My computer science class in secondary school was largely spent on social media sites (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, etc.). However, I spent very little time learning how to code or other similar skills that could have been valuable to my classmates and myself. In the same vein, the use of technology and technology education across Africa is, to a large extent, still at its infancy. A study conducted by AT Kearney has shown that the mobile phone ecosystem in Africa has provided more than five million jobs and generated close to US$15 billion in government revenue in 2011 .
It is therefore extremely likely that technology will play an important role in Africa realizing its potential.
In the evolution of many industries, the parties that come in early and develop a vested interest in becoming key players tend to be the movers and shakers down the line. A lot of technology in Africa today is male dominated but, given that the industry is so young, there is a ripe opportunity for women to jump in and claim their stake. The current status presents an opportunity for African women to break into an industry that is in its beginning stages and to become a part of the building and development process. Participating in this way will make it excruciatingly harder, if not impossible, to exclude women years further down the line.
From a development perspective, this means it is imperative to begin exposing young girls to careers in technology and teaching them practical skills such as coding and building core competencies and skills in technology development, especially mobile technology. In 2013, the penetration rate of mobile phones in Africa (as measured by unique subscribers) was estimated to be 36%, with mobile phones reading 311 million in Africa; that number is projected to reach 504 million (49%) by the year 2020 .
Currently, many African women are using technology to share information, express themselves on social media and, more generally, learn about the world around them; making them technology consumers. However, the key to unlocking the potential of the next generation of African business leaders in the technology space will be to shift their focus from considering themselves as consumers, to encouraging them to view themselves as producers and creators of technology. This is why we must empower our young girls with the skills needed to participate in this growth cycle and contribute to the development of Africa’s technology ecosystem.
Women invest up to 90% of their earnings in their families as compared to men who invest just 30% to 40% of their earnings . Advancing women entrepreneurs is a strategic approach to building stronger communities, more stable societies and sustainable economies. African women creating technology promises to be very useful to the future of Africa because they will not only build technology that impacts Africa, they are more likely to build technology that improves the lives of other women in Africa, which tends to have a downstream effect on the overall economy. The creation of relevant technology that solves problems is where the most impact will be felt.
There are three key things African countries, technology companies, nonprofits and philanthropies that are interested in change need to do in order to facilitate a technological climate where women can lead: