IAN MANGENGA is a Wits Geography, Archaeology and Environmental alumnus and recently started an organisation for young African women named Digital Girl Africa, to educate women on using digital technology. She is a former chairperson of Rethink Africa at Wits. She is an entreprenuer with the aim of empowering women by redefining the digital landscape of Africa.
When did you start Digital Girl Africa and what was the reason behind it?
The idea came to me in January 2018. I wanted to create an online magazine for teenage girls but when I started doing my research I realised that there was such a huge gap between women and technology. So I decided to create a hub that brings tech information and education to women in a more accessible way.
What is the aim of the organisation?
Digital Girl Africa’s aim is to close the gap between women and technology by teaching them how to effectively use their mobile phones as transformative tools that educate, empower and inspire them on a daily basis and also to defend women’s digital rights.
How do digital skills help women enact social change?
Digital technology has the power to drastically change women’s lives if we use it to undo the existing social and economic challenges we face. Things such as education, employment, access to finance and access to information don’t have to be a barrier anymore. Once we can overcome this digital gender gap, women will have the opportunity to also participate in the fourth industrial revolution.
What are the challenges you face as a young, black entrepreneur?
Besides the usual frustration of being a first-time business runner and the insecurity that comes with giving up a stable income, my biggest challenge has been navigating the entrepreneurship landscape as a young woman. The most common thing I come across is men thinking I don’t know my job, being patronising and sometimes being very inappropriate.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Adopting a daily routine will save your life! You need to rest. Entrepreneurship is a long game so self-preservation is important. Creating a distinction between work, social and recreational activities is crucial so you know how to budget your time. Most of us overwork ourselves and neglect our bodies. So creating a daily and weekly schedule that allows you to give yourself breaks to nourish your soul and rest your body will do wonders for your wellbeing.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Essentially, I’m working towards becoming an expert on designing resilient cities in Africa, getting my Masters in Landscape Architecture and being accredited. Soon after that my plan is to come back to Africa and open up my own landscape architecture studio and use that as a vehicle to work with public and private stakeholders to design human-centred and future-orientated public spaces in inner cities.