East Africa

Barbara Birungi on encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs

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frica needs more women role models in business and technology to encourage more young women to aspire to become entrepreneurs.

Barbara Birungi, director of Hive Colab and founder of Women in Technology Uganda

 

Barbara Birungi, director of Hive Colab and founder of Women in Technology Uganda

This is according to Barbara Birungi, founder of Women in Technology Uganda (WITU), an organisation that trains, mentors and supports women in technology and entrepreneurship.

Birungi, an entrepreneur herself, said she typically walks into business and tech networking functions where 95% of the entrepreneurs are men and 5% are women.

“We need to create role models first and foremost to build up confidence because I think that is one of the key things that stops women from starting up [businesses].”

She added that it is generally more difficult for women to access finance for their entrepreneurial ventures. One reason for this is African traditions where women typically did not own property.

“And when it comes to going to banks to access finance, even if you have a brilliant idea, bankers are thinking, ‘what do you have to give us?’”

While Birungi said this is beginning to change, with more women owning property in Uganda, a large percentage of women are still raised believing that to be a success, they have to be a good wife and mother. This mentality can discourage women at an early age from aspiring to have careers.

“So the [difference between] 20 years of being told how [a women] needs to be so that their husband is pleased with them, to someone else who has 20 years of being told they have to provide – I think that is where the problem starts,” explained Birungi, adding that some parents chose to invest in their son’s education rather than in their daughter’s.

Birungi advises women entrepreneurs to build a network of supporters around them. “Start yourself off with people who believe in what you are trying to do. Before you sell whatever it is you want to sell, first believe in it yourself.”

The role of technology and entrepreneurship

Birungi told How we made it in Africa that increasing the number of women in technology and entrepreneurship not only has the potential to empower women, but affect the social and economic development of Africa too.

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