Mind the Gender Gap

Female-led start-ups in Africa remain critically underrepresented, despite some encouraging signs this year

This week we’re comparing access to funding between male- and female-led start-ups in Africa, and I’m afraid this is not a pretty sight. In 2019, female CEOs signed just 8% of deals $1m & over on the continent, and their start-ups bagged only 4% of the total amount raised. In 2020, the situation was even worse: still 8% of the deals, but only 2% of the money. While start-ups overall raised 24% more in 2020 than in 2019, the amount raised by female CEOs actually decreased by 30% over the same period. It is worth noting that in the vast majority of cases, the CEO is one of the co-founders; the underrepresentation of women at CEO level is therefore also a function of the absence of women in the founding team of over 75% of the start-ups that raised $1m+ since 2019. But is there light at the end of the tunnel? The numbers are certainly encouraging: with 14% of deals and 20% of the money raised, female CEOs seem to be gaining some ground in 2021 so far with $140m already raised in less than 4 months this year. That’s 1.6 times what was raised over 2019 and 2020 combined (!). Yet, a significant portion of this amount is driven by Gro Intelligence’s whopping $85m Series B announced in January (the CEO Sara Menker and one of her 2 other co-founders are women). One can hope this is just the first of a long list of very large deals signed by female CEOs. Looking at the early deal pipe (deals between $100k and $1M), where female CEOs are doing 13% of deals and raising 9% of the total amount so far this year, there certainly is hope… though parity is still nowhere in sight.