African women steering continent’s digital transformation

  • Many female African tech entrepreneurs continue to impact the industry exponentially
  • Despite receiving 50 per cent less venture capital funding, global technology firms led by female entrepreneurs typically achieve a 35 per cent higher return on investment
  • The African Development Bank puts the funding gap for women entrepreneurs in Africa at US$42 billion

Although Africa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has witnessed a gender gap problem over the past decades, women-led businesses are going against the grain to emerge prosperous opening their countries and the continent to the global community. 

Despite the lack of gender diversity on investment boards, funding gaps, or even an unconscious bias, many female African tech entrepreneurs continue to impact the industry exponentially. 

A report by The Women in Tech Africa Summit 2019 showed that despite receiving 50 per cent less venture capital funding, global technology firms led by female entrepreneurs typically achieve a 35 per cent higher return on investment than those managed by men.

In the first half of 2021, African startups raised US$1.19 billion. However, female CEOs raised just 14 per cent of the financing, up from 2 per cent for the same period in 2020.

The African Development Bank puts the funding gap for women entrepreneurs in Africa at US$42 billion.

This should encourage more investors to take a gamble on women-led businesses in Africa’s tech space as they offer promising returns. 

Women in tech on the continent not only drive significant development in the African tech space, but they also simultaneously inspire young girls venturing into tech across the continent to do the same. 

Through funding, training, leadership or innovation, some of these women have become synonymous with groundbreaking tech innovations and transformations.

Here are some of the women changing the game in Africa’s tech space:

Read: How technology is driving African economies up

Image from Recap of African Women in Technology Conference #AWITKenya2017/ AWIT

Odunayo Eweniyi (Nigeria)

Odunayo Eweniyi, the co-founder and COO of Piggyvest is one of the women making huge strides in Africa’s tech space. She was recognised as one of Time Magazine’s 2021 Time 100 Next; Bloomberg’s Bloomberg 50 in 2020; Forbes Africa’s list of 20 New Wealth Creators in Africa 2019. 

She is the founder of FirstCheck Africa, a female-led, female-focused angel fund and investor community, and the co-founder of PushCV, a platform that connects top employers to recruiters.

Rebecca Enonchong (Cameroon)

Rebecca Enonchong is the founder and CEO of AppTech, a company that offers implementation, training, and application management services, with clients in more than 40 countries across three continents. 

She is also the co-founder of I/O Spaces, an inclusive co-working space in the Washington DC metro area. In addition, she sits on the board of numerous organisations, including WHO Foundation, AfriLabs Foundation, ActivSpaces and more.

So far, her work has earned her a spot on Forbes’ list of 10 Female Tech Founders to Watch in Africa; Black Enterprise – 2014 Women of Power; New African’s 50 Leading Women in Business in 2013, IT News Africa’s 10 Africans making waves in technology, and many more.

Judith Owigar(Kenya)

Judith Owigar is a Kenyan social entrepreneur who founded and currently leads JuaKali, a directory for Kenyan blue-collar workers, connecting them with institutional and individual clients.

She is also the founder of AkiraChix, an organisation whose vision is to nurture women who use technology to develop innovations and solutions for Africa. 

She serves in the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions (SPIDER) board, the Lumen Labs board, the Africa WeTech (Women Enhancing Technology) Leadership Council and the St. George’s Primary School Alumni Association.

Nneile Nkholise(South Africa)

Nneile Nkholise is a Lesotho-born medical practitioner who has taken to tech in helping solve health crises. 

She is the founder and CEO of iMed Tech, a biotechnology company specialising in the design and manufacturing of custom-made medical solutions to improve the lives of Africans. 

She is also the founder and CEO of 3DIMO, a community-based investment marketplace for agricultural commodities. It also facilitates the process of investing in specific organically grown crops and animals as assets and earning future returns from the sale of their produce.

Betelhem Dessie(Ethiopia)

Betelhem is the founder and CEO of iCog, an outfit touted as the first artificial intelligence lab in Ethiopia. 

She has received several notable recognitions for her work in tech, including being named the young pioneer in the Ethiopian emerging tech scene by CNN and BBC. 

She was a partner at Kuda Ventures, a Venture Capital & Private Equity, where she managed Kudu Women, a program by Kudu Ventures focused on investing in women founders and cofounders across multiple sectors.

Betelhem has four software programs copyrighted to her name, including an app developed for the Ethiopian government to map rivers used for irrigation.

Read: EU sign $34 million loan for female entrepreneurs in Ethiopia

More women changing Africa’s tech scene

Mary Mwange, CEO and founder of Data Integrated is driving innovation in the mobile payments sector in Nairobi, Kenya, and Mosa Mkhize in South Africa, who launched Origins Publishers to provide her children – and others like them – with books in their home languages.

Nigeria’s Maya HorganFamodu is a venture capital investor, founder and partner at Ingressive Capital, a $10million venture fund focused on early-stage African tech and provides market entry, technology research and market operations services for firms and businesses expanding into Africa. 

Ingressive Capital has more than doubled the assets under management it started out with by investing in pre-seed and seed-stage technology companies in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Egypt.

YanmoOmoregbe, also from Nigeria is a co-founder and the director of growth at Bamboo, a digital investment platform that curates stock-exchange traded stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), American depositary receipts (ADRs), and represents one of the newer generation of startups keen on helping Nigerians build wealth.

South Africa’s Zandile Keebine is the founder and CEO of GirlCode, a registered NPO (158-642) aimed at empowering women through technology. Since its inception, the initiative has empowered thousands of young women across Africa.

Female African tech entrepreneurs will definitely continue to impact the industry remarkably moving forward.

Read: US African Development Foundation signs $200,000 grant for Uganda’s female entrepreneurs

Kanyali Cynthia is a Kenyan-based financial journalist with key specialisation in data and tech reporting and over eight years of experience.

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