A letter from Moky Makura, executive director of ‘Africa No Filter’, ‘Quartz Africa 2021 Innovator’ and a member of Dazzle Angels (South Africa).
This letter was first published by Quartz Africa in September 2021 and is reproduced here with the kind permission of Quartz Africa and its author, Moky Makura.
I am part of a group of women angel investors called Dazzle who support women-owned and women-led tech startups in South Africa, so I often sit in on funding pitches. One of them stuck—it was a husband-and-wife team. The wife was shy, and during the pitch she made the introductions and then fell silent. The husband dominated the call, eloquently presenting the business and answering most of the questions.
At the end of the pitch, we were all convinced that the wife was merely a front that allowed him to meet our gender investment criteria. In the end we turned them down, but she wrote to me after and said she realized that she should have spoken more. Her excuse? She felt she was a terrible presenter and her husband was much better at it than she was, even though it was her business and her idea.
Confidence, or the lack of it, plays a major role in such situations. It’s the reason why men apply for more jobs than women even when they are less qualified. It’s why women don’t put their hands up for promotions. It’s why imposter syndrome affects women more than it does men, and women of color in particular. It’s also why many women founders remain under the radar.
Staying in the shadows, simply doing the work, and not necessarily taking the credit for it, is a role that many women appear to prefer. We turn down opportunities to speak on global platforms because we are scared that we don’t know enough about the subject. We turn down interviews on our work because we don’t feel we have done enough. We turn down travel or networking opportunities because we don’t have the time to spare. We are often our own worst enemies.
I once had a boss who used to arrive in the office to great fanfare every day. She would frequently and loudly share her successes and challenges with the team. She lived out loud in the office and like her or not, she was noticed and went far. And that’s what I want more women to do—to live out loud, be brave, and as Nike says… just do it.
This year is my year of saying yes. Not just to the dress, but to the webinar, the interview, the pitch, the conference, the meetings… because that’s how we collectively change the narrative about women not being ready to start, grow, or lead businesses. We are. And we’re coming.
About the author:
Moky Makura is the Executive Director of Africa No Filter. She was born in Nigeria, educated in England and has lived in London, Johannesburg and Lagos. Before her role at ANF, Moky was the Deputy Director for Communications Africa at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where she was responsible for building and managing the foundation’s reputation on the continent. She took on an interim role as the foundation’s Country Representative to South Africa in 2017, leading on government relations and internal program coordination.
Before joining the Gates Foundation, Moky worked as Communications Director for the Tony Elumelu Foundation in Nigeria. She has also worked as a well-known TV presenter, producer, author, publisher and a successful entrepreneur in her own right. Moky holds an Honours degree in Politics, Economics and Law from Buckingham University in the UK. She serves on the advisory boards of the Junior Achievement Africa, the Houtbay Partnership and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.