Global Roundup: The African Continent's Women 'techpreneurs', Queer Performer Who Uses Music and Comedy to Survive in a Cis-Het Man’s World, First Black Trans American to Run a City Council
Curated by FG Intern Lydia Georgison
Delila Kidanu, Co-founder and COO of Koa at her office in Nairobi, Kenya on Feb. 14, 2022. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Nita Bhalla
Female ‘techpreneurs’ are taking their place in the African continent’s male-dominated fintech boom, but gender and racial bias makes it harder for them to access finance and grow their businesses.
When financial analyst Oluwatosin Olaseinde moved back home to Nigeria in 2013 after a decade of studying and working abroad, she was shocked at how little guidance was available for young professionals like herself. So she read up on stocks and mutual funds and began sharing her learnings in fun, bite-sized tutorials on Instagram, and to her surprise her posts went viral.
I had no idea my page would just blow up. Just like me, there were young people who wanted to know how to manage their finances, but needed information in an easy-to-understand way. - Oluwatosin Olaseinde
Almost four years on, Olaseinde heads MoneyAfrica, an online financial literacy portal providing courses from budgeting and currency risk to inflation and treasury bills. More recently, Olaseinde founded Ladda, an app-based one-stop investment platform.
From digital payments, loans, and insurance to share trading and cryptocurrency, Olaseinde is among a growing number of female entrepreneurs in nations such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Egypt, taking the lead in Africa’s fintech revolution.
Since pioneering mobile money services in the late 2000s, Africa has become a hotbed for fintech-financial technology innovation, with an explosion of start-ups vying to tap the region’s unbanked millions.
Last year, fintech companies attracted more than 60% of the nearly $5 billion in investments to African start-ups, according to market intelligence and research firm Briter Bridges. However, for female entrepreneurs, industry experts and women founders said that getting their innovations off the ground is often hampered by gender bias that stifles their ability to access finance, gain exposure, and grow their businesses.
From 2013 to 2021, less than 5 percent of the total $12.6 billion in funding to Africa’s tech start-ups went to all-female founding teams compared with 82 percent to all male-ones, data by Briter Bridges showed.
But while the sector is very much a “boys’ club,” research shows Africa’s fintech sector fares better than other regions when it comes to women at the top. Approximately 3.2 percent of fintech firms in Africa are founded solely by women—double the global average of 1.6 percent, according to Findexable, a market research company that tracks gender diversity.
The ontinent’s fintechs also have more female board members compared with other regions. The stark funding gap between male and female-led start-ups in the sector is often attributed to the shortage of female “techpreneurs”, but some industry experts disputed this.
It's nonsense for investors to claim that there aren't any women entrepreneurs in fintech to invest in. -Martha Mghendi-Fisher, founder of African Women in Fintech and Payments
Female fintech founders said that even when they can pitch to venture capital firms, racial and gender biases mean they often raise less and receive lower valuations.
I don't think it helps that the majority of VC panels tend to be men who are white and much older. - Faith Mokgalaka, founder of Johannesburg-based Puno, a digital platform enabling farmers to sell shares, or a portion of their next harvest
Recent studies by Findexable estimate that white men control 93 percent of venture capital dollars. However, a growing number of accelerators (which provide early-stage companies with training, mentorship, and financing) and venture capital firms are now shifting to focus on more women-led businesses.
There is a need for more diverse VC boards, programmes to encourage girls to pursue STEM careers, and initiatives celebrating successful women founders, inspiring others, and fostering a more supportive environment.
Photo via Pink News
Jessica Rowbottom, dubbed “the queer Victoria Wood”, is helping LGBT+ folk find “strength” using music, dark comedy, and cabaret. She performs as The Bleeding Obvious, of which she is the sole member, as a one-woman cabaret.
The easiest way of me putting this is that I bang around on a piano, and I sing about being queer. The whole show is about coming out, about what people say, about finding love, and about generally coping with it. I tend to talk about the gender aspects of it more than the lesbian, gay and bi side of things because, you know, it’s coming in 10 years since I hopped the fence. - Jessica Rowbottom
Jessica’s music and the creative journey are inextricably linked to her coming out as a queer, trans woman. She’s always loved music, but it was not until she came out that she began this journey.
When Jessica came out at 38 years old, her mother, her children and her workplace were all supportive, and she later met her wife. However, being a queer, trans woman in the U.K. isn’t easy, as she explained.
It’s fear, mostly…I have been attacked… I got attacked by three blokes in a pub in Wakefield when I was in the women’s loo. They came in to kick the s**t out of me.
Jessica’s new song titled “Unwanted Attention (Call Me Dave)” is based on something that happened to her at a party last year.
Somebody came up and started trying to lecture me about gender and sexuality and it being unnatural and all this kind of thing. The drunker that he got, the more forward he got until he eventually borderline propositioned me, and then his wife came to rescue him…When that happens, the biggest worry I’ve got is that they will suddenly work out that I’m trans, and then they’ll get aggressive. Male aggression is the biggest problem… It’s a white, cis, het, man’s man’s world.
However, her combination of comedy, music, fun and the dark truth of being queer in the U.K. is helping her fans find their “strength.” The sheer number of fans who confide in her led Jessica to take a short counselling course, which has helped her know the proper way to support them.
Comedy is the best catalyst for defusing your own feelings. If you’re laughing at something and thinking, ‘Hang on, this is me’, people take a lot of strength from that.
Andrea Jenkins, the United States' first Black, transgender city council leader as head of the Minneapolis City Council (CREDIT: Rich Ryan Photography) via Thomson Reuters Foundation
Andrea Jenkins, the first openly trans Black city council leader in the U.S., aims to shake up politics- one poem at a time.
The poet, performance artist, politician, and groundbreaker says she is driven by her lifelong quest for justice. After almost three decades in local government, Jenkins still teaches poetry at her local arts college but it is that drive to secure more substantial Black and trans rights, along with representing her constituents, that consumes her.
In January, she became the first Black trans person to lead a city council, a breakthrough that the U.S. broadcaster NBC heralded as making “national history.”
She worries that things are going the wrong way in the United States, citing a rash of transgender-related bills in largely conservative states that seek to turn back the clock. She notes a growing body of state lawmakers who want to stop trans people from competing in school sports, along with a slew of bills to restrict access to gender-affirming medical care.
Most of these bills are attacking young people in schools (and are designed to get) parents all riled up about these issues..The psychic and emotional impact that those things have on communities is palpable. - Andre Jenkins
Jenkins was born in Chicago in 1961 and grew up in a low-income working-class community. She studied at the University of Minnesota; she entered politics as an aide to gay Native American Minneapolis City Council member Robert Lilligren.
While studying, she met Lilligren, already running for political office. He told her that he would bring her with him into office if he won. Lilligren’s victory led to her 13 years as a policy aide before Jenkins took time to curate the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota.
She was then elected to the city council in 2017. Then came the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, in Minneapolis, by a white police officer on May 25, 2020.
This changed everything for Jenkins; she focused her time as president of the city council on healing her community.
I really hope that my (role in) public life provides some inspiration for others to see trans and gender-non-conforming people in a more positive light.
Lydia Georgison (she/her) is a first-year student at the University of Ottawa. She is passionate about becoming a feminist by learning and broadening her knowledge of topics that have to do with feminism. She spends most of her time studying in the field of criminology.
Lydia strongly believes the key to excellence within society is listening and learning from everyone’s opinions. She suggests that the key to a peaceful and accepting community is the result of educating ourselves on controversial topics.