Four-fifths of the original founding team of Kenyan non-profit tech women’s network AkiraChix have gone on to found other initiatives and businesses since the organisation launched in 2010, co-founder Judith Owigar has told Disrupt Africa.
Launched by co-founders Owigar, Angela Lungati, Linda Kamau and Marie Githinji, AkiraChix aims to inspire and develop a successful force of women in technology who will change Africa’s future.
The organisation runs training programmes targeting young women from poor social and economic backgrounds in Nairobi, high school outreach projects, community networking events and a kids camp, while in November it hosted its inaugural women’s conference with over 300 people in attendance.
Owigar said the make-up and scope of the organisation has changed significantly in the last five years, especially as 80 per cent of the original founding team had started other projects.
“That is a high number of female technology entrepreneurs from any group,” she said, adding AkiraChix was having a similar impact on the young women taking part in its training programmes.
“60 per cent of the young female technologists that we trained in 2014 in mobile development, web development and entrepreneurship have reported a job or internship placement within three months of their graduation,” Owigar said.
“We are also seeing more women in technology initiatives coming up all over Africa, and we are happy to support and work with women and men who share our vision of nurturing generations of women to create solutions using technology.”
Disrupt Africa has reported extensively on these developments across the continent in encouraging more women to seek careers in technology or start tech-related businesses. Ugandan co-working space Outbox is running a free 12-week course to train female participants in programming and entrepreneurship, while in South Africa codeX launched a free two-week bootcamp to encourage young women to take up coding.
Silicon Cape recently hosted a TechWomen networking conference in Cape Town, while at a more international level Silicon Valley-based incubator Blackbox is hosting an accelerator exclusively for female entrepreneurs, US State-Department funded TechWomen is taking individuals into a new cohort of its exchange programme, and She Leads Africa has partnered with Intel to run a series of workshops in Africa targeting young female developers and tech entrepreneurs.
Owigar said AkiraChix played a positive role in Kenya by supporting young female entrepreneurs, who already faced the usual challenges of running startup businesses in Africa.
“Running a startup in Africa is pretty difficult in general. Access to funding is limited, in some cases the market is not mature or ready for the product, it’s hard to do market research,” she said.
“As an entrepreneur I experience all these challenges. As a woman I have been lucky to run Akirachix with a group of co-founders who are female just as I am. This has provided a lot of support, especially during the early days when we were the only ones who believed in our vision. I believe that since I had a support group I had a much easier experience that many entrepreneurs.”
Owigar said AkiraChix had initially experienced some skepticism from men as it was an initiative for women in a male-dominated field.
“But over the course of the years many men have become champions of our initiative since it benefits the whole community,” she said.
“Another important thing to note is that our main customers and beneficiaries are women, and the funders we work with are out to champion women’s issues. So we work in an area where we always have supporters around us. The key has been to align ourselves with people who support our vision.”