| May 17, 2021

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Men in tech usually exceed women in tech by at least a 3:1 ratio or even higher in some sectors. As part of the commitment to bridge the digital divide between men and women in the Tech sector, Tech4Dev launched the first edition of The Women Techsters Fellowship on Monday, the 26th of April 2021.

The Women Techsters Fellowship is a year-long training program that equips young girls and women across Africa with digital and deep tech skills. It comprises a four-month training period, followed by a six-month internship and enrollment into a mentorship program. The program focuses on five learning tracks; Product Design, Product Management, Data Science and AI engineering, Software Development, and Cybersecurity.

We received over 4000 applications from five African countries; Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt. After a rigorous screening process, 264 beneficiaries qualified to join the Women Techsters Fellowship Class of 2022.

On Monday, the 26th of April 2021, the Fellowship kicked off with a two-week orientation program. The Welcome Address was delivered by Joel Ogunsola, Co-Founder & Director of Partnerships and Sustainability, Tech4Dev. In his Welcome Address, Joel reinforced the need for young people in Africa to invest in skills that would position Africa as a powerful player in the 4th industrial revolution. He reiterated that, the core of Tech4Dev's mandate is to enable Africans to build capacity and skills through trainings on digital and deep tech skills in order to contribute to Africa's future.

He continued by appreciating Microsoft for their support over the years. He said, "We are grateful for the support and the network they have brought to help ensure the Women Techsters Initiative scales. We started out working together on the Code4Impact program, which pivoted into the Nigerian Women Techsters program, and into the Women Techsters pilot program and finally the Women Techsters Initiative as we have it today." He closed his Address with a commitment to ensure that job and entrepreneurship opportunities would be made available to all graduates of the Class of 2022.

This was followed by a Keynote speech delivered by Charlene Verzmoter, Philanthropies Coordinator for the Middle East and Africa at Microsoft, on behalf of Ghada Khalifa, the Director of Microsoft Philanthropies MEA. She said, "At Microsoft, we believe that empowering more women in STEM fields drives economic growth, equality, and innovation. We want to create a culture where more women are attracted to more STEM fields and believe in themselves as having a career path in technology. This is why we partner with non-profits like Tech4Dev to support initiatives that empower women's employment, especially in technology fields. We are on this journey to support Tech4Dev in achieving this milestone of training 5 million women across Africa by 2030 in coding and deep tech skills which will help bridge the digital and technology divide between men and women. This will also ensure equal access to opportunities for all while women achieve economic empowerment across Africa."

The Fellows were welcomed by Diwura Oladepo, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Tech4Dev. She enlightened them on the idea behind the Women Techsters initiative saying, "This year we will be empowering 10,000 women across 5 African countries namely: Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa and Ghana through our Fellowship Program, our Boot camps, our Open days and our Masterclasses. We believe that by empowering women for change across Africa, we would be providing them opportunities to access employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, which will help us achieve a 50/50 Male to Female ratio balance in the technology space. We do this by providing women with the necessary skills to help build a more efficient business using technology. This will, in turn, increase the interest and participation of Women in the technology spaceā€. She also encouraged the Women Techsters Fellows to dare to dream big, pursue their biggest aspirations, and remember that expertise will always be considered first before gender."

On the second day of the orientation, Kendi Ntwiga-Nderitu, the Country Manager for Microsoft, Kenya, shared her tech journey with the Fellows. She urged them to do the best with the opportunity they have been given. In her charge to the Fellows, she dared the fellows to go after their dream, saying, "One of the best decisions I have made in my life was to build my career in tech. So, I am certain that you are going to be glad you made this decision."

Over the next eight days, the Fellows bonded with one another, learned what would be expected from them in the course of the Fellowship, and were introduced to the five learning tracks and the opportunities available to them in each of these learning tracks. We also had Professionals, Tech Talent Recruiters, and HR Specialists share with the Fellows, skills needed to build successful tech careers.

The Orientation exercise ended on the 7th of May, 2021, and training began on the 9th of May. The zeal shown by the Fellows during the orientation exercise has proven that young girls and women are ready to rise above the status quo of the tech sector and take the world by storm. We are excited to go on this journey with the Class of 2022, and we cannot wait to see the great things they accomplish during the Fellowship and beyond.