The Africa Innovation Fellowship Aims To Reduce Inequality For Female Engineers

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

African women entrepreneurs with early-stage engineering innovations or startups are invited to apply for a fellowship aimed at leveling the playing field for women in engineering.

The Africa Innovation Fellowship, a nine-month leadership and business development opportunity beginning in June, focuses on grooming potential female nominees for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, according to PCTechmag.

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In Africa, like many other parts of the world, there are fewer women than men in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. About 30 percent of African STEM jobs are filled by women, according to a UNESCO report.

It’s better than South Asia’s 17 percent and closer to the European Union’s 33 percent, but Africa has a long way to go to reach the 44 percent of women who make up STEM careers in the Caribbean, Latin America and
Central Asia.

The UNESCO report shows that women engineers make up 34 percent of the total in Mozambique and 41 percent in Tunisia. Seven of the 13 sub-Saharan African countries (including Namibia, Ethiopia and Benin) show 5-percent-or-more increases in participation since 2000.

To put this into perspective, women make up only 19 percent of engineers in Canada, Germany and the U.S., and 22 percent in Finland, according to the UNESCO report.

Africa Innovation Fellowship
The Africa Innovation Fellowship aims to groom women engineers. Photo by Joanna Nix on Unsplash

The Africa Innovation Fellowship begins with an in-person training week in Kampala, Uganda from June 2 – 5, 2019, followed by nine months of personalized virtual support, ending in March 2020, according to Regionweek.

Aiming for equality in engineering

The fellowship is organized and funded by WomEng, an organization for women engineers that aims to address the issues facing women in the engineering sector, and the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

One of the women participating in the program will win an all-expenses paid trip to London to attend the Global Grand Challenges Summit in September.

The women chosen to take part in the fellowship will complete it by March 2020. This means that they will likely be considered for the 2021 Africa Prize, as the list for 2020 Prize nominees will likely be communicated by November 2019.

The 2019 prize will recognize innovations that include a technique for harvesting water from the atmosphere and a language app that allows young children to learn basic numeracy and literacy in their own language.

The prize equips talented engineers with tools and expert advice to take their innovations further and develop them into businesses.

A few of the engineers are also awarded prize money.

Each year, 16 entrepreneurial engineers are shortlisted for the prize, with the winner awarded $32,000 and three runners-up awarded $12,800 each, according to Africabusinesscommunities.

In the 2019 edition of the prize, five women are included among the 16 selected engineers, according to Ventureburn.

This is an improvement on 2018, when just two women
made the list of 16.