“When I am in Europe, I see a lot of people who are coming here to give something to Africa. I meet people all the time and they tell me, ‘oh I just got back from Africa, I was training them’ etc. And then, I look at the person, who was training them and I am just upset. I am upset because this person is not training himself or herself, in fact he or she doesn’t know anything, but they have come here to train Africans because they are white.” These were the words of Khadijat Abdulkadir, the founder of Digital African Woman, as she expressed her grievances over the way entrepreneurship trainings are conducted in Africa.
Khadijat Abdulkadir is an Engineer and a Mathematical Design Thinking Specialist; however, she has a strong passion for building entrepreneurship in Africa.
“Entrepreneurship is an actual measurable thing. A lot of people are very skilled at different things. They can create products but cannot sell their products. They do not even have the skill to hire the right people for their business. You can talk about your business, you can be passionate about your business, but it doesn’t mean you can sell your products. It doesn’t mean that five years from now, you would have a plan”.
One would ask, how then do we build measurable skills and competencies of entrepreneurs? To this she says, “I was one of those people who went to a lot of entrepreneurship classes and realized that they were not teaching me anything. Basic Mathematics is serious Mathematics in business, but not so many people know that. This is because you have a chemistry graduate who doesn’t have a job and she decides that she would like to learn a skill. However, she learns that skill, but she still doesn’t know anything about business. She needs a business skill, something that will teach her the basics.” And for this reason, Khadijat started Digital African Woman.
“When I decided to work on Digital African Woman, I worked on it in Europe first, because that is the best place to test. I wanted to make sure that it was something that works. And when I saw that it worked, I decided to roll it out here. We do a lot of trainings, we do workshops. We also train the trainers because even they need to show that they have the competency to train.”
“In Africa it is easy for people to come here and teach anything, because all they need to show that their products work, is the numbers, and Africa has numbers. People will keep going to them because they hope that one day, they would give them more, and also because these people do not have the skill to know that what they are being taught is complete rubbish anyway. And so, somebody needs to ask questions about the entrepreneurs we are making, because they would not succeed otherwise.” She says.
Khadijat Abdulkadir has a burning passion for Nigeria, and this made her bring Digital African Woman home first. “Nigeria is my country and I have always wanted to do something for Nigeria. I have always wanted to do something for the continent. However, the thing about Africa is what I am trying to avoid. Everybody starts something and brings it here. It is not well done, it is not good. People don’t take the time to care about us, and we do not take the time to demand for quality. And this is the continuous story of our life. Africans don’t even care about Africa.”
She also feels that Nigerians are not making enough to tally with the level of resources in the country. “When I first started to come to Nigeria, my heart was broken from all the things people were not doing. There is a lot of money to be made here, but it is not Nigerians that are making it.” She said.
On how funding is sourced since the trainings are free, she says, “We are self sustaining, because we sell our syllabus. We also work with governments and whenever we work with a state, they co-share costs with us.”
It would interest you to know that Digital African Woman does not train only women, as Khadijat believes including the men would also help the women in the long run. “We have men in our trainings, because women are not going to work alone in the society. They are going to work with men, for men, or as bosses of men. So, we cannot take women aside and train them and put them in mens’ worlds. It is not even logical.”
According to her, the goal is to teach men how to work with women, understand them, appreciate and respect the women’s knowledge and she does not think that can work in isolation. “Really, men are a lot more accommodating than feminists would like you to think. They are not going to disrespect your skills. Well, they may disrespect a lot of things, but not your skills. A man would always acknowledge when a woman is better than him. Whether he likes it or not, is a different thing entirely. But what are we fighting for acknowledgement or likeness. We should choose one. Do you want to be liked and acknowledged? Even you do not like yourself often.” She said, emphasizing that respect and likeness are two different things and women need to decide which it is they want.
“At Digital African Woman, we know the battles we are fighting and we are sticking to that. We don’t care about whether you love us. What we want you to know is that a woman can empower a man and we need you to acknowledge that. We want you to know that a woman is capable and respect that. If they dislike it, it is okay. If they feel threatened by it, it is absolutely normal. I am not the most liked person at the office, but I am the most respected.” She goes on to say that it is wrong that women are vocal with other women but less vocal among men. “Often we put a woman in a room with other women, and she has a big mouth. But, you put her in a room with a man and she is quiet. No! We will rather have you big mouth right there.”
You would be shocked to find out that Khadijat’s role model is Bill Gates. “Our role models are wrong. Every girl thinks that she has to name an impressive woman as her role model. However, every impressive woman is not impressive enough because she was limited by historical problems. The most powerful person in the world is not the black man, not the white woman, but the white man, and that is who I aspire to be like.”
Khadijat is a fun person too. She loves to travel and visit new places. “I travel a lot. I love to travel and I am self indulgent. So, what I do is every night, when I am not working on Digital African Woman, I am checking out cheap flight tickets to random countries. I check for cheap tickets that are not going to cost so much and so for example, I leave Belgium for Dubai on Friday night and I am back to work on Monday morning like nothing happened. “