Here’s a feature of two Ghanaian female innovators, Regina Honu and Miishe Addy who made the Quartz Africa Innovators 2021 list.
Africa’s female startup founders are among the most underfunded and over-mentored groups of entrepreneurs. Yet they’re driving some of the most exciting and important changes on the continent.
We’re proud to introduce this year’s Africa Innovators List: a dynamic group of over two dozen women from 12 countries and 15 sectors whose work dispels the myth that women are primarily focused on social sectors as opposed to areas that drive economies.
This year’s list features innovators who are building robots in Cameroon for waste collection, tackling freight logistical challenges in Ghana, addressing low insurance penetration in Kenya, bringing indigenous pastoralist knowledge from the Sahel into global climate change discussions, training other women in tech, blending creative math design with fashion in Nigeria, addressing energy financing in Tunisia, and investing in pre-seed funding across the continent.
Once the coronavirus pandemic hit, innovation went from being a buzzword to becoming paramount to the survival of businesses and the safeguarding of jobs. The most resilient entrepreneurs proved to be those that could harness technological innovations to pivot operations. As economic growth stalled and unemployment soared, the continent’s institutions and funders began looking to digital entrepreneurs to drive its recovery.
Yet for the continent’s female business leaders, challenging conditions and near-insurmountable funding obstacles have always been a part of their startup journey. That’s part of the reason they are uniquely positioned to lead the continent on the path to recovery. And why Quartz Africa chose to focus on some of the most exciting female-led initiatives happening in Africa today.
This doesn’t just matter to young girls trying to envision the full scope of their future. It’s a great loss for Africa’s economies when we fail to honour women’s contributions to society or restrict their access to opportunities. As an example, by one measure, African e-commerce is losing over $14.5 billion by not having the same number of women as men selling online.
These women are not only from the continent’s tech and innovation hubs of Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt but also from Somalia, Cameroon, Senegal, DRC, Chad, Tunisia, Uganda among other countries. Their innovations show the potential that can be unleashed when women with bold ideas and decisive actions take the lead.— Ciku Kimeria, Quartz Africa editor, and Jackie Bischof, Talent Lab Editor.
QUARTZ AFRICA INNOVATORS 2021
Jihan Abass • Miishe Addy • Diarra Boussou • Héla Cheikhrouhou • Amira Cheniour • Farah Emara • Maya Horgan Famodu • Regina Honu • Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim • Neema Iyer • Fara Ashiru Jituboh • Xaviera Kowo • Berita Khumalo • Tomilola Majekodunmi • Moky Makura • Cathye Moukoko • Catherine Nakalembe • Nanjala Nyabola • Marie-Alix De Putter • Mmamontsheng Dulcy Rakumakoe • Jasmine Samantar • Kalista Sy • Mariam Bintou Traoré • Seynabou Dieng Traore • Indira Tsengiwe • Wanjiru Koinange and Angela Wachuka
Profile of Ghana’s Miishe Addy & Regina Honu
CEO/Co-founder, Jetstream Africa / @JetstreamAfrica / Ghana
Miishe Addy is using digital technology to tackle inefficiencies that make shipping difficult in Africa. Jetstream Africa, which she co-founded in 2018, provides a supply chain management platform that quickly connects importers, exporters, and logistics providers with trade finance.
The effect is that cargo spends less time at ports, ensuring that goods are cleared faster, and that trade is more predictable on the continent.
Jetstream is based in Ghana, where Addy says more than 50% of the country’s registered freight forwarders are on-boarded on the tech platform. Its processes take “less than a third of the time than with traditional bank letters of credit,” Addy said. It has also started operations in Nigeria and has agents in South Africa, the US, UK, and China.
Addy has driven the company to grow recurring revenue six times year-over-year for the 2020 financial year and is motivated to make the company the essential first-mover for logistics providers and entrepreneurs powering cross-border trade in Africa.
CEO, Soronko Academy / @ragyare / Ghana
Regina Honu leads Soronko Academy, a technology, and digital skills development centre based in Accra. Soronko equips talented young women with the technical and soft skills required to land jobs in technology as a means of reducing the gender gap in the industry.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the digital gender gap is more acute in Africa, where 37% of men have internet access compared to 20% of women.
Soronko has an interactive coding and human-centred design curriculum and works with UNICEF, and the Mastercard Foundation as part of a consortium of organizations in the Young Africa Works scheme in Ghana, aiming to help 2.1 million Ghanaian women find “fulfilling and dignified jobs.”
We are deliberate about making sure we connect the unconnected.
The Academy has expanded to work with children with disabilities, teaching kids with hearing and visual impairments how to code. A pilot program to introduce their curriculum to public schools in Ghana is in the works. And the Academy also takes women in the informal sector through an intensive six-week program of training to develop their skills.
Honu and her team have trained over 20,000 women and girls and connected 5,000 of the people trained to jobs or supported them to start their own businesses and expanded to Burkina Faso.
“We are deliberate about making sure we connect the unconnected and run our skills training program in rural and urban poor areas across the country to ensure that no woman is left behind in upskilling themselves and taking advantage of our increasingly digital world,” Honu says.
Catch up on the rest of the innovator’s list by Quartz Africa here.