• Kenya: Women in ICT Revolution
  • Kenya: Women in ICT Revolution

Kenya: Women in ICT Revolution

As Kenya is a land of innovation in new technologies, the women are far from being left behind. Increasingly, they are taking advantage of the opportunities in the sector and are fully involved in 3.0 revolution. Report in Nairobi


By Dounia Ben Mohamed


About ten minutes by local bus, a bit more depending upon traffic often crowded in Nairobi, on Ngong Rd, the Bishop Magua, a business center. iHub, the Mecca of technological innovation made in Kenya is located there. Created in March 2010, iHub, a temple of startups and other leading companies operating in ICTs, is a catalyst for the Kenyan technology community, hosting iHub Research, M Lab Consulting, UX Lab. This company is now well-known by amateurs in the country and beyond. Last September, it welcomed Marc Zuckerberg for a surprise visit to this site, which shows the country’s vitality in terms of new technologies.

As proof, Nairobi hosted an unprecedented forum, NexTech Africa, on February 2 and 3. And it is far from being a coincidence that Nairobi was selected to host it for the first time. Still less if global leaders, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Samsung, IBM and others, have established in Kenya. Actually, safaris country today is another source of attractiveness; the new technologies are booming … With Konza Technology City (KTC) as the showcase of this ambition, renamed Silicon Savannah, dedicated to confirm the positioning of the country as a digital hub of the continent. And at iHub, we did not wait for the government and KTC to embark on the era of 3.0.

“Things do not progress fast enough in the country, the continent … But with the ICTs, it’s the opposite, everything goes so fast!”

In the first floor of the building, pleasantly installed on the balcony, Pete’s Coffee, is the refuge of iHub geekers when they escape two minutes of their screen. We meet Sheilah Birgen here. Less than 30 years old, like the average age of iHub residents, she is the CEO of M Lab East Africa, a business incubator. “We do not have to wait for Konza, because iHub already offers this ecosystem, it is already the showcase of Kenyan potential in ICTs! Says Sheilah. M-Pesa has created momentum: young people want to create equivalent products. For example, Uber has just arrived that we already have a competing application. And that’s why I decided to work in this sector, as with many young people, I’m sure it’s the most successful industry. And as is often the case with young people, I find that – in a country 40% of the working population is jobless, including young people in the first place (70%) – the sector offers a real alternative, and M Lab, a means of access.

In their network, the structure connects the budding entrepreneurs of Kenya, and more broadly of East Africa with investors and government players, an adventure that started in 2011, initially with an activity based on creating applications for wireless phones. Very quickly, as the ICTs explodes in the country, the structure evolves.”M Lab was created with three functions: incubation, entrepreneurship, and testing mobile applications and all three functions limited to mobiles. Sheilah, who became manager in 2014, said it should be expanded. Today, digital entrepreneurship concerns all those who want to use the ICTs with sometimes just the need to train on a product. So we stopped testing applications, because here in Kenya, if the connection is very good and smartphones cheap, the memory is still insufficient to download many applications. Today, we are devoting ourselves to the incubator.” That’s where the needs lie. “Though not all startups will last, the use of new technologies will allow them to access other jobs, such as consultants. All companies today are using new technologies. That is why we encourage young people to be trained.” M Lab, which offers several ICT training programs, trained 500 entrepreneurs between 2011 and 2014. And of the 32 incubated companies, 80% still operate!

Women in Tech in Africa, the RDV of the continent’s geek users

Still, while young people make up the bulk of incubates, more and more women are seizing the opportunities offered by the sector. Akirachix, another incubator, also based at iHub, refers specifically to them. “We receive different types of profiles, newly-graduated women who want to work in the ICT sector or others already in office, who want to train or improve themselves, “explains Marie Githinji, co-founder of Akirachix. Not all of them will become programmers, but they have to be convinced that new technologies offer new opportunities. Of 22 women trained, 75% have found a job or have set up a business.” To give more echo to their initiative, Akirachix organizes an annual conference, “Women in Tech in Africa”. The idea, set out in their website, is ambitious: “Create women’s leaders today and role models for tomorrow’s women; Show the world what a strong African woman is able to achieve; Supporting African growth through technology. Only this. With members in more than 30 countries, also represented to London, the next “Women in Tech Africa” event ​​will be held in November. Haweya Mohamed, co-founder of Afrobytes, will also honor them during her annual meeting in June in Paris, in a more sustainable way through her platform. You ave fpr example, Tayo Akinyemi, a consultant for Infodev World Bank group, formerly manager of AfriLabs, which has established 40 technology centers in about 20 countries; Maya Horgan Famodu, a Nigerian-American, founder of the company Ingressive which guides global capital and African entrepreneurs through a database of more than 2000 members; Ashley, creator of Ongeza Fund, a technology and financial company; Lucy Mbazazi, from Rwanda, manager of Visa Sub-Saharan Africa …” They will be among others in Paris on 8 and 9 June for the second edition of Afrobytes


Author: Dounia Ben Mohamed // Photo: Women in Tech in Africa © Women in Tech in Africa


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