Women in Africa are overcoming obstacles, shattering stereotypes, and blazing trails in their respective fields. They are also making significant contributions to their communities and the world at large.
From groundbreaking business leaders to political trailblazers, these women are a testament to the power and potential of women in Africa and beyond.
Their stories challenges and encourages young ladies to make a difference and leave a lasting impact on the continent. Let’s take a look at seven of them.
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is a Nigerian economist and international development expert. She is the first woman and African to be appointed as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Iweala served as Nigeria’s finance minister twice, from 2003 to 2006 and 2011 to 2015, and was the first woman to hold the position. During her tenure, she played a key role in negotiating the cancellation of Nigeria’s debt with the Paris Club of Creditors and helped to secure billions of dollars in debt relief for the country.
From 2007-2011, she was the managing director of the World Bank, where she oversaw the bank’s operations in Africa, South Asia, Europe, and Central Asia. She was also the chair of the board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and a member of the board of Twitter.
Dambisa Moyo is a Zambian-born economist and author who influences key decision-makers in strategic investment and public policy. She is a globally recognised voice on topics such as international economics, globalization, and sustainable development.
She has written several books such as “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa,” which argue that foreign aid has been ineffective in promoting economic growth in Africa and has contributed to the continent’s underdevelopment. The book was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into more than 20 languages.
Moyo was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2009. In 2013, she was listed among the “100 Most Powerful Women in the World” by Forbes magazine. On 8 November 2022, she was created Baroness Moyo, of Knightsbridge in the City of Westminster.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author who has won several literary awards for her novels, including the prestigious MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008. She was described in The Times Literary Supplement as “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors attracting a new generation of readers to African literature.”
She has been a vocal advocate for gender equality and social justice, and her TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story” has over 11 million views. Adichie’s work has been influential in shaping conversations around race, gender, and identity, and she continues to be an important voice in contemporary literature and culture.
She received the PEN Pinter Prize in 2018 and was recognized as one of the BBC’s 100 women of 2021 and holds 16 honorary doctorate degrees from different international universities.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a Liberian economist and politician who became the first democratically elected female president in Africa. She served as the President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018.
Before becoming president, Ellen was appointed as Assistant Minister of Finance in the administration of William Tolbert. She became popular for a speech to the Liberian Chamber of Commerce that claimed that the country’s corporations were harming the economy by hoarding or sending their profits overseas.
She was imprisoned several times for criticizing Samuel Doe’s administration of governance. She contested for the Senate race, won the election, and refused to accept the seat in protest of election fraud.
She is internationally known as Africa’s Iron Lady, due to her political prowess. During her time at the UN, she was one of the seven internationally eminent persons designated in 1999 by the Organization of African Unity to investigate the Rwandan genocide. In 2011, Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with two other women, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman, for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.
Fatou Bensouda is a Gambian lawyer who served as the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) from 2012 to 2021. Bensouda secured several high-profile convictions during her tenure as Chief Prosecutor, including the conviction of former Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity. She also secured the conviction of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who was acquitted on appeal in March 2021.
She currently serves as the Gambian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. She received the distinguished ICJ International Jurists Award in 2009, for her contributions to criminal law both at the national and international levels.
Tara Fela-Durotoye pioneered the African beauty industry when she founded House of Tara International in her living room in Nigeria. House of Tara International leads a network of makeup studios, stores, and workshops in Africa.
She took the first steps to create her beauty brand as a 20-year-old law student. As of 2019, her brand House of Tara, had 270 products, 23 stores, 14 beauty schools, and 10,000 representatives all around Africa.
Tara Fela-Durotoye was awarded the Africa SMME Award in 2007. She also bagged the Entrepreneur award in South Africa. In 2013, Forbes listed her as one of 20 Young Power Women In Africa.
Monica Musonda is a Zambian entrepreneur and CEO of Java Foods. She became a food processing entrepreneur in 2012 after a long, high-profile career as a lawyer. Monica was challenged when Nigerian manufacturing conglomerate Dangote pointed to the lack of economic activities in Zambia by Zambians.
She currently serves on the Boards of the Central Bank of Zambia and Dangote Industries Zambia Limited. She was recognised as a 2013 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Musonda is an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow. Also, Forbes Magazine and Africa Investor named her as one of the leading Young Power Women in Business in Africa in 2013 and 2014 respectively.