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Senegal Tech Hub Run by Women for Women

DAKAR, Senegal — Coudy Binta De’s eyes light up when she talks about how she first became fascinated with computers.

The 24-year-old says that as a young girl she went to visit her mother at work at one of the Senegalese government’s first computer departments.

“Seeing those big computers, with their black screens and green text, was just amazing for me,” says De, who was inspired to grow up and become a computer engineer in Senegal.

With women holding less than 30 percent of information technology sector jobs around the world, encouraging and helping more people like De get work in the industry has long been an aim for policymakers and equality campaigners alike.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, the percentage of women working in IT across Africa is even lower than the global average.

In Senegal itself recent data is hard to come by, but a report published in 2009 by the International Youth Foundation said women held only 14 percent of IT jobs in the country.

‘Role Model’

To help boost the number of women in Senegal’s IT sector, De and three fellow female computer engineers have decided to take matters into their own hands, and set up the country’s first technology hub run by and for women.

The center is based near a busy junction in Sacre Coeur, a middle-class suburb of the capital Dakar.

It has been named Jjiguene Tech Hub – Jjiguene meaning “woman” in Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal.

At the hub its earnest residents, predominantly women in their 20s, have spread themselves across five sparsely furnished rooms. Bright brainstorm doodles drawn on white sketchpads add a bit of color to the walls.

Some of the women are there to learn, while others are working on their own entrepreneurial ideas.

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