem dominated by men. I know the realities and challenges of this ecosystem. As a woman who has carved out a niche in this industry, I believe my experience can inspire other young women and girls to pursue careers in tech. In addition, this award means a lot to BACE, we are proud to see our work recognized by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Away from it all I love to travel, photograph and dance. Sometimes I spend time with my family or friends.
This article first appeared in the West African Times.