New report lays bare lack of gender diversity in African tech startup ecosystem

Disrupt Africa has released the first ever publication focused on gender equality in the African tech startup landscape, in partnership with Africa-focused pre-seed investment programmes Madica, with the results demonstrating the lack of gender diversity both within startup teams and funding rounds on the continent “Diversity Dividend: Exploring Gender Equality in the African Tech Ecosystem”.

Key findings include the fact that of almost 2,500 African tech startups studied for the purpose of the report, only 14.6 per cent had a female co-founder and just 9.6 per cent were led by a female CEO. The report also includes survey data where female founders have spoken directly about their experiences within the ecosystem, as well as personalised case studies.

From a funding perspective, the report analysed 711 African tech startups that secured funding in 2022 and so far in 2023. Of those, just 21 per cent had at least one female co-founder, while only 11.7 per cent had a female CEO. Of the just over US$4 billion raised by ventures in the period in question, meanwhile, only 9.1 per cent went to companies co-founded by a woman, and just 2.9 per cent to startups with a female CEO or equivalent.

The report, which also includes data around female representation within the Africa-focused venture capital industry, is released in partnership with Madica, an Africa-focused pre-seed investment programme empowering underrepresented and underfunded mission-driven founders on the continent. The sector-agnostic platform, affiliated with Flourish Ventures, aims to empower entrepreneurs with the provision of funding and also democratising access to world-class company-building support.

“Madica is delighted to be partnering with Disrupt Africa on this progressive study that conducts a deep dive into the state of gender diversity and inequality in African tech. We firmly believe that achieving gender parity in the tech industry is not only necessary but possible. While acknowledging the root causes of the current gender gap, we are fully committed to proactively addressing these issues,” said Emmanuel Adegboye, head of Madica.

“As a company, we are setting a positive example by actively seeking out and partnering with women entrepreneurs and leaders. We recognise and highly value the massive contributions they bring to the table and are enthusiastic about the significant positive impact they will undoubtedly have on our portfolio companies and the industry as a whole. By fostering an inclusive culture and providing opportunities for women to lead and succeed, we are not only supporting gender parity but also driving innovation and progress in the tech ecosystem.”

Other collaborators include FirstCheck Africa, which invests early in high-growth technology startups founded or co-founded by women; TLcom Capital, which has US$350 million of VC assets under management across Africa and Europe; LoftyInc Capital Management, a venture capital firm on a mission to build an ecosystem of Africans investing in Africans solving African problems; Google for Startups, which is on a mission to support thriving, diverse, and inclusive startup communities around the world; and RevUp Women by AfriLabs, which empowers early-stage women-led African startups and SMEs to overcome unique challenges that hinder their growth and success. 

iceaddis, Ethiopia’s first innovation hub and tech startup incubator; the International Trade Centre’s Netherlands Trust Fund V (NTF V), a four-year partnership signed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and the International Trade Centre to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the digital technologies sector; and Janngo Capital, which builds, grows and invests in pan-African digital champions with proven business models and inclusive social impact, are also partners.

“FirstCheck Africa is proud to partner with Disrupt Africa for this inaugural report which includes an extensive review of the continent’s female-led startup ecosystem based on their comprehensive, multi-year primary data. A maturing ecosystem that’s serious about equity and unlocking every investment opportunity needs numbers and analysis beyond the superficial to hold itself accountable. Inspired by this report, we’re looking forward to a meaningful conversation about the experiences of women around Africa’s venture capital table, including the continent’s ambitious founders and active investors,” said Eloho Omame, co-founder of FirstCheck Africa.

“With a 60 per cent female senior team and through our annual Female Founder Summit, we’ve not only experienced first-hand the huge benefits of a diverse organisation but are also well-aware of the major economic upside ready to be unlocked by levelling the playing field for women across the ecosystem. As an industry, we cannot afford to continue overlooking the biases and stereotypes preventing women from reaching their full potential. With this in mind, we’re especially proud to support Disrupt Africa’s latest work to shine a much-needed spotlight on these issues and pioneer crucial change for current and future women within African tech,” said Andreata Muforo, partner at TLcom Capital.

“This report does not prove that women work hard or that kind people are handing out free money. It does track women who have risen from informal jobs into formal leadership roles without sacrificing the high-quality expectations of their customers and investors,” said Marsha Wulff, founding partner of LoftyInc Capital Management.

“We are pleased to support Disrupt Africa in carrying out this research on gender equality within the African tech ecosystem. The study highlights pressing issues faced by women in technology, such as underrepresentation, the gender funding gap, and work-life balance concerns,” said Folarin Aiyegbusi, head of startup ecosystem (Africa) at Google. “The insights provide valuable guidance for promoting a more inclusive and equitable environment for all tech industry participants. We hope this research inspires meaningful action to foster a diverse and balanced tech ecosystem in Africa.”

“We are thrilled about our partnership with Disrupt Africa to produce a report on the funding landscape for women entrepreneurs in Africa,” said Anna Ekeledo, executive director of AfriLabs, the pan-African network of technology and innovation hubs. “At AfriLabs, we recognise the unique challenges faced by women-led businesses on the continent, including the gender funding gap in investment. This is a priority for us, and it aligns with the objective of our enterprise development program, RevUp Women, to create sustainable support for women entrepreneurs across the continent. The report will provide valuable insights for stakeholders to tailor their interventions and support women-led businesses more effectively.”

To download the report for free, please go here

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