See how Senegal is promoting the inclusion of women and girls in the tech sector.
OCTOBER 11, 2016
Many women in Africa live day to day life facing a plethora of economic and social disparities. In some African countries, women work twice as long as men, but only earn one tenth as much money. Technology can help level the playing field for women, and the growing tech cluster in the West African country, Senegal, is doing just that.
While Senegal doesn't have the high population or economy of Nigeria, or the mobile innovation of Kenya, the country is ripe for tech investments. Eighty-three percent of the Senegalese population has a mobile phone. Forty percent of the devices in use are smartphones that allow users to access the Internet.
Internet-based business contributed to 3.3% of Senegal's GDP, the highest of any African nation, shows a 2013 study by the McKinsey Global Institute think tank.
How are women growing Senegal's digital economy?
"The curriculums are designed to provide girls with skills for future work, to develop their numeracy and literacy skills, get creative, and build on their self-esteem and confidence."- Jessica Bryant, media manager, TheirworldFrom coding programs for girls, to tech business incubators and pitching events, Senegal is evolving into a formidable tech ecosystem.
During Theirworld's #UpForSchool initiative, girls learn how to build computers and make websites, games and art with HTML, CSS, Java and Ruby on Rails. They also learn how to write their own business plans and CVs.
"The curriculums are designed to provide girls with skills for future work, to develop their numeracy and literacy skills, get creative, and build on their self-esteem and confidence," says Theirworld Media Manager Jessica Bryant.
Based in Senegal's capital Dakar, the tech hub Jjiguene Tech Senegal is run by women and serves women. Founded by Binta Coudy De, the initiative aims to increase the number of women in ICT (information and communication technology) through networking events, outreach programs, mentoring and tech training. The learning center works with women of all ages and education levels.
In May, the all-girls school, Mariama Bâ de Gorée School, competed in the second annual Pan-African Robotics Competition in Dakar. The event was organized by Senegalese native, Sidy Ndao, an engineering professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who is promoting STEM education across West Africa.
That's not all that's available for young Senegalese girls keen on tech. In April, the UNESCO YouthMobile Initiative and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Senegal held several activities across the country to encourage girls to pursue careers in the technology sector. The events included computer programming courses, mobile app development contests, and opportunities for girls to meet with government agencies and tech companies.
Can Senegal be its own Silicon Valley?
CTIC Dakar, a leading tech incubator in Senegal, supports high-growth tech companies. Last year, the organization partnered with the National Bank for Economic Development to provide loans to selected startups. Banks forging partnerships with incubators and accelerators is becoming somewhat of a trend across Africa.
In the city of Diamniadio, about 40 kilometers from Dakar, the Senegalese government and African Development Bank are building Senegal's own smart city. Named "Diamniadio Technology Park," the digital hub is being designed to attract foreign capital, local businesses and e-government services.
With a Senegalese Silicon Valley in the works, the timing for Senegalese women to enter the tech sector couldn't be better.
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