levelling the playing field by becoming presidents, CEOs, motor mechanics, fire-fighters, and so on, all around the world.
Dinah Binah, Florist - Tanzania
“You have to think fast in business. If someone asks – Are you selling your blouse? Sell it!
“You can always buy another one. The first day I opened my shop, I only had five bunches of roses.
“My first customer didn’t see the flowers I had – all he saw was water. So he asked me: Are you selling water? I told him – Yes! That 20 cents he gave me was my first income. You have to be brave. You have to be aggressive. Don’t be embarrassed.”
Like Dinah, each woman’s remarkable achievement is the result of a combination of many elements: identifying and maximising opportunities, striving for excellence in everything, and a refusal to turn from their vision. Maybe you’re just starting out in your career; perhaps you are 30 years deep, but let something from these women drive you to be the absolute best in whatever you do – be it creating floral masterpieces or brokering contracts worth millions.
Isabel Dos Santos, President’s Daughter; Oil, Diamonds