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How to Encourage More Female Participation in Fintech

The African and Nigerian tech ecosystem is male-dominated. It is a problem that runs deep into the African social fabric. In 2017, venture capital funding in Africa was over $500 million, but female-owned startups received only 5.3% ($30 million) of the total amount. The not very good trend was repeated in 2018 and 2019.

The IFC blamed this shortcoming on three factors including the low number of female-led businesses that receive funding, the low rate of smooth transition between funding stages, and the limited number of female decision-makers in venture firms.

Also, looking at the internet penetration in Nigeria, it is skewed towards men. A 2019 Afrobarometer report concluded that “Women also trail men on indicators of digital access and connection. And the gap may be widening: Although women’s Internet use has doubled over the past five years, the gender gap in regular Internet use has increased.”

This is not an African-only problem. In December 2019, women held 30 (6%) of CEO positions in S&P 500 companies. At the start of 2020, the number was 6.7%, and at the close of 2020, women held 7.8% of CEO positions.

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For Fortune 500, Women held 7.4 percent of CEO roles based on the magazine’s 2020 list. This is global.

Despite this grim situation, there is a glimmer of hope in the financial technology aka (Fintech) sector where a handful of women are founding and co-founding businesses providing payment solutions & gateways, insurtech, digital savings, and loans.

To lend credence to the aforementioned, a 2019 report by Deloitte titled “Achieving Gender Equity in the Fintech Community”, showed that women-founded startups and those co-founded with men comprised 12.2% of the 3,017 fintechs in 2019, only slightly higher than the 10.9% (of 411 startups) recorded in 2010.

The report clearly stated that the “fintech industry has made slow but steady progress increasing the number of startups founded by women.

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Bringing it down to Nigeria, Deloitte again in a 2019 report said: “In the past, the fintech space was male-dominated as is the case in many other industries. However, a crop of women has risen up to take on leading roles within fintech companies in Nigeria.”

These women are playing significant roles in fintech whether as founders or co-founders. Some of the leading women in fintech include Ire Aderinokun, co-founder, BuyCoins, Odunayo Eweniyi, COO, PiggyVest, Jessica Anuna, founder and CEO of Klasha, and Fara Ashiru Jituboh, Co-founder, Okra among many others. 

On how to get more females into fintech, there should be venture funds that invest in female-founded fintech companies. There is already FirstCheck Africa. FirstCheck, a female-focused angel fund and investor community, was founded by Eloho Omame and Odunayo Eweniyi. Although it is not focused on fintech, it is a step in the right direction.

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Recently, Future Africa, an African-focused Venture Capital disclosed that it surpassed the $1million commitment to female-led startups adding that it is currently appraising more female-led startups in its pipeline to increase the number.

Additionally, there should be accelerators that incubate females with innovative and scalable ideas that will boost financial inclusion in Nigeria and Africa. Importantly, efforts should be made to bridge the digital divide between males and females.

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Musa Suleiman
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