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African women in tech: Emma Kaye on changing the conversation around women

“In my experience, women tend to create a collective around them and then it is ‘lets go into battle together’. For me, it is this type of approach, collaboration, collective thinking that is useful in this industry, an industry full of innovation.”Emma Kaye.

Where are the women in tech? Who are the women building technology or working in technology in Africa? These questions and many more are asked on a daily basis. When it comes to technology in Africa, the general consensus is that women are not present. We beg to differ.

Africa has a range of women working and building cool technology for the continent and the world. To answer the above questions we are launching a new article series that highlights Africa’s tech women: Women who work in technology, women who build technologies and women who are passionate about what technology can do for Africa.

In this, our third instalment of African women in tech, we feature Emma Kaye. Emma Kaye is a seasoned entrepreneur with wicked experience and worthwhile insights, and is also the founder of Bozza.

MORE: 20 Kickass African entrepreneurs worth your time

After years of emailing, when I finally met Kaye, it was hard not to be won over by her incredible grace and passion for technology and content.

Building through the power of storytelling and tech

Kaye was on the original founding team for Triggerfish Animation, one of South Africa’s leading animation companies. This experience she says not only taught her how to run and grow a business but it gave her the invaluable insight into the power of storytelling and content creation for television.

“While being in television was exciting, my feeling was that the mobile device would become the most valuable screen on which to consume content in Africa. However, I believed that it is not just the device that is important it is about relevant content on the device that drives the uptake of technology,” she says.

MORE: SA animation studio Triggerfish gets fresh funding for new projects

Kaye moved on from Triggerfish to Breakdesign, a mobile technology company which became one of the top 5 developers globally for Nokia. She reckons the reason the company was able to become a leader in the space was its ability to leverage relevant content.

Kaye’s obsession with content and tech seems to have found a happy home with her new company, Bozza. Bozza is an online platform that allows individuals to create content for their communities.

“The team and I are bringing the worlds of content and technology together, but this time for an African market,” she says. This is a message that Kaye has spent the better part of the last two years spreading to the world.

“We are a mobile-first platform that allows for the next generation of musicians, film makers, poets and photographers to create and self publish their content directly to their fans.”

Bozza works with communities across various Africa countries and tech ecosystem. Kaye says that for the company it has been less a question of working across various African ecosystems, and more around the awareness of how tech is consumed across the different markets.

“This analysis of how consumers/users behave give us insights into how to manage the tech and therefore cater for the various cultures more so than the various ecosystems.”

Bozza is about the artist and they share their content with their communities. Kaye says that artists are the “new search engines into community”.

MORE: Bozza: A mobile startup aimed at township mobihoods

Artists are giving shape to hybrid African identities, and the rest of the world is curiously watching this shift in creative power towards these new differential ideas of space and the interesting responses they demand.

Mobile and its socio-economic potential

Kaye argues that tech in Africa is still in the phase of unrealised potential in terms of what the impact of mobile could really be.

“Mobile technology has huge socio-economic, educational, commercial, societal and individual significance,” she says.

She reckons that as of yet, emerging economies have been quite “resourceful in using mobility in socio-economically important ways”. This means that countries have been able to empower micro enterprises and individuals.

“By embracing mobility as a content delivery platform, emerging countries or continents can leapfrog developed economies, establishing a unique societal brand in a vibrant new industry.”

While there has been immense growth in Africa’s tech scene she worries that two key things are still yet to be addressed properly in this space. For her, the big issue are around the cost of data and creation of relevant technology.

“Access to services through technology can be transformational, but real change happens when access to technology is affordable for all,” says Kaye.

MORE: Fiber-optic cable to increase Africa’s mobile coverage by 20% in 2015

She argues that development of tech is important on the continent but that it is the creation of relevant technology for the market being developed that is the key.

“In the creation of appropriate technology with fitting content for the right market, there is more potential for sustainability and real growth.”

Women in tech, how about the challenges of entrepreneurship

As woman in tech in Africa, Kaye reckons the conversation should be more about entrepreneur regardless of gender. She argues that men and women face many challenges when it comes to starting and running a business anywhere.

“The emotional hurdles that are implied or given light reference to in these types of conversations should, I feel, be given more of a centre stage,” she says.

For the conversations needs to be about the courage needed, tenacity, self-esteem, confidence and above all, belief.

“Conversations around how to hustle, how to start again, how to listen, how to implement, how to learn from the endless disappointments and know that you can succeed.”

Kaye also talks about the key differences in men and women’s ways of approaching work.

“This may reveal the underlying misconceptions about being a woman in business,” she chides.

Her argument is that women tend to be more focused on relationships while men tend to prioritise the hero’s journey that they are on. This journey could, for instance, focus on an achievement and a sense of “going into battle”.

“In my experience, women tend to create a collective around them and then it is ‘let’s go into battle together’.”

She believes that it is this type of approach, collaboration, collective thinking that is useful in an industry full of innovation.

“It is an industry that needs to create an environment in which people feel and are expected to bring their best selves to collaborate and create something that the market needs.”

Author | Mich Atagana

Mich Atagana
Mich started out life wanting to be a theoretical physicist but soon realized that mathematics was required. So, she promptly let go of that dream. She then decided that law might be the best place for her talents, but with too many litigation classes missed in favour of feminist... More