this view point was written for BBC
Viewpoint by Barbara BirungiDirector of Hivecolab
I believe that when you educate a woman, you educate a nation – because that one woman will share what she has learnt with other women and pass it on to the generations below hers.
This is why it’s so important that women are taught how to integrate technology into their businesses if the businesswomen of the future are to follow suit.
Women in Africa are taking to business in a big way, and playing a crucial part in the economic development of their countries.
In most African cultures women are more limited than men on what they can or cannot do. For instance, a woman in business in Africa may not be allowed by her husband to travel long distances.
But technology can help solve this issue without her going against tradition or culture.
There is a huge need to teach women the tech tools they need to improve their business. Doing so can significantly change and improve the life of that woman, the people she takes care of and the community around her.
When women use technology to do business it means access to much wider markets.
They can start dealing not just with in their country or local market, but across borders – helping the social and economic standing of women to rise.
Technology means access to information that will bring about better ways of doing business, and new processes that can be adapted from other countries or regions.
It can bring about change and create new markets and businesses from international and regional collaboration.
If a businesswoman selling potatoes in a rural district in Uganda has access to markets in Kampala and Gulu through use of a mobile phone, she will have bigger sales and can probably work in a more cost-effective way which would not have been previously possible.
A woman selling African crafts in Uganda can now have access to the European markets, as well as now being able to connect with fellow women in Kenya selling crafts to share, network, collaborate and bring new markets.
Technology is able to reduce the distribution chain and thus lower overall costs.
Better use of technology in business for a woman also means learning better working practices from others, better financial management and better ways to grow a business, and better access to markets in a cheaper way too, and faster processes to get to a final product.
In Africa, many female-owned businesses also tend to employ the woman’s children and relatives.
So when technology is adopted in this business it means many people are affected – family members are taught vital technology skills.
It is hoped that if a business woman is involved in tech at a business level and sees its importance, she may encourage her child to take up a technological university programme – the myth that science, math or technology is a man’s field will be erased from her mind.
It will help bridge the gender gap in technology where many still believe women are not smart enough to be involved in tech.
When embraced by African women in their businesses, it will give them an understanding of globalisation and how they can really take advantage of it.
Governments in Africa need to invest in women businesses to have easy access to technology.
More women need to be given opportunities to learn how to use it, through training courses and other schemes that stress technology’s importance and demonstrate how it can improve their business.
The world is heading to a place where to get the best performance, technology has to be at the very centre.
If women in business do not take advantage of this, they are going to be left behind – and eventually businesses will close because the fast players who embraced technology in business are taking them out.
Many African businessmen are taking to using tech to enhance their work – and women need to do the same.