5 Kenyan Women in Tech Breaking the Mould

5 Kenyan Women in Tech Breaking the Mould
8 min read

Kenya is the place to be doing business right now – A hotbed of innovation, Kenya is rolling out successful startups and some of the continents best business leaders. The world is falling in love with the Silicon Savannah – it is such a dynamic and exciting place to be an entrepreneur and intrapreneur right now.

The country is a world leader in mobile money systems like M-Pesa and also has a long tradition of highly creative brand builders producing world-class solutions, designs and products.

This month, we’re focusing on the women entrepreneurs of Kenya who are building incredible businesses, social enterprises, legacies, economies and placing Kenya firmly on the pan-African map.

Here are 5 of the thousands of Kenyan women in tech breaking the mould:

Dr Jennifer Riria

Dr. Jennifer Riria

Dr. Jennifer Riria is the Founder and Group CEO of Echo Network Africa (formerly Kenya Womens Holding Group), a banking and insurance group serving nearly one million mostly rural Kenyan women.

One of Africa’s leading women entrepreneurs, she has always been on a mission to transform the lives of women and their families in her home country. Riria has served in many leadership roles for which she has been recognized locally and internationally – in 2013 she was awarded the Ernst & Young (EY) Entrepreneur of the year for East Africa, and subsequently, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2014, at which point she was admitted to EY’s Global Hall of Fame.

Her list of accolades goes on, and this powerhouse shows no intention of stopping. She was the winner of the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2014, serves as chairwoman of Women’s World Banking and is a supporter and promoter of the Educate the Net 235 Girls programme, an initiative that supports underprivileged girls in their education.

She has served on the boards of Kenyan and international organisations, including at the Nairobi Stock Exchange, being the first female to serve in that capacity. She has also served on the boards of Jitegemee Trust Limited, a microfinance company, National Bank of Kenya, and Kenya Post Office Savings Bank and has published two books: A History of Higher Education in Kenya and an autobiography.

Dorcas Muthoni

Dorcas Muthoni

Founder and CEO of OPENWORLD, a computer consulting company she started at the age of 24, Dorcas Muthoni is a force to be reckoned with.

Today, OPENWORLD is the leading e-Government and business software services firm involved in the delivery of some of the most widely used Web and Cloud applications in Africa.

It doesn’t end there – Muthoni is also the founder of a mentorship initiative for women in computing across Africa, AfChix. Since 2004, in Kenya and across other countries, AfChix activities have included organizing annual Computing Career Conferences with a special emphasis on encouraging the uptake of computing careers amongst young women and high school girls; continuous career development for technical women as well role-modelling to upcoming women in computer science. This passion and involvement has christened her as a role model for women in the African community. Muthoni has been on the Board of Directors of several global tech companies including Ushahidi and Enset.

Amongst many other accolades, Muthoni is a World Economic Forum Global Council Member on Technology Values and Policy, an Internet Hall of Fame Inductee and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

Through her day to day work as an entrepreneur and computer scientist, Muthoni seeks to see technology positively transforming the lives of the African society, governments and enterprises. She is a true inspiration to the next generation of young women in Africa who are interested in pursuing a career in IT, are involved in the world of tech entrepreneurship in Africa and she is definitely a woman to watch, both now and in the future.

Patricia Ithau

Patricia Ithau

Previously Managing Director at L’Oreal East Africa, Patricia Ithau built up the brand name in Kenya from “What’s L’Oreal?”, a company that employs over 280 people, with two manufacturing sites, and product sales that grew from 2 million to 40 million in just the three years that she worked there. Her results clearly speak for itself.

She’s also held the positions of Marketing Director at Unilever East Africa, Managing Director at EABL (East Africa Breweries Ltd) and Director at Invest in Africa to name a few. Currently, Ithau juggles it all – she is Non-Executive Board Member at KEPSA (Kenya Private Sector Alliance), TMEA (Trade Mark East Africa), Barclays Bank of Africa, WPP-Sangroup, Jambojet and is the Regional Director at Stanford Seed, a Stanford Graduate School of Business initiative that’s working to end the cycle of poverty.

Not only is this maverick a world-class businesswoman making waves in East Africa and globally, but she’s also giving back to her community by doing social good – an inspiration to us all.

Helen Njoroge

Helen Njoroge

“Passion drives you crazy – but is there any other way to live?” – Helen Njoroge, Founder of Tenders Kenya.

One of the biggest challenges for many women entrepreneurs is finding new business opportunities. Tenders Kenya, the country’s first online tendering portal, is an online platform where businesswomen and men can get first-hand procurement opportunities available in the market. She is also the Head of Business Development at Professional Marketing Services Ltd, an award-winning agency delivering complete marketing concepts at any scale.

Njoroge has extensive experience in the NGO sector and in particular, women economic empowerment and policy advocacy. She has continued to expand her horizons into new territory while at the same time growing her influence and impact in the areas for which she has been recognized for. Njoroge is passionate about empowering young girls to further their education – she passionately believes that investing in education is indispensable to promote equality of employment opportunities and strengthen economic growth. Increased education participation is also linked to more investments in the education and health of children – especially among women and particularly in developing countries.

Njoroge was recognized as one of the Top 40 Women Under 40 in Kenya for her role in procurement in 2015.

Judith Owigar

Judith Owigar

With a burning passion for education and technology, Judith Owigar believes that a combination of the two can result in a better quality of life for all and positively change the world. This led to her founding AkiraChix, an NPO that aims to develop a successful force of women in technology that will change Africa’s future. The organisation provides training, mentorship and outreach programs to increase the number of skilled women in technology and positively impact the community. She is also the Founder and CEO of JuaKali Workforce, an organisation that links skilled workers from the informal sector with on-demand clients, thereby creating livelihood opportunities. The easy online application allows you to fill out what job you need completed, where and when, after which you are matched with a skilled manual worker to hire for that job.

Owigar says she is inspired by seeing women become more represented in the technology and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, and seeing men and women earning a living and live a life that they previously would not have had access to.

Philippa Dods is a young, talented and passionate businesswoman. She is currently the Marketing Coordinator at global media intelligence company, Meltwater. More than 26 000 clients use the Meltwater platform to stay on top of billions of online conversations, extract relevant insights and make better business decisions. She also runs Future Females, an organisation that aims to increase the number of and success of female entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.