Published on Nasikiliza

Challenges faced by women in entrepreneurship

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Charlotte Horore Bebga, IT professional and entrepreneur, leads a coding workshop for children at the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where women are more likely than men to be entrepreneurs, according to a new World Bank report. Women are thus key stakeholders in the economic development of the continent, which is replete with boundless opportunities. Although there are increasing numbers of women involved in and benefiting from these opportunities, they still face many different kinds of problems and restrictions. I myself have experienced this in my career as a female entrepreneur.

It all began in 2014 when I worked for a multinational as an IT support engineer, a post considered the preserve of men, which led to my transfer to the purchasing department which, according to some, is more suitable for a woman. This situation made me determined to assert my value beyond being a woman. The stereotype that certain jobs are meant for men is even more pervasive in my country Cameroon and particularly as concerns jobs that require physical strength, lots of energy and long working hours.

So, in 2014, entrepreneurship seemed to be the best way for me to assert myself. I launched an e-commerce website specializing in clothes and accessories for men, but I very quickly faced difficulties which made me close the shop in 2015 even though I had a lot of faith in myself. I quickly linked these difficulties to my lack of business management skills and so I enrolled for GERME business management training by the International Labour Organization, which I completed successfully. The training also remains one of the pillars of my professional development.

As I am passionate about information technology and the development of the internet, I took part in several conferences on this matter in Cameroon. It was during these conferences that I noted bitterly that there were very few women who attended or took part, and the few who did not seem to be the best prepared. Access to knowledge is democratized in Cameroon but clearly women are still not aware of the opportunities or have given up in difficult circumstances that are not favourable to their development. I thus decided to act to help women become a pillar of African economic development as they already are in family development, as the latter cannot be their only field of expression and fulfilment. Entrepreneurship is once again the ideal way. In 2015, I created African Women In Tech Startups to promote female leadership in technological entrepreneurship by pooling existing skills and assisting female entrepreneurs in the use of digital technologies as a driver of growth, independently of their sector of work. The lack of specific skills (and particularly techniques and technologies) is a restriction in establishing certain entrepreneurial ideas offered by women, particularly in the field of

technology where they remain a small minority in Africa. The association currently has a dozen female volunteers involved, all who are entrepreneurs and role models in their respective fields. We design programs and activities in Cameroon and have an online community in other African countries (Morocco, Gabon, Chad, Senegal). Through training, mentoring and meetings organised since 2016, we have seen a clear development in this sector in Cameroon.

There is hope and it is up to women to believe in themselves, take charge and be daring. Opportunities for training or financing are increasing in the continent and women must seize them with both hands. For my part, I'm continuing to work on awareness raising, training and access to information.

My message to women: GO FOR IT!


Charlotte Horore Bebga

Cameroonian IT professional and entrepreneur

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