Mercy Orangi is the Technology Evangelist at Andela - a company building a network of technology leaders on the African continent
Here, she talks about Andela’s pan-African expansion plans and platforms they’re building to support more female technologists on the continent.
Earlier this year, Andela held its Women In Technology (WIT) Summit in Nigeria. What was the motivation behind that event?
This was the first WIT summit organised by Andela. We care deeply about diversity and inclusion and it’s one of our beliefs that talent is gender-neutral. Organising the summit this year was our unique way of celebrating International Women’s Day. Our theme of the day was ‘Investing in tomorrow’s leaders’ and we invited women in various roles in tech in Nigeria - newbies, professionals, entrepreneurs and even investors - to network, share resources, and provide a platform for mentorship.
Please define who a woman in tech is. A lot of people think it’s just female developers..?
You don’t have to be a woman writing code for you to be called a woman in tech. It surpasses that because once you’re in a tech-enabled industry, you’re a woman in tech. You can be a designer, a network engineer or a communicator. It’s not a limited circle.
Who are some top Andelan women you’d encourage aspiring female technologists to look up to?
This question is dear to my heart. Top in my mind are Yetunde Sanni and Gertrude Nyeyenshi, they are the founders of Tech in Pink and are simply amazing. I’d also recommend Tolu Komolafe, she’s an Andelan and the first D4 level developer in Nigeria - that’s a big feat!
Mbithe is also amazing. She has a YouTube channel that she uses as a platform to share her tech expertise. I can go on and on. Moving to our management team we have our VP of Success, Wambui Kinya. Her journey in tech from 10+ years ago is inspiring.
Tell us about other initiatives for female technologists at Andela
There are various angles to this. First of all, there are communities that have been started in Andela by women at Andela. Two examples are Ladies in tech and Tech in Pink. This gets us so excited when Andelan women go on to build their own thriving communities.
We also support existing communities with the mission of empowering women in tech. Examples are Django Girls and Google’s Women Technical Chapter in Nairobi and Lagos. We plug into activities they organise and support in ways that we can.
Another angle is Andela’s own initiatives. We have had two all-female cohorts recruited at Andela Kenya. In this way, we are working to increase the number of active women in technology.
What are the most obvious advantages to having more women get into tech, especially in Africa?
I read a Forbes article which stated that women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchases through a combination of their buying power and influence. This shows the difference women can make when they get in the thick of things in designing products and services.
At Andela, it’s not just a slogan or a quota. Statistics show that diverse teams achieve more and perform better and this is exactly what we need when it comes to providing solutions to the problems we face in Africa.
Looking at the Africa tech landscape, which countries do you see encouraging women in tech the most?
From my previous roles in other companies, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that the African tech landscape is varied; each country is unique with its own capacities and opportunities.
A country like Rwanda has inclusive policies when it comes to tech. Kenya has strong communities in terms of encouraging women in tech. Then, there are several initiatives that are regional. For instance, AWIT (African Women In Technology), a community founded by Anie Akpe. Every year, they go across Africa to countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Mozambique to hold WIT events. MEST Africa also has initiatives and communities that bring in women in tech.
What’s the long-term goal for the Andela WIT Summits?
There are many women in tech but there are not as many mentors or influencers who are on the radar of those coming up in the ecosystem. So the long term goal is to provide a platform that can be used as a way of sharing resources amongst women in tech, creating networks and mentorship platforms, and answering questions most young ladies ask like: ‘Where do I start? Who do I look up to? Where can I find opportunities and get resources to catapult my career in technology?’