ICTs, Enterprise Accelerator

Undeniably, new information and communication technologies (ICTs) are contributing to the development of Africa. For women, they offer a tool for professionalization. Reportage in Nairobi the reference of « women in tech».

In Nairobi, iHub is the Mecca of technological innovation made in Kenya. Established in March 2010, the facility has hosted global industry giants, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as well as prominent figures including Barack Obama. Designed as a catalyst for the Kenyan technology community, it is home to iHub Research, lab East Africa, Consulting, UX Lab, among others. « We are the digital hub of Africa, » says Sheilah Birgen, who is barely in her thirties, CEO of lab East Africa, a business incubator. « I have two passions, the youth entrepreneurship and the ICTs, » says the latter. « Like many young people, I find things are not moving fast enough in Kenya or across the continent. But, with the ICTs, it is the opposite, everything goes so fast! » . And in a country where unemployment affects 40% of the working population, of which young people in the first place (70%), the sector offers a real alternative. « Even if not all start-ups will last, the use of new technologies will enable them to access other jobs, such as consulting. Today, all companies in all sectors use new technologies. That is why we encourage young people to train there. » M: Lab offers several ICT training programs. The facility thus trained five hundred entrepreneurs between 2011 and 2014. Of the thirty-two companies incubated, 80% still exist!

New technologies = new possibilities

This initiative demonstrates that ICTs promote youth entrepreneurship in Africa. And if they are undeniably an accelerator of development, ITCs are essential for women as a real tool for professionalization. In the premises of iHub, Akirachix, another incubator dedicated to women was created in 2010. « We receive different types of profiles, freshly graduated women who wish to grow in the sector of new technologies, others will register to improve, » says Marie Githinji, co-founder of Akirachix. « They will not all become programmers, but it is about convincing them that new technologies offer them new possibilities. Out of twenty-two women trained, 75% found a job or created a business. And to give more resonance to her initiative, Akirachix organizes an annual conference, Women in Tech in Africa. The next edition will be held in November in Nairobi, the new center of gravity of the continent’s geek girls.

Internet saves time and money for women entrepreneurs

While Kenya is effectively acting as a digital hub in Africa, the trend is not limited to this country. Everywhere on the continent, women are seizing the opportunities brought by new technologies. Incubators, training programs, support in the creation of companies … Initiatives are multiplying as the demand increases. « Create a website, access international markets or tenders, participate in competitions … ICTs in general, Internet in particular, promote the professionalization of women in Africa» confirms the rapporteurs of a study of the World Bank on Internet use in Africa published in 2017. « A woman we supported has tripled her turnover in one quarter, from the moment she created a website, » says Sheila. « She sold handicrafts on the markets. We helped her use new technologies to grow her business, through online sales. Today, she exports around the world. What she could not do without the Internet, for lack of necessary resources. When starting a business, the web saves time and money! And international visibility is possible as the Internet knows no borders.