As much as the technology industry is making strides to attract more women, there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Is there a basis for this statement? Of course, numbers don’t lie. Consider the following:
As of 2020, women in tech make up 28.8% of the industry globally. Over the past few years, the number of women has been slowly increasing from 25.9% in 2018 to 26.2% in 2019. With this pace, it is projected that it could take 12 years before women can enjoy fair representation in tech. Shocking, not so?
Outwardly, sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s highest rate of women entrepreneurs with Uganda (39.6%), Botswana (38.5%), and Ghana (36.5%) having the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs globally, yet, investors backed even lesser in women-led startups than what obtained in recent years.
No wonder one of the most recurring subjects in the tech sector is the underfunding of women-owned ventures. One reason for this, among others, is that women-led startups at an early stage are viewed as high-risk investments by potential investors. However, the hard reality is that female founders outperform and even generate higher returns on investment than males.
One study from 2017 revealed that at the pitch stage, female founders were asked different questions than their male counterparts.
On the one hand, female founders were more likely to be asked preventative questions that dwell more on potential losses in their businesses. While male founders, on the other hand, were asked more promotion questions, highlighting the “upsides and potential gains” of their businesses.
Female investors in Africa are changing the narrative
Understanding that lack of access to funding for women is a global issue, for their part, female investors in Africa are leveling the playing field for other women giving them a fair shot at succeeding in the ecosystem.
African female investors are increasingly taking ownership of their position in the tech industry. Aside from mentorship and capacity-building training, they are empowering other women in the real sense of the world through funding.
Although overlooked and underrepresented in the investment world because they are considered to be risk-averse, these women are slowly changing the narrative. They recognize that investing is a powerful way to bring on board other innovative African women into technology & entrepreneurship.
We’ve created a short list of indomitable female investors in Africa. Note that these are just a few of the many female investors that are valiantly addressing financial challenges that women entrepreneurs face.
Fatoumata Ba, Founder & Executive Chair of Janngo
Prior to launching the fund, she served as Founder & CEO at Jumia Ivory Coast, Managing Director at Jumia Nigeria, and Member of the Executive Committee at the Group level.
Not only is she passionate about accelerating the development of Africa, she actively supports women’s entrepreneurship & empowerment. To that end, Fatoumata aims to have at least 50% of Janngo Capital’s portfolio be founded or co-founded by women, directly benefiting them.
As a true African, she’s driven by a desire to promote the best in the continent. Speaking at the Transform Africa Summit 2019 held in Kigali, Rwanda, she said,
“Growing up a shy little girl in Senegal I used to ask myself a lot of questions, and actually to bother my family with them. And I remember that at that time, my most favorite question was to try and understand why our continent was so rich in natural resources, yet the least developed.”
From the above, it becomes clear why she’s making it her goal to contribute to the development of Africa.
She’s gained global recognition including a 2019 Quartz Africa Innovator, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and one of Forbes Africa’s “30 under 30.” She also a recipient of the 2019 Aenne Burda Award for visionary leadership, optimism, and courage.
Hannah Subayi, Country Officer and Equity Expert at Proparco
Hannah Subayi is a Congolese investor and philanthropist with a desire to impact female African tech enterprises as well the healthcare space in her home country.
Currently, she is the Country Officer for the Democratic Republic of Congo for Proparco – a subsidiary of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) committed to private sector funding. There, she oversees all types of investments in the country such as infrastructure, private equity, funds investments, and early stages investments.
She is also a Partner at Dazzle Angels, an angel investor firm targeting early-stage women-owned/led startups in Africa.
Passionate about African entrepreneurship and women empowerment, she’s committed to utilizing her own personal capacity as well as her funds to pave the way especially for female entrepreneurs in Francophone Africa.
Uniquely, Hannah’s motive in entering the investment space wasn’t only to accelerate Africa’s economic growth by driving innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa but to explore her curiosity and genuine interest in people, which according to her is a prerequisite for potential investors.
