With very little push, Rebecca Enonchong has built one of the world’s most successful woman-led tech firms

BY Preta Peace Namasaba January 24, 2024 7:58 AM EDT
Rebecca Enonchong.Photo credit: World Bank

Rebecca Enonchong emigrated to the United States with her parents as a very young teenager. As with most immigrant stories, Enonchong’s family was bent on contributing to America and realizing their own dreams through its opportunities.

Enonchong was born in 1967 in Cameroon to a prominent family. Her father was a preeminent barrister and founding member of the Federal Cameroon Bar Association, as well as its successor, the Cameroon Bar Association. Even when she recollects her very difficult journey to her present successes, Enonchong acknowledges her privilege.

“I don’t want to minimize my privileged background. I went to excellent schools, and my parents loved me,” she told African Business last year.

She juggled school with selling door-to-door newspaper subscriptions. Enonchong loved that this venture of selling newspaper subscriptions was akin to going to people’s doors to give them the information they need to live as citizens. The process lit her entrepreneurial ambition and set her on the quest to build a business whose implications for the lives of people would not be too hard to see.

After she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s in Economics from the Catholic University of America, Enonchong worked as a consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank and later at Oracle Corporation. In 1999, Enonchong departed on her solo journey as a tech entrepreneur.

She went on to establish AppsTech to provide enterprise software solutions based primarily around Oracle technologies. She recalls beginning the company with almost no money and certainly no venture capital support. Enonchong argues that the situation is no better these days for women from Africa.

“There is so much talk about supporting women on the continent. So many times that support comes in microcredit. You have never heard the word microcredit used for anything else but supporting women. For some reason, we are not allowed to get millions of dollars, but hey, here’s 50 dollars to support you to go sell tomatoes, or something,” she added in that interview mentioned above.

Even without the support she needed, Enonchong nowadays counts what happened as a blessing in disguise because she prepared and worked in a way that took into consideration the facts that there were no safety net and no backup plans.

“With very little savings and no financial backing, I set out to build a global multi-million dollar business,” she explained.

For her own ambition, Enonchong spent her time writing an honest business plan assessing her weaknesses, market risks and strategies to counter challenges. She realized that she sought multinational customers and set out to solely create a global business.

She utilized the Internet to build the company’s website and it was available in both English and French. She created created a virtual business address for use on the website and on business cards, as she couldn’t afford an office. Enonchong then used the bulk of her money to attend an industry conference where she landed her first customer.

The first customer was a multinational firm and the revenue generated from that business allowed Enonchong to invest in AppsTech. This was when she was able to rent her first physical office, hire a partt-ime assistant and expanded operations. Her global strategy paid off and AppsTech generated over $2 million in its first year. Enonchong consequently brought in brilliant talent from the African states and other personnel from China, Korea, India, France and the UK.

Today, AppsTech is a leading global provider of enterprise application solutions in over 50 countries across Africa, Europe and North America.

“I wanted to leverage that experience and I wanted to be strong enough and big enough to go into the African market. And the reason I wanted to wait till I had sufficient financial leverage was because I knew it was a long term investment; that it’s not a once-off; that you can’t come in and hope to make a profit after the first year or whatever. So I really had to be strong enough financially to enter the market,” Enonchong said about entering the African market.

Enonchong had always wanted to invest in her home continent. She entered the African market by establishing AppsTech offices in Ghana in 2002 and in Cameroon a year later. The decision to operate in Cameroon almost financially devastated the company. The sacrifice she made to maintain presence in Cameroon was to shut down seven worldwide offices.

AppsTech has survived bubbles and has successfully reinforced its position as a market leader. Its clientele range from financial services, utilities and manufacturing, the public sector, retail and telecommunications. AppsTech customers include Citi, MasterCard, Shell, the United States Census Bureau, and Dell, among others.

With headquarters in Washington D,C. AppsTech employs more than 100 individuals and has a reported annual revenue of around $25 million.

Enonchong is also the cofounder of I/O Spaces, an inclusive coworking space in the DC metro area. She chairs Afrilabs, a Pan-African network of over 174 innovation centers supporting more than half a million entrepreneurs in Africa. Additionally, she chairs the African Center for Technology Innovation and Ventures which supports entrepreneurs from two tech hubs in Cameroon.

Enonchong sits on the board of Venture Capital for Africa (VC4Africa), Digital Africa, the African Media Initiative, Eneza Education, Suguba and iamtheCODE, where she is ensuring that the next generation of African entrepreneurs have the necessary resources to launch their ventures.