UNESCO and Women in Africa join forces to promote women’s digital skills and entrepreneurship across the continent


Investing in women’s digital entrepreneurship is not just a moral imperative: it is good business practice. According to McKinsey, the female economy is the world’s largest emerging market, with the potential to add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Investing in digital skills and entrepreneurship training for African women is investing in economic growth and social impact at the community, country and continental level.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor for 2019/2020 highlighted that millions of women worldwide have started businesses over the last five years alone: the highest percentage of these women live in Africa, with approximately 26% of female adults engaged in entrepreneurial activity. Ghana is producing more female entrepreneurs than any other country, with 46% of businesses being owned by women.

Two challenges persist, despite the high rate of entrepreneurship across the Continent: 1) lack of financial investment and 2) lack of digital literacy which impedes women entrepreneurs to fully reap the benefits of the digital transformation underway across Africa, and the world. The World Bank confirms this disparity through data collected in ten African countries that highlights that on average, male-owned companies have six times more capital than female-owned enterprises, resulting in monthly profits of female-owned enterprises that are, on average, 38% lower than male-owned businesses.  Echoing this research, UNESCO’s flagship publication I’d Blush if I Could highlighted that today, women and girls are 25 per cent less likely than men to know how to leverage digital technology for basic purposes, 4 times less likely to know how to programme computers and 13 times less likely to file for technology patent. 

UNESCO’s recent Artificial Intelligence needs assessment survey in Africa revealed that there are encouraging signs of AI innovation and development across the Continent, from community run AI classes over weekends, AI training bootcamps for students and young researchers to the establishment of private sector and government driven innovation hubs. 

Even as there is enormous potential for AI development, there are also legacy challenges in terms of infrastructure availability as well as human and institutional capacity gaps to develop and govern AI to optimize benefits of how AI can be harnessed to empower female entrepreneurs to actively drive the production of solutions to address development challenges.

African countries have called on UNESCO to support the development of open learning resources for AI education, including among citizens through digital literacy programmes, to promote the participation of girls and women and bridge the gender divide in terms of participation of women in AI development and use.

In response to this need, UNESCO and the Women in Africa Initiative (WIA) are joining forces with partners from the public and private sector to develop a massive open online course to promote African women’s digital entrepreneurship and digital literacy in the field of Artificial Intelligence. 

WIA is the foremost International Platform dedicated to the economic development and support of African Women Entrepreneurs. WIA believes that African women, as agents of action, change and impact on economies are the chance of the continent. Every year since 2017, and among other programs, WIA identifies, selects, supports and trains the best women entrepreneurs through its WIA54 program.

To do this, UNESCO and the Women in Africa Initiative are launching, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, a survey to hear directly from women entrepreneurs on the ground, about what they need and want to learn in this training. 

Are you a female African entrepreneur?  Interested in increasing your digital literacy, learning about AI, and working to promote digital transformation in your company, community, and country?

Take our survey – your input matters to us and will shape the training we will develop!

Take our survey available in French, English, Spanish, and Portuguese here, open until 31 March: click here