Does African tech have a female founder pipeline problem?

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More needs to be done to create a pipeline for female entrepreneurs and investors if the African tech startup ecosystem is to become more diverse, according to panelists at this week’s Africa Early Stage Investor Summit (AESIS).

The fifth annual AESIS took place in Cape Town earlier this week, bringing together the continent’s early-stage investor community to exchange best practices, learn from peers and recent transactions, and do deals.

Investors speaking during a panel discussion entitled “The impact of the rise of female investors” debated why there is a shortage of both female founders and female investors, and how this issue can be addressed.

“We as investors are not seeing as many female entrepreneurs. We are looking for them, we want to invest in them,” said Amee Parbhoo, director of investments at Accion Venture Lab.

She believes there is a pipeline problem when it comes to female entrepreneurs, with not enough women getting exposure to the startup space in advance of launching their own companies.

“We aren’t even seeing senior managers at startups. Until women start getting more exposure we aren’t going to see them starting their own companies. We need to create pipelines and opportunities to join startups. And until then it will be difficult to find female founders,” she said.

“At the very early stage there are more women, but as we progress through the stages they drop off. At our stage, Series A or B, there are very few women.”

Allie Burns, managing director Village Capital, agreed more needed to be done at an early stage to help female entrepreneurs develop their businesses and become investment-ready.

“There is a lot of opportunity to get to female entrepreneurs early. You need to attack the pipeline at a very grassroots level,” she said.

This was echoed by Yemi Keri, co-founder of Rising Tide Africa, who said more mentoring was needed for women in the tech space to give them the confidence to seek funding.

“When you see a man pitch, and then a woman pitch, you really see the difference,” she said.

“A woman will not come up and ask for angel investment just because she is missing one document. A man will ask even if he doesn’t have five of the documents.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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