Technology is the future, and a growing number of women entrepreneurs in Africa are starting their businesses with low-cost devices such as mobile phones. Ayomide Condotti exemplifies this model as she started her business with a Blackberry phone using the messenger feature to sell low-cost holiday travel packages to family and friends. Currently, with over 15 employees, her business continues to grow.
I connect with five (5) young entrepreneurs living in Nigeria, who describe how technology has enhanced their enterprises and productivity. Below, they share the key role women and girls play in Africa's economic transformation.
Idong Harrie, shoemaker and participant in the Cherie Blair Foundation Road to Growth Business Program states, "technology is responsible for the growth of my business. I have a website where customers can view products and make payments online. Access to technology makes the customer experience seamless and cost-effective."
Modupe Macaulay of Capital Square, a co-working space in Lagos adds, "technology has made running my business very easy. I found this really cool subscription system that helps my team manage user bookings, invoicing, communications, everything. We also use a lot of technology-based services for different aspects of the business, from CRM to accounting and human resources."
Unoma Okorafor, founder of the WAAW foundation, an organization focused on advancing African girls in technology says, "from the tools we use to stay connected, to creating the community of girls who are spread out across different countries, to translating between languages [e.g. French to English], to using technology to provide lesson plans for teachers [working] in remote villages throughout Africa. I find that technology plays a crucial part in helping us scale, communicate and reach girls in hard to reach areas."
Ehime Akindele, founder of SweetKiwi, a frozen yogurt shop says, "technology is useful to our business especially for stock control, record keeping and marketing."
Afua Osei, co-founder of SheLeadsAfrica describes technology as a critical tool and a key enabler for success. She says, "for my organization, technology does 3 things: keeps our team connected, keeps costs down, and enables us to connect to entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world. Access to technology helped me start this idea with the minimal investment possible."
Technology is transforming the lives of women business owners in Africa as they are playing a significant role in the creation of jobs in their communities. Also, technology incubators dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs continue to populate the continent, and with increased access to the internet, entrepreneurs in emerging economies will continue to utilize various technological tools and resources to start, expand, and grow their businesses. Nigeria, in particular, leads the way in the number of women entrepreneurs that have developed.
But, what else can be done to ensure that women are not just users of technological tools but also creators of them? How can we work to engage and increase accessibility in rural areas of the continent?
Answers to these questions should present a business opportunity, and as Rebecca Enonchong writes on twitter, "should not be seen as some philanthropic gesture."
"ICT is vital to ensuring that Nigeria and Africa will not be left behind. We also need to ensure that technology is not a privilege but a basic amenity" says Nkem Begho of FutureSoft Nigeria.