Three Kenyans among Africa's 20 most influential women in tech


Safaricom’s general manager of financial services Betty Mwangi is one of the three Kenyans named as among Africa’s 20 most influential women in technology this year by a Johannesburg-based online news firm. File

Three Kenyans have been named among Africa’s 20 most influential women in technology this year by a Johannesburg-based online news firm

IT News Africa has feted Betty Mwangi-Thuo, Safaricom’s general manager for financial services, Isis Nyong’o former vice president for Africa at InMobi, the world’s largest independent mobile advertising network, and Ory Okolloh, formerly a Google executive and now director at an investment firm, Omidyar Network.

The Johannesburg-based firm reckons that the three along other 17 women from Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana for deepening ICT development in the continent, putting Kenya on the global technology map.

“Each year South Africa celebrates National women’s day, a day set aside to pay tribute to women in South Africa and their role in development in the country. IT News Africa celebrated the day by listing and paying tribute to twenty women in the continent who have significantly contributed to the development in Information Technology,” said the firm in a statement.

Ms Mwangi-Thuo has been in charge of the iconic mobile transfer service M-Pesa since its launch in Kenya in 2007.

She has seen it grow from a product that serves 7.3 million subscribers in 2009 to 15.3 million customers in March 2013, increasing its revenues from Sh2.93 billion to Sh10.3 billion over the period.

The mobile money transfer services that started as a platform to send money from one person to another has evolved and is now used for paying bills, schools fees and rent settlements.

Since its inception, M-Pesa has won several global awards such as the Best Mobile Money transfer services in the Global Mobile Awards.

In same breath as M-pesa, Ushahidi, a company co-founded by Ms Okolloh, catapulted Kenya to global fame for pioneering a software that has been used to monitor elections in Kenya, Mexico and India, track violence in eastern Congo and map post-earthquake crisis in Haiti.

Before her stint at Ushahidi, Ms Okolloh founded Mzalendo, a website that helps Kenya’s electorate keep track of the activities of their representatives in Parliament.

The platform closely monitors and analyses Bills, speeches, and every MP who passes through Kenya’s Parliament, hence promoting transparency and accountability.

Ms Okolloh quit Ushahidi in 2011 to join Google as policy manager for Africa. She left the internet giant in April, moving to the philanthropic investment firm, Omidyar Network.

Ms Nyong’o has also made a mark in the continent’s technology scene. She now refers to herself as a tech entrepreneur after quitting InMobi in January.

The holder of degrees from Stanford and Harvard and has previously worked in senior management positions at MyJobsEye (Kenya’s pioneer job site), MTV, and most recently, Google.