Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

How technology can transform lives of African women

By Mariéme Jamme, Special to CNN
June 19, 2013 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
The internet can revolutionizing the lives of African women. Pictured, a woman at an internet cafe in Kampala.
The internet can revolutionizing the lives of African women. Pictured, a woman at an internet cafe in Kampala.
  • Women entrepreneurs hold key to Africa's development, writes Mariéme Jamme
  • Gender inequality is limiting women's potential on the continent, she says
  • Mobile phones are giving women information and new opportunities

Editor's note: Senegalese-Born Mariéme Jamme is an African technology blogger, coordinator of Apps4Africa and co-founder of Africa Gathering. Follow Marieme Jamme on Twitter: @mjamme

(CNN) -- I recently left the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in South Africa, inspired, empowered and hopeful, but extremely impatient to see radical changes to help women in Africa develop a world-class talent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and businesses.

Throughout the event I saw women who were passionate entrepreneurs. They were all seeking new ways of growing their businesses. The women discussed challenges and barriers to success, and how to take their business to the next level. They wanted to grow their network and create global partnerships.

Women hold the key to Africa's development, from agriculture to technology and entrepreneurship. But they still face massive hurdles in many areas of development and they are still financially disadvantaged and lack confidence in starting up businesses in Africa.

Mariéme Jamme
Mariéme Jamme

Mid-career dropout is frequent; cultural and social boundaries also are hurdles women need to overcome every day. Gender inequality is also a major issue for women looking to get loans from banks; often, they are not taken seriously.

In most African countries women account for a sizable part of the workforce, but still, there are not many places where women entrepreneurs can go for mentoring and support for their businesses.

Read this: 'African women need a hand-up not a hand-out'

NGOs and global development organizations have for decades hidden the potential of African women by using them as objects of development and statistics. As Chelsey Rhodes recently wrote, we should not see African women as objects of compassion, microloan applicants or demeaning factory-job seekers.

You rarely see an African woman millionaire mentioned in the media, unless she is the daughter of the leader of Angola or an elite Oxford/Harvard graduate. Those women don't have the time or knowledge to mentor the grassroots of talented young women who are coding and developing apps in Dakar, Senegal, and Kibera in Kenya.

An African future inspired by tech?
Africa's technology potential
Africa's tech innovation
Sustainable technologies in Africa

We need to make changes and start paying attention to these young women entrepreneurs in Africa.

Technology presents new opportunities for African women who want to take their rightful place in society. African women are already using information technology to build networks and partnerships.

Sophisticated mobile phones owned by women in cities like Lagos are being used to pass all sorts of information from factory to factory and village to village, delivering a message of openness and freedom. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook has also helped them spread their stories.

Read this: 10 African tech voices to follow on Twitter

Technology is also helping women shape the agricultural landscape by breaking down traditional social barriers. Women can now get access to information on their land, stocks and even health matters.

In Kampala and Senegal, women are using SMS to help plan for a family, with basic information on sex education and birth control being delivered on their cell phone. Mobile money is also helping them to receive and send money safely and confidently.

Read this: Fighting cancer with cell phones

And women are also contributing to creating technology. Recently, we have seen a rise of women coders in Senegal, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and DR Congo. But increasing participation and representation of women across the continent is difficult when in many countries women are held back from full and fair participation in public and technological life.

We have to build the pipelines for the next generation of African women leaders, and the only way we can do that is to start finding and creating a good ecosystem for women.

With that in mind, Africa Gathering is this week celebrating five years of sharing positive ideas. The event is being held in London on June 21 and 22, and the theme is "Hands-on technology: Rise of the makers, the dynamic and the disruptive thinkers in Africa."

Over two days, this conference for innovators, investors and those with a passion for our continent, will feature world-class speakers and roundtable sessions to cast a spotlight on change-makers, many of them women.

And among other things, the event will demonstrate how African innovators -- especially women -- are taking the lead in developing amazing local technological solutions.

For more information go to:

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mariéme Jamme.

Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Africa
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
Fish from the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho are served in top Tokyo sushi spots.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1323 GMT (2123 HKT)
The world-famous waterfall is inspiring a local tourism boom as an increasing number of people is visiting Zimbabwe.
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Seychelles needed more than pristine beaches and choral reefs to boost its once troubled tourism industry.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
A general view of the Hout Bay harbour covered in mist is seen on May 8, 2010 from the Chapman's peak road on the outskirts of Cape Town. Chapman's peak road is the coastal link between Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope. When following the African coastline from the equator the Cape of Good Hope marks the psychologically important point where one begins to travel more eastward than southward, thus the first rounding of the cape in 1488 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a major milestone in the attempts by the Portuguese to establish direct trade relations with the Far East. He called the cape Cabo Tormentoso. As one of the great capes of the South Atlantic Ocean, the Cape of Good Hope has been of special significance to sailors for many years and is widely referred to by them simply as 'the Cape'. It is a major milestone on the clipper route followed by clipper ships to the Far East and Australia, and still followed by several offshore yacht races. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Abandoned workshops and empty warehouses are getting a new lease of life in Cape Town.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1037 GMT (1837 HKT)
Inside a glove factory on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, busy laborers turn patches of leather into these fashionable garments.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1050 GMT (1850 HKT)
The Somali capital now has its first-ever ATM bank machine -- and it dispenses U.S. dollars.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Waves lap at the ships as they pull into the Port of Ngqura, but no swell is stopping the local economy booming.
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1524 GMT (2324 HKT)
In Uganda, a group of landmine victims are using banana fiber to create rope, profit and community.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)
What does it mean to be Nigerian? That's the question on the lips of many in Nigeria as new national identity cards are being rolled out.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
 General view of an oil offshore platform owned by Total Fina Elf in the surroundings waters of the Angolan coast 15 October 2003. The 11 members of the OPEC oil cartel have agreed to slash output by a million barrels a day, the OPEC president said 11 October 2006, in a move aimed at shoring up sliding world crude prices.
Six of the top 10 global oil and gas discoveries last year were made in Africa -- but can these finds transform the continent?
February 20, 2014 -- Updated 1121 GMT (1921 HKT)
A South African app allows buyers to pay for goods using their phone, without having to worry about carrying cash or credit cards.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 0027 GMT (0827 HKT)
African astronomers want world-class observatories to inspire young scientists and build a tech economy.
February 19, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
A Zambian computer tablet -- known as the ZEduPad -- is trying to open up the country's information highway.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
South Africa may be the dominant force in Africa's wine economy, but other countries are making inroads in the industry.
October 10, 2013 -- Updated 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)
Eko Atlantic city design concept
A lack of infrastructure has hindered Africa's development, but a series of megaprojects could change that.
Each week Marketplace Africa covers the continent's macro trends and interviews a major player from the region's business community.