Orange supports women’s entrepreneurship in the Middle East and Africa

Stating the obvious, half of population in the Middle East and Africa is female, which makes the digital inclusion of women essential in order to increase their contribution to sustainable socio-economic development.

In Africa, as in the Middle East, the family revolves around the woman. Health, food, agriculture, education, home management, trade… it is women who manage most aspects of daily life. Whatever their status, they’re an essential part of society.

Across the region, entrepreneurship and the local ecosystem are two essential progress drivers. Giving women access, via a simple mobile phone, to essentials services that can improve their daily life is part of a development approach to create shared value.

As such, the digital inclusion of these millions of micro-entrepreneurs is a powerful lever of socio-economic development.

In concrete terms, ICT offers women the chance to develop essential services and promote innovation, while increasing their contribution to sustainable development. Services include:

  • agricultural advice and information,
  • money transfers, micro loans and savings,
  • education and support to start a business.

The challenge:

50 to 60% of the informal economy in Africa comes from women (New African Woman Forum 2017).

According to the GSMA, women’s digital and financial inclusion will offer, between 2015 and 2020, economic growth of around $170 billion in emerging markets.

Widespread access of women to ICT (via a mobile) would guarantee an increase in per capita income of 14% between now and 2020, and 20% by 2030.

1. Orange initiatives

Set up by Orange in 2015, the m-Women programme aims to promote women’s empowerment through digital technology via essential services adapted to their needs that have been designed with local partners. It is part of the Orange for Development programme, which fights for gender parity. This is the first initiative of this type launched by a telecoms operator.

Supporting women’s entrepreneurship

Promoting today’s talent lays the groundwork to benefit tomorrow’s society. That’s why Orange is the driving force behind women’s digital education in Africa and the Middle East through various programmes that support businesswomen (coaching, incubation, acceleration, competitions…).

111 Digital Centres to offer digital training for women

This Orange Foundation programmes promotes gender equality and/or develops women’s income-generating capacity to ensure they can be independent, through courses in digital literacy and micro-entrepreneurship.

It also aims to empower women through learning basic ICT and software skills.

Across 13 African countries, women who are vulnerable or lack qualifications can access long-term training courses from six months to a year. They learn the fundamentals (writing, maths, using a computer etc) and also learn how to use software and online resources.

Whatever their experience when they arrive, the aim is to build up knowledge and contacts to find a job or return to paid work.

Through its 111 Digital Centres in Africa and the Middle East, Orange enables more than 10,000 women without qualifications or employment to become financially independent.

In Cameroon, and a year after they entered the first Digital Centre in Yaoundé, its graduates have endorsed it: “We’ve learned how to manage on our own, earn a living and support our families.”

Number of Digital Centres per countries:

  • Botswana : 5 Digital Centres
  • Cameroon : 20 Digital Centres
  • Cote d’Ivoire : 15 Digital Centres
  • Egypte : 10 Digital Centres
  • Guinea Conakry : 1 Digital Centre
  • Jordan : 5 Digital Centres
  • Madagascar : 20 Digital Centres
  • Mali : 10 Digital Centres
  • Morocco : 1 Digital Centre
  • Niger : 1 Digital Centre
  • DRC : 2 Digital Centres
  • Senegal : 1 Digital Centre
  • Tunisia : 20 Digital Centres
  • Total : 111 Digital Centres

Orange awards a prize to the three best women-led Senegalese companies that are using cutting-edge technology.

Launched in 2015, this competition is specially tailored to help Senegalese business leaders kick start business activities that have a tangible social and/or environmental impact on their community.

  • The project must be based around Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and respond to the triple objective of social development, innovation, and the integration of digital technology to make a meaningful difference to society.
  • Business activities are linked to priorities such as the environment, education, and maternal and child health. However, the sky is the limit – the only requirement is to design an offer around ICT.

Orange and its partners award three women with a start-up package, which includes:

  • Financial and technical support
  • A workspace
  • Training in managing a business
  • Data hosting
  • Provision of enterprise software

On 29 March 2018, three prizewinners were announced:

  • awalebiz, an e-commerce platform (won the first prize of 7,500,000 FCFA and technical support worth 2,500,000 FCFA).
  • Les Gourmets, an agro-food online platform (won the second prize of 2,500,000 FCFA in kind and support worth 2,500,000 FCFA).
  • Dakar Lives, a creative platform and cultural hub, (won the third prize of 1,500,000 FCFA and technical support worth 2,500,000 FCFA).

