Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Who are Africa's Marissa Mayers?

By Michelle Atagana, Special to CNN
updated 11:37 AM EDT, Tue July 24, 2012
Ory Okolloh, policy manager and government relations manager for Google in Africa. Ory Okolloh, policy manager and government relations manager for Google in Africa.
HIDE CAPTION
Ory Okolloh
Juliana Rotich
Barbara Mallinson
Rapelang Rabana
Marieme Jamme
Funke Opeke
Joyce Mwangama
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Atagana: There's still a perception that the world of tech is something of a boys' club
  • In Africa, women are proving they can be tech entrepreneurs and power players
  • Atagana lists the most successful women in African tech

Editor's note: Michelle Atagana is the managing editor of memeburn.com, a social media and technology news site. She has a Masters Degree in New Media and Journalism, her thesis focuses on social media technologies in the South African journalistic space with some focus on the public sphere.

Cape Town, South Africa (CNN) -- No one saw Marissa Mayer's appointment as the new CEO of Yahoo coming. I certainly didn't! However this is great news for women in tech. Her appointment has sparked a lot of debate as she becomes the 20th current female CEO of a fortune 500 company.

Read more: Baidu boss: China helps women succeed at work

According to Mayer "women in the workplace and women in technology will be key drivers of global competitiveness and innovation in the future." I truly believe that. Then again, maybe I am biased.

Michelle Atagana
Michelle Atagana

Things are going great for women and it seems the West is slowly shedding its aversion to women in tech, but what's going on in Africa?

Read more: How to have more Sheryl Sandbergs

African women can be key power players and the continent's tech scene is a burning star but there are very few women at the forefront of that supernova.

Marissa Mayer takes over at Yahoo!

So who are the unsung heroines of Africa's tech evolution and revolution?

Ory Okolloh is probably a little tired of being cited here but she is one of the biggest female icons when it comes to Africa's tech space, one of the co-founders of the popular Ushaidi crowdmapping software, she is now Google's policy manager for Africa.

Marieme Jamme, the founder of a great initiative called Africa Gathering is another -- she works to pioneer growth on the continent as well as inspire young African women to tech involve in the technology space.

An African future inspired by tech?

There is also Juliana Rotich, a prolific blogger and another co-founder of Ushahidi.

Read more: Women! Embrace your inner geek

Africa's technology potential

I am not sure when it all began, but some time in the past, some genius decided that women didn't have the aptitude for technical things. Most of us have come quite far from that, but why does it still feel like tech is a scary place for African women?

Out of Africa and into business

I think it's time women in Africa stop looking at technology as something that men do. It's not a man's world. Every time I explain the type of journalism I do, people ask "but isn't that for technical people, like guys?"

Tech doesn't belong to guys and these interesting African women are proving it.

Women like Rapelang Rabana, co-founder of Yeigo Communications, a mobile VoIP company that was integrated into the Telfree group. Rabana is now the Global Head of Research and Development at Telfree. She was also called a tech pioneer by South Africa's Minister of communication at a conference aimed at promoting technology in Africa.

Then there is Barbara Mallinson, who thought in a world where Facebook is king it was necessary to have a safe social network for young people that could double as an education tool. Her company Obami is an e-learning and communications platform for schools.

It's not just a world of founders and entrepreneurs.

There are power players heading up big corporations or country arms of multinational organizations.

I find Juliet Ehimuan Google country manager for Nigeria fascinating. She has a pretty tough job heading up operations in one of Africa's largest internet-user communities and dealing with Nigeria's poor online reputation.

Another one is Isis Nyongo is the Vice President and Managing Director of InMobi, the world's largest independent mobile advertising network. Before that she was the Business Development Manager for Google's Africa.

Other African women to watch out for

Anne Amuzu technical head of Ghana-based Nandimobile, a mobile company that hopes to "leverage the high mobile penetration rates in Africa to create mobile customer service technology," which will help businesses "easily connect with their customers on the mobile platform."

More: 10 African tech voices to follow on Twitter

Sheila Bartels-Sam is the CEO of InCharge Global Ltd, the Ghanaian-based electronic payments processing company that focuses on "loyalty and payments management." Prior to joining InCharge Global, Bartel-Sam co-founded Platinum Technologies, a company that provides outsourced data processing and contact centre services for U.S. corporations.

Funke Opeke is the CEO of Main One Cable Company and founder of Main Street Technologies. Main One is a communications company that provides "open access international connectivity and broadband capacity to countries in West Africa."

Google's Anita Borg's Scholars are also young women to watch. Oluwasola Fasan, Maletsabisa Molapo and Joyce Mwangama are all university students based in South Africa and are part of Google's project to foster women in technology in Africa.

The project was launched in 2004 to honor American computer scientist Anita Borg, who founded the Institute for Women and Technology.

I also think it is important to note that women need to get out of the mindset that tech isn't their "thing" -- if you are passionate about it then you should live and breathe it.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michelle Atagana.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
African Voices
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Tue March 25, 2014
The veiled female rapper tackling Egyptian taboos head on
Meet Mayam Mahmoud, the 18-year-old Egyptian singer tackling gender stereotypes through hip-hop.
updated 6:50 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
As the head of Kenya Red Cross, Abbas Gullet was one of the first emergency responders at the Westgate shopping mall.
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Wed March 19, 2014
Gikonyo performs a medical check-up for one of her patients at Karen Hospital in Kenya.
Leading pediatric surgeon Betty Gikonyo reveals how her life changed at 30,000 feet and her mission to save the lives of countless disadvantaged children in Kenya.
updated 8:46 AM EST, Tue March 4, 2014
Biyi Bandele
As a child, Biyi Bandele immersed himself in a world of literature. Today he's taken that passion and turned it into a career as a celebrated writer, playwright and now director.
updated 6:26 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
Sanaa Hamri in Los Angeles, 2011.
Music video and film director Sanaa Hamri shares her story of how she made it from the streets of Tangier to the big film studios in the United States.
updated 5:34 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
African Voices meets James Ebo Whyte a passionate storyteller with a series of successful plays to his credit.
updated 5:16 AM EST, Mon February 17, 2014
Actress Lupita Nyong'o attends the 86th Academy Awards nominees luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o has become a new critics' darling after her breakout role in last year's hit movie "12 Years A Slave."
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Celebrated designer Adama Paris reveals how she was tired of seeing "skinny blonde models" on all the runways, so she did something about it.
updated 11:48 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Packaging can change how people see things. And when it comes to sex, it could maybe help save lives too.
updated 7:06 AM EDT, Fri March 21, 2014
Global perceptions of the tiny country in east-central Africa are often still stuck in 1994 but local photographers are hoping to change that.
updated 5:39 AM EDT, Fri April 4, 2014
Lightenings strike over Johannesburg during a storm on December 14, 2013.
Ending energy poverty is central to a resurgent Africa, writes entrepreneur Tony O. Elumelu.
updated 5:45 AM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
A group of young students have taken stereotypes about the continent -- and destroyed them one by one.
updated 6:14 AM EDT, Tue April 1, 2014
Grace Amey-Obeng has built a multi-million dollar cosmetics empire that's helping change the perception of beauty for many.
Each week African Voices brings you inspiring and compelling profiles of Africans across the continent and around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT