Pic Caption: Sthe Shabangu, Head of Public Relations at Amazon Web Services (AWS) Sub-Saharan Africa announces the Gender Diversity Pledge during the AfricArena Grand Summit which took place from 5 - 6 December 2023. Photo Credit: MW Productions
AWS Startups, Digital Collective Africa and AfricArena Announce Pledge to Close Gender Gap and Increase Funding for Women Founders in Africa
CAPE TOWN, 11 December 2023 - Recently AfricArena hosted its 7th AfricArena Grand Summit in partnership with its anchor partner and sponsor, Amazon Web Services (AWS). As the summit kicked off, Sthe Shabangu, Head of Public Relations at AWS Sub-Saharan Africa formally announced the Gender Diversity Pledge. The Grand Summit took place last week from 5 - 6 December 2023 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Shabangu announced in her opening address that AWS has collaborated with the Digital Collective Africa community to announce the Gender Diversity Pledge, which focuses on ensuring more funding is distributed to female founders and entrepreneurs.
She spoke about the collaboration AWS has with AfricArena for the AWS Startup FemTech Innovation Challenge, that focuses on fostering female-led innovation across the African continent, and giving female founders and entrepreneurs an opportunity to access networking and investment opportunities.
Shabangu expressed her excitement about this challenge, as she said that “AWS is super excited about the outcome of this challenge.” The grand winner of the AWS Startup FemTech Innovation Challenge, WISI-Oi founder Phumi Körber will receive up to $25,000 worth proof of concept and the opportunity to develop long-term strategic partnerships with AWS.
Napa Onwusah, AWS Startups Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa said, “The Gender Diversity Pledge, which is aimed at driving much needed change within the venture capital and investment landscape is the result of the hard work of the Digital Collective Africa community who saw a need to create a pledge that will firm up investors’ intention to distribute more funding to female founders and entrepreneurs and close the gender gap. This is pertinent, especially since as of 2022, investment in female-led startups stands at 3% and at 17% for startups with females being part of the founding team.”
Addressing women who are pioneering innovative tech startups across the African continent and within the African diaspora, Shabangu said, “This is your time now!”
Christophe Viarnaud, CEO and founder of AfricArena and Digital Collective Africa co-founder and council member said, “It is important to shift the narrative around the distribution of funds as for too long, male founders and entrepreneurs have received the lion’s share of funding, and it is time for this to change. In Africa, shifting the gender narrative makes sense as over half of the continent’s entrepreneurs are women.”
He continued, “We have seen how female owned startups and female co-founders are at the forefront of Africa’s booming tech ecosystem. Opening up funding for female entrepreneurs is becoming more important now than ever, as it becomes increasingly clear that women hold the keys to creative solutions that are solving global challenges. Women are driving Africa’s economic transformation forward, resetting the continent’s economy, and are thus deserving of a greater proportion of available funding.”
Indeed, it is an exciting time for many female founders and entrepreneurs, and a time to celebrate and get to work as the gender gap begins to close, and new opportunities start opening up.
Lelemba Phiri, co-founder and partner at ATG Samata said, “ATG Samata welcomes the Gender Diversity Pledge, reinforcing our ongoing commitment as a gender lens investor to champion women entrepreneurs. This pledge aligns perfectly with our mission to create a more equitable and prosperous tech ecosystem in Africa.”
The venture capital sector has its work cut out to redress this gender imbalance, especially as
women founders and entrepreneurs began to to show their strengths in providing creative solutions, aimed at solving through leveraging creative technology solutions that propels growth and fosters innovation.
Already, many of the leading venture capital firms and investors have signed the Gender Diversity Pledge, signalling that they are fully committed to empowering female-led and female founded tech startups. These funds have already signed the public pledge with a target for the percentage of deals that they will aim to make into female-led and female founded tech startups next year.
