Challenges and Setbacks Plague African Tech Landscape in 2023


The AfricArena recently held its 7th Grand Summit in collaboration with anchor partner Amazon Web Services (AWS). The summit commenced with an announcement from Sthe Shabangu, Head of Public Relations at AWS Sub-Saharan Africa, unveiling the Gender Diversity Pledge.

During her address, Shabangu highlighted the ongoing partnership between AWS and AfricArena through the AWS Startup FemTech Innovation Challenge. This initiative is dedicated to fostering innovation led by women across Africa, providing female founders and entrepreneurs with access to networking and investment opportunities.

Expressing enthusiasm for the challenge, Shabangu stated, “AWS is incredibly excited about it, and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of this initiative.” The grand winner of the AWS Startup FemTech Innovation Challenge stands to receive up to $25,000 for a proof of concept and the chance to establish enduring strategic partnerships with AWS.

AWS has partnered with the Digital Collective Africa community to unveil the Gender Diversity Pledge, a collaborative initiative aimed at increasing financial support for female founders and entrepreneurs. Napa Onwusah, AWS Startups Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa, emphasized the pivotal role of the pledge in fostering change within the venture capital and investment landscape. This initiative, driven by the Digital Collective Africa community, seeks to solidify investors’ commitment to allocating more funding to female-led ventures, addressing the current gender gap. Onwusah highlighted the urgency of this effort, citing statistics that reveal a mere 3% investment in female-led startups and 17% for startups with women as part of the founding team as of 2022.

Shabangu emphasized, “Now is the moment for women leading groundbreaking tech startups across Africa and the diaspora.”

Christophe Viarnaud, AfricArena’s CEO and founder, along with Digital Collective Africa’s co-founder and council member, stressed the need to change the funding landscape. Viarnaud highlighted, “For too long, male founders dominated funding, but it’s time for a shift. In Africa, empowering women entrepreneurs is crucial, considering over half of the continent’s entrepreneurs are women.”

He added, “Female-owned startups and co-founders play a pivotal role in Africa’s thriving tech ecosystem. Increasing funding for women entrepreneurs is more critical than ever, as women are demonstrating their ability to provide creative solutions to global challenges, actively driving Africa’s economic transformation.”

The continent’s economic reset is propelling female founders and entrepreneurs into the spotlight, deserving a larger share of available funding. It’s a thrilling period as the gender gap narrows, paving the way for new opportunities. Lelemba Phiri, co-founder and partner at ATG Samata, applauds the Gender Diversity Pledge, aligning with their commitment as a gender lens investor to champion women entrepreneurs and foster a more equitable tech ecosystem in Africa. The venture capital sector faces the challenge of addressing the gender imbalance as female founders showcase their strengths in delivering innovative solutions through creative technology, driving growth, and fostering innovation.

Numerous prominent venture capital firms and investors have officially endorsed the Gender Diversity Pledge, underscoring their unwavering dedication to empowering female-led and female-founded tech startups. These entities have publicly committed to a specified percentage of deals targeting female-led and female-founded tech startups for the upcoming year. Noteworthy signatories include AWS Startups, Digital Africa Ventures, Catalyst Fund, Startupbootcamp AfriTech, Digital Africa (Proparco), FSATLabs, Grindstone Ventures, Founders Factory Africa, Breega, E Squared Investments, Newtown Partners, Jambaar Capital, ATG Samata, and VestedWorld.

Venture capital firms and investors keen on participating can formally join the Gender Diversity Pledge by signing up here. Philip Kiracofe, CEO of Startupbootcamp AfriTech, emphasized the significance of a public commitment, stating, “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 leveling the gender gap.”

Ben Marrel, Breega’s co-founder and CEO, emphasizes that their commitment extends beyond mere words; it’s a dedicated promise to take concrete actions. Recognizing the pressing need for change, Breega believes that the pivotal first step toward progress lies in acknowledging and dismantling unconscious biases. The company envisions genuine transformation through continuous reevaluation of processes, ongoing education for its team, and the proactive cultivation of an inclusive culture. Breega not only supports but actively promotes the diverse talent and potential of women entrepreneurs in Africa. Today marks a celebration of African leaders within the Breega team and portfolio, including Tosin Faniro Dada, Cynthia Wandia, Jessica Hanuna, Catherine Denis, and Khadija Diop. The call goes out to encourage others to join them in purposefully striding towards a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

Best Deep Tech, Science & Innovation Startup Award Caption

Denislav Marinov, the founder of Amnova Tech, clinched the Best Deep Tech, Science & Innovation Startup Award during the AfricArena Grand Summit held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Wednesday, December 6, 2023.

Best FemTech Startup Award

Phumi Körber, the founder of WISI-Oi, secured the prestigious Best FemTech Startup Award during the AfricArena Grand Summit.

Best FinTech Startup Award 

Mathias Léopoldie, co-founder of Julaya, secured the Best FinTech Startup Award at the AfricArena Grand Summit.

Best Climate Tech Startup Award

Yvonne Otieno, Director of Miyonga Fresh Greens, secured the Best FemTech Startup Award at the AfricArena Grand Summit.

Best Seed Startup Award

Andrew Tesha, the co-founder and CEO of A-Trader, clinched the prestigious Best Seed Startup Award at the AfricArena Grand Summit.

Most Promising Entrepreneur Award

Nourelimen Nasfi, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Deaf Square, secured the prestigious Best Promising Entrepreneur Award at the AfricArena Grand Summit.

Most Attractive Investor

Seedstars clinches the prestigious Most Attractive Investor Award at the AfricArena Grand Summit.



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