The first time Binta Coudy Dé left Senegal was in 2011, when the then 22-year-old computer engineer was invited to participate in a tech competition organised by Microsoft in New York. Amongst the groups from all around the world participating in the competition, Dé’s group from Senegal was the only all-female team. “We knew that in Senegal we were the only women’s tech team, but being the only all-women’s team in that competition was surprising. American people were very happy to see that there were black girls competing, so everybody wanted to talk to us,” recalls Dé. “It was very interesting to us, but also very insulting, because we knew there were other women in the tech field, but nobody knew about them.”
That’s when Dé and her colleagues decided to create Jiggen Tech Hub, West Africa’s first tech hub run for and by women. Since its launch in 2012, Jiggen – which is also known as Jjiguène, meaning “woman” in Wolof – has trained hundreds of women and girls across Senegal in technology and leadership skills. It is completely run by volunteers.
In recent years, Senegal has grown to become one of Africa’s most important tech clusters. A 2013 study by the McKinsey Global Institute shows that internet-based businesses contributed to 3.3 percent of the country’s GDP, the highest of any African nation. According to experts, a combination of political stability, private investment and government-led initiatives have contributed to this rapid growth.
“The tech industry in Senegal has been booming for the past five years,” says Murielle Diaco, CEO and founder of Djouman, a platform dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. “Senegal is one of the most politically stable countries in West Africa. That has helped attract a lot of investments from companies such as [the French telecommunications company] Orange, Microsoft and Google.”