For years, women and technology are not words that have found use in the same sentence often. The notion has been that tech – like construction, mining, and oil and gas exploration – is an unofficial boys’ club. And there are few places where this stark divide is, or rather has been, apparent than in the cradle of civilization itself, Africa.
Over the last eight years or so, however, the tide has shifted immensely. Women have taken it upon themselves to pull down the ‘No Girls Allowed’ sign hung on the door. And again, in few places has this been more evident than in the great continent. The incredible thing about tech innovations in Africa is that they tend to, in an immense kind of way, positively impact on people, either through agriculture, education, health et al.
Here are top 10 African women who have made great breakthroughs in the field of technology, and are currently sitting pretty in the male-dominated industry.
A popular face on CNN and BBC with relation to technology and women leadership, Ethel Cofie is the founder of Women in Tech Africa, the pioneer of the 1st Pan African woman in tech meetup.
The Ghanaian is a Mandela Fellow for President Obama’s YALI initiative (Young African Leaders) and was selected for the UN GEM Tech Award for her efforts in supporting African women in the ICT sector.
She sits on many boards, most of which are in the technology domain.
A Columbia University postgraduate in the field of Electronics and electrical Engineering, Funke had an illustrious career as Verizon Communications executive director (Wholesale division) in New York before she called it quits and returned to her motherland in 2005.
According to Girls in ICT, she worked with high profile firms including MTN Nigeria, Transcorp and NITEL before founding Main Street Technologies in 2007. It is for her work here that she has been christened Nigeria’s cyber revolutionary, and understandably so. Her company managed to raise $240 million to build the Main One Cable, a 7,000km submarine cable that runs from Portugal through Ghana and into Nigeria.
Its wholesale capability implies that several West African countries now rely on her brainchild for broadband Internet.
The Kenyan is Co-founder and Operations Director of JuaKali, an online and mobile directory for Kenyan workers in the blue-collar sector.
Forbes has acknowledged her as one of the most popular female tech leaders in her country. And with her exploits extending to Akirachix, it’s easy to see why. The objective of this organization is to inspire and develop young women in technology by combining a mix of training, mentoring and networking programs.
She has numerous recognitions for her contribution to the tech industry, both local and international.
Having started her career at Shell Petroleum Development Company, Ehimuan’s career credentials are probably as impressive as her academic’s.
She has had stints with, among others, the likes of Microsoft UK as Program Manager, during which she was credited for successfully launching the MSN online subscription business in Europe.
Since 2011, the Nigerian-born has worked as Google Country Manager in her home country, the continent’s largest Internet-user community. Little wonder she couldn’t miss in the Forbes 20 Youngest Power African Woman list.
The telecoms engineer puts her skills to good use by supporting various communities in her home country, Benin.
She is the founder and president of FemTICDev, an NGO that seeks to support women and the girl child to become important players in the technology landscape. Her blog seeks to rein in the misconceptions and negative stereotypes surrounding those living with disabilities.
She is deputy chair of the Committee on Technology of Africa Youth Movement and regional ambassador for AfricaITWomen and GlobalTechLeaders. The Moremi Initiative has feted her as an Emerging African Women Leaders.
Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei
The organization offers a platform through which female African entrepreneurs across the continent can access capital, knowledge and networking opportunities to build their businesses.
The founder of South African-based Afroes Transformational Games aims to impart upon the African youth leadership and entrepreneurship skills by making use of interactive mobile learning strategies.
Her edu-tech firm was founded on the basis of providing these skills to an otherwise jobless, disempowered youth that is deemed to be either a burden to states or poses a threat to its countries’ stability.
Her works have been acclaimed both locally and internationally.
Njideka Harry felt an urge to uplift the lives of African women and youth in regions blighted by poverty and insidious unemployment. It is then that she founded the Youth for Technology Foundation (YFT) in Nigeria back in 2001.
The academy has allowed beneficiaries to gain access to the economic mainstream by imparting them with life skills and necessary resources – to great effect.
Rwanda’s Larissa with her CARL Group was this year chosen by the World Economic Forum for her strides in improving the health of the nation.
Working in conjunction with the University of Rwanda, she has managed to achieve this by using the sweet potato, a country staple, to innovate new food products such as spaghetti.
Janet Shufor Fofang
In 2009, Janet established a private primary and secondary school in her home country, Cameroon.
Her passion has seen her place particular emphasis in ensuring the young people (particularly the girl child) that pass through the school’s gates are imbued with tech skills – mechanical, electrical engineering and more; and that they learn from an early age the opportunities and applications technology stands to offer.
According to globaltechwomen.com, Janet is a participant and leader in numerous talks and panels, with membership in a number of women’s groups, such as the Tecwomen Alumni.
Dr Okorafor is the founder of WAAW (Working to Advance African Women), a foundation borne out of her burning desire to see the poverty-stricken African female educated, healthy and inspired in order to play a part in home and community building – all the while educating and supporting them in tech innovation.
Currently, WAAW runs thirteen STEM outreach and mentoring programs in eight different African countries, with expansion plans underway to impact on even more girls.
Last but definitely not the least, Rebecca is more than a worthy mention thanks to her work with Appstech, a tech firm that offers application solutions leveled at the enterprise, boasting clients in 40 countries; and counting.
Rebecca also doubles up as a mentor for African tech startups, and is the brains behind the African Technology Forum.