Google, Microsoft invest in uplifting African women

The tech giants have pledged millions to support women and girls in science and technology across Africa.

Microsoft has partnered with non-profit social enterprise organisation Tech4Dev to launch the Techsters Women Programme, to provide science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills to five million girls and women across Africa.

The programme, which was spearheaded in Nigeria, is now expanding to South Africa as well as Egypt, Kenya, and Ghana.

Speaking at the launch event, MD of Microsoft SA Lillian Barnard explained there are many barriers that prevent women on the continent from entering careers in the ICT industries.

“The overall objective of Women Techsters is to grow and support a community of tech-empowered girls and women across the continent, who will have equal access to decent job opportunities as well as to build and scale their ideas into tech-enabled businesses and deep tech start-ups, ultimately aiding overall economic growth,” she said.

“This platform also seeks to create role models from women in STEM. Statistics show that we have very low numbers of women in ICT in Africa – 15% in Kenya and only 18% in SA – so the numbers remain very low. We need to continue creating opportunities through programmes such as this, which give women access to the right training and the supported development to make sure we open up a world of work for them, even if they ultimately endeavour into entrepreneurship,” said Lilian.

Google opened applications for its Impact Challenge (GIC) for Women and Girls on International Women’s Day, offering $25 million in cash grants to women-focused non-profits and social enterprises in Africa. The search engine company says deserving women-focused initiatives will be awarded between $300,000 and $2 million, as well as prospects of mentorship and additional support from Google.

Google South Africa country director Alistair Mokoena says, “Despite decades of work aimed at achieving gender equality, the Foresight Africa Report 2021 shows that disparity between men and women not only remains, it is growing alarmingly, largely thanks to the global pandemic. The GIC for Women and Girls is focused on changing the status quo in South Africa and the rest of the continent.”

An all-female panel of expert Google executives and world leaders including Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, Victoria Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, senior special assistant to the president of Nigeria on SDGs, Graça Machel, founder, Graça Machel Trust, and Juliana Rotich, Kenyan information technology entrepreneur, will preside over the application review and selection process.