African Women in Technology turns three and boldly ushers African women into 'golden era' of technology

Kenya’s capital was the place to be especially from 19th – 21st July as African Women in Technology (AWIT) Conference returned back with a bang to Nairobi, Kenya, its birthplace.

  • AWIT Kenya 2018 conference provided Kenyan female startup entrepreneurs’ with the perfect platform to boldly step forward and pitch their product and businesses to a panel of judges and investors for a chance to walk away with a cool $500.
  • AWIT was founded in 2016, by one of Africa’s smartest women entrepreneurs’ and America’s corporate wizard one Anie Akpe.
  • As AWIT turns three, it is also entering into a new phase of independence where young bold and confident Kenyan women are taking the reins and running the show.

For three days, Kenyan women from all walks of life, young and old, greenhorns and old-hands  in tech alike  made their way to one of Kenya’s tech hubs, Nairobi garage, Pine tree plaza where the 3-day conference was being held to learn everything tech and entrepreneurship.

“The turnout was very good; we had at least 200 delegates on each day, we had very engaging audience and the young women startup entrepreneurs  who turned up gave memorable and bold pitch presentation.”  Quinta Onditi, a techie and the programs coordinator told Business Insider SSA.

The one of its kind conference provide attendees a unique combination of deep-dive, hands-on tech workshops, information and discussions about education, entrepreneurship, careers in tech, and how to pursue them; networking opportunities with other women in various aspects and careers in technology.

Themed “Be Bold”, the 2018 conference also provided Kenyan female startup entrepreneurs’ with the perfect platform to boldly step forward and pitch their product and businesses to a panel of judges and investors for a chance to walk away with a cool $500, not to mention numerous coaching opportunities from established women leaders and tech-makers who have successfully created award-winning  products and solutions.

“Our first winner was Earthnique, a natural hair beauty product founded by Joan Karanja to empower African women, second winner was Dial A Pad, an app created by sisters Faith and Linda Kimeu to improve the quality of lives of women by easing the process of accessing sanitary towels and our third winner was Kilimo Digital, an app seeking to make farming effective, profitable and manageable founded by Mellany Mettah” said Quinta.

The first winner’s price was a funding of $500 and six months free membership at Nairobi Garage, second runners up won $200 plus Nairobi Garage’s three months free membership and the third winner pocketed $100.

And that was not all, in a bid to take over the African ‘online space’ by promoting online engagement far and wide, AWIT also had a treat up on their sleeve for the most active tweeters during the three day conference.

Four top tweeters; Grace Kaberere, Evalyne Wanjiku, Ruth Gichina and Maureen Mogoah won a fully paid trip to Mombasa to attend WordCamp Conference at the Swahili pot happening from August 4-5th. This was supported in collaboration with Mary Job of How do you Tech.

Founded in 2016, by one of Africa’s smartest women entrepreneurs’ and America’s corporate wizard one Anie Akpe, AWIT conferences has slowly emerged to become a must-attend conference for techies and non-techies alike.

Born in Nigeria before migrating to the United States, Ms. Akpe is a business professional and entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ experience in the banking industry, currently managing a more than $800 million portfolio.

Apart from her stealer career in banking, Anie is also the founder of IBOM LLC and Innov8tiv magazine publisher.

She has been recognised countless times for her achievements and more recently she was named as one of Women of Influence, 2016 by HousingWire one of US leading news sites covering lending, servicing, investments and real estate.

She first came up with the idea in 2015 after hosting a women’s tech event in New York and that’s when the need to give back to her motherland by empowering one of Africa’s biggest but most undervalued resource, women, hit her hard and pushed her to consider hosting a similar tech event in Africa.

A year later she partnered up with TechMoran, a tech and business company, and successfully held the first AWIT conference at Kenyatta University.

“What can women bring to the technology sector in Africa? A lot! It all depends on the company's needs. Women bring a new perspective. Women are intuitive, smart, creative and observant. Being integral parts of families and communities, women also experience a lot of the problems which startups try to solve and can bring in viewpoints that lead to solving these problems."  Said Akpe.

