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By Dolapo Adeyanju

Matina Razafimahefa, a 23-year-old Anzisha Fellow and the CEO of Sayna – an innovative EdTech venture in Madagascar-was selected for this year’s Station F incubator. Sayna sources, trains, and produces highly equipped young Africans in industry-specific digital skills.  

With more than 30 programs and a huge investor community, Station F is the world’s biggest start-up incubator – which offers everything entrepreneurs need to launch and grow their businesses. 

As an incubatee, Matina will have access to an exceptional ecosystem that offers start-ups substantial support including mentorship and advisory services, access to office space and other necessary resources. 

“Young female entrepreneurs operate in a harsh environment dominated by men who compliment them more for their looks than what they can do.”

Matina razafimahefa

Reacting to this achievement, Matina said getting selected for the incubator is a “big deal” that will transform her venture’s outlook and position her on a global stage. 

“I am so grateful and excited to be part of the 9% selected for this programme and this is a great opportunity for me. Besides the global recognition, I am more excited about the facilities, networking, and resources I am currently enjoying as a start-up.” 

Commenting on young women’s engagement in entrepreneurship, she raised her concerns about the underrepresentation of young women within the entrepreneurial space, for reasons related to limited ability to acquire productive resources and lack of valuable connections. She said:  

“Young female entrepreneurs operate in a harsh environment dominated by men who compliment them more for their looks than what they can do. Thus, they have limited access to resources and lack valuable business networks.” 

While this could be discouraging, she noted that one way for young entrepreneurs to aggregate resources and build this needed network is through entrepreneurship programmes and business incubators such as the Anzisha Prize programme and Station F incubator. However, many young females still refrain from applying for such programmes for the fear of rejection.  

“For many years, I never applied for entrepreneurship programmes because I was scared that I wouldn’t get accepted and didn’t want negativity around me,” she reflects.

She explained that generally, the concept of business incubators carries more positive connotations beyond gender discriminations and related perceptions which should be explored by all entrepreneurs, regardless of age and gender.   

“It is highly important for young people to take the risk of getting negative feedback than not trying at all,” she says.  

Expanding on this point, she highlighted the role of mentorship and advisors in helping young people to explore relevant programmes and business opportunities.  

“As a young entrepreneur, it is highly important to have a mentor/advisor who believes in your dreams and can push you beyond your limits. I am not sure I would have applied for the Station F incubator programme if not for the constant push and reminder I got from one of my advisors.”   

The Masculine bias within entrepreneurial role models must be addressed for female entrepreneurs to record more success 

She also highlighted the need to address the prevailing masculine bias within existing entrepreneurial role models, particularly for those in the tech world. According to her, this bias makes young women feel out of place in male-dominated domains. She added that such stereotypes and the lower exposure of female entrepreneurs to women role models explain why they report less success in entrepreneurial careers compared to their male counterparts.  

“Redundantly, people invest in people that look like them. It is important to have more female investors and role models who can support and advocate for young females within the entrepreneurial space,” she says 

As Matina prepares for her time at Station F, she advised other female entrepreneurs to keep their hopes high and remain motivated. 

“It is normal to get frustrated when your expectations are not met or when you don’t get accepted for these programmes, but know that it’s not the end. Keep your heads up and keep trying.”  

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