Female Founders Cohort
Blog Article — March 28, 2023 — Elisabeth van Holthe tot Echten

Lead F Africa: Meet the Female Leaders making strides in African Tech and Innovation

What is Lead F Africa?

Female Founders and Make-IT in Africa are partnering on Lead F Africa, a leadership program tailored to support female founders in tech, innovation enablers in entrepreneur support organizations and champions in policy-making in African innovation ecosystems. This is a spinoff of Female Founders' Leadership Accelerator (Lead F), focused for the first time exclusively on an African cohort. The program kicked-off with a two-day bootcamp in Kigali, Rwanda on 20-21 February 2023. The accelerator continues online with weekly live workshops from 1 March - 26 April 2023.


We were blown away by the impressive pool of 229 applicants hailing from 26 different African countries! The majority of applicants (56,7%) work for a startup, followed by 12,6% of applicants working for an Entrepreneurial Support Organisation (ESO). We further received applications from women working for corporations (7,9%), International organizations (7%) and government institutions (6.1%).

To select the final participants, we put our applicants through a rigorous three-step process, including an online application form, video interviews and a final selection by a jury based on the applicant’s motivation and leadership goals.

Selected participants

Sixteen participants were selected to take part in Lead F Africa. They are based in 8 different countries: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Diving deeper than just where our participants are based and the organizations they are working for, we also learnt about which challenges participants face in their careers. The challenges mentioned most frequently include:

  1. building and maintaining a network in the ecosystem. Participants struggle with identifying relevant stakeholders, building a connection and getting their buy-in.
  2. managing remote and hybrid teams. Challenges related to this include strong hierarchies, under- and over performing team members and the balance between being supportive and micro-manage.
  3. creating a leadership style that is authentic and effective. Participants face several (unconscious) biases, such as ageism and gender stereotyping which makes it more difficult for them to lead.
Female Founders Cohort

The Lead F Africa participants meeting for a bootcamp in Kigali, Rwanda in February 2023.

These challenges reflect the complex and multifaceted nature of leadership and career development and addressing them will require a range of skills and strategies. Unsurprisingly, we found that the top reasons for joining the accelerator were a desire to:

  1. become confident, strong, empathetic, and impactful leaders for their organizations;
  2. learn best practices in leadership. Refine their skills and knowledge through workshops, discussions and role play;
  3. connect and network with peers and experts from the ecosystem. They believe that building purposeful and lasting relationships will help them deliver better solutions and increase their visibility and support system.


On February 21st and 22nd, the Lead F Africa program kicked off with an unforgettable in-person bootcamp in Kigali, Rwanda. The first day was jam-packed with two incredible workshops, each designed to set the stage for the accelerator and ensure the participants' success. In the first workshop, the three primary pillars (mindset, feedback, and trust) were introduced to provide a foundation for the program. Participants then set their personal goals for the program, creating a roadmap for their success. The second workshop, led by Anysie Ishimwe, focused on imposter syndrome and setting healthy boundaries. Participants shared their experiences and difficulties with the group, gaining practical advice on saying "no" and setting boundaries. To unwind, the group participated in a relaxing pottery class, connecting with each other and creating with their hands.

Female Founders Bootcamp

The Lead F Africa bootcamp in Kigali, Rwanda.

The second day was just as exciting, with a communal breakfast followed by two more stimulating workshops. Amelia Suda-Gosch led the first workshop, focusing on flexing leadership styles through role-playing. Participants practiced various social markers that affect how their leadership style is perceived. The second workshop, organized by Emmanual Manirarora from Live Well Rwanda, focused on mental health and self-care, providing small acts of self-care that participants could implement throughout the day. The day ended with a yoga class and another incredible joint dinner, signaling the end of the bootcamp.

On Wednesday, February 22nd, the program concluded after breakfast, during which participants shared their key takeaways from the bootcamp. As expressed by one of the participants, the “physical interaction with other participants, getting a feel of who they are and what they do” was one of the highlights from the bootcamp.

What’s happening now?

The accelerator continues online with weekly live workshops from 1 March - 26 April 2023. The first session immediately addressed one of the main challenges participants face: networking and creating their personal brand. Over the next few weeks, participants will attend several workshops hosted by experts from the tech & innovation ecosystem to further develop their persuasive speaking, negotiation, and communication skills.


About the author: Elisabeth van Holthe tot Echten is an accelerator manager at Female Founders.

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