In 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war”.

The WFP’s current goal is to advance the world’s population toward Zero Hunger by 2030. A daunting task, and one that takes passion, dedication and a variety of skills, as well as requiring supporting digital technologies and expertise. And it is here that Kenyan networking expert, Ernest Wambari, makes an important contribution.

A graduate of the Cisco Networking Academy, an education programme that empowers students in 180 countries with career possibilities in IT, security, and networking, Wambari is a member of the global WFP networking team. Through its efforts to streamline and modernise the WFP operation, the work done by Wambari and his team has become increasingly important as the global COVID-19 pandemic brings humanity’s food security under even greater threat.

“With technology, the approach to Zero Hunger will be accelerated more than ever before,” said Wambari. “There is more intelligence involved in how we provide our services to make us more efficient and more impactful.”

A life-defining moment

Hailing from Nairobi, Kenya, Wambari had little interest in – or access to – technology when growing up. All of this changed however in 2002 when, following in his father’s footsteps to become an electrical engineer, he saw an advert for the Cisco Networking Academy at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and he applied.

Fast forward to 2007, and Wambari had become the first and youngest Kenyan at age 25 to achieve a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert classification (CCIE). From there, he was employed by several Cisco partners, including Seven Seas, Dimension Data, and Cisco itself, as well as establishing his own business, before subsequently joining WFP’s team of network engineers in 2019.

“I work with a team of talented network engineers, and the role involves everything from the technical aspects to project management to budgets to training to communication, and just generally ensuring that we all work together as a team.”

“Right now,” he added, “we’re doing a refresh of over 400 locations and deploying some new edge devices.”

Inspiring others to make a positive impact

As an African, food security is close to Wambari’s heart, and his enthusiasm for what can be accomplished by WFP has been deepened further since the Peace Prize award.

“I feel like this is a role that I was subconsciously working towards all this time,” he said. “I was excited coming here because most of the countries we serve are in the developing world. We provide food and we facilitate that through technology.

And Wambari’s passion doesn’t stop here. As a certified Cisco Networking Academy instructor, he is committed to giving back, as he inspires others to discover their own paths.

“It’s a great way to use the skills that you have to help the community, your country and those around you,” he continued. “I am using my skills to help make the world a better place, to feed more people, and create an opportunity for others to thrive.”

For nearly 24 years, Cisco Networking Academy has been partnering with leading educational institutions, non-profits, and governments around the world, offering technical training and professional skills development training to more than 12.6 million students in 180 countries.

Last year, 2.3 million students from all backgrounds and experiences participated in the free-of-charge programme through 11,800 academies worldwide. In addition, 95 percent of students who complete the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) courses worldwide say the programme helped them obtain a job or educational opportunity, with two million CCNA students finding new jobs over the past 15 years.

In 2019, Cisco announced its commitment to support the digitisation of Africa’s communities, businesses, and governments through initiatives for skills and talent development, innovation and job creation. Building on that commitment, during 2020, Cisco Networking Academy has carried out several initiatives, as a result of which more than 275 thousand students and instructors acquired new digital skills.

Cisco Networking Academy offers an education that’s second to none, said Wambari. His advice to aspiring technical professional is to understand that it can be daunting, but these skills are needed now more than ever, so go forth with confidence!

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