VENTURES AFRICA – Research may have shown that women make up as little as 15 percent of the African ICT workforce, but there are still a number of women who have made a real mark on the technology sector that is propelling the economic growth of many African countries to even greater levels. Tom Jackson takes a look at ten women who have made themselves a force to be reckoned with in the technology arena.
Okolloh is currently policy manager and government relations manager for Google in Africa. In 2006, she co-founded Mzalendo.com, which tracks the Kenyan Parliament, offering details about MPs, such as debate contributions and attendance history, keeping a record of motions made on parliamentary bills, and making the bills themselves available. The aim is to use technology to ensure the voices of Africans are heard. Okolloh is also a co-founder of Ushahidi and was its executive director until December 2010. Ushahidi is a website for citizen journalists to report incidents of both violence and peace efforts via internet, mobile email, SMS and Twitter. She is a regular speaker on citizen journalism, technology in Africa, and the role of young people in activism.
Nyong’o, 35, is the Vice President and Managing Director of the African operations of InMobi, the world’s largest independent mobile advertising network. Kenyan Nyong’o has degrees from Stanford and Harvard and has previously worked in senior management positions at MyJobsEye (Kenya’s leading Job site), MTV, and most recently, Google. In January, she was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. She recently opened up on her career, her thoughts on the future of mobile advertising in Africa and her African legacy.
Nigerian Opeke is CEO and founder of Main Street Technologies, a holding company launched to build and operate the Main One submarine cable system linking countries in West and Central Africa with Europe. The 7,000km cable runs from Portugal down to Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria, and delivers wholesale broadband capacity across several countries in West Africa today. She previously worked as Chief Technical Officer for MTN Nigeria. She launched Main Street in 2007 and the company went on to raise $240 million to build the pioneer private submarine cable. Previously she studied and worked in ICT in the United States, ending up as Executive Director of the Wholesale division at Verizon Communications in New York before returning to Nigeria in 2005.
Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Yeigo Communications, which specialises in the development, implementation and marketing of software-based communications solutions, South African Rabana is just 27 years old. She started Yeigo 7 years ago. The company’s core business strategy is focused on partnering with internet and telecoms service providers with the intention of offering mobile communication solutions as an integrated part of their own service offering. Yeigo’s m multi-million sale of stakes in the company to US-based Quality One Wireless was not concluded, and instead it partnered with the Swiss Group Telfree who also invested in Yeigo in 2008 .
Rabana has received several awards including Frost & Sullivan 2007 Award Winner for Top Mobile Web 2.0 Company, United Nations Juror for the World Summit Awards for M-Content 2010 and United Nations Ambassador for the World Summit Youth Awards 2011 amongst others. She was also named one of “200 Young South Africans You Must Take To Lunch” by the Mail & Guardian newspaper.
She now heads up the Global Research and Development division at Swiss-based telecommunications company Telfree, with which Yeigo has partnered. In 2009, Telfree launched a mobile application, which the world’s first unified telecommunications hub, and is available on the Apple iPhone and the Apple iPod Touch. Late in 2011, Yeigo developed and launched , Office Connection, a cloud hosted business telephony solution, fully accessible though a simple online interface.
Born in Senegal, Marieme is a London-based CEO, blogger, technologist and social entrepreneur. Marieme has a passionate commitment to empowering her fellow Africans through education, leadership, social entrepreneurship and economic development. She assisted Appfrica International and the State Department in the USA to organise the Apps4Africa contest. She is currently CEO of SpotOne Global Solutions, which helps Technology organisations gain a foothold in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. An international speaker on Technology in Africa, founder of the Think Tank iConscience and Co- Founder of Africa Gathering, the first global platform bringing together entrepreneurs to share ideas about Africa.
Kenyan Rotich is co-founder and executive director of crowd-sourcing site Ushahidi, and also the co-founder of Mobisoko, a mobile marketplace for language and location relevant apps in Africa. Now 33, Rotich has an IT degree from the University of Missouri. Ushahidi allows users to source information about crisis areas, collating it into live, online maps. It was first used during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007-8, allowing the media to cover the violence effectively and put pressure on it to stop. It has since been adapted for disaster situations in Congo, Haiti and Chile.
Co-founder and president of Akirachix, which seeks to promote the role of women within the African tech sector. The Akirachix network brings together women with an interest in technology for networking and training, also working with tech professionals and students. It runs training programmes for girls in poor urban areas of Nairobi. Owigar is a coder, blogger and tech enthusiast who believes that technology can be used to make Africa richer and more transparent.
Jessica Colaço is the research lead at iHub Research, a TED Global Fellow 2009 and a Mobile Technology Evangelist in Kenya. She was named one of the top 40 women under 40 years in Kenya’s business scene by Business Daily on 2009 and 2011. She has been featured by CNN Labs, Wired UK and other mainstream media for her work in technology and innovation. She is passionate about Innovation, Research, Mobile Technology and Entrepreneurship in Kenya as she uses her position at iHub to court local, regional and international stakeholders to adopt Kenyan-made solutions.
Juliet Ehimuan has been Google’s Country Manager for Nigeria since April last year. She was recently named by Forbes as one of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa. Prior to her work with Google, Ehimuan worked for Microsoft, leading strategic projects for EMEA and founding both Strategic Insight Consulting UK and the African Computer Network for Developing Countries, both focused on connecting African business leaders and professionals with their global counterparts. She holds an Executive MBA from LBS and a postgraduate degree in Computer Science from Cambridge, in addition to her undergraduate work at Obafemi Awolowo University.
Currently working at Google as a program coordinator seeking to increase tech and internet usage across the continent, Jidenma is the founder of the popular blog Celebrating Progress, which celebrates business and success stories in Africa. She also previously served as Africa Editor at The Next Web, an international tech news service based in the Netherlands.