The choice for Kenya was simple, the country had an existing budding tech hub ripe for exploitation plus her Kenyan friends also rallied hard enough to bring ‘AWIT home’.

"Conferences like this are very important, especially in Africa, to connect, encourage, empower and support young women, girls and aspiring entrepreneurs in technology. At conferences like AWIT, the younger girls get to meet women in the industry who have worked or built businesses across various verticals in the industry." Akpe adds.

Hosting the event is no joke and as days to the event approaches Anie who is sticker of quality work usually goes on overdrive holding meeting with her team spread across the continent, sending emails to potential speakers and investors, coming up with banners and communication tools all geared towards ensuring the 3-day conference goes without a hitch.

"Finding the right supporters and partners is top on the list because most people have good intentions but not everyone can execute. Building an active, engaged community has also been tough because AWIT aims to keep inspiring, empowering and supporting our women even after the conferences are over.”

Boosting of some of Kenya’s best brains ranging from CEOs of blue chip companies with little time to spare to innovative entrepreneurs busy disrupting the market on its speakers list, all while walking a tightrope between making the event free for the public and quality at the same time is no child’s play but the number challenge is getting funds to execute the event.

“Our number one challenge, however, is keeping the event free, while still maintaining standards and reaching for our goals. AWIT was created for the younger demographic who are interested in or just getting into the industry e.g. college students, young or aspiring entrepreneurs, etc, so we never want to charge the attendees." Akpe explains.

One such college student and first-timer whom the event was specifically created for is Eunita Chepchumba, a third-year student pursuing applied physics and Computer Science at Multimedia University.

“This is my first time attending this conference and the main thing that I like about it is mentorship, I am happy that I got to interact with people in the tech space who are more experienced than me, that is what I had been looking for a very long time, I also been wanting to be inspired especially by a lady who is in the same space as me, one lady who really made a good impression on me is one who made a presentation about automatic cars, it  really struck a chord with me also considering that this is a free platform and everyone including those who cannot afford is welcome to attend is great, it’s a very good experience and I am glad that I attended it.” Said Chepchumba.

Quinta chips in and adds that Eunita is but just one among many young women who attended the conference and continue to be fascinated by its zero charges.

“We had a lot of first-timers who have never attended AWIT conferences before and they were really excited to learn about tech and are now looking forward to driving the tech debate in Kenya even further.”

For an old-hand like Quinta who has been in the tech industry for a while and who has religiously attended all AWIT conferences few things can surprise her but she can never get tired of AWIT because every conference is a new experience and AWIT’s well thought out trending topics will have even the most layperson attentive and soaking in new knowledge

“I just love the impact AWIT is having on young women, I had people coming to me and asking okay there is a panel discussing cryptocurrencies and service security what time is it? So you can tell that guys are really following on the presentations and are keen to learn one or two things around those topics. So what has stood out for me the most is in terms of AWIT’s well thought out topics which are relevant and up to date, AWIT keeps bringing in new trending topics on a yearly basis for young women to learn about and this breaks the usual monotony of discussing what is tech about and who’s in tech”

Above and beyond that what is even more gratifying to note is that AWIT Kenya as it marks its third anniversary it is also entering into a new phase of independence where young bold and confident Kenyan women are taking the reins and running the show.

Anie Akpe didn’t manage to attend this year’s event but that didn’t stop the conference from becoming a huge success, veterans who graced the first AWIT conference and have with time learned the ropes teamed with first-timers and made AWIT 2018 a big success.

It can even be argued that like just like a kid grows and ultimately has to move out one day, Anie Akpe is strategically giving Kenyan women more space and opportunity to shine as she proudly watches from the side.

And for that, her work is done and her dream of transforming Africa is well on course.

"We count a lot as successes at AWIT. Every time, we see one of our women thriving, especially after a conference or meetup, we smile because we contributed to that. The successes of our women are our number one success. AWIT women have gone on to create strong voices for themselves in the space. They have gone on to make successful career changes, gotten promotions, raised seed-funding, found cofounders or mentors; and even host other conferences around the continent to empower others." Said Anie Akpe.

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