African tech leaders are blazing a pathway for future change-makers like you, as they take the Fourth Industrial Revolution by storm. From investment to financial services to agriculture, tech is transforming every aspect of the world as we know it, and Africa’s talent is leading the way. We honour 10 exceptional tech leaders who are continuously innovating and creating a monumental impact on the continent.
“Engineers design our world and our society, and if we don’t have women at the design table, we exclude 50% of the population.”
Engineering powerhouse Naadiya Moosajee is on a mission to close the gender gap for women through her organisation, Women in Engineering (WomEng), which is devoted to investing in the future of girls and women in engineering and technology. Naadiya is also a Co-Founder of WomHub, alongside Hema Vallabh. In 2014, she was named one of the Top 20 Young Power Women in Africa by Forbes. The Government of China also awarded her a special honour at the BRICS Summit for her work in African girls’ STEM education. She is passionate about developing STEM and fostering growth, gender equality, leadership and prosperity in emerging economies, while mentoring the next generation of leaders and engineering better societies.
“It’s important that girls are at the forefront of this digital age, because nobody will hire you if you do not have tech skills.”
The vibrant Co-Founder of Strauss Energy Ltd, Charity Wanjiku, is hailed by Forbes and the World Economic Forum as one of the top women in tech globally. Her company, a solar company dedicated to powering rural communities in Kenya through building green solutions, started producing patented solar tiles powering off-grid areas in rural Kenya way before Tesla took orders in the US and UK for its solar tiles in 2017. Their solar systems are unique because they have a special meter that can feed unused electricity back to the national grid, generating income for households. Charity also lends her expertise to the architecture, entrepreneurship and technology industries and is a vocal advocate for breaking STEM barriers for women and girls.
“If you want to support women, put them in positions to do it themselves.”
Maya Horgan-Famodu is devoted to supporting exceptional talent in accessing the resources they need to build wildly scalable businesses. She is the founder of Ingressive Capital, a $10 million venture fund that supports early-stage African tech startups — earning her the status of being the youngest Black woman to launch a tech fund and the youngest person to launch a tech fund in Sub-Saharan Africa. She also founded Ingressive for Good, a nonprofit providing micro-scholarships, technical skills training and talent placement to African tech talents in need. In 2018, Maya’s remarkable accomplishments were recognised by Forbes when she was named to their “Under 30 Technology” list, as well as “10 Inspiring Women Ruling Nigeria’s Tech Ecosystem” in 2019.
“You can do it. There’ll be days when you’ll feel like you’ve hit rock bottom, but you have to get up. Know that every day there’ll be challenges and there’ll also be successes.”
A pioneer in the fintech logistics space on the continent, Mary Mwangi is the Founder and CEO of innovative ICT company Data Integrated. Based in Kenya, her company offers financial solutions to African SMEs and especially focuses on Kenya’s public transport system, where she is leveraging tech to solve the long-standing problems faced in the industry. Data Integrated offers several payment options, including the groundbreaking MobiTill Epesi Smart Public Transport app, which has changed how fleet managers operate their businesses. For its work, the company won the MEST Africa Challenge in 2018 and Africa.com’s Brilliant African Innovations Against COVID-19 contest in 2020.
“We need to invest and provide the support that female founders need to grow. They in turn will help our struggling economies thrive.”
Hema is a trailblazer who has worn all sorts of hats — from engineer to entrepreneur to investor. She is the Co-Founder and CEO of WomHub, a boutique pan-African incubator and the continent’s first coworking space for female founders in STEM. The social enterprise tackles gender parity all along the engineering skills pipeline, with the vision to empower 1 million girls in STEM and develop women leaders and entrepreneurs in engineering. The African Union has recognised her enterprise as the top TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) programme in Africa supporting women leaders across the continent. Hema is also a founding partner at Five35Ventures, a pan-African venture capital fund that invests in women tech entrepreneurs.
“In a world where you’re trying to make an ecosystem more efficient and more sustainable, more people need to have access to a certain level of information. And the only way you make that level of information available at a cheap enough cost is AI.”
