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  • Writer's pictureKanto Ranaivosoa

Rwanda's Rising Tech Entrepreneurs: Women Leading the Way

Rwanda, a small East African state, is becoming a pioneer in women's tech entrepreneurship. Following the genocide in 1994, it found itself grappling with extreme social and economic difficulties. Yet, amidst the rubble, a story of resilience and transformation has emerged. In fact, the country has succeeded in making the inclusion of women in tech an actual priority.

Picture from Akilah

Today, we ask ourselves: How have Rwandan women, historically marginalized and deeply affected by the genocide, become leaders in the booming tech sector?

The context:

The 1994 genocide resulted in the deaths of more than 800 000 people. Prior to the horrific event, Rwandan women were facing systemic barriers to education, land ownership, and economic participation with even fewer job opportunities outside the home. In its wake, the territory was left with a devastated economy and a society deeply fractured along ethnic lines. Girls and women were particularly hard hit, as many found themselves orphans or widows. Because of that, Rwanda's journey towards gender equality and technological progress is closely linked to the history of its women.

Reason 1: Women's resilience and their vital role in reconstruction

In the immediate aftermath of the genocide, a demographic shift took place with women representing around 70% of the population. Given this imbalance, they were forced to assume multiple roles as heads of household and community leaders, while burrying the dead, founding homes for orphans and builting shelters. With their social structures destroyed as well as their traditional networks broken, women simply became the pillars of Rwanda's reconstruction and internal reconciliation efforts.

Reason 2: Education and initiatives for women in tech

The creation of the Akilah Institute in Kigali, Rwanda's first women-only higher education institution, is a key part of this story. Founded in 2013, this non-profit institute accredited by the Ministry of Education offers a degree program in information systems, thus equipping women with the skills they need to thrive in the technology industry. The university initially welcomed only 10 students a year and has now grown sixfold, testifying to the growing momentum of female participation in the tech landscape.

The Rwandan government also supports initiatives such as the Miss Geek Rwanda competition which aims to encourage school-age girls, even in remote areas, to develop innovative technological ideas to solve issues affecting their communities, and generally immerse themselves in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). By inspiring girls to harness technology to meet local challenges, initiatives like those education campaigns, scholarship, and mentoring, really foster a culture of empowerment among Rwanda's youth. Moreover, through platforms like the annual Transform Africa Summit of which Rwanda has been a founding member since 2013, the African champion is positioning itself in the inclusive digital revolution.

Lessons learnt on Rwanda's model for fostering female tech entrepreneurship:

Rwandan women have been driving the nation's metamorphosis into a hub of tech innovation. Their emerging presence within the sector is a powerful testament to the transformative potential of empowering women. As the international community increasingly sees Rwanda as a model for progress, it becomes more and more evident that embracing women's strength goes beyond a moral imperative: it is a strategic investment in the future of society.

This interesting case study shows us how an ecosystem, however small and wounded it may be, can nurture female entrepreneurship and above all presents the positive correlation between gender equality and Tech for good!

What do you think of this paradigm shift in Rwanda and its applicability outside the country?

Tell us!

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