Find out more:
> Meet Rokhaya Solange Ndir, Head of Digital Ecosystem Relations at Orange Senegal

Now running in 18 countries, the Orange Social Venture Prize in Africa and the Middle East (opens in a new window) rewards the most innovative and socially responsible business projects in sectors such as education and agriculture.

The 8th annual prize in 2018 gathered together more than 1,300 innovative projects.

  • Orange Cameroon has for several consecutive years organised a Best women’s project as part of its Social Venture Prize. It rewards a start-up that’s founded or run by a woman or team of women.
    → The 2018 prizewinner is Roseline Melingui Ayissi who offers an online household waste management system (collection and processing).
  • Orange Niger, for its 2018 edition, offered funding of 500,000 FCFA to a promising female entrepreneur. A member of the national jury in Niger, Maidah Zeinabou (who herself runs a company that specialises in the agro-food sector), will offer ongoing mentoring support to enable the start-up to take off.
    → The winner will also benefit from the support of the dedicated Orange incubator in Niger: CIPMEN (opens in a new window).

Orange Tunisia launched its first #Girls1stHack hackathon, across three regions (Tunis, Le Kef and Sousse) for 80 girls aged between 14 and 24. It was a rewarding experience for both the girls and the members of the jury!

Here are the three winning projects and teams of the inaugural #Girls1stHack:

Healthy Start (health and well-being): virtual reality fitness platform that provides users with a virtual sports coach, and that can also calculate the calories in Tunisian dishes, a first, in order to propose a healthy diet.
Winners – Tunis:

  • Mayssa Abid,
  • Soumaya Ben Youssef
  • Kaouther Ben Youssef

FamJam (connected family): digital game for an always-on family, with 10 free levels to encourage family members to chat and share their news while having fun.
Winners – Sousse:

  • Chams Khalifi
  • Yasmine Gayed
  • Zeineb Gahbiche
  • Zeineb Jellouli

Createch (education): website targeting students in rural areas in order to offer them better access to education and equal opportunities. It does this through a suite of support services, such as advice from volunteers or aid from donors.
Winners – Le Kef:

  • Malek Sghairi
  • Nour Belayech


Find out more (in French):
> #Girls1stHack: découvrez les projets gagnants (opens in a new window)

2. Partner initiatives in Africa and the Middle East

Orange supports a host of different innovation ecosystems right across Africa and the Middle East through a range of programmes.

In addition to its specific focus on women’s entrepreneurship, Orange supports a broader range of start-ups across the region:

Investment funding: Orange Digital Ventures Africa (50 million Euros); Teranga Capital in Senegal; Comoé Capital in Côte d’Ivoire.

Orange Fabs, accelerator network: offering business acceleration: Jordan; Senegal; Côte d’Ivoire; Cameroon; Tunisia.

Incubator network: offering expert advice and mentoring: CTIC Dakar in Sebegal; SabouTech in Guinea; Createam in Mali; CIPMEN in Niger.

Orange Social Venture Prize Africa and the Middle East: this national and international competition now runs across 18 countries and aims to promote digital projects that have a positive impact on local communities. (opens in a new window) and websites dedicated to start-us and business leaders.

Linguère Digital Challenge: this prize is dedicated to women’s digital entrepreneurship in Senegal. It includes a financial reward and a coaching and mentoring programme.

Since 2015, Orange Tunisia has supported the international Technovation challenge

This encourages young schoolgirls from across Tunisia to make a positive impact to their local communities thanks to new technologies.

Each year, from January to May, they are supported by mentors and coaches from the Orange Developer Center in Tunis, and Orange Tech Clubs throughout the country.

Fatoumata Guirassy was born and brought up in France, when she graduated with a Master’s degree in Economics from Sorbonne University, followed by an MBA in sustainable development. She worked for five years as an IT consultant and this finally led her to work in Guinea, her parents’ home country.

As the Director of the SabouTech incubator, she has worked on its successful business development, which means that it can now support a dozen start-ups during the incubation and pre-incubation phase.

Founded on a public/private partnership model, Saboutech is the very first tech incubator in Guinea.