African Women in Tech: Tizzita Tefera

Tizzita Tefera, co-Founder, mTena – Ethiopia

Tizzita is a social innovator who is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of mTena, an SMS-based application that provides tailored maternal and infant care information to women in Ethiopia. Here she shares her journey into social entrepreneurship and talks about some of the challenges she has encountered.

Excerpts below are from her interview with Eunice Baguma Ball, author of the book, Founding Women.

What role models in your life have influenced your love for technology and entrepreneurship?

My love for entrepreneurship has been greatly influenced by my mother who continues to amaze me with her resilience, consistency and business acumen. She started a small venture and grew it despite the fact that it was a more conservative time back then and she faced a lot of sexist views and opposition. She always persevered and this has taught me that even though the entrepreneurial journey may be difficult at times, with persistence and consistency you can always get one step closer to your goals. With regards to tech, I would say my earliest inspiration is my father who saw my interest and cultivated it from an early age. He got me my first laptop at the age  of eight and even though he wasn’t tech savvy himself, he took me to computer classes every holiday and encouraged me to do what I love. I was also greatly inspired by all the techies I met during my research. They showed me the potential technology has for solving some of the most pressing world issues.

What advice would you give to young African women who are just starting out on their entrepreneurship journey?

Be open-minded, tread carefully and take time to understand your context. Play up to your strengths but also be conscious of your weaknesses and bring people on board who can help you. Believe in your abilities. When those doubts come creeping in and things don’t seem to be working out, know that it is okay not to feel okay. That sometimes you may need to cry it out in an empty bathroom stall and that’s okay. But it is also important to remember that setbacks do happen, doubts arise and that persistence and self-belief are crucial in such times. I would also say to them, don’t be afraid to break into a field that is male-dominated. You have as much to contribute as any man on that podium and your presence three is already proof enough. I would also say this journey isn’t an end in itself but a life-long lesson so learn as much as you can along the journey. Some people you will meet will teach you what to do and others may teach you what not to do. They are both equally valuable lessons. Finally, have an attitude of abundance; know that you have so much to give and contribute and there is a lot that you can take away from the experience.

Founding Women shares the inspiring entrepreneurship stories of 20 African women and how they deal with the challenges that can often come with navigating the male-dominated world of tech. Filled with practical advice as well as words of encouragement, this book speaks to anyone who has a dream but fears the odds might be stacked up too high against them.

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