According to a 2016 report published by the United Nations Development Programme, African women who work in the informal sector earn 30 percent less than their male counterparts; furthermore, less than 30 percent of small and medium businesses in the Continent employ women as managers. As in other regions of the world, gender inequality presents a clear problem: the UN estimates that Africa could generate $95 billion in annual economic activity if this gender gap could be narrowed.
In many African nations, traditional employment in the private sector is limited; informal occupations fuel a bustling underground economy that shows no signs of becoming formalized. In recent years, however, a certain level of sophistication in entrepreneurship has been taking hold in the Continent. With increased access to education, more African informal workers are becoming small business owners who thrive on innovation, conduct market research and seek funding opportunities. Many of these entrepreneurs are also interested in the mobile technology revolution in African nations, and this is where #HerFutureAfrica comes in.
#HerFutureAfrica is a business mentoring initiative that seeks to empower young African women who wish to become startup entrepreneurs. Although there is a certain focus on fostering business ideas based on technological innovation, #HerFutureAfrica will also support other commercial ideas. The basics of the program are as follows:
* Mentors are selected by members of the Africa Technology Business Network; these are successful business professionals who are interested in promoting commercial ideas that can be developed into solutions to problems faced by African communities. Quite a few mentors are leading African businesswomen whose ideas have been not only successful but also transformational.
* Young African women between the ages of 18 and 35 are invited to submit applications for the opportunity to attend an innovation lab workshop. Applicants can be part of the African diaspora, and they must present a new business idea that can have a positive impact on the lives of young African girls and their communities.
* The budding entrepreneurs whose applications are accepted go through a two-day business boot camp with mentors. At a later date, a market research session is combined with an opportunity to pitch their ideas to actual investors.
* #HerFutureAfrica is also a competition. The winner gets $1,000 in seed funding plus business support in terms of marketing, communications and public relations.
Previous boot camps have been held in Accra; in the future, they may be held in other African cities. These initiatives are clearly needed in the Continent, particularly at a time when the world is paying close attention to the way African nations are rising up to the challenge of managing growing youth populations during a time of economic uncertainty.