The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is an up and coming region in respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. This September, The Fintech Times celebrates Women in Fintech, as we feature various female leaders across the world. One of them is Atuhaire Sarah Baryaija, who is a Ugandan and lives in Kampala city, she is an expert in fintech and specifically in women financial inclusion.
Atuhaire Sarah Baryaija is the Co-Founder and CFO at AKABOXI. She is an expert in gender and finance with over fifteen years in income generation, small and medium enterprises across both agricultural and non-agriculture sectors and has over 10 years of banking with the leading commercial bank in Uganda. She holds a Master’s degree of Arts in Gender Analysis in Economics, Bachelors degree of Statistics and Economics and a post-graduate in Monitoring and Evaluation all from Makerere University Uganda.
Describe your career journey
I started my career journey as a banker. I had wanted to be a pilot when I was young but due to limited opportunities especially for women in Uganda, I ended up in banking. This is because banks were vigorous looking for young and bright graduates from universities. I worked for the bank for over 10 years until I resigned. I had a great passion for women having grown up seeing my parents who were teachers and earning small money helping out women in my remote village. They helped with little that they owned by providing school fees, gardens for planting food, uniforms for their children, books to mention but a few.
At the bank, these same women would be chased away, denying them opportunities to access finance for their businesses especially for medium and small-scale enterprises which are agriculturally based. These women engaged in agriculture contribute about 70% of the total export earnings of the country. Agriculture is the back born of most of Africa’s economy in particular East Africa. I resigned from my job and used a few benefits that I had worked for to start Akaboxi, a digital financial inclusion system for small holder farmers in rural communities.
As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?
Workplace flexibility and work/life balance as a young mother and a professional.
I have faced a challenge of inequality at my former workplace. I have pushed on to get to leading other people. My advice for women leaders everywhere is to go for what they want in their careers and not to give up.
Getting support from other women has been a big challenge. My advice to women worldwide is to support and empower each other, starting with our basic principles of who we are — our morals, values, integrity. We must be just. Be humbled, show togetherness, passion, excellence and enthusiasm toward laying the foundation for our progress through our work.
The mindset of most people where technology is perceived to be driven by our male counterparts.
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?
The future trend is that technology is taking a lead in our day today activities for all the people including the illiterate rural women. So, a step of not leaving anyone behind should be a move for everyone that has an opportunity to lead others.
Predictions are that women can take the world to another level if empowered ‘a hello in every woman’.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region?
To keep pushing on and not give up.
To stop the female syndrome of not believing in themselves
To have the girls and women in technology and the software world.