Unlike ten years ago, more Africans are finding jobs in tech today. However, the disparity in opportunities to learn and begin a career in tech between men and women is huge. According to a 2021 report on the Africa Developer Ecosystem by Google and Accenture [pdf], 85 per cent of developers on the continent are men, with 15 per cent being women. While Africa is losing some of its developers due to global demand, there is still a steady rise in the number of people joining the ecosystem, and more women are finding new career paths in tech, thanks to Tech4Dev.
Now in its sixth year, Tech4Dev, founded by Diwura Oladepo and Joel Ogunsola, is bridging the digital literacy gap in Africa. The not-for-profit organisation’s core focus has been improving women’s access to careers in tech through a partnership with Microsoft and the Islamic Development Bank.
On the International Girls in ICT Day for 2023, Tech4Dev announced its Women Techsters Fellowship for the class of 2024, which begins in September 2023. The initiative “is aimed at bridging the wide gender divide between men and women in the technology ecosystem as well as ensuring equal access to opportunities for all,” Oladepo reaffirmed in her keynote address at the announcement.
She also noted that the Women Techsters Initiative had stepped out of its birthplace in Nigeria and grown its footprint across Africa by supporting more women with tech skills and increasing their employability or even doubling their income. “From impacting just 2,400 women in Nigeria through its pilot program, the Nigerian Women Techsters, to most recently impacting 89,153 women in 2023 through our various Women Techsters sub-programs which notably comprises the Women Techsters Fellowship, Bootcamps, Masterclass which are our training programs, and the Women Techsters Open-Day and Tech-Girls Drive, which are our advocacy programs.”
The fellowship is a one-year “experiential learning technology upskilling program.” It empowers young girls and women between 16 to 40 years across Africa with global in-demand skills ranging from digital, deep tech, and soft skills, which are essential to kickstart a career in the tech ecosystem. During the fellowship, participants undergo intensive training for six months, then proceed on an internship for another six months and enrollment into a mentorship. This process aims to help to equip them with skills to build tech careers and tech-enabled businesses—all for free.
Class of 2024
For last year’s Women Techsters Fellowship, Tech4Dev graduated 847 women from 15 African countries after accepting 1,398 participants from 14,782 applications. This year, the organisation is going a step further by extending its footprint into 22 countries on the continent. “The class of 2024 will admit a total of 3,000 women and girls into the program from 22 African countries. We invite women and girls from across Africa to seize this opportunity and take their place as change-makers in Africa’s technology ecosystem by applying to be a part of the program,” Oladepo announced.
The participants will come from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, South Africa, Ethiopia, DR. Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar, Rwanda, Liberia, Botswana, Zambia Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Gambia. “All the participants will have to be virtually present for their classes as the fellowship is not a learn-at-your-pace programme. The different instructors will be in each of the classes they will be taking,” Blessing Ashi, Women Techsters Program Lead, Tech4Dev, noted.
While Tech4Dev prides itself in providing access for women into tech roles through training, the Women Techsters Fellowship goes further to provide an opportunity for participants to interact and engage with alumni who went through the programme. “We provide a space for women to interact with people who may be in the same situation as them. We also take into consideration the conditions of the participants; they could be pregnant or have other issues. All this is considered in order for them to be able to fully participate in the programme,” Ashi said in response to a question from the press.
Looking into the future
As part of providing access for women into tech roles, Oludepo also hinted at the Women Techsters Initiative launching the Women Techsters Entrepreneurship incubator later in the year. It would facilitate the development of women-led technology businesses in Africa.
It is worth noting that most of the countries participating in the 2023 fellowship have English as their official language. However, Oludepo and Ashi pointed out that there is a section for interested individuals from other African countries not listed in the application. Applicants have to will be tested on their use of English since it is the language of instruction during the fellowship. Oludepo stated that the countries chosen were based on “data and learnings from previous years” but assured that other countries will be covered, which is in line with Tech4Dev’s goals.
“The Women Techsters journey is not just a commitment, it’s a bold mission to break down the barriers that hold women back from the thriving world of technology,” Oludepo said. “We will continue this course until we achieve a 50-50 gender parity ratio between men and women in the African technology ecosystem. This audacious goal may seem impossible to some, but we will push boundaries, defy expectations, and lead the charge towards a future where women have equal representation and opportunities in tech.”