Women make up only 30 percent of professionals in the tech industry in Sub-Saharan Africa. Concrete initiatives to expand education and access to digital literacy are key to including women in the digital economy. This is noted in the article ‘Opening the tech sector to Africa’s women’ by Palesa Libe. The article explains that teaching digital skills is just the start to addressing the STEM gender gap, and girls should be supported to innovate freely. Here are five programmes supporting women in tech in Africa and bridging the digital divide.
1. Vodacom’s Women Farmers Programme
In 2019, Vodacom launched the Women Farmers Programme in partnership with UN Women and South African Women in Farming (SAWIF). The programme aims to transform the face of the smallholder agricultural segment in South Africa and equip women from underprivileged backgrounds with the digital skills they need to participate meaningfully in the mainstream economy.
2. Mastercard’s Girls4Tech programme
To encourage, support, and inspire young girls to learn STEM skills and build their careers in STEM fields, Mastercard launched their Girls4Tech programme. With Mastercard’s employees acing as role models and mentors, they developed their own STEM curriculum based on global science and maths standards. The programme seeks to contribute to an equal workforce in technology fields to strengthen companies.
Mastercard’s payments technology plays a key role in the curriculum, covering aspects of cryptology, algorithms, encryption, fraud detection, data analysis and digital convergence. Their interactive lesson plans are available online. More than three million girls have been reached through this programme.
In 2004, Uweso Consulting, the South African Department of Basic Education and UNICEF established the TechnoGirl programme to enable girls to advance towards careers in STEM.
The programme consists of three main areas. Job shadowing is for girls in grades 8 to 11 from quintile 1 to 3 schools. Alumni empowerment to support grade 12 girls into tertiary education and careers in STEM, and the digital skills programme focuses on Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) training for unemployed youth.
Techno Girl has various implementing and funding partners, including Anglo American, Rand Water, Discovery, Eskom, Multichoice, and Airports Company South Africa.
4. The African Research Academies for Women
Africa’s capacity in health sciences and research depends on the ability to compete globally, and add to innovation, research, and pharmaceutical development.
The African Research Academies for Women is a research programme to enable exceptional African university undergraduates in the sciences to spend time at University of Ghana’s Noguchi Medical Research Institute (NMRI). Their goal is to bring together women from diverse backgrounds and enable them to use their skills in STEM to address health challenges.
The organisation also provides mentorship, as well as partnerships between mentors and mentees in Ghana and the USA. They partner with various companies and institutions.
5. The Future of the African Daughter (FOTAD) project
The Future of the African Daughter (FOTAD) project aims to change the lives of girls aged 12 to 19 years in townships and rural areas by providing maths, science, ICT and life skills. The project is run by ICT-Works, a 100% black-women-owned and managed company.
Partners and company sponsors include The Dischem Foundation, SAFIKA Investments, and the University of Johannesburg Industrial Engineering department.