Excellence Joshua: My mission is to empower 5000 young African women with basic digital skills
A famous person once said; “Innovation is the outcome of a habit, not a random act.” That is what technology has done to the world; it made us recognise the power of consistency and focus.
Excellence Anurika Joshua belongs to the crop of women who are making a difference in the world through technology, and lifting other women while at it. She is the founder of Techy Train incubator, a Nigerian-based onshore and offshore training and outsourcing organisation that specialises in equipping African young women and female entrepreneurs with digital skills to empower them to get jobs in their countries and to also maximise remote job opportunities around the world. This will help in reducing the gender wage gap and to also support capacity building among African companies and startups development worldwide.
A Digital Media Consultant, Pan Africa social entrepreneur, and a blooming African development expert who has trained and created job opportunities for over 3000 young African Women in the Tech Space since 2019, in 2021, she started the Tech-Up Girls Initiative with her team to empower 5000 young women across Africa with basic digital skills before the end of 2022. The World Bank Fellow, and recipient of the AGS survivor-woman award is also the winner of Mentoring Her Pitchathon, as well as the 1st Runner-Up of The Youth Innovation Challenge by The Funding Space. In 2021, she emerged as one of the winners of the Startup Lab Pitch Competition of the Nigeria Tech Summit. A trailblaser who is passionate about using technology to drive change across areas in women, health, and education, she shares her story with ESTHER IJEWERE In this interview.
Yes, my childhood kind of did. My dad used to have a business centre even before I was born; first in Niger State and eventually in Abuja, the University of Abuja campus precisely. When I was about seven years old, on my birthday, my dad bought me a typewriter as my birthday gift and a book to learn how to type.
My mum used to be an accountant and a clerk with the then NEPA. She knew how to type very well, so she would teach me how to do ASDF and ;LKJ, you know, and all of that. I learnt how to type; that was when I was in primary three. But as I grew up, when I finished primary school, my elder brother and I would go to my dad’s business centre to help him with work. We would do things like photocopy, lamination… of course those are tech skills. So, we did all of that.
Then, when I grew a little bit older, he would tell his staff who were computer typists to teach me the computer, so they would teach me how to type and apply shortcuts on the computer. They taught me, so I knew how to type very well such that when I was in senior secondary school, I think or after junior WAEC, I was typing for money. Then a page was typed for N70 or N100? And we had so many people doing projects. It was a university environment, not everybody could own a computer or a laptop at that time, so people had to patronise business centres. And, yes, I knew how to type really fast.
My brother got more interested in coding, in software, and things like Oracle and all of that and he went further to explore that area but me, I just liked it; I love gadgets a lot. And my dad got me a phone; I think in 2006, I had just finished JSS 3. I never thought that I was going to be doing anything tech or digital skills like this; I didn’t think of it that way. But really, it helped. We would always go to my dad’s business centre to help him and I was exposed to all of these and he would just tell us, ‘don’t worry, when you are in school, when you get to the university, you won’t be stranded; you can always start your own business centre or do something.’
But you see, my story of survival from abuse pushed me to help other women and I didn’t think initially that my background was going to give me ease transitioning to tech. But here I am today; I am doing all of it. I think, yes, a part of my childhood actually prepared me in a way for what I do now.
Inspiration Behind Techy Train Incubator
In 2018, I was 25 years old, a fresh graduate from the university. I had just separated from my then abusive husband and fled with my two-year old son; I had no job, had a neurological breakdown, and was absolutely broke. I was desperate to survive. And while at it, I realised that the African society is not kind to helpless women and there were not many options for me. Despite being a graduate of Medical Laboratory Science, when life hit me hard, like it does to more than 21 per cent of Women in the world, the only lifeline I found to rebuild myself was through technology skills and digital solutions.
As soon as I began to make headway, I was determined to help other women do the same as well. I founded the Techy Train Incubator, a social enterprise to bridge the gender employment gap in Africa by training women and girls on digital skills, equipping them for the future of work and the right employability and helping them get jobs.
So far, I have led a team that has trained successfully over 7000 young Women across 21 countries in Africa on relevant basic digital skills and helped over 3500 outsource their talent globally, thereby fostering the economic development of women especially in Africa.
The Journey So Far
So far, I have led a team that has trained successfully over 7000 young Women across 21 countries in Africa on relevant basic digital skills and helped over 3500 outsource their talent globally thereby fostering the economic development of women especially in Africa. I have won a few grants that have accelerated our work and reach across Africa.
I started a foundation in 2021 funded by the Techy Train incubator to train young girls and ladies for free in relevant technology skills, especially those with financial challenges and with no jobs to cater for themselves and their children. My mission in this is to empower women and youths with tools to work their way out of poverty, care for their families and strengthen their communities. As there are so many opportunities in the Tech and online space that are yet to be tapped, I believe that with thorough guidance and training, we can help women, especially those who are suffering in abusive marriages, become financially independent, leveraging just their smartphones and the internet; helping them set up a thriving business online. It will also prevent more young women from being vulnerable to abuse.
Mission To Empower 5000 Young Women Across Africa With Basic Digital Skills Before The End Of 2022
I set up The Tech-Up Girls Initiative bootcamp with my team to empower 5000 young women across Africa with basic digital skills within three years, starting in June 2021. However, this goal was achieved within a year. So far, over 3330 have been empowered from across 19 countries in Africa and assisted over 400 women in being gainfully self-employed using digital skills. The final cohort where over 1700 young girls are enrolled will be completed by June 24, 2022.
