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NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa has afresh been a launchpad for new technology developments. But as advance is actuality made, advance for African women in the industry is still lacking. Judith Owigar, 32, saw this immediate and absitively to advice added adolescent women accept a chance.
When Owigar abounding academy in Nairobi, she was one of a few women in her technology classes. This motivated her to accompany her affection for technology and she created her aboriginal business seven years ago.
She auspiciously launched the nonprofit Akirachix with Angela Lungati, Linda Kamau, and Marie Githinji in 2010. For one year, 30 girls apprentice software and coding programs and analyze clear architecture as able-bodied as app development. The affairs focuses on recruiting girls from low-income areas that may not accept the befalling to accompany an apprenticeship above aerial school.
“How do we admission the activity of women entering the acreage of technology? So one of the things we accomplished is, cardinal one, we charge to accept added women cerebration and chief to do technology careers,” said Owigar.
For Marline Khavene, 19, Akirachix has been life-changing. Khavene wants to accompany a career in coding and become a software engineer, but could not acquiesce the amount of a university. “My bigger dream is to assignment at Google. But appropriate now, I appetite to aloof go footfall by step, ” said. “But I apperceive I will ability there.”
The activity Akirachix is creating is analytical to the arising technology breadth in Kenya. About 40 afar alfresco of Nairobi, a acute burghal is boring actuality constructed. The Konza Burghal Tech Center is actuality congenital on acreage the government calls Kenya’s “Silicon Savannah.”
“We apprehend Konza to be a admixture of local, bounded and all-around institutions and hopefully we get a admixture of analysis institutions and institutions of college learning,” said Victor Kyalo, abbot of Kenya’s Information, Communications and Technology (ICT). “Local businesses and all-embracing businesses can appear calm and maybe actualize [an] ecosystem that can appear up with some new things appear technology.”
Though the activity started in 2012, the ambition is to clearly attainable its doors in 2030.
“There is huge abeyant in this allotment of the world,” explains Bitange Ndemo, 57, a assistant at the University of Nairobi who helped advance the Konza idea. “I see so abounding actual aggressive account but they abridgement the funding. Africa has the greatest abeyant because we accept the best problems and the befalling comes from problems. If you can assignment any befalling into a solution, actualize a band-aid for any problem, you are there.”
Kenya has a history of actuality a barrage pad for tech addition in Africa. In 2009, basement confused in the country back broadband became added attainable for bodies in both the cities and the villages. Adaptable assimilation in the country is now at 88 percent. A decade ago, the adaptable money alteration system, “m-pesa,” spurred development in the country. Created by Safaricom, m-pesa is a arrangement for Kenyans to accelerate money to accompany and ancestors beyond the abstemious and acceptance has developed over time.
With a citizenry of about 49 actor people, there are 18 actor alive m-pesa barter in Kenya and the aggregation has broadcast its account to nine added countries including Ghana, Tanzania, Egypt, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Back it comes to advantageous the bill at a restaurant, acclaim cards are about non-existent. Abounding Kenyans adopt to pay for their commons application m-pesa.
“It’s a revolution,” explains Ndemo. “A anarchy in a faculty that, aloof a few years ago, it was actual big-ticket to accelerate money. It took so abounding canicule to accelerate money. But today, with m-pesa, it takes a breach second, the amount is abundant lower, we accept created greater efficiencies in accomplishing so.”
Despite incubators and co-working spaces like iLab and iHub accepting absorption in Nairobi, one of the bigger challenges the country faces is technology training for adolescence who abound up in the cities and alfresco of them.
Magdaline Sointa, 22, was aloft commonly Maasai, a affiliated accumulation in Kenya and Tanzania. She spent abundant of her adolescence years in Narok, a mostly Maasai breadth amid about three hours arctic of Nairobi. She abounding aerial academy and now is belief advice technology at the Kenya Academy of Accountancy in Nairobi.
“My dream is to abide with my education,” said Sointa. “As anon as I’m done with this I’ll accept to my degree. My master’s. And then, my PHD. It has consistently been my dream.”
Sointa additionally dreams of managing her own IT company. She runs a cyber bistro out of a allowance in her home with her mother and sister. The amplitude allows bodies in Narok to print, fax, browse e-mail documents, and admission the internet.
For Maasai women in Narok County, alone one in 15 girls enrolled in primary academy abide on to accessory school. Analysis has apparent that Maasai attitude and ability anon associate with the low amount of girls absolute in education. Girls generally bead out of academy because of aboriginal marriage, pregnancy, poverty, and added factors. But Sointa’s mother, Louisa Kenga, 50, abounding academy and absitively that educating her babe was important.
“I appetite to see added girls in technology,” said Sointa. “And appearance these men that, akin as ladies, we can do [it]. And do it akin better.”
For adolescence growing up in Kenya’s villages, admission to technology is limited. The government has fabricated assorted attempts to accompany technology into the areas. They attempted to actualize agenda apple centers which ultimately bootless they say because there wasn’t abundant disposable assets to acquiesce the programs to be self-regenerating over time.
In 2016, the government focused on absorbing 22 thousand schools to advance connectivity in rural areas. And now, they are alive their focus to an action that would actualize agenda schools in Kenya by giving primary academy accouchement tablets that are able with chic curriculum.
“The digi-school is absolutely a academy that looks at allotment kids at a actual aboriginal stage,” said Kyalo. “Now we are saying, let’s accord ourselves a 14-15 year window and see what will appear if [children] are apparent aboriginal enough, [if] they’re encouraged to experiment, [if] they’re encouraged to be analytical and to do all sorts of things with the devices.”
But some bounded entrepreneurs in Kenya say government abutment is limited. Owigar created her own business, Juakali and is now self-funding her company. She said the government needs to do added assignment that supports entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneur Ngatia Ndungu started website and adaptable app Neutrade aftermost year. The aggregation is a transactional belvedere that helps baby calibration merchants like “Mama Mboga”, additionally accepted as the women on the artery who advertise items like plantain, fruit, and vegetables. Neutrade allows these merchants to accumulate clue of their account and administer the affairs of their business. Ndungu has 200 alive accessories in cities throughout Kenya and has a cat-and-mouse account of over a thousand merchants. His aggregation has adjourned the belvedere through their own claimed investments.
“We had to stop affairs because the business outstripped the supply,” said Ndungu. “We’re attractive for an asset costs accomplice to be able to awning the demand. It’s alteration slowly, but our bigger botheration in agreement of startups in Kenya is scaling. Back a aggregation gets to a point breadth you charge to scale, again we’re affair a lot of challenges in agreement of accessing funding.”
While allotment is a affair for entrepreneurs in Kenya, strides accept been fabricated in the tech space.
“It’s absolutely been amazing,” said Owigar. “Like, you could say technology is article that bodies allocution about. Bodies see the appliance and the appulse of technology. Now it’s not just, a banal thing. And because of that, bodies accept – are seeing the ability of technology. Of how it can change lives.”
As technology in Kenya expands, entrepreneurs, and the government akin are acquisitive to body a advancing breadth for the abutting bearing of beginning engineers.
This activity was accurate by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
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