Who Are Africa's Marissa Mayers?
Here are some women to watch in Africa’s growing tech industry
Michelle Atagana Special to CNN
July 29, 2012
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNN) -- No one saw Marissa Mayer's appointment as the new CEO of Yahoo coming. I certainly didn't! However this is great news for women in tech. Her appointment has sparked a lot of debate as she becomes the 20th current female CEO of a fortune 500 company.
According to Mayer "women in the workplace and women in technology will be key drivers of global competitiveness and innovation in the future." I truly believe that. Then again, maybe I am biased.
Things are going great for women and it seems the West is slowly shedding its aversion to women in tech, but what's going on in Africa?
African women can be key power players and the continent's tech scene is a burning star but there are very few women at the forefront of that supernova.
So who are the unsung heroines of Africa's tech evolution and revolution?
Ory Okolloh is probably a little tired of being cited here but she is one of the biggest female icons when it comes to Africa's tech space, one of the co-founders of the popular Ushaidi crowdmapping software, she is now Google's policy manager for Africa.
Marieme Jamme, the founder of a great initiative called Africa Gathering is another -- she works to pioneer growth on the continent as well as inspire young African women to tech involve in the technology space.
There is also Juliana Rotich, a prolific blogger and co-founder of Ushahidi -- the open-source mapping software.
I am not sure when it all began, but some time in the past, some genius decided that women didn't have the aptitude for technical things. Most of us have come quite far from that, but why does it still feel like tech is a scary place for African women?
I think it's time women in Africa stop looking at technology as something that men do. It's not a man's world. Every time I explain the type of journalism I do, people ask "but isn't that for technical people, like guys" -- Tech doesn't belong to guys and these interesting African women are proving it.
Women like Rapelang Rabana, co-founder of Yeigo Communications, a mobile VoIP company that was integrated into the Telfree group. Rabana is now the Global Head of Research and Development at Telfree. She was also called a tech pioneer by South Africa's Minister of communication at a conference aimed at promoting technology in Africa.
Then there is Barbara Mallinson, who thought in a world where Facebook is king it was necessary to have a safe social network for young people that could double as an education tool. Her company Obami is an e-learning and communications platform for schools.
It's not just a world of founders and entrepreneurs.
There are power players heading up big corporations or country arms of multinational organizations.
I find Juliet Ehimuan Google country manager for Nigeria fascinating. She has a pretty tough job heading up operations in one of Africa's largest internet-user communities and dealing with Nigeria's poor online reputation.
Another one is Isis Nyongo is the Vice President and Managing Director of InMobi, the world's largest independent mobile advertising network. Before that she was the Business Development Manager for Google's Africa.
Other African women to watch out for
Anne Amuzu technical head of Ghana-based Nandimobile, a mobile company that hopes to "leverage the high mobile penetration rates in Africa to create mobile customer service technology," which will help businesses "easily connect with their customers on the mobile platform."
Sheila Bartels-Sam is the CEO of InCharge Global Ltd, the Ghanaian-based electronic payments processing company that focuses on "loyalty and payments management." Prior to joining InCharge Global, Bartel-Sam co-founded Platinum Technologies, a company that provides outsourced data processing and contact centre services for US corporations.
Funke Opeke is the CEO of Main One Cable Company and founder of Main Street Technologies. Main One is a communications company that provides "open access international connectivity and broadband capacity to countries in West Africa."
Google's Anita Borg's Scholars are also young women to watch. Oluwasola Fasan, Maletsabisa Molapo and Joyce Mwangama are all university students based in South Africa and are part of Google's project to foster women in technology in Africa.
The project was founded in 2004 to honor American computer scientist Anita Borg, who founded the Institute for Women and Technology.
I also think it is important to note that women need to get out of the mindset that tech isn't their "thing" -- if you are passionate about it then you should live and breathe it.