Today, women from diverse fields and backgrounds are slowly but surely making strides as ‘techpreneurs’ in the male-dominated sector of financial technology.
Women are working past the gender biases to make it easier for them to access finance and grow their businesses, writes YUDAYANANGONZI. When Princess Shamirah Kimbugwe was invited to the podium, the entire hall went silent as guests looked around to have a first glance at a woman with such a prolific career. Dressed in a black hijab dress, completed with a lime green veil, she stepped on the stage with confidence.
For about 20 minutes, all the attention was on her as she delivered a keynote speech themed; ‘The State of Women in FinTech in East Africa – The Journey so Far’ on September 16 at Mestil hotel in Kampala.
At the end of her presentation, guests in attendance clapped in full admiration of Kimbugwe’s mastery of the financial technology (fintech) industry. With more than 15 years of experience in financial technology, Kimbugwe has risen through the leadership ladder from a manager to senior manager, and country director.
Today, she is the founder and managing director of Pivot Payments Limited, the first licensed female-founded and female-led fintech company in Uganda. Pivot Payments is building a pan-African neobank, serving export labour force users who have typically been financially exploited or excluded. Currently, it serves more than 250,00 users and has processed more than two million transactions within five year.
In her speech at the 2022 Women in FinTech summit, Kimbugwe acknowledged that even though the fintech industry is male-dominated, more women are coming up and taking up senior roles. She argued that women are well suited to succeed in the fintech industry for as long as each woman identifies the role she wants to play and purposely pursues it.
“Leadership is the ability to see the grey areas and hear the unspoken words. When I talk about this, I am asking you to check yourself and ask yourself that as a woman who wants to serve my nation, where do I want to play? Do I want a leadership role, a regulator’s role, an innovator’s role, an investor’s role, or a consumer’s role?” Kimbugwe said.
She added: “There is no question as to if a woman is a worthy player in the fintech industry. There is just a question of where the woman should play in the value chain. There are a lot of opportunities for women in fintech. As a woman player, you have a whole list of opportunities that you can tap into.”
Kimbugwe is not alone. More women are joining her at the top of the fintech table in Uganda. These include Josephine Olok, the board chairperson of the Financial Technology Service Providers Association (FITSPA), and Anne Juuko, the chief executive officer of Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited.
The young ones are also coming up as witnessed at the just-concluded summit. The summit was a culmination of the week-long 2022 Women in FinTech Hackathon that saw 20 w-led teams ideate and develop products and solutions aimed at addressing financial-related challenges faced by women, youths, and persons with disabilities.
The Women in FinTech Hackathon and summit were organized by HiPipo in partnership with Level One Project, Mojaloop, ModusBox, CyberPLC Academy, and Crosslake Technologies with support from the Gates Foundation.
Elevation – a team that is developing a saving and monitoring mobile application for expectant mothers – was announced the overall winner of the Hackathon and took home a cash prize of Shs 4m that will go towards finalizing its solution and eventual launch.
“This has been a highly educative, intensive, interactive, competitive, and extremely practical summit. I am very happy that I took part in this Hackathon. But even more, excited that my team has been declared the overall winner. With this start-up capital, we are going to complete our product and roll it on to the market soon,” Angella Bukirwa, the Elevation Team Leader noted.
Academic Personal Assistant (APA), Oliwaa Events, and Go Green came second, third and fourth respectively while both Lands Resource and Insure Wallet had a tie in the fifth position. Altogether, the Hackathon had 20 female-led startup Fintech teams.
In her remarks, the state minister for ICT, Joyce Nabbosa Ssebugwawo, noted that the Women in FinTech Hackathon is a noble idea that not only uplifts women but also fosters overall country development. She rallied the young female innovators to take advantage of the nascent Fintech space.
“We are happy that HiPipo and partners are exploring women’s formal and informal income-generating opportunities that
add value to women’s lives and livelihoods using digital solutions. I thank HiPipo for applying a gender lens across all its projects and driving stakeholder influence to advance women’s financial inclusion and economic empowerment. To my daughters that have completed this program, use this knowledge to uplift even more women,” Ssebugwawo said.
On her part, renowned entrepreneur and business expert, Dr Maggie Kigozi applauded the young innovators for their courage to take on a male-dominated industry. She challenged them to use the opportunity presented to them to transform their lives.
“At an individual level, I am always ready and willing to help people attain success. If there is one piece of advice I would give all of you today, it is to pull up your sister. Please pull up your sister. Do not go alone because there is not much point. You will not go very far if you go alone,” Kigozi said.