Africa’s Tech Startup Scene Contends With Lingering Gender Gaps

By  |  June 5, 2023

The lack of gender diversity both within startup teams and funding rounds in Africa’s startup ecosystem remains an issue that doesn’t seem to be going away, a new report suggests, highlighting the continued struggles of women-led businesses in finding their feet in the face of gender bias.

The report titled “Diversity Dividend: Exploring Gender Equality in the African Tech Ecosystem”—put together by African tech publication Disrupt Africa with support from Flourish Ventures’ pre-seed investment programme Madica and notable funders like FirstCheck Africa and TLcom Capital among others—studied ~2,500 African tech startups to identify gender trends.

Key findings include the fact that of all startups studied for the purpose of the report, only 14.6 percent had a female co-founder and just 9.6 percent were led by a female CEO. The report also includes survey data where female founders have spoken directly about their experiences within the ecosystem, as well as personalised case studies.

“Madica is delighted to be partnering with Disrupt Africa on this progressive study that conducts a deep dive into the state of gender diversity and inequality in African tech. We firmly believe that achieving gender parity in the tech industry is not only necessary but possible. While acknowledging the root causes of the current gender gap, we are fully committed to proactively addressing these issues,” said Emmanuel Adegboye, head of Madica.

From a funding perspective, the report analysed 711 African tech startups that secured funding in 2022 and so far in 2023. Of those, just 21 per cent had at least one female co-founder, while only 11.7 percent had a female CEO. Of the just over USD 4 B raised by ventures in the period in question, meanwhile, only 9.1 percent went to companies co-founded by a woman, and just 2.9 percent to startups with a female CEO or equivalent.

“With a 60 percent female senior team and through our annual Female Founder Summit, we’ve not only experienced first-hand the huge benefits of a diverse organisation but are also well aware of the major economic upside ready to be unlocked by levelling the playing field for women across the ecosystem. As an industry, we cannot afford to continue overlooking the biases and stereotypes preventing women from reaching their full potential,” said Andreata Muforo, partner at TLcom Capital.

Other collaborators include LoftyInc Capital, a venture capital firm on a mission to build an ecosystem of Africans investing in Africans solving African problems; Google for Startups, which is on a mission to support thriving, diverse, and inclusive startup communities around the world; and RevUp Women by AfriLabs, which empowers early-stage women-led African startups and SMEs to overcome unique challenges that hinder their growth and success.

“This report does not prove that women work hard or that kind people are handing out free money. It does track women who have risen from informal jobs into formal leadership roles without sacrificing the high-quality expectations of their customers and investors,” said Marsha Wulff, founding partner of LoftyInc Capital Management. 

iceaddis, Ethiopia’s first innovation hub and tech startup incubator; the International Trade Centre’s Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTF V), a four-year partnership signed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and the International Trade Centre to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital technologies sector; and Janngo Capital, which builds, grows and invests in pan-African digital champions with proven business models and inclusive social impact, are also partners.

Featured Image Credits: ASU

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