Interview: women’s entrepreneurship in Africa (Cameroon)


During the Women in Africa Summit, businesswomen and CSR directors from several Orange entities come together to share their views on the role of digital in the development of their respective countries and on the different initiatives the Group has set up to support women and innovation.

Discussion between Arielle Kitio, founder of the start-up Caysti, and Vivianne Ewongo, Head of Internal Communication and CSR at Orange Cameroon.

“We should be judged on the results and performance of what we’ve created”

How did the start-up Caysti come about?

Arielle Kitio: During my studies, I realised that girls were apprehensive about answering questions to do with coding. This problem actually started in primary school. We began by designing dedicated training for girls and boys in primary and secondary schools. We then created a technology training centre to develop creativity and promote young entrepreneurship. Then we published educational programmes and software adapted to our young target audience.

Vivianne Ewongo: We discovered Caysti in 2017 during the Cameroon Social Venture Prize. It won second place and we subsequently supported its development both in Cameroon and internationally.

How do Caysti and Orange collaborate?

V. E.: It’s a win-win partnership: we’ve been helping Caysti in terms of its development and it is now one of our partners. We adopted its coding learning app in our #SuperCoders workshops for children, an initiative that aims to awaken and introduce young kids to the digital world to prepare them for tomorrow’s professions and technologies.

A. K.: With Orange we’ve trained hundreds of young people and taken part in important events such as VivaTech. Another project we’re working on is running creativity centres within the Group’s Digital Centres.

What are the barriers linked to gender in Cameroon’s digital ecosystem?

A. K.: These barriers may seem trivial but they do exist: we are still sometimes judged on our appearance, maternity leave can be seen as a problem for employees etc. Yet when we’re behind a computer it doesn’t matter who we are. We should be judged on the results and performance of what we’ve created.

V. E.: In Cameroon, women are often the backbone to business activities. They are able to carry them out by themselves! That’s why we launched the special women’s Social Venture Prize (POESAM) in 2017. We’re really proud of the progress made in this area. In 2018, it was a woman who won the overall POESAM. Finally, within our incubator Orange Fab, we’re always looking to accelerate businesswomen by offering them a connected workspace, coaching, advice (especially from other women that we consider mentors), training, funding and greater visibility.

What benefits to you expect to gain from taking part in Women in Africa 2019?

A. K.: Meetings and networking. Our start-up responds to a global education issue. We’re looking for partnerships to represent us in other countries, raise funds and set up new projects.

V. E.: As reference partners for digital transformation in our country and wherever we are, we need to be there – and at other similar events – to understand the current and future needs of the ecosystem so we can respond to them better. We must anticipate our targets’ expectations by listening to others and watching what happens elsewhere. I would say there’s always a lot to learn!

Find out 3 other interviews: women’s entrepreneurship in Africa:

Tunisia

Interview with Awatef Mosbeh, founder of the start-up Toufoula Kids and Asma Ennaifer, Head of External Relations and CSR at Orange Tunisia.

Senegal

Discussion between Seynabou Thiam, founder of the start-up Yaay and Rokhaya Solange Ndir, Head of Digital Ecosystem Relations at Orange Senegal.

Marocco

Meryem Bennis, founder of Marketface and Nadia Mrabi, CSR expert at Orange Morocco, share their views.