“By placing information and communications technology (ICT) at the core of our transformation agenda we can make sure that Africa is never again left behind,” These were the words of President Paul Kagame back in 2015 at the Transform Africa Summit.
The man who has come to be known as ‘The Digital President’ has led Rwanda to build a thriving knowledge-based economy with technology at the heart. Under Kagame’s watch, Rwanda has implemented technology programs, built successful tech partnerships with the private sector and created an environment where innovation can thrive. Most importantly Rwanda is creating an enabling environment to empower and create accomplished African women, so that half the population is not left behind.
Now Ghana is poised to follow suit in empowering women thanks in part to Ghana’s first finance and technology accelerator programme for women, Yielding Accomplished African Women (Yaa W).
The acronym, “Yaa W.” is a nod to the fierce queen mother of Ejisu in the Ashanti Kingdom, Yaa Asantewaa, who led her kingdom to great exploits in a time of turmoil. In the same spirit of female empowerment and leadership, Yaa W is on a mission to help women develop a gender specific professional toolkit to succeed in finance and technology related career fields.
Yaa W. was founded by Diana Wilson, a student at the University of Virginia and an accomplished African woman herself. She recently received the Forbes 30 under 30 scholar award. This summer Yaa W. will welcome its first cohort of ten female tertiary graduates to what promises to be an intense but rewarding year long programme.
With support from organisations such as Bank of America and Hypenet Marketing Solutions, Yaa W is set to change the rules around empowering women to excel in what is traditionally a male dominated field.
The year-long approach to training is also a deviation from the short-term trainings and one-off mentoring sessions which are becoming common within the country. To this end, the Yaa W programme has four main components which all fellows will be expected to complete.
- The first, is a professional development module which will help fellows develop their personal brand and position themselves to make the most of opportunities.
- The second module focuses on technical training in the areas of finance and technological know how such as programming, product design and financial analysis.
- The third module has at its core women empowerment. This module connects fellows with influential female professionals across the world who can provide guidance and mentorship.
- The final module brings together lessons from all the preceding modules and sets an innovation challenge. Fellows will be required to identify a community or business need and collaborate in teams to develop technology or business-based solutions to the identified names.
As one who moved from Ghana to America at a young age, Diana understands the value of the right professional training, something that has led her to land over $ 300,000 in scholarships and to be named as one of the top 30 under 30 pioneers in 2018 by Future of Ghana. Her experiences fed into selecting a small team of eight other accomplished individuals who together have designed Yaa W., to include comprehensive certification courses, extensive online training software, and experience with hands-on social impact projects. This ensures every participant masters the fundamental skills requisite for employment at top financial and technology corporations.
Yaa W. gives life to the words of President Nana Akuffo Addo: “Women constitute the majority of the population, and our success or otherwise as a nation will be measured by how well women are doing”.
Yaa W. will give a place for younger women who have passed through programmes such as the Girls can code project launched by the first lady of Ghana to train some three hundred teenage girls with ICT skills and the Junior Achievement programme which empowers young students with financial literacy skills among others.
In 2017 alone, African tech start-ups raised nearly $600 million in funding. Over the coming years, the Yaa W programme will serve to develop women who can secure part of such funds. After all, there is growing evidence that tech companies with women in executive positions perform better and campaigns led by women have been shown to be 32% more successful than those led by men.
The mission of Yaa W is important now more than ever, it is imperative that women are fully equipped with equal access to knowledge so that they may have equal opportunity to excel and in so doing contribute towards national good and economic growth.