A group of 30 women tech leaders from Silicon Valley, US, who recently visited Rwanda have described the budding female ICT entrepreneurs they met as positive and very focused on the market.
“They have optimistic view of the future, and anything is possible for them,” Sheila D. Casey, the deputy director in the State Department’s office citizen exchange, told Rwanda Today.
The visitors mentored Rwandan female and budding technopreneurs, encouraged girls in science and ICT and talked about TechWomen. Their intention was to learn more about KLab ladies, a local innovation space for aspiring technopreneurs and share about their programme with their hosts.
TechWomen is an initiative of United States Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that is designed to empower, connect and support the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa and the Middle East.
The professional mentorship and exchange programme was developed in response to President Barack Obama’s efforts to strengthen relations between the US, Middle East and Africa. It was launched in 2011 by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
Participants are hosted for five weeks in the US where high-profile women tech leaders from big companies such as VMware, Twitter, LinkedIn and Cisco hold a speed geek session – a participation process used to quickly view a number of presentations within a fixed period of time – with selected Rwandan women entrepreneurs who are members of KLab.
According to TechWomen’s website, from the moment the participants arrive in the US they are immersed in the innovative, constantly evolving culture of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Applications are currently open and Rwanda is among the eligible African and Middle East countries. Last year, six Rwandans participated.
Akaliza Gara, a Rwandan technopreneur, member of Girls in ICT Rwanda and KLab tenant who addressed the TechWomen delegation, told Rwanda Today that the speed geek session was a great opportunity to showcase local female technopreneurs’ accomplishments.
“After speaking to some of the women who participated in the TechWomen mentorship programme, it sounds like a very positive experience,” said Ms Gara. “When they returned to Rwanda they made an effort to make a difference in the lives of other women and girls.”
Angel Bisamaza, who participated in the programme last year, said: “I gained exposure to a new way of working and thinking, expanded my network and was inspired. I plan to raise awareness among women to give back to the community and attract more girls in the STEM field.”
“We are committed to creating strong partnership with high-tech business people, with the hope that they will result in potential business links for our KLab community,” Jovani Ntabgoba, the general manager of KLab, told Rwanda Today. “Silicon Valley TechWomen is the best group of high-level tech people you can ever have in the whole world.”
Guillaine Ineza, a software developer and aspiring entrepreneur, narrated her experience at TechWomen last year: “I worked at LinkedIn, one of the biggest business and professional networking companies, and met successful, inspiring entrepreneurs.” She plans to start a software development company that will provide intellectual property solutions to IT professionals.
Marie Claire Murekatete, a student at Carnegie Mellon University’s Rwanda Campus who attended speed geek session at KLab, said: “I will follow up for funding opportunities.”
Christa Munezero, a Rwandan employee of Microsoft and a budding ICT entrepreneur, applied to participate in TechWomen 2014. She said of the delegates: “The guidance and mentorship of these experienced people was useful. They are my role models.”