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Women are leading the way in east African tech

by James Musoba
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“The Future of Tech is female” written by Douglas Branson in 2018 saw women at the forefront of global technology.  Now, some four years later, we see evidence of this in east Africa.    For many years senior and c-tech positions were dominated by men.  However, in recent years more women acquired the skills and opportunities to join the tech industry and by 2019 they made up 30% of those working in the tech field in sub-Saharan Africa.  They are more and more being found in positions of power, developing technological products (like Everygame casino no deposit bonus) and services that many more people are benefitting from.

It is now difficult to ignore their impact on the industry.  In Kenya in 2021 women-led, medium-sized initiatives made up 48% of businesses and these provide approximately 20% of the country’s GDP.

With the help of local and companies in Silicon Valley, women are more able to overcome the obstacles in tech.   At the same time, many organizations in east Africa are stepping up to train young girls who will become the future founders of tech startups.

Women can finally become leaders

The belief that women are not able to deal with complicated technologies is finally changing.  Women are now being appointed to top tech jobs in east Africa, roles previously held mainly by men.

A few months ago, Catherine Muraga, became the new managing director of Microsoft Africa Development Centre (ADC) in Nairobi which employs as many as 1000 employees.  Prior to this appointment, she was head of engineering at Stanbic Bank, Kenya. When speaking to Quartz she said “The future of women in tech is promising; we have seen more women taking up leadership roles in technology departments.  The growth might be slow, but it is happening.”

Another high flyer, Rosemary Kimwatu, recently became the data protection officer at east Africa’s biggest bank by assets, KCB Bank Group.  She was previously the public policy manager at Mobile network operator Safaricom.  She joins Immaculate Kassait, who leads the industry as Kenya’s first data commissioner (2020).

Also, in June Kendi Ntwiga was hired by Meta to be its global head of misrepresentation.  It will be her job to scale Meta’s implementation of community standards. TechWomen, an enterprise initiated by the US state department, has recognized Ntwiga as an up- and- coming leader in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Two further women, Faith Gitonga is the Kenya country director of Cellulant, an African payments company and Caroline Mukiira is the general manager of IBM’s east Africa division.

Speaking to Quartz, Faith Mugambwa, based in Uganda, and managing director of fintech company Network International’s east Africa says “It’s great to see more women employed in product development and innovation roles at technology companies.  I would like to see more female voices involved at key decision-making levels to increase advocacy for other women.”

The future female leaders of tech

Women already in the tech industry as well as other sectors like government, education and nonprofit organizations are developing clever ways to encourage young girls and women that tech could be a career for them also.

There are some programs that are geared to teaching girls the skills needed to succeed in tech. For example, Women in Technology Uganda (Witu) teaches girls and women the skills that will be needed in a future economy.  On Witu’s website, it states that “over 75% of its more than 8,000 alumnae start their own businesses or land digital jobs.”   Another program is that offered by Tunga Hub. It also involves skills-based training and AkiraChix in Nairobi provides a coding course and is said to have taught over 10,000 women in east Africa this skill.

Another way to motivate people towards tech is by Pitch competitions. For example, Miss Geek Rwanda competition.  Here, young women can pitch their tech ideas to government reps.  Girls in ICT Rwanda are encouraged to develop all kinds of business and tech ideas that can be used to change lives.

During Africa Code Week, BiHub initiative in Burundi puts on a Miss Tech Burundi competition.  Here women that have skills in design thinking and app development can show their ideas and compete with one another.

Networking is a crucial element in terms of succeeding in tech and the Women Tech Network has mentoring and networking possibilities in more than 172 countries. These include Rwanda and Kenya.

Another organization, Women in Tech Africa, states on its website that it strives to “raise today’s female leaders and role models for the next generation.”

An initiative was launched in 2020 to draw together women from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from the DRC in order to change the way in which women and science are stereotypically viewed. Other hubs currently exist for girls in tech like Apps & Girls which is suitable for schoolgirls. There is also Code like a Girl, Vodacom’s initiative and also TechChix whose aim is to close the gender gap that exists in tech.

There are also individual women who have decided to make a difference by educating young girls in Kenya.  Linda Bonyo, Evelyn Ngatia and Audrey Cheng have set up Lawyers’ Hub Africa, Techawatt and Moringa School.

Sandra Chogo, a Tanzanian auditor and blockchain trainer published the first book ever that explains the applicable uses of blockchain technology in the Swahili language.  Swahili is spoken by 200 million people in Africa. Her time is also spent in teaching Tanzanians all about blockchain, fintech and AI.

Linda Kamau, founder of AkiraChix says “We recognize the things that hinder women students from succeeding…financial barriers, gender roles and not feeling believed in, a lack of encouragement to move into technology…and we want to break down as many of those barriers as possible.”

Therese Kirongozi, DRC engineer the creator of traffic safety robots in Africa which has significantly reduced road accidents spoke to Sisi Afrika and said “If we look at the evolution of the world today, the revolution of artificial intelligence, we are pushing more young girls to follow suit more at the university level…because we have found that the future of mankind rests on this kind of option.”

The future

Much has already been done but there is still a long way to go. According to Mugambwa, fintech managing director “I would like to see more mentorship and coaching opportunities to help aspiring women in tech tackle any double they might have about their abilities or ambitions in tech.  There is still a financial challenge, with women facing more challenges to access funding or capital for tech businesses as well as the continued gender pay gap.”

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