Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are revolutionizing all business areas and boosting productivity. Unfortunately, many business owners have yet to benefit from technological progress. For instance, Cameroon’s women entrepreneurs in agribusiness and crafts struggle to keep pace. The “African Women In Tech Startups” association, known as African WITS, aims to change this with a new project: the Carav’Elles Digital Center. African WITS trains and supports women in peri-urban and rural areas in ICT-based business development, which helps them increase their financial independence. The XOESE Fund supports the Carav’Elles Digital Center under the Feminists in Action project.
Carav’Elles Digital Center is a promising initiative that equips women entrepreneurs in the agri-business and handicraft sectors with ICT skills and resources that help them make the most of digital tools. The center responds to challenges rural and peri-urban women entrepreneurs encounter: limited knowledge of ICTs, restricted telecom services in remote areas, and difficult access to technology hardware. These obstacles prevent women from tapping into the potential of ICTs and slow their empowerment and economic development.
With the support of the XOESE Fund under the Feminists in Action project, this project sets out to help 105 women entrepreneurs in the agri-business and crafts sectors in the small towns of Edéa, Ebolowa, and Foumban in Cameroon by coaching women with limited financial resources on ICTs to help them enhance and market their products. This will increase their competitiveness in the local and international markets.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS?
The Carav’Elles Digital Center project has several stages. It starts with a 3-day training course, consisting of daily 4-hour sessions on integrating technology into entrepreneurship. Beneficiaries will then be assisted in creating their digital credentials and developing their online presence (e.g., creating a Facebook page for their business). 30 women with high-potential businesses will each receive a smartphone to simplify their tech use.
THE STORY BEHIND THE CARAV’ELLES DIGITAL CENTER PROJECT
Initially, the project’s primary goal was to support women and girls impacted by Cameroon’s security crisis. 300 internally displaced women benefited from the project in five towns across Cameroon.
Though previous editions of the project presented challenges such as poor attendance and differing expectations, African WITS overcame all difficulties by adjusting its approach and meeting beneficiaries’ specific needs. Recent achievements include acquiring a multi-purpose mill to process cassava products in the village of Konpina and creating a high-tech training space at African WITS’ headquarters in Douala.
WHAT LED TO THE RENEWAL OF THIS PROJECT?
This project meets one of women’s essential needs, as they are frequently excluded from tech developments. African WITS continues to improve its approach yearly (e.g., the daily training time was reduced for a more manageable work-life balance.)
The Feminists In Action fund will make a significant difference in developing African WITS and reinforcing the organization’s commitment to bridging the digital divide for rural women. It will also help raise African WITS’ visibility as a critical player in women’s empowerment through ICT.
By 2023, the goal is to cover all 10 regions of Cameroon and support some 2,000 rural women entrepreneurs, internally displaced women, and women in vulnerable situations towards greater empowerment via technology. African WITS also aspires to extend the project to other French-speaking African countries.
|ABOUT AFRICAN WITS|
African WITS was founded in 2016 as a women’s professional network and a non-profit organization that strives to bridge the gender divide in technology to benefit women, girls, and grassroots African communities. African WITS has taken numerous initiatives to support women and girls in developing their tech skills, and their flagship initiatives include the Women’s Tech Hub, the Incubator, the Academy, and the Advisory and Advocacy Board. The organization is headed by Ms. Horore BELL BEBGA, an EdTech entrepreneur and winner of several international ICT awards.