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[Introduction by Oni Aningo, Executive Director and Founder, Global Group Media and Creator, Rising Women Series.]
Women leaders around the world are an example of tenacity and diversity. With the world’s recent and urgent challenges, they continue to work towards a more equitable future that opens doors for women and girls.
Finding women in leadership positions across Africa isn’t something new. Throughout the continent’s history, women have once and again proved to be critical problem solvers, from leading militaries and independence movements to fostering change by spearheading transitional post-conflict periods and taking on leadership roles across industries.
I interviewed the IPU’s Secretary-General Martin Chungong who stressed that while strides still need to be made in seeing an equal representation of women parliamentarians around the world, for example, we must celebrate countries such as Rwanda who is leading the world with 61 percent of parliamentary seats occupied by women, Cuba in the second position with 53 percent of women taking up parliamentary seats, and the United Arab Emirates as the third country with 50 percent of women in Parliament. Behold the power of leadership and strong governance.
From leaders in infrastructure and telecommunications to key roles in government and non-profits, we celebrate 33 of these global and African women impacting Africa.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania
During the first year of her presidency, President Suluhu Hassan—Tanzania’s first female president—has favored a diplomatic approach by traveling around Africa and Europe. Her efforts have paid off: Her administration has secured funding and signed contracts for a series of large contracts, including a $196 concessional loan for bus rapid transit, revamping the international airport, and close to $500 million in EU COVID-19 relief funds. She has also made it a case to appoint more women in key positions. Today, Tanzania has more women cabinet ministers than ever before—with 9 out of 25 ministries led by women.
President Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia
Zewde’s victory in the 2018 elections shook Ethiopia, as she became the first woman to hold the office and the only serving female head of state in Africa at the time. Her administration has collaborated with the African Development Bank to encourage development in Ethiopia which, on average, spends approximately 58 percent of its national budget on directly reducing poverty and boosting life expectancy.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General World Trade Organization and MD/CEO of Noxie Limited, Nigeria/Switzerland
A professional with over 30 years of experience in economy and international development, Okonjo-Iweala’s accolades are impressive, with some of the most notable ones being Minister of the Decade (2020), one of 50 Greatest World Leaders (2015), and Top 100 Most Influential People in the World (2014). Through her work with multiple institutions, she has worked to immunize 760 children globally, mobilized financial support to fight COVID-19, and has assisted low-income countries during food and economic crises.
Salwa Abdul Aziz Zein, CEO of the Private Office of H.H Sheikh Ahmed Bin Faisal Al Qassimi Group of Companies, United Arab Emirates/Tanzania
Zein is no stranger to entrepreneurship, having successfully launched and managed several companies in Africa and the Gulf while in her twenties. As CEO, she oversees multiple projects, ranging from port developments, livestock trading, gold brokerage to renewable energy projects.
Kiran Daswani, CEO, The Greens, Ghana
With the goal of providing affordable and quality housing in the region, Daswani founded The Greens, a property development company that develops eco-friendly housing estates located in the Greater Accra Region. She was awarded “Outstanding Business Leader of the Year – Real Estate” at the Ghana Business Standard awards in 2019.
Funke Opeke, CEO MainOne, Nigeria
After working for Verizon in the U.S., Opeke moved back to Nigeria and noticed the low internet connectivity. After securing financing, she founded MainOne in 2008 and led the construction of the region’s first private submarine cable, a 4,400 miles of fiber optic cable connecting Nigeria and Portugal. In early 2022, American firm Equinix acquired MainOne for $320 million.
Adesola Sotande-Peters, CFO, Godrej Consumer Products for Africa, USA, Caribbean & Middle East, Nigeria/Dubai, UAE
Sotande-Peters is not only an experienced finance executive and business leader, but is also a team player: she strives to empower others in the business world to exceed their goals through mentoring and training different talents. She’s successfully worked in multinational markets across different positions, and is currently the Chief Financial Officer at Godrej Consumer Products, a 124 year-”young” company manufacturing, distributing, and marketing fast-moving consumer goods.
Founded in 2018, the Truss Empowerment Foundation is a woman-led organization that supports and empowers women and girls through mentorships and networking opportunities, training programs, and business support. Drawing from her experience as a senior executive and business leader, Chukwuelue continuously seeks to inspire and support the next generation of Nigerian women leaders.
Utopia SGW is a mission-driven enterprise combating the global burnout epidemic through a tech-enabled platform, providing virtual, live and on-demand multicultural wellness experiences and luxury global retreats including on the continent of Africa. Utopia SGW is revolutionizing wellness worldwide with thought leaders and community members across five continents and is a 2021 Google for Startups Black Founder Fund recipient. Powell is also a #1 bestselling author.
Aside from her position as the Foreign Investment Network’s Chairwoman, Fayomi is also the founder of the Nigerian Diaspora Investment Network and an NGO as well as the European Petroleum Club. Both promote investment opportunities in different industries. She’s also the publisher of the investment journal FIN Magazine, which has over 5,000 subscribers and represents over 5,000 potential investors.
Ambassador Elsie Sia Kanza, Ambassador of Tanzania to Washington, USA
Dr. Kanza has often been recognized for her achievements in advancing economic development, being named one of the 20 Youngest Powerful Women in Africa (2011), 50 Influential Africans in The World (2014), and Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women (2020).
Noxie Limited is a world-class office furniture manufacturing company. Oyewole is also a founding member of the Commonwealth Businesswomen’s Network (CBWN) focused on supporting women in leadership. In addition, Oyewole is the co-founder of Strategic Women and Youth institute (SWYI), an international consortium of professionals generating opportunities for women’s empowerment.
Tambra Raye Stevenson, MPH, Founder/CEO, WANDA (Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture, USA
[See photo, top of page]:
Stevenson founded WANDA to build a pipeline for women and girls to lead in building a better food system from America to Africa. Through education, advocacy and innovation, she has been a tireless champion on a mission to change the narrative and image of Black women and girls from farm to health.
Zouera Youssoufou, Managing Director/CEO, Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), Nigeria
Prior to joining the foundation, Youssoufou worked with the European Union and the World Bank Group. As CEO of Aliko Dangote Foundation, she leads efforts to improve the health, nutrition, education, and economic empowerment outcomes for the less fortunate in Africa.
Dr. Brown is an entrepreneur and investor that runs the Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Company, focused on early-stage companies in healthtech, fintech, and healthcare infrastructure. The value of companies in their portfolio is close to $450 million. She is currently raising her 4th Venture Capital fund and developing a pipeline of healthcare infrastructure projects worth over $200 million.
Ehime Eigbe-Akindele, Founder & CEO, SweetKiwi, USA
When Eigbe-Akindele was told she had to give up ice cream, she launched Sweetkiwi as a way to create her own recipes for a healthier, yet still enjoyable, alternative. After finding success in her native Nigeria, SweetKiwi began selling their products to US stores.
Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation, Egypt
Appointed to the Senate in 2020, Dr. Kelej is known to be an advocate for women empowerment, having created the campaign “Merck More than a Mother” to break the stigma around infertile and childless women by providing access to information and healthcare. Her campaign gained her recognition for one of the “Most Influential African Women of the Year” in 2019, something she’s accomplished three times.
Dalka is the CEO and founder of StellarOne Ltd, a London-based consulting firm providing strategy and investment advisory in tech. With her team, she advises tech investors, financial institutions and corporates in the tech sector in Africa. She is also an executive member of African Women in Fintech and Payment, promoting female expertise on the continent in all subjects related to Fintech.
Bronwyn Nielsen, CEO, The Nielsen Network, Chair Graca Machel Trust, Women in Media, former Editor in Chief & Executive Director, CNBC Africa, South Africa
With more than 25 years of experience in African broadcasting, Nielsen is one of Africa’s most well-known broadcasters. She began her career with CNBC Africa’s launch and since then, she’s been called upon as a moderator by leading businesses. Today, Nielsen works as CEO of The Nielsen Network, a Digital First Company offering consulting services such as crisis and reputation management, and investor relations.
Fleur Tchibota, Communications Director, Africa50 Infrastructure Investment Fund, Morocco
A multilingual communications professional, Tchibota’s experience with PR and brand management in financial services, economic development and telecom sectors helps drive change in the socio-economic transformation of developing countries. In Africa50, Tchibota strives to spread the organization’s message of bridging Africa’s infrastructure funding gap through project development, mobilization of public and private sector finance and investment in infrastructure on the continent.
Rehmah Kasule, Founder, CEDA International, Strategist and Consultant-Gender, Trade & Peace, Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative Senior Fellow 2020, Uganda
Rehmah Kasule explains how kids can take action and have a positive impact in their communities.
Kasule founded CEDA International to empower young girls through education and leadership development. She has mentored over 168,000 women across Africa and has been recognized by President Obama for her efforts in building generations of ethical leaders and entrepreneurs. Kasule is also an accomplished author, her most recent book discussing women’s role during COVID-19.
Zurina Saban, Group General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Africa50 Infrastructure Investment Fund, Morocco
With over 25 years of private sector development finance experience in Africa and emerging markets, Saban joined Africa50 last December as Group General Counsel and Corporate Secretary. In this role, she is the principal advisor of Africa50 and the Africa50 Board of Directors on all legal and corporate secretariat matters. Prior to joining Africa50, she held several leadership positions at the International Finance Corporation in Washington DC, Egypt, Istanbul, and South Africa and was also the General Counsel of ABSA Corporate and Investment Bank in South Africa.
Guillermina Mekuy, Founder, MEIK Magazine and former Minister of Culture, Equatorial Guinea
In 2012, Mekuy took office as Minister of the Department of Culture and Tourism, becoming the first woman to hold the position. She has also published three novels, and created Editorial MK (platform designed to promote the work of other female writers), Meik magazine, and makeup brand, Clementyne Cosmetics. Mekuy is also President of Women for New World, an international consulting firm bringing together social and business initiatives and commitments.
Dorothy Dottie Liech, Regional Director East Africa, Nordic Global Investment Foundation & Founder, The Premier Plan Agency, Kenya & Denmark
A Private Communications Consultant, with a focus on media relations, international relations and conferencing for government leaders and their organizations, Liech works for both Nordic Global Investment Foundation and Caregore Consulting in supporting and advising project owners and developers.
Moky Makura, Executive Director, Africa No Filter, Nigeria/South Africa
Makura is at the helm of this donor collaborative that supports African storytellers and funds campaigns that catalyze new perspectives about Africa. She is an author, publisher, actress, TV producer and communications expert dedicated to ensuring that Africa doesn’t remain a single story.
Clare Akamanzi, CEO, Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Rwanda
As CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, Akamanzi has played a crucial role in accelerating Rwanda’s economic development by continuously finding ways to foster private sector growth. She was named one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women by Forbes in 2020.
Adunola co-founded one of Washington DC’s premier real estate development companies. She plays a vital role in helping the company restore homes and beautify local neighborhoods in the DC Metro. Her invaluable negotiation skills have helped the company buy, develop and sell over $50 million of real estate since 2010.
Sheffy Kolade, CEO, Boxes and Baskets LLC, Nigeria
Kolade founded Boxes and Baskets, a promotional and luxury corporate gift company based in Lagos, Nigeria and Houston USA, in 2015. The company offers a hybrid of innovative, locally made and imported products. Sheffy is currently raising $1.6 million to boost its local product offerings and employ over 100 talented locals from under-privileged clusters, producing 5,000 bags, 20,000 t-shirts, 20,000 notebooks and 5,000 boxes monthly which will increase revenue from $2 million in 2021 to about $5.8 million in 2024.
Chisom Udeze, Economist & Founder, HerSpace, Mettle Consult, & Diversify, Norway & Nigeria
The former is a diverse and inclusive co-working space for women and mothers, and the latter is a non-profit that focuses on professional development and mental health and provides immigrants with the skills and resources they need to thrive. Through her consulting company Mettle Consult, Udeze works with SMEs and Intergovernmental Organizations to drive sustainable projects in West and East Africa.
Chioma “Chigul” Omeruah: MC/ Entertainer/ Actress & Producer, Nigeria
Chigul was nominated last year for the Most Popular Media personality in the Net Honors Awards. She’s known for her accents and comedic characters.
Yasmine Berrada, Co-founder, Loft Art Gallery, Morocco
Inspired by her father’s collection of Moroccan art, Berrada founded the Loft Art Gallery along with her sister Myerim at 25 years old. The Loft Art Gallery promotes the modern and contemporary art scene in Africa, and is driven by a desire to expand international knowledge on the continent.
Yvonne’s mission is to change the attitude narrative in corporate Nigeria and improve the perception index in Africa. Yvonne has partnered with over 100 organizations increasing their Social Intelligence Quotient. Her iFINESSE initiative, a CSR, distributes over one million Etiquette handbooks to public schools in Nigeria. Yvonne’s #SheSpark initiative is a virtual community of professional women who are becoming global brands and influencers.
Isoken Nwabunka, Executive Director of Administaton, The Grooming Center, Nigeria
At the Grooming Center for Empowering People, our mission is to empower the economically active poor communities by taking a range of tailor-made microfinance services to their doorstep using globally tested best-practice methodologies.
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