At the recent MEST Africa Summit held in Cape Town, CEO of South African startup SweepSouth, Aisha Pandor said, “There’s never been a better time than now to start a business as a female founder, there is a lot of support there and a lot of women that serve as good examples.”

She says more and more support was becoming available for women who are entrepreneurs. “There are great supportive ecosystems that exist, and both from the public and private sector a recognition that women need to be supported,” said Pandor. Baratang Miya who is the CEO for GirlHype, believes that female innovation is starting to be taken more seriously. “Especially for black women, governments are beginning to come up with policies. if you don’t take up the opportunity it is going to fly. There’s more money in the market,” she said. “The space is beginning to accept us, and that anti-women culture is gone. There are so many programmes available to accelerate women, it is just amazing.”

But Pandor does not deny the fact that it is not all that easy to start up as a women in Africa, she recalls it being tough to penetrate as a female founder. “Initially entering into the tech space it was difficult not feeling like there were women there, not because i was actively excluded but by virtue of the fact there weren’t other people, other founders, investors, who looked like me. It took me a while to feel like I belonged and it took me a little longer than I think it would a male founder to find his feet,” Pandor said. “You are constantly being assessed and any room I walk into doesn’t know SweepSouth or hasn’t seen my picture will automatically assume that any male I’m with is the founder. There’s still stereotypes like that, that you have to fight and it doesn’t do a lot for your confidence.” She acknowledges that a lack of female investors also plays a role. “I can probably count on one hand the amount of female South African investors in tech. It is sometimes difficult to explain a product that is empowering women, where women are the end users. You have to do  a lot of mental gymnastics on investors,” Pandor said. Principal investment officer at Singularity investments, agreed with the views of Pandor, and said the perception that the investment industry is a male dominated sector and changing that, would be great start. 

“In the venture capital space I think the best investors are men or women that have been operators. I would encourage a lot of entrepreneurs to go into this space. But it is also important that more women get involved.” she said. For more on the MEST Africa Summit 2018 visit http://www.mestafricasummit.com