Entrepreneurs

Tatiana Houndjo: Elevating a Generation of African Tech Talent

Tatiana Houndjo

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Hey earthlings, my name is Spiffy. I’m an Interplanetary Journalist reporting on all the entrepreneurial people on Planet Earth. Today I’m speaking to Tatiana Houndjo, a tech leader paving the way for other young Africans to enter the industry through her organization African Youth Empowerment for Future (AYEF) Initiative. Are you ready to be inspired?

Spiffy: Hi Tatiana, thank you for joining me today! Tell me, what is the challenge you’re working on with African Youth Empowerment for Future (AYEF) Initiative?

Tatiana: The mission of AYEF Initiative is to help young Africans, especially those from French-speaking countries, have the skills they need to grow personally and professionally in the 21st century using the internet and digital technologies as key facilitators. 

Tatiana Houndjo provides mentorship to students in programming

Tatiana Houndjo provides mentorship to students in programming

Image courtesy of Tatiana Houndjo

Spiffy: What motivated you to do this?

Tatiana: Early in 2017, I received my bachelor’s degree in computer science (applied to management) and quickly realized that my formal education wasn’t aligning with the labor market and wasn’t going to help me lead in my domain. I had to use the skills I gained from my involvement with the Google developers group and women techmakers communities to make my path. Today, I want to give the same opportunity to the younger generation so they can be prepared to face the labor market challenges.

Spiffy: How is AYEF working to make the world a more equitable place?

Tatiana: AYEF Initiative provides the tools and resources to adapt to current jobs. We provide training and mentoring on how to use digital technologies for economic growth. We also focus on the African French-speaking countries to bridge the existing gap in terms of skills and use of digital technologies with the other communities. We believe that access to quality education, decent jobs, and economic growth strongly contribute to the reduction of inequalities.

Spiffy: Tell me about an initiative you’ve launched recently and what milestones you’ve reached?

Tatiana: At the beginning of 2020, I started a one-year partnership with ISOC Benin to lead the program “Femme&Internet” which aims to encourage women's involvement and leadership in the internet ecosystem. This program provides leadership and digital skills to more than 100 women from 10 countries despite the pandemic. To date, the leadership board of the chapter has grown from 0% to 45% in female representation, and women’s engagement in the global community has increased significantly.

Spiffy: How have you faced failure and overcome it?

Tatiana: I prefer the terms mistakes or difficulties instead of failure. I consider them to be experiences from which I always learn. I can tell you about one of them. Three years ago, I started a business that was doing very well. A few months later, I started losing important customers because I couldn't satisfy the fast-growing demand. I was relying on only one supplier. I learned that starting a business is one thing, but it is also important to be prepared for expansion and scaling.

Spiffy: But you’ve made a comeback since then! Thank you for telling us about your initiative and the ways you're bringing about change! It’s been an honor speaking with you, Tatiana.

Tatiana Houndjo, founder and executive director of AYEF Initiative, is an IT specialist committed to sharing her knowledge and empowering young Africans through digital technologies. Her dedication led her to start AYEF Initiative, a nonprofit organization aimed at ensuring African youth have the skills needed for economic growth in the 21st century. (Nominated by One Young World. First published on the Ladderworks website on July 22, 2021.)

© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Elias Ross Trupin. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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