Sara Menker grew up in Ethiopia in the ’80s in the cosmopolitan capital of Addis Ababa, which inspired her determined and innovative approach to life and problem solving. Today, she is the Founder & CEO of Gro Intelligence, a tech company that uses artificial intelligence to forecast agricultural trends — illuminating the interrelationships between our earth’s ecology and the human economy. Before founding Gro Intelligence, she was the Vice President of Morgan Stanley’s commodities group, having worked in commodities risk management and subsequently moved to trading during her time with the company. Sara has been named a Global Young Leader by the World Economic Forum, is a fellow of the Aspen Institute and a Trustee of the Mandela Institute For Development Studies (MINDS).
“I’ve always felt that whether you are a man or a woman, it doesn’t make any difference. Our brains work well for both of us. I am a hard worker, and I don’t think my being a woman will hinder my entrepreneurial journey. I think that all other women should think like this and act on this.”
Sophia Alj is a Moroccan entrepreneur and the co-founder and COO of Chari, a B2B e-commerce/fintech app that digitises the FMCG procurement process for traditional retail stores in Francophone Africa. The Y Combinator-backed firm has emerged as one of North Africa’s most promising startups, and is widely expected to become Morocco’s first unicorn. Before co-founding Chari with her husband in 2019, Sophia was a strategy consultant for McKinsey & Company for 4 years, serving a broad range of clients across Africa, including banks, industrial players and ministries. She has been named one of the “20 Women Behind Middle Eastern Tech Brands 2022” by Forbes as well as a RoW100 Global Tech Changemaker.
“The key advice I would give to young women who are starting out, especially in technology entrepreneurship, is this notion of coming to solve problems that need you; coming when you’re called, not when you’re ready.”
Taking the male-dominated field of logistics by storm is Miishe Addy, the co-founder and CEO of Jetstream Africa – a tech-enabled cross-border logistics company with operations in Ghana, Nigeria and Egypt. As a personal belief, the American-born Ghanaian believes it is important to trust your intuition. That is why even after completing a philosophy degree at Havard and a JD at Stanford, she felt the need to do something more. Miishe’s move to Ghana in 2017 on a teaching fellowship revealed the supply chain opportunities in the region, so she launched Jetstream to take hold of them. She started her career as a top-ranked strategy analyst for Bain & Company in New York, and has worked with global development organisations including TechnoServe and Global Partnerships. Her work has been featured by CNN, The World Bank and TechCrunch, and she regularly uses her platform to empower girls and women to be game-changers in society through hard work, determination and self-belief.
“Teaching young girls coding and seeing them become confident and inspired reminded me of how I felt when I started coding. As a young woman, coding made me feel independent and free, and that’s something I want to give other people.”
Born and raised in Harar, Ethiopia, Betelhem Dessie‘s interest in computers started from age 7. By 10, she was coding, and at 19, she was dubbed “the youngest pioneer in Ethiopia’s fast emerging tech scene” by CNN and BBC. By age 20, the young technologist had six software programs patented in her name, and was involved in the development of the world-famous Sophia the robot. Now at 24, Betelhem is on a mission to “democratise technology”. She is the founder and CEO of iCog-Anyone Can Code and runs the Solve IT programme, where she works with young innovators to solve community problems and develop local solutions. She travels across Ethiopia teaching students coding skills, leading innovation workshops, and sharing stages with industry leaders at summits and conferences like Women in Tech Stockholm, The Milken Institute Summit, MiT’s Solve and The Global Change Award.
“I think we’re going to see a huge wave in the world where lots of young people are going to use that experiential wisdom that they see from being in the circumstance of a problem to come up with innovative solutions.”
Hailed as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs and featured on the O Power List by The Oprah Magazine, Rapelang is making waves in the African tech industry. She is the Founder of Rekindle Learning, an award-winning learning & development company providing mobile and computer learning applications for students and adults of all ages. Rapelang first established her reputation as the Founder of the telecommunications firm, Yiego, an innovative software company that developed some of the world’s earliest mobile VoIP applications. She is a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum, a firm believer in the power of education to create opportunities, and a role model to many who aspire to seize tech and education opportunities.
ALX is committed to increasing the representation of women in tech. Find out how we’re empowering the women leaders of tomorrow through our first-ever women-only Software Engineering cohort.