22 October 2020
Men need to be part of the solution for there to be more women in technology - AfricaCom and AfricaTech set the stage for necessary robust discussion in 2020. An exceptional line-up of speakers at this year’s Africa Tech Festival, are set to raise awareness around the different challenges facing Africa.
AfricaCom and AfricaTech have become synonymous with industry change in the digital infrastructure and emerging technology space, their evolution, as well as robust debate over the years. In 2020, that tradition continues. One such innovation that is sure to attract its share of controversy and attention, will be the second ‘Women in Tech Takeover’, that returns to the AfricaTech Centre Stage and the AHUB as part of the new AccelerateHER programme of content.
This year’s events will take place virtually as part of the newly launched Virtual Africa Tech Festival, from 09 -13 November 2020. Being a fully-fledged virtual event, organisers expect the Women in Tech and AccelerateHER sessions to be very well attended, as there remains an ongoing battle for women to be seen as equals in terms of leadership and investment in the male-dominated tech space.
Setting the scene, and as outspoken and thought provoking as ever, Lorraine Steyn, international speaker and the pioneering founder of South Africa’s first female-led software development shop – some 35 years ago – observes that: “The digital world is the epitome of democracy… it doesn’t see people through rose-tinted glasses. Yet, I’m always amazed to see male delegates at conferences leave the hall en masse when women tech experts stand up to deliver their presentations around Women in Tech.
“This is what is broken. All those men have decided that the issues that women in tech face are not their issues. But, that’s the point. It is just as much their responsibility to create an inclusive environment, as it is for women. We need to see the dominant players in the IT field realize that by excluding women from this space, we all lose.”
Steyn’s annoyance is shared by colleagues around the world and given that AfricaCom and AfricaTech are online, the 2020 instalment is expected to attract many more female business and tech experts. It’s also an ideal opportunity for men to remain in the ‘room’ and get to grips with understanding that as part of the problem, they are also part of the solution.
“This year’s event is ground-breaking as we move from face-to-face networking and presenting to purely virtual conferencing, but it’s the perfect opportunity for the industry to live its own message of embracing digital disruption,” says Tom Cuthell, Event Director of Africa Tech Festival.
The technology in place for both AfricaCom and AfricaTech will ensure that attendees get more out of this event than ever before. People can live stream any event from wherever they are in the world, replay sessions for clarity or in the event of scheduling conflicts, and actively comment and view remarks from other delegates during presentations. There is also streamlined communicating, networking and one-one-ones in private meeting rooms to create that virtual event X-factor.
“Virtual exhibitions and conferences are actually going to grow in popularity when people get comfortable with the technology and how it will help them to not miss anything while, at the same time, putting them easily into contact with the right people, quicker.”
Speakers expected to take to the podium at AfricaCom and the Africa Tech Festival, include:
• Pamela Coke Hamilton, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre who will be part of a panel: Mobilising Africa’s tech industries to fight the COVID-19 outbreak
• Dorothy Tembo, Deputy Executive Director at International Trade Centre who will participate in a Fireside Chat: The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): implications for tech
• Aissatou Diallo, Country/ Regional Portfolio Manager at International Trade Centre (ITC) UN/WTO who will speak at the AHUB on Youth, Tech and the AfCFTA
• Aubrey Hruby - an adviser to investors with interests in African markets. She is a Senior Fellow at the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council and the co-author of the award-winning book, The Next Africa, who will chair day two of keynote presentations
• Rapelang Rabana – Founder and Chair of Rekindle Learning, who has been named Entrepreneur for the World by the World Entrepreneurship Forum and selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum who will air her views on a panel: Bridging Africa’s digital skills gap: Enhancing human capacity to realise Africa’s 4IR potential.
The truth is that women have been pioneers driving the industry since the early days of the original green screen and dotmatrix printers. Take Margaret Hamilton, lead developer on Nasa's Apollo Space programme, who was responsible for flight software that helped us land on the Moon. Yet, today, 76% of bums on seats are male… and their pay checks are 25% higher than that of their female counterparts.
One of the major counter arguments against promoting women in the industry seems to revolve around the perceived impact on the bottom line, but here’s where women actually stack up well against the boys. Studies show that tech businesses led by women yield on average 35% higher returns on investment than companies run by men - and this on the back of picking up 50% less venture capital funding than their male counterparts.
The gender gap shouldn’t be seen as a form of competition, but rather as an opportunity for vital collaboration. Something that is keenly required now more than ever.
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