Mobile Web Ghana and Developers in Vogue Are Training Ghana’s Next Generation of Programmers
Two women-led tech organizations are helping turn Ghana into Africa’s next tech hub.
Africa is beginning to assert itself as one of the next global tech hubs, with African startups pulling in $2 billion in venture capital in 2019. Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa are considered the continent’s major tech hotspots, but Ghana has begun to make its way into the conversation, with $111 million of that 2019 VC money going to Ghanaian companies. And then there is Twitter. This past April, the social media giant announced that its African headquarters, and also first African office, would be in Accra, Ghana’s capital.
The social media giant’s decision to open an office in Ghana could very well supercharge the growth of the country’s tech scene. However, even if Twitter had chosen another country for its new HQ, Ghana’s tech ascension would have continued thanks in part to organizations like Mobile Web Ghana and Developers in Vogue, alumni of enpact’s Empowering Entrepreneurship Initiative, both of which are training the next generation of Ghanainan web and mobile developers, data scientists, graphic designers, and more.
Bringing Mobile Apps to the People
Mobile Web Ghana and Developers in Vogue were both founded to bridge gaps. Mobile Web Ghana was launched in 2010 to address an emerging issue: a lack of available mobile applications.
“When we started Mobile Web Ghana, very few value-added services were running on mobile phones,” said Florence Toffa, Director of Mobile Web Ghana. “Students were not using the phone’s full capabilities and you couldn’t even check your bank statement. Our initial goal was to get more people to learn to develop simple mobile web applications to benefit local citizens and solve local problems.”
“There have been a lot of learning experiences that have shaped my life for the better.”
Today, there are more mobile phone connections in Ghana than there are people and mobile payments are extremely popular, whether it’s farmers using feature phones to pay for supplies or city dwellers sending money to friends for dinner. There’s a chance some of these applications were built by alumni of Mobile Web Ghana’s training programs, which in addition to focusing on mobile development also teaches business and entrepreneurial skills. The organization also hosts networking events and discussion panels designed to connect mobile network providers and businesses.
In the decade since its founding, Mobile Web Ghana has expanded its focus to also include closing the tech gender gap and has formed major partnerships, including with the United States Embassy in Ghana. In September 2020, Florence and the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Stephanie S. Sullivan, cut the ribbon on the American Corner Agbobga, an innovation hub and tech education center in Accra.
Closing Tech’s Gender Gap
Seven years after Mobile Web Ghana was founded, Ivy Barley launched Developers in Vogue. According to Operations Manager Victoria Mabel Sackey, Ivy founded the organization after seeing firsthand just how underrepresented women are in tech.
“Our founder completed a master’s in mathematics and then got interested in programming and coding, which she taught herself,” Victoria said. “She began participating in technology seminars, webinars and events, where she realized that she was either the only female or one of the few females in attendance. She began to wonder why and decided to delve into the matter and learned that in Ghana, Africa and in general, STEM is a field women are not confident entering because it seems more like a man’s industry.”
The tech gender gap in Ghana and Africa is not well-documented, but in the United States it’s estimated that women hold 25% of all computer science-related jobs and 14% of all software engineering jobs despite making up 47% of the workforce. Developers in Vogue is tackling this problem in Ghana by teaching in-demand tech skills. The organization offers online fellowships and in-person bootcamps and works to ensure that students can use their skills outside of the classroom.
“We want women to both gain tech skills and be assimilated into the tech ecosystem and workforce,” Victoria said. “We partner with companies to offer internships, full-time and part-time jobs, and freelance work so participants can actually use the skills they have acquired and then move on to higher roles in the tech space.”
Despite launching a short time ago, Victoria said that over Developers in Vogue has trained over 1,000 women in digital skills and had more than 15 of its graduates get full-time jobs in the tech industry or on tech teams.
In addition to bridging gaps through teaching tech skills, Developers in Vogue and Mobile Web Ghana have another thing in common: both were part of the Empowering Entrepreneurship Initiative’s (EEI) COVID-19 Relief Program. The program provided 180 businesses in Egypt, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya and Indonesia with dedicated mentoring, financial backing and business development support.
Both Florence and Victoria were interviewed as part of the program, with Florence calling the experience “amazing and challenging.”
“There have been a lot of learning experiences that have shaped my life for the better,” Florence said.
We are proud to have partnered with Mobile Web Ghana and Developers in Vogue and are excited to monitor the growth of Ghana’s tech ecosystem in the coming years!