THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP, TECHNOLOGY IN THE AFRICA FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION - Vuyolwethu Dubese

SSA statistics of Women in Entrepreneurship

In a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 Women’s Report published in 2017 with 63 economies surveyed to measure the female adult population engaged in early-stage entrepreneurship activity, Sub-Saharan Africa lead the way in female entrepreneurship globally with 25.9% . With an above average performance of 36.8% for Senegal, they came out on top, while South Africa had the lowest number of active women entrepreneurs in the region at 5.9%.

Globally, while the total entrepreneurial activity among women increased by 10%, and the gender gap (ratio of women to men participating in entrepreneurship) closed up by 5%, and in this recognising the strides and progress made, we find that there’s as much problems and retention opportunity to create the inclusive and profitable development we all desire.

In this article, in as much as we’ll be unpacking the role and impact of women in entrepreneurship and technology for future developing economies of scale, what’s important to highlight is that there is no single profile of a female entrepreneur, and neither a silver bullet to decrease the rate of failing businesses, but through data science, an opportunity to diagnose, predict and impact.

What Women lack in actualising Entrepreneurship

For Sub-Saharan Africa, unfortunately the rate at which women entrepreneurs are rising accelerates as the rate at which their businesses are being discontinued as well. GEM cites the reason for this is due to either unprofitability or lack of financing for closing down their businesses, an opportunity for education, training, mentorship, funding and networking to take centre stage at these problems.

For African Womnisation that is an aen in Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), which is a pan-African orgactive catalyst  in business development and women empowerment, the market is in the gap through its development programmes, accelerators, and networking events that include the annual AWIEF Conference and Awards that bring over 1200 women across all private and public sector spaces from all global corners. In recognising that platforms of success in supporting women-owned businesses thrive should also be digital, Future Females doing its part. With its innovative three month virtual incubator, Future Females Business School is an opportunity to leverage not only the business education with highly skilled and reputable coaches, but also access to the global network of almost 10 000 other female entrepreneurs across 4 continents.

In efficient and factor driven economies such as a Sub-Sharan Africa, capabilities and resources that provide access and opportunity to increase female stakeholders in the ecosystems will always have a role to play, and even more beyond early-stage entrepreneurship, when these businesses have to scale. However, one of the hurdles continue to be venture capitalists and investors who are actively and intentionally breaking down these investment barriers, the reason why funds like the Dazzle Angels and Rising Tide Africa exist.

What’s intentionally important to honour with these aforementioned organisations is that they are founded by women for women (and are for profit), and that there’s a clear connection between the social capital and the working capital raised. Networking platforms are not only a great support and knowledge communities, but also kickstarters to raising funds for your business, something that is an open secret at the old boy’s club.

Banking on Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Inclusion

What’s unfortunate about this reality, is that particularly when it comes to technology firms owned by women, according to venture capitalist firm Illuminate Ventures, investors experience a 35% higher return on investment than those led by men. Technology startups led by women in Africa are on the rise, and the impact and potential that this has on the economy and the ecosystem is truly great. It’s no secret that economically empowering women leads to enhanced outcomes for the society as women (entrepreneurs or not) tend to typically invest 90% of their earnings back into their communities, so why are women entrepreneurs still highlighted as a greater risk than men?

 

From Rwanda’s Clarisse Iribagiza, whose company HeHe Limited, a Kigali-based mobile technologies company that grew immensely from 2010 and which she recently sold for $20 million, to Kenyan serial entrepreneur Njeri Rionge, founder of one of East Africa’s leading internet service providers, Wananchi Online that is valued at $173 million; and Aisha Pandor, co-Founder of South African technology startup SweepSouth which is an digital booking cleaning services company that 5 years later has  a revenue of over R100 million with plans to expand outside of the country. The risk in female entrepreneurs, greater as perception sells it in, yields the reward through business growth, innovation and internationalisation.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2016/17 Women’s Report further investigated that overall, 4.6% of women in the surveyed economies provided finance to entrepreneurs, ranging from 1% in Morocco to 16% in Cameroon and that investment rates also decline with the level of economic development. In order to break down barriers, a recognition of the gender inequality needs to be highlighted, especially when it comes to funding and technology-enabled businesses, something that Dazzle Angels recognises all too well and as a result invests exclusively in women technology enabled businesses. More of these kind of stakeholders in the ecosystems are needed to facilitate the opportunity for women-owned businesses, not just assuming the roles as entrepreneurs.

Better Position Women to Influence in Africa 4.0

So, in this buzzword living Fourth Industrial Revolution, how do we better position women to be venture capitalists, makers, entrepreneurs in an ecosystem that is systematically engineered and bias towards women? We continue to empower, but most importantly, we continue to amplify the businesses of these women. We continue to highlight role models in entrepreneurship and in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) that younger women can aspire to be, and beyond. And lastly, we continue to invite each other to the table and opening up doors for each other, and not being afraid to break down the mould and enter spaces where many of us aren’t in, how else will we better influence, impact and inclusively develop economies?

 

Vuyolwethu Dubese is an African millennial impassioned about Innovation, Impact, Inclusion and Entrepreneurship. At present, she is an Associate at Impact Amplifier, a Mentor at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation and a UNDP Content Partner through her website at www.vdubese.com .

 

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