By Hamid Ayodeji
Michelle Obama, the former United States first lady, once said: “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” This speaks to the incredible potential that can be brought to bear in a society that promotes female tech-led initiatives.
Stanbic IBTC, known for its commitment to driving Africa’s growth, is focused on fostering inclusive education, the empowerment of small and medium scale enterprises, and gender equality.
Through its empowerment initiative, the Stanbic IBTC Fellowship, it is actively playing an advisory, mentorship, and guidance role while creating an investment opportunity to aid in the development of female tech startups.
The organisation’s partnership with the largest pre-seed accelerator, The Founder Institute, supports female entrepreneurs in setting up business goals and upscaling operations in the Nigerian educational ecosystem.
The Founder Institute is developed to help tech-enabled startups, at the pre-seed stage, to build and expand their ecosystem. The institute also aims to empower communities of talented people in creating impactful tech businesses. The programme, which runs for 16 weeks, empowers high achiever business founders with the right tools to excel in their endeavours and be a part of the story of change in Africa.
According to a report, Stanbic IBTC prioritises innovative solutions and sees a growth pattern in the tech industry, which is why it is leveraging its partnership with The Founder Institute to create success stories in female tech startups.
The firm registered two female-driven startups, The KNOSK N100-a-day Secondary School and the KidsReadArt, into this year’s Cohort III programme, to underscore its desire to empower women.
The programme has impacted these startups with the right tools and skillset they would need to grow their businesses in these economically challenging times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking on the rationale for investing in these female-led businesses, Executive Director, Personal and Business Banking, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Remy Osuagwu, said this was driven by the organisation’s sustainability approach, which aims to identify and support female startups that are working towards having a more sustainable future and providing positive solutions to communities around them.
According to him, “we have provided these EduTech startups with unique opportunities to garner knowledge in business structure, increase their business capital, as well as grow a strong network. The startups’ success stories would not be complete without the robust learning garnered at The Founder Institute through the Stanbic IBTC Fellowship.”
“Through the Stanbic IBTC Fellowship, we are encouraging the participation of women in the Africa educational startup ecosystem by facilitating equal access to tech accelerators, funds and networks,” he said.
Narrating their experiences, the two Stanbic IBTC Fellowship beneficiaries, Irene Bangwell and Ogechi Ogaragu, offered insights into The Founder Institute Cohort III programme.
Bangwell is the co-founder of The KNOSK N100-a-day Secondary School, a startup initiative which is Nigeria’s first crowd-funded subsidised school. Bangwell said the startup is aimed at helping to break the poverty cycle in Africa by giving every child access to quality education through technology.
The N100-a-day, pay-what-you-can enterprise provides children with sound and quality action learning educational experience, while imparting them with the right knowledge and skills that prepare them for the future of work. The children also have access to school uniforms, books and lunch, while girls are provided with sanitary pads on monthly basis.
Bangwell stated that her interest in the educational sector in Africa was borne out of the need to introduce an effective classroom learning experience for young children, and to redress the poor educational system in the country.
She stated that the learning experience was fundamental to the growth of her initiative, as it has helped her to evaluate the vital aspects of starting a business and company building.
Ogaragu, Founder of KidsReadArt, described her learning experience as intensive, life-changing, and impactful.
KidsReadArt is a literacy solution provider designed for young African kids aged 2 to 7 years old. It serves to reduce the increasing rate of illiteracy among young African kids, thereby aligning with the UNICEF SDG4 goals.
According to Ogaragu, knowledge could be imparted online with the same effectiveness as it could in a physical class. This trend has impacted the educational system positively as kids now enjoy learning. She disclosed that her motivation for establishing the business was to help struggling kids overcome their studying problems while providing an easy solution for parents. She added that the poor teaching techniques in the educational system have led to kids cramming rather than understanding.
Ogaragu noted that benefitting from the Stanbic IBTC sponsorship with The Founder Institute has enabled her to understand the aspects of setting up and running a business with a sustainable growth strategy that would last a decade.
These founders are contributing to the growth of their communities and nation at large. Following the success with Bangwell and Ogaragu, Stanbic IBTC has expressed its willingness to empower more female-led tech initiatives through the Stanbic IBTC Fellowship.