They are as follows: AWS Startups, Digital Africa Ventures, Catalyst Fund, Startupbootcamp AfriTech, Digital Africa (Proparco), Grindstone Ventures, Founders Factory Africa, Breega, E Squared Investments, Newtown Partners, Jambaar Capital, ATG Samata, VestedWorld, Future Africa, Knife Capital, Endeavor South Africa, Harvest Fund, Launch Africa Ventures, Outlierz Ventures, Climate Resilient Africa Fund, Kalys Ventures, Flat6Labs, Acasia Ventures, French South African Tech Labs and AfricArise Ventures.
Interested venture capital firms and investors can sign the Gender Diversity Pledge here.
“The power of making a public declaration is that it brings this critical issue to the forefront of the conversation. We invite all the active funds in the ecosystem to join in and set an aspirational target, recognizing that even if you fall short, the trend line will improve each year. This will also serve as the reference list for startups with female co-founders who are looking for investors that are committed to levelling the gender gap” said Philip Kiracofe, CEO of Startupbootcamp AfriTech.
"This pledge is not just a statement; it's a pledge to action." rallies Ben Marrel, co-founder and CEO of Breega. "Recognizing the imperative for change, we believe that the first crucial step towards progress is acknowledgment – identifying and dismantling our own unconscious biases. At Breega, we see genuine transformation emerging from a perpetual reevaluation of processes, continuous education of our team, and proactive cultivation of an inclusive culture that not only supports but actively promotes the diverse talent and potential of women entrepreneurs in Africa. Today we celebrate the African leaders in our team and portfolio Tosin Faniro Dada (Breega), Cynthia Wandia (Kwara), Jessica Hanuna (Klasha), Catherine Denis (Numida), Khadija Diop (Socium) and encourage you to join us as we stride purposefully towards a more equitable and prosperous future for all."
Following this commitment to positive change, Gladwyn Leeuw, CEO of E Squared Investments, echoes this sentiment, “Recognising the critical need for gender diversity in venture capital, E Squared is honoured to endorse the Gender Diversity Pledge. This pledge amplifies our commitment to effecting tangible change in funding distribution, with a particular focus on supporting female entrepreneurs. For us, diversity is not merely an intention; it is a fundamental aspect of our interactions. By participating in this pledge, we aim to cultivate an ecosystem that champions diversity, thereby unlocking the full potential of African innovation.”
The Gender Diversity Pledge, Shabangu said, “will ensure investors remain committed to shifting the funding dialogue within the African and global landscape for women, ensuring that women are not left behind in the funding conversation. In fact, the opposite is going to happen now. As the funding gates begin to unlock new streams of opportunities, innovative female techpreneurs will be catapulted into new investment opportunities that will help them grow, diversify and scale at a faster rate.”
For more information about the Gender Diversity Pledge please contact Jabulile Ngwenya at
About Digital Africa Collective
The Digital Africa Collective is a community of African investors, incubators, accelerators, founders who aim to support early-stage startups. The collective work together on projects to limit frictions and offer more transparency within the ecosystems. Digital Collective Africa believes in the power of the collective to leverage individuals' talents. For more information about Digital Collective Africa, visit www.digitalcollective.africa
AfricArena was launched as a platform in 2017 to support the creation of market access and investment opportunities for its ever-increasing community of founders, angel investors, corporates and VC investors. Designed with a digital approach in mind, AfricArena consists of a series of investment deal flow events and interventions and an open-source platform for all stakeholders, all based on principles of open innovation and entrepreneurship. The AfricArena brand has rapidly gained enormous credibility in the tech startup ecosystem with alumni startups having raised over $500 million in the past six years. The AfricArena Summit events are broken into three segments as follows: Investor Unconference, Founder’s BootCamp, and the main Summit Event. For more information about AfricArena, visit www.africarena.com
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Sthe Shabangu, Head of Public Relations at Amazon Web Services (AWS) Sub-Saharan Africa announces the Gender Diversity Pledge during the AfricArena Grand Summit which took place from 5 - 6 December 2023.
Photo Credit: MW Productions