International Women’s Day is today, and organisations, companies and individuals across the world are celebrating the achievements of women. Equality is a well discussed topic throughout the world, yet still now, in many industries women are under represented, and not paid equally. The technology and innovation sector seems to be attempting to close the divide of the sexes. Traditionally only few women have taking up computer engineering roles, and working on innovation, and therefore the aim of achieving parity between the sexes needs a lot of work.
In much of Africa, traditional social values, and education of the girl child is not a priority for many families and this has had a great impact on the amount of women in professional roles, especially in technology. The democratisation of information, especially with the increasing spread of the internet and mobile devices, means that there are now other ways for anyone to empower themselves. There has also been a huge effort put into getting more young girls into school, to give them more choice in the future.
During the last two years writing about African innovation, I have had the pleasure of reading about many inspirational women, who are coming up with innovative ideas and creating businesses. In many households across the continent it is women that have the responsibility of finding solutions to make ends meet within the family. Creativity takes practice, and the need to come up with solutions makes women very well placed to innovate for a better Africa.
Below are couple of the women that have stood out to us whilst producing Inventive Africa.
Hawawu Mustapha Yaajalal and her innovation MyDoc Ghana were the subject of the most viewed post on Inventive Africa. I met Hawawu at iSpace Ghana, a technology hub that gives many the tools to develop their own businesses. I asked whether anyone would be willing to stand in front of camera briefly for a short interview spontaneously and, Hawawu obliged.
Hawawu was particularly inspirational because she, as a nurse saw that the health care system in Ghana was facing problems and she decided to use her experience to make a chance. She is passionate about making a change in Ghana and making a difference for her own family. MyDoc links people with doctors, as well as selling health supplements, which will be delivered directly to customers. It also offers people a place to go to read up on health information. You can see what she has to say in the video below.
Tech hubs like iSpace Ghana are empowering many women with skills that previously they may have been dissuaded to attempt to pick up. The atmosphere at the tech hub was one of a community that wanted the best for each other, regardless the sex or background of the individual. Hawawu was not the only young lady who had incredible ideas at iSpace and are working passionately to achieve their goals.
Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja is making her change in the agricultural sector, but is also involved in a plethora of innovative projects. As well as being co-founder and Executive Director of We Farm Africa, an NGO, which seeks to ensure a better future for Africa through sustainable agriculture, she is also the founder of Fresh Direct.
Getting fresh produce to cities can be difficult. The bad road infrastructure often means it take a long time for produce to reach the city from the rural farms, and the space within and around the cities is not sizeable enough for farming.
By using containers to create farming space, Adelaja has created a way to farm in a 3d manner. Containers can be stacked on top of each other, and by utilising the space well, each container can be the equivalent of 1.5 acres of farm land. The planting method, hydroponics, which is half of the aquaponics system we described previously, uses no soil, and therefore, much less water is used, which is perfect for Africa. These container farms can be put anywhere in the city, which means that the bio produce can easily reach the client quickly and very fresh.
Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja uses her skills to empower the youth and women, and at the same to create solutions in Africa, which make life simpler and more efficient. We expect her to play an increasingly leading role in African innovation in coming years.
Another inspirational women that I have had the pleasure and honour of learning from is Lucy Quist. Lucy was the first female CEO of a telecommunications company in Ghana, Airtel Ghana, and changed their fortunes, leading them through a successful merger with Tigo to become the second biggest telco in Ghana. It has long been her passion to empower the youth and women in Ghana and Africa. She and Maame Dufie Cudjoe (Another women that is making change happen!), with Airtel Ghana, were pivotal in assisting me to set up the CoderDojo computer programming club in Accra.
She is one of Ghana’s most prominent business leaders, and is hell bent on promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths to Africa’s youth, and making sure that young girls get an equal chance in those fields. In her new roles as President of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Ghana, and a co-founder of FreshBakery, the parent company of the FreshPay payment platform in the Democratic Republic of Congo she will certainly continue to be a leading figure in the exciting world of African innovation. And, rather excitingly, she will be talking at next week’s Campaigning Summit Switzerland, in Zurich, Switzerland.
Lastly, but certainly not least, I would like to give a special mention to Edem Adzaho. She is another inspirational person that thousands of youth from across Africa have learnt from in the last decade. It is her mission to empower school leavers with the skills it takes to get a job and succeed in the working world. Many of Africa’s universities pump out students lacking the requisite skills to fit into a work place. Through her Global Graduate Academy, she trains people to think and act world class and develop their careers, preparing them not just for Ghana and Africa, but for an international career. With huge demand, the academy is set to expand in the coming years. She is also a fantastic writer, and offers advice through her Youtube channel. (that I was privileged enough to be interviewed on!)
Women already do play a key role in African innovation, but it is still not enough. In the coming years we expect to see many more women take up leadership positions in the tech sector, as well as across the board. Until this happens, we must all push to make sure the girl child gets access to education and information to be able to empower themselves and fight for positions on a par with men!