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African Women in Tech Spotlight: Nanjira Sambuli

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As mentioned in our Discovering African Women in Tech article, we found that despite the industry growing rapidly, women still are a minority specifically in positions of leadership and especially the software engineering positions. The industry is still male dominated despite the best efforts of many corporate and non-profit organizations to increase the number of women in the space and that as a result of that we took a keen interest to shine a spotlight on women in Tech in Africa.

On today’s spotlight we feature Nanjira Sambuli. She works at the intersection of policy and technology, leading the Web Foundation’s efforts to promote digital equality in access to and use of the web around the world. She has such an impressive profile!

Nanjira Sambuli

Nanjira is a Fellow in the Technology and International Affairs Program at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a Ford Global Fellow. She is also President and co-Chair of the Transform Health Coalition, a board member at The New Humanitarian, Development Gateway and Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and a Commissioner on the Lancet & Financial Times Global Commission (Governing Health Futures 2030).

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Nanjira also sits on several advisory boards, including the World Economic Forum’s Technology and Social Justice Initiatives, ⟨A+⟩ Alliance for Inclusive Algorithm and the Carnegie Council’s AI and Equality Initiative. Additionally, she is a Diplomacy Moderator at the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) Nanjira has served as a Senior Policy Manager and previously as the Digital Equality Advocacy Manager at the World Wide Web Foundation.Nanjira Sambuli was the former Research Lead and Research Manager at iHub in Nairobi between 2013 and 2016. She has spoken at  a number of conferences and events about digital equality and digital policies, including re:publica 2019, rp:Accra 2018, Open Up 2016 and the African Summit on Women and Girls in Technology. Nanjira is a member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation and served as a deputy on the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment (2016–17).

Nanjira had this to say regarding women’s engagement with technology across Kenya: 

“Anecdotal evidence indicates that Kenyan women are claiming their space in the local and even international tech domains, but official statistics are lacking, which makes it harder to speak authoritatively on how Kenya fares compared to other countries. 

One space that shows the transformational potential of tech use by women is social media. It’s beautiful to watch women claim spaces for engagement, for discussing issues affecting women, specifically, and even for organizing. The evergreen issue of the two-thirds “gender rule” — on which the government continues to fall short — is frequently debated on social media, stirring the public conscience. [Editor’s note: According to Kenya’s constitution, no more than two-thirds of the members of elective bodies should be of the same gender. But women’s representation currently stands at 21% compared to the target 33%, and continues to be a polarizing topic in Kenyan politics.

It’s such an exciting perch-point to assess societies’ pasts, presents and futures, and how technologies will affect these. I engage with actors from all sectors (private, public, civil society) with all kinds of backgrounds to shape rules of engagement towards ensuring that we achieve equity and equality in this digital age. Every day brings an opportunity to learn and unlearn, and challenges the notion of who is an expert, or who gets to shape the rules going forward.”

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We are in love with Nanjira Sambuli because at age 34 she is breaking the barriers women have experienced in the tech space. She was named one of New African Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Africans in 2016, and BBC 100 Inspiring and Influential Women in 2019. She is a huge inspiration to women in Africa and to us here at Techmoran. 

It is our responsibility to tell these stories, to document the impact, to drive the inclusion of women in Tech. If you are a woman in Tech and you would like us to shine a spotlight on your work, please email us on [email protected] and we will be in touch!

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