‘She Leads Africa’ Gives Female Entrepreneurs the Resources They Need to Spark Change

As economic growth continues to flourish throughout the African continent, more opportunities are opening up for female entrepreneurs to make a difference.

It is all too often that tech and other corporate industries present a stunning lack of female entrepreneurs — not because women have been less competent but simply because prejudices still leave women at a disadvantage.

While this conversation has been extremely prevalent in America, it’s a problem that is plaguing the landscape for business all across the globe.

In Africa, however, two female entrepreneurs are working to change that by utilizing Africa’s rapidly growing economy and investing in the many bright female minds that have the ability to turn a new idea into a corporate success.

Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei teamed up to create She Leads Africa, a startup that gives new life to other startups founded by women in Africa.

Back in 2014, Belo-Osagie returned to Nigeria after completing studies in the U.S. at Princeton University.

As she returned to the African country with a newfound understanding of business and entrepreneurship, she realized she finally had the knowledge and resources to help more women find their entrepreneurial voices in industries that are currently dominated by men.

“[This is] an opportunity to create a brand that’s an inspiration for women. …Women need to realize that their horizons are unlimited and they can go far beyond their expectations through hard work, grit and perseverance,” Belo-Osagie told CNBC Africa.

While the organization is fairly young, it has already allowed many women to take their own entrepreneurial ventures to the next level.

The organization has become well known for its pitching competitions, which give female business leaders the chance to present their ideas and startups to panels of esteemed investors and fellow entrepreneurs.

She Leads Africa also helped lead eight female entrepreneurs to the Diaspora Demo in Washington, D.C., in November.

The Diaspora Demo is one of the largest gatherings of investors and entrepreneurs from all across the globe and serves as a unique opportunity for women to network with business-minded professionals from different countries.

The women were also allowed to present their ideas to angel investors in hopes that they could receive a major boost to the funding they needed to grow their business ventures.

The duo’s desire to help other women become successful entrepreneurs came from their own experiences and observations growing up as young Black women.

“I remember growing up and thinking that there weren’t enough female role models who were achieving what I wanted to achieve,” Belo-Osagie added.

That was largely due to the fact that, according to Belo-Osagie, women are barred from certain entrepreneurial opportunities based on cultural stigmas about women.

She explained that in many cultures, women are seen “as vulnerable, but many of us are strong, smart, well-traveled and cosmopolitan.”

In addition to changing the overall perception of women entrepreneurs, She Leads Africa also aims to tackle other issues that put female entrepreneurs at a disadvantage, including unequal access to education, limited access to funding and limited opportunities to develop useful networks.

Eight Female Entrepreneurs Prepare to Bring African Startups to Washington, D.C.

Eight female entrepreneurs from Africa are preparing to pitch their innovative ideas to an esteemed group of angel investors and fellow entrepreneurs in America in hopes they can receive the support and financial backing they need to take their businesses to the next level.

The entire African continent has become a breeding ground for startups and young entrepreneurs and now She Leads Africa is bringing eight of those emerging entrepreneurs to Washington, DC, for the Diaspora Demo.

The Diaspora Demo is one of the largest gatherings of investors and entrepreneurs from all across the globe who have their eyes locked on the innovative companies that are coming out of African.

The social impact pitch competition will kick off next week and based on the eight young women that She Leads Africa will be bringing to the competition, there will be an abundance of creative business ideas that will have investors digging into their pockets.

One of the ladies will be pitching her business AfriTrade.

AfriTrade is an “intuitive online securities platform customized for the retail segment in Nigeria and abroad to trade on the Nigerian Stock Exchange,” according to the Tribune.

Then there is Eve & Tribe, the clothing brand designed specifically for the African woman who wants affordable, contemporary clothing that is made with her specific body type in mind.

Thandos is another company with fashion at its center but it has a focus on the creator rather than the consumer.

Thandow provides aspiring African artists with a platform to create women’s footwear designs.

Other companies from the eight entrepreneurs include: Mother’s Delivery Kit, which will provide women in Nigeria with the supplies they need to ensure a safe and hygienic childbirth process; Tastemakers Africa, which will become the world’s first mobile app geared specifically towards upscale, curated experiences throughout the African continent; Zuvaa, an online shopping experience that will give African fashion labels the platform they need to boost sales and revenue; Loue 1 Voiture, which will allow users to reserve cars from different rental companies in Morocco; and Tomato Jos, which creates and distributes tomato paste in West African for the domestic market.

In addition to other individual entrepreneurial greats, major partners will be at the event hoping to see what could some day become the next generation of innovative businesses.

AllAfrica.com, ThoughtWorks, Evernote, The Africa Channel, Africa 2.0, Impact Hub, Toniic and many more are supporting the Diaspora Demo day and making it possible to significantly extend the platform that these emerging entrepreneurs would have had otherwise.


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Breaking Barriers: African Women in Tech Industry Continue to Defy Odds

The technology industry has long been reserved for male entrepreneurs, but an online discussion among female tech experts all across Africa sheds light on how many women have already made their presence known in the field.

Statistics show that the number of women in the technology world is low.

In June, Yahoo’s Equal Employment Opportunity statistics revealed that although nearly 40 percent of the company employees are female, only 15 percent are in tech-related positions.

Other major companies, such as Dropbox, have a little over 8 percent of their female employees involved in software engineering, according to a 2013 spreadsheet released by Pinterest software engineer Tracy Chou.

Female tech entrepreneurs, like Ethel Cofie of Ghana, are on the way to reversing these troubling statistics.

Cofie is one of the pioneering members of a “Women in Tech” group that is working to create an alliance of female tech experts all across Africa.

According to Cofie’s guest article on CNN’s website, her own online efforts marked the first time someone had attempted to “build a pan-African Women in Tech network that would allow [women] to compare [their] challenges, learn from each other and connect across borders” to increase their influence.

Cofie teamed up with four other African women, all from different countries, to organize a digital meetup earlier this month.

More than 150 women signed up to be a part of the meetup and the online movement spread like wildfire.

By the time the Aug. 2 meetup ended, the hashtag #WtechAfrica had reached nearly 75,000 people and made close to 200,000 impressions on Twitter.

The online event certainly did not go smoothly, however.

Cofie explained that technical difficulties threatened to put an end to the massive meetup, but the determination by the participants kept the discussion alive and allowed it to have more reach.

The meetup was originally supposed to take place on Google Hangout, but when poor connections and other technical difficulties made it nearly impossible for the large group of women to effectively communicate, it appeared that Cofie’s efforts were doomed.

That’s when she realized many of the participants had moved the discussion to Facebook and eventually over to Twitter.

As it turns out, problems with Internet connections and power shortages are some of the major obstacles facing tech entrepreneurs in Africa, and Cofie admitted that those challenges will make diversity in the tech realm an uphill battle.

“The problems that African women in tech face are not very different from the ones female techies in many other parts of the world also come across,” she wrote in her guest piece. “Yet, these challenges, coupled with some Africa-specific problems like power shortages and broadband inaccessibility, create an uphill task for women wanting to enter the industry and develop the high-level technical skill required in order to progress.”

With successful female tech experts like Regina Agyare of Soronko Solutions in Ghana, and Rebecca Enonchong of AppsTech in Cameroon, Cofie knows it is still very possible for women to continue thriving in this male-dominated field that she hopes won’t be quite so male-dominated in the near future.