As we resume our journey, the Afrepreneur spotlight is on Ethan Mudavanhu a tech law and market intelligence expert and author. He shares insights from his journey thus far and what drives him to keep aiming for the stars.
Who is Ethan Mudavanhu and what is your area of speciality?
I am a consummate legal advisor on the engagement between business and technology. I gained experience as a technology law advisor at South Africa-based firm EndCode, a consulting firm that actively pursues an African agenda in tech law and policy development at national, regional, and international levels to increase access to the benefits of technology and innovation on the continent. Currently, I am a compliance and market intelligence consultant at Access Partnership, a global public policy firm at the forefront of regulatory issues surrounding digital infrastructure, satellite communications, data policies and the digital economy. I am also the Internet Society’s IGF Global Youth Ambassador, and the Capacity Building and Community Engagement Co-Lead at the Innovation Law Club Africa (ILCA), a regional community of technology law specialists. where I am responsible for the continual development of the knowledge and expertise of members of the organisation, establishing mentorship programs and onboarding new chapters across the African continent.
Outside of my legal work, I am the Non-Executive Director of a pan-African distribution company, Heshtyke Investments, that has shone through its proficiency and retained the business and trust of both local and international brands.
What inspired you to pursue this path and what did it take for you to get where you are now?
At the heart of it, I am drawn to the fight for equal rights and empowerment of historically disadvantaged groups. Motivated by the lacuna of African solutions to African issues, I have sought to play my role and contribute to Africa’s tech understanding and knowledge pool. So much so, that for my Cyber Law LLM-Core dissertation, my highly graded essay involved a comparative study between cyber policies in the private sector and in the public sector: suggesting innovative methods of improvement. Essentially, I have extensive knowledge on the nuances around gathering and giving data with regards to safeguards on appropriate rights and practices in such an insufficiently regulated digital field.
I also recognise the need to develop a technologically literate African population for the modern world. As any technological innovation definition would suggest, sociological factors play a significant role in its realisation. However, Africa has been pelted with digital inclusivity problems such as universal access, affordability, gender bias, critical infrastructure: making it hard to compete on the global stage. The region needs, informed, critical consumers and producers of knowledge. Thus, this is where my interests stem from. Put poignantly, my interests can be categorised in the following:
• Social transformation: ensuring that the educational imbalances of the past are redressed and that equal educational opportunities are provided for all sections of the population.
• Human rights, environmental and social justice: infusing the principles and practices of social and environmental justice and human rights as encouraged by the AU.
• Valuing indigenous knowledge systems: acknowledging the rich history and heritage of African countries as important contributors.
• Credibility, quality, and efficiency: providing infrastructures that are comparable in quality, breadth, and depth to those of other countries.
Every journey has its share of challenges; what were yours? And did you ever feel like giving up?
My story is one of access to opportunities. It’s about a young boy whose first real engagement with computers was in Varsity. Yet, he turned out to be an advisor on technology law. In my first year of Varsity I would have my brother type out my assignments after I had written them out – because attempting to type them out myself would mean missing my deadlines. So, as I was battling with grasping these technical legal concepts in law school, at the same time, I was grappling with the basics of how to type; how to use Microsoft Excel and Word etc. I essentially had to learn twice as hard, twice as fast as my peers. Although this is just one of many examples, the root challenge follows the same pattern. Like many black professionals in Africa, the challenge is we are constantly trying to catch up. This often results in us being discounted and in even self-doubt, which significantly impacts our performance and thereby sowing more doubt in our abilities – thus, the cycle repeats itself.
Talent and hard work cannot be overstated when it comes to how to overcome. However, what has assisted me in my personal walk has been intangible boasters. The first has been my faith. The second has been a mental shift from competing with others to competing with self. This means when I am down, I remember where I came from; when I am tired, I push past where I normally stop; when I am discounted by others, I prove myself right.
What are some of the notable milestones or achievements you have accomplished thus far?
All the above and more has led to being profiled as a Next-Gen Legal Trailblazer at the UK Minister of Trade and Minister of Justice’s 2020 UK-Africa Trade-Mission. I have had the honour of writing a book chapter titled: Why Traditional Knowledge Communities have not gained a Competitive Edge across International Markets: Finding the Middle-Ground Post COVID-19, alongside esteemed thought leaders on the African continent, for the Inter-Regional Economic Network. Other notable literary awards include the Young Writers Creativity Award and the National Institute of Allied Arts Achiever Award. Pursuant to my passion for contributing to Africa’s tech understanding and knowledge pool, I have enjoyed the pleasure of imparting my insights through speaking engagements at Monash IIE MSA, Visual Law Lab, Inter-Regional Economic Network, The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.
What is the big picture i.e., where to from here?
My goal is to simply build my professional and financial capital. Being this young I still feel as though I have an incredible amount of time to grow and find myself. Being in the tech ecosystem I also appreciate how technology moves at a lightning pace, therefore pinning down a specific future role is difficult. What I know for sure is I will always be at the intersection between technology and business, and I will always seek to impact as many African minds as I can reach.
What word of advice would you like to give to others reading your story?
Your purpose lies in your present. I am always asked how I got to where I am now and, even when I expect the question, I always struggle to answer it because the question has undertones of an arrival point. We tend to think of purpose as a far off ideal when in reality it’s an everyday realisation of your potential. I got to where I am by living in my purpose every day, and I will continue to grow by doing the same. So, at whatever point you read this at, whether you have: just received a rejection letter; or don’t even meet the minimum qualifications to apply; or whether you got what you always dreamed of but it’s not quite measuring up to your expectations, there is a beauty and a lesson in each day lived, but we just must be intentional with our attention. So choose what you pay attention to every day, and watch how your life begins to line up. Your purpose is found in the present.
One interesting fact about you?
At one point I was the fastest 16-year-old in the whole SADC region. What makes that even more interesting is that I learnt how to walk at 4 years old!
LinkedIn: Ethan Mudavanhu