Rwanda’s First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, has called for more female participation and inclusion in the financial technology space. She said this at the inaugural FinTech forum held in Kigali. She said by having little female involvement in the FinTech, the world is not just failing women, but everyone.
In recent years, Africa’s tech industry has witnessed dramatic growth following the emergence of startups offering innovative solutions to real-time problems. A few startups on the continent like Andela and Flutterwave have even gone on to become unicorns. However, an age-long problem persists. It is still a male-dominated area.
While Mrs. Kagame recognizes the strides the industry has made so far, she believes that women have great untapped potential and must be allowed to showcase their abilities. She strongly believes that by enabling women to demonstrate their skills and experience, FinTech, and the tech ecosystem in general, will greatly benefit.
She therefore believes that female inclusion in FinTech must be accompanied by convincing incentives not because it’s a way of pacifying the female demographic, but because they deserve equality.
Financial backing for women-led FinTech solutions must carry strong, compelling incentives, not because women are in need of assistance, but because equality is their legitimate rightJeannette Kagame,
According to the First Lady, Rwanda has improved its attitude to female representation in leadership. Indeed, the East African country leads the world in terms of female participation in government with women currently holding 61.3% of parliamentary positions and 55% of ministerial appointments in the country. Despite that feat, Mrs. Kagame believes that more can be done to improve the situation.
To her, inclusion should be “intentional, systematic, and compulsory” to ensure that skills and talent are efficiently managed.
Corroborating the First Lady’s opinion, Chigwende Marlon – Managing Partner of Admaius Capital Partners – added that society can no longer afford to exclude women from FinTech or any other fast-growing space.
Marlon stated that of the 140 investment opportunities that her company received, just one percent of that share comes from women-led businesses. But then, getting more women involved in the business of technology must start from somewhere.
That’s why the country’s Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, advocates for increased investments in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to ensure that Rwanda churns out a healthy number of young professionals.
Beyond increasing female representation in the tech sector, there were also calls for the government to harmonize regulations for players in the space. This is because the general lack of regulations guiding FinTech on the continent continues to stand in the way of further growth. Access to capital, talent development, and the availability of infrastructure were also identified as ingredients for the industry’s success.
Women inclusion must be all-round
Aside from leadership positions in the tech sector, many women are unable to access the visionary services designed by startups. A recent Technext analysis revealed that 27% of female smartphone owners don’t use the internet. Factors that have contributed to this worrying trend include gender discrimination, cultural norms, and a dearth of public awareness.
Today, mobile banking eliminates the stress of visiting the physical bank, especially for those in rural or underserved communities. However, the share of women without access to the internet misses out on the above benefit and many others like digital governance.
Female inclusion efforts must also focus on increasing the number of women smartphone users, widening internet coverage, and sensitizing them on technology-led services and why they should be used. As Rwanda’s ICT and Innovation Minister suggests, more women must be empowered through tech skills so they can be better positioned to champion change in their countries and beyond.
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