In her own words, she said, “If you’re in for just the money, I’d say go buy Facebook, Google, any tech stocks, you will make maybe more money quickly without having to chase any entrepreneur.”
Hannah has over nine years of professional experience and sits on the advisory board of several private equity funds. Being an equity expert, she has served as a speaker, host, panelist, and moderator at various industry events.
Dr. Laila Macharia, Serial Entrepreneur and Angel Investor
Laila Macharia is a Kenyan investor, entrepreneur, and business mentor with more than 20 years of experience in investment, entrepreneurship, and policy reform in Africa and the United States.
Between 2007 and 2014, she was the Founder CEO of Scion Real, a Nairobi-based investment firm focused on urban development in Africa. She also previously occupied the position of Vice Chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA).
Presently, Dr. Macharia is the Chair, Board of Directors, African Digital Media Institute (ADMI), a Non-Executive Director at Absa Group, and she sits on various other boards.
As an angel investor, she makes shrewd investments that enable the growth of innovative and sustainable companies which has a significant social and job creation impact, especially in the areas of education, financial inclusion, health, and media.
Eloho Omame, Managing Director & CEO of Endeavor Nigeria
With a background in investment banking and private equity, Eloho Omame is an entrepreneur, angel investor, ecosystem builder, and staunch supporter of gender inclusion within the entrepreneurship and technology spheres in Africa.
For about 20 years, she has expertly guided founders, companies & teams along with their financial growth plans. Having discovered that empowering others aligns with her personal mission, in 2018, she launched Endeavor Nigeria, an entrepreneurship network created for high-impact founders at the fore-front of high-growth technology companies at the scale-up stage.
Eloho is a dedicated and intentional mentor who avails herself to promising women in tech venturing into entrepreneurship.
She is a firm believer in the untapped potential of the next generation of female founders in Africa. To that end, in January 2021, she co-founded FirstCheck Africa, a female-owned angel fund and investment community devoted to funding high-potential female tech founders.
Another recent project Eloho launched is Mustard Seeds is a growing online community for ambitious career-oriented women living & working in Africa, who are focused on growing their money, careers, and wealth over time.
Tokunboh Ishmael, MD & Co-founder of Alitheia Capital
Tokunboh Ishmael is a respected and seasoned private equity investor. As a part of a growing network of women investors in Africa, she co-founded Alitheia IDF within Alitheia Capital, the private equity firm where she is managing director, to invest in Sub-Saharan women-led businesses.
She believes that with the right amount of empowerment, women will gain access to space- power, wealth, and decision-making- which they’ve been excluded from over the years.
Stressing the need to invest in women, she said, “I want Nigeria to reach its full potential and I want Africa to reach its full potential and they’re not going to do that if they don’t fully embrace the potential of women.”
Tokunboh has more than 20 years of experience across investment banking, private equity investing, technology, and new business development in Africa, Europe, and the US. She currently sits on a number of boards including First City Monument Bank, Nigeria (FCMB), and Pagatech.
Yemi Keri, Co-Founder, Rising Tide Africa
When talking about one of the foremost tech women or female investors in Nigeria, Yemi Keri gets a mention. She is the co-founder of Rising Tide Africa, a unique, cross-border women-focused investment program established with a vision to increase women’s participation in angel investing across Africa.
Revealing how she started, she disclosed that she once mentored a woman who, despite having a sound business couldn’t get funding at the pitch stage. On Yemi’s part, she decided to help the woman work on her pitch and her delivery.
The story ended victoriously as the woman got the funding she needed to launch her business. At that point, Yemi acknowledged that she knew she had something.
A Director at the Lagos Angel Network, she also serves as a mentor to various digitally and technology-driven startups. With more than 22 years of experience in the ICT sector (public and private) at top management levels, she was honored as Nigeria’s most outstanding Public Sector Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the ICT Centenary Awards in 2014.
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