Last week Akilah had the pleasure to host and afternoon with TechWomen, a professional mentorship and exchange program that empowers emerging women leaders from Africa and the Middle East to reach their full potential in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Their visit to Akilah was part of a grand tour of Rwandan businesses and organizations in order to “learn about Rwandan culture and history, the professional landscape for women in STEM, and to see first-hand the impressive efforts of NGOs, schools, and the local government to provide girls and women in Rwanda access to education and careers in STEM fields”.
An initiative of U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, TechWomen is actively combating the cultural barriers that prevent women from pursuing STEM careers. As Akilah begins classes in the Information Systems major this year, we particularly loved having their perspective and input.
Akilah invited a panel of Rwandan women leaders in STEM fields:
- Sylvie Umutesi, founder of M-Ahwii, an app that enables patients to make medical appointments via SMS,
- Ishimwe Muhumuza from EDC-Akaze Kanoze, an organization that builds capacity and connects Rwandan youth to opportunities in the public and private sector, and
- Jessie Gakwandi, CEO and founder of Sail LTD, a mobile-focused software company.
It’s no surprise that with all the attention focused this year on global unemployment, the conversation at the event focused on youth and economic opportunity:
- By 2020, over 35% of Africa’s population will be between the ages of 15 and 35, making it the world’s “youngest” continent.
- The labor market in Africa adds an average 10 million youth per year.
- Six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Those numbers make a strong case for investing in and preparing youth for careers in the expanding information technology sector, particularly in East Africa.