In January 2022, I set-up the Tech-Up Ladies to teach young Nigerian female graduates how to code and become Software Developers. Nine young ladies were trained within 10 weeks for FREE and completed their training in March 2022.
Being A World Bank Fellow, And Winning The AGS Survivor-Woman Award
First, the World Bank Fellow award, I had just started Techy Train not too long ago and then I applied and pitched my business to go into the Access Bank Womenpreneur Pitch-A-Ton and I didn’t really think I was going to be selected. I scaled through the first stage and then I got selected among 50 women that were trained by the International Finance Corporation and World Bank Group for that programme and it was a phenomenal experience. We went through quite a number of unique business skills training; very practical hands-on and it was just too good.
So, after that, part of the award we were given was becoming World Bank Fellows and it’s really a boast. It has been a good one. It is not just about that; it is about the community that we have found and the support and the leverage that we have had since then.
The AGS survivor-woman award is something that is very remarkable to me that I just will not forget, because it was my very first attempt at sharing my story, so Mwanga Africa was partnering with the AGS tribe, now Herconomy, to share stories that touch lives. I was very reluctant, I didn’t want to share it and for some reason, I won. For me, it wasn’t that; it wasn’t about the prize money of $1000 that was given. It was the fact that my story was valid; it was the fact that for the first time, I was vulnerable enough to share my experience and it changed my life. I used a part of that money to get my very first new laptop and then I registered for Codecademy to study full-stack web development and that was a journey to greater things in my life.
So, I feel privileged. It also gave me quite some visibility and from then, I saw that I was not alone. So many people were going through the same experience I had, but were not bold enough to come forward and I saw myself providing help and support to most of them.
Society And Its Support For Women In Tech
I think right now, not many women are in the tech space and despite this, I don’t see so much discrimination. I think in the tech space, it is more about how good you are. If you are good, they give you the opportunity; so, it is not about being male or female. At least, I have not experienced that. I even see that they want more women, but we don’t have so many women that are skilled enough to do the job required so the gap is wide.
You see, they always want women; I don’t think they discriminate. I think there is just so much to be done, and I think that more people should support and encourage women to actually go in that field. If it is in that angle, then I think yes, we should support more women to go into tech
Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
First, my mum; the woman is so resilient, determined and powerful. She’s one person who if she’s backing you, you can go to sleep. She literally keeps encouraging me. I admire Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji for her tenacity. I admire Dr Lola Adeyemi for her heart. She’s a gift that keeps giving and constantly sees the good in others. In the work I do, I have to keep giving, keep impacting with or without external support and remembering her and what she has done for me, I am encouraged to do more.
Some of the challenges I have experienced in my line of work include inconsistent power supply. You don’t have power, you don’t even have fuel to power the generator; it could be a lot of work. Another thing I have experienced is being able to balance work and family; it can be a whole lot especially parenting my son alone. There are sacrifices and things I have to give up to actually make some things work.
Thirdly, it is not easy to build a business with a good structure in Nigeria. Many things, many people want to relate with you one on one, so it was very difficult transitioning that we have a team and this is how things will work.
Other Projects And Activities
We have the Tech-Up Ladies. In the Tech-Up Ladies, the plan for 2022 is to empower 20 young women with software development skills. We have empowered nine already through a 10 weeks programme; they finished on March 31, and it’s been phenomenal.
Now, moving on from the Tech-Up Girls that we are achieving in a bit, we are looking forward to partnering with well meaning Nigerians, Non-profit organisations and people that are interested in empowering women and girls, especially with tech skills in Nigeria and across Africa. We are looking forward to partnering with them to facilitate programmes to reach more people. We have a system that works, we just need resources to channel them to reach more people.
We are also working on leveraging partnerships with other African countries to go there and empower girls there but to use local content for girls in those localities. Most importantly, we are also working on building a marketplace for women in tech from Africa where they can sell their skills to individuals and corporations around the world. The platform is to be built specifically for women in tech and by women. We are looking forward to resources to make this happen.
Being A Woman Of Rubies
It is the fact that Excellence has gone through a deep furnace experience. So, when I teach, I don’t teach from my head knowledge. I know what can work, because it is not abstract knowledge; it is because I have walked the path. I have gone through the pain. I have seen all of it; I have seen the failure, I can pre-empt what will work and what will not work. So, I am not going to give motivational talks or just hype women. I am not telling them where I have not been. I am not bringing them out from where I have not been. I know the road; I have been out of ‘prison’’ so I know how to show them out so that is what makes me unique. Despite it all, I thrived against all odds; coming out and now going back to bring out other people from there.
Advice For Young Women Who Want To Pitch Their Tent In The Tech Sector
I will say come in, come on in; there is more than enough room for you in tech. There is a uniqueness that women bring into developing products that are created in tech that men alone cannot bring. So, I would say please and please do come on to tech; come and humanise technology. We love you, we appreciate you and we would want to see you. I think there is room for you to be all that you can be without limitations, without discrimination. I think more women should come.
Important Tech Nuggets
In transitioning to tech, do not think abstractly; discover what tech skill intersects with your academic background, experience and skills, as well as which will remain relevant down the road. Do not learn a skill just because others are learning as well.