Power comes in different forms; and it is always associated with men who make up the majority. But in recent years, women have risen to power either through their achievements, political status or wealth. Today it is not uncommon to find female Presidents, female entrepreneurs in engineering and technology or many others who have worked hard to make a name for themselves in different fields formerly dominated by men. While the listing may not feature your most powerful woman in Africa, which for me is my mum, it does not also lean on some strict parameters. However, every woman listed here in all has a pinch of power to inspire young African.
1. Isabel dos Santos
Isabel is the eldest daughter of Angola’s longtime incumbent president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos. Although some may hold that she benefited from her father’s consolidation to power, this 43-year-old billionaire is a controlling stakeholder in Portugal telecom company, Nos SGPS. She owns around 19% of Portuguese bank, Banco BPI. Following the transfer of her father’s stakes in many companies, she is currently working on expanding her stable of investments. Isabel’s holdings in Angola include 25% of Unitel, and a stake in Banco BIC. Worthy of note is that Unitel is the largest mobile carrier in Angola. Her net worth is estimated at a startling $3.4 billion.
2. Folorunsho Alakija
Often referred to as a self-made billionaire, the 64 year old Folorunsho Alakija is the founder of a tailoring company, Supreme Stitches. Following an increase in wealth and a rise of a bourgeois class in Nigeria, her designs have become very famous especially to Nigeria’s high society personalities. Despite her humble beginning as secretary for some companies after returning to Nigeria from London, where she studied secretarial studies and fashion design, she is Managing Director of The Rose of Sharon Group, Executive Vice chairman of Famfa Oil and one of the most powerful women in Africa. She is estimated to be worth $2.1 billion.
3. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Appearing on Forbes list especially in the areas of power and riches speaks a lot. Ngozi Iweala is known as the first female and black candidate to contest for the for the Presidency of the World Bank group. During her service in Nigeria as finance Minister, the Harvard and MIT don developed a program which helped to improve government transparency and economy stabilization. She is much respected for her approach to economic development and finance. After her stint at the World Bank, she currently chairs the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and the African Risk Capacity. She is founder to a host of organizations like the Centre for the Study of Economies in Africa and a recipient of several awards which put her amongst the most powerful women in Africa.
4. Rebecca Enonchong
In 2014, Rebecca was identified as a leading female tech personality by Forbes. The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ Women in Engineering also named her to their Power 60 list. She is the founder and CEO of AppsTech, a global provider of enterprise application solutions with presence in over 50 countries as well as I/O Spaces in Maryland, USA. On the startup scene, which is revolutionizing business dynamics in Cameroon and Africa, she is the chairman of Active Spaces, a Cameroonian tech hub with co-working space and an incubator. She is also a mentor and adviser to several African based technology startups and known for her efforts in promoting technology in Africa. She is also on the boards of several organizations especially VC4Africa, one of the largest online communities dedicated to entrepreneurs and investors.
5. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
The Liberian incumbent who was also featured on Forbes list of powerful women in Africa and the world, is known for turning Liberian around and fighting the deadly Ebola crises which claimed the lives of more than 4,500 Liberians. She is the 24th and current president of Liberia, in office since 2006. She served as Minister of Finance from 1979 until the 1980 coup after which she left Liberia and held senior positions at various international financial institutions. She is the first elected female President in Africa. In 2016 President Elle Johnson was made chair of the Economic Community of West African States, the first woman to occupy the position since it was formed. She jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, with Laymah Gbowee, for their struggle and non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s right and participation in peace building work. On September 12, 2013, she was conferred the Indira Gandhi Prize.
6. Dambisa Moyo
Dambisa is a Zambian born International economist, an author who analyses global macroeconomics and affairs. She acquired her post graduate degree in Business, Public administration and Economics from Harvard and Oxford. She is currently serving on the board of Barclays Bank, the financial group SAB Miller, the global brewer, and Barrick Gold the global miner. She worked for two years at the World Bank as a consultant in the Europe and Central Asian departments and eight years at Goldman Sachs as a research economist and strategist before becoming an author and international speaker. Dambisa is an accomplished economist and source of pride and inspiration to Zambians and Africa as a whole.
Other powerful African women include Irene Charnley who left an indelible mark of success as Executive Director at Africa’s biggest Telecommunication firm MTN, Ngina Kenyatta who has been successful in the real estate business in Kenya, and Kenyan Lupita Nyongo’o who won an Oscar for best actress in 2014. With the trends of events it is obvious women today are beating the odds in making a name as compared to the past.