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Wednesday Geek Women: Akirachix

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Akirachix at iHub in Nairobi. Photo by Cesar Harada, cc-nc-sa.

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Akirachix is an association of women in tech. Through mentorship, training programs, and networking, they’re working to “inspire and develop a successful force of women in Technology that will change Africa’s future.”

According to the Akirachix website, women make up half of Africa’s workforce, but only 15% of the tech industry. Last December, American news service National Public Radio sat down with Akirachix president Judith Owigar, who talked about what it’s like to be a woman in the Kenyan tech scene:

“You know you’re the oddball just because of your gender,” Owigar says.

It turns out that in Kenya, exactly as in Silicon Valley, the problem with getting more women in tech is that there aren’t more women in tech.

“There are probably other women in tech who are alone, and they think they’re the weird ones, but if enough of us meet together, you know, it won’t be so weird anymore.”

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photo by Flickr user Dreamfish, cc-nc-sa.

So what are they doing about it? They’ve built a support network of two hundred women in technology. They’re hacking the pipeline with mentorship programs for high school girls and training programs for talented women, many of whom can’t afford the tuition costs of a formal degree. They run a mobile app competition to encourage local entrepreneurs to build tools for their own communities:

Africa has 644 million subscribers (approximately 11% of the global total) and this has powered a social and economic revolution. As more people get access to mobile phones and Internet penetration increases they will need applications and services to serve their need. African developers are well positioned to come up with applications for this new mobile user and serve the existing ones in new ways.

With grant funding from international development interests, they’re working to build a mobile social network, and partnered with Computer Aid International to build an open-source screen magnifier to improve visual accessibility.

Learn more about Akirachix on their website and blog, or follow them on twitter.