‘Why women-led tech startups are challenged’
• UK-Nigeria tech hub collaborates with Google, awards $3m grant
•Over 58% of African businesses owned by women, says Ehimuan-Chiazor
With countries like Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa seeing a rise in tech-related entrepreneurship, the pool of African angel investor and venture capital funds remain limited, particularly for women-owned ventures.
This challenge has been described as a major limitation, among others that should be tackled headlong if more females must come to the tech space.
Indeed, at the UK Nigeria Tech Hub forum, in Lagos, organised to mark the International Women’s Month with the theme: “Her Venture Journey: Addressing Equity Gaps,” panelists raised several compelling issues, which they said must be urgently addressed.
At the panel session with the theme: “It’s not me it’s you, why women fail to raise funding,” the speakers, including the Chief Operating Officer, Imperium Capital, Mary Akpobome; Managing Partner and Lead, Verraki, Olaniyi Yusuf and Managing Partner, Octerra Capital, Ashim Egunjobi, agreed that in comparison to male-led ventures, the number of African women-led firms decrease as they transition from incubation and acceleration to growth stages where they access larger amounts of private equity.
Egunjobi alluded to the fact that there were more male founders than female founders and this could also be a reason why funding might be going to male-led start-ups more.
She said the funding gap is huge in Africa, noting that while only about 1.8 per cent funding went to female business owners in the past year, less than 10 per cent of women worldwide are writing cheques.
According to her, more girls and women should be science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) focused. The Octerra Capital Managing Partner, however, tasked women on authenticity and boldness, adding, “women generally are more risk averse compared to men. Women must equally ask more questions to overcome.”
On his part, Yusuf said it is pertinent for women techies to understand the terrain they are entering, stressing that there must also be a problem the solution is targeted at.
According to him, there is equally the need to understand that there is a gap, which should be bridged as far as possible. The Verraki Lead said women-led businesses must have the right team with a balance of skills, adding that there must also be a mentor.
Akpobome, on her part, stressed the importance of government funding, saying they should be engaged just like big corporations. According to her, governments set the tone for business growth. She said the government should initiate policies that will allow agencies to support female businesses.
Akpobome stressed the need to review curriculums in schools, “because of the fast-changing environment, which is dictated by technology. The world has shifted! We must build from scratch to encourage the girl-child. We need incentives (scholarships and grants) to encourage them. Government should set up the tone by policies and legislation that will encourage the girl-child.”
On her part, Google’s Country Manager, Nigeria, Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, the girl-child must be encouraged to succeed. She said at Google, there are lots of initiatives, specifically targeted at the female business owners.
She disclosed that out of the about $5 billion that came to tech startups in 2021, only one per cent went to women-owned firms, while 20 per cent went to startups led in partnership between men and women, while the rest went to men.
While encouraging more females to go into tech, the Google Nigeria boss said a particular initiative by the technology firm, with over 100 businesses, has raised over N200 million in funding.
MEANWHILE, the UK-Nigeria Tech Hub, a pillar of the UK government’s broader Digital Access Programme (DAP), announced collaboration with Google for Startups at the event.
As part of this collaboration, the two entities will award $3 million in Google Cloud credits to women founders in Nigeria. This support will subsidise cloud technology-related costs for startups, allowing them to focus on innovation, customer acquisition and growth.
The joint effort by UK-Nigeria Tech Hub and Google for Startups Africa will help promote digital inclusion and jointly support technology businesses run by women founders.
Country Director, UK-Nigeria Tech Hub, Justina Oha, said: “We are thrilled to announce our collaboration with Google for Startups, which comes at a time when the world is celebrating International Women’s Day. This partnership is a testament to our commitment to supporting women founders and helping them reach their full potential. Partnerships like this are one of the great ways that stakeholders can come together to advance Nigeria’s tech ecosystem at an accelerated pace.”
Head of Startup Ecosystem Google Africa, Folarin Aiyegbusi speaking on the collaboration, said: “We are excited to partner with the UK-Nigeria Tech Hub to empower women entrepreneurs in Nigeria. This collaboration is a unique opportunity to provide women founders with the support and resources they need to scale their businesses and contribute to the growth of Nigeria’s tech ecosystem. At Google for Startups, we are committed to supporting startups and entrepreneurs around the world, and we believe that empowering women founders is key to building a more diverse and inclusive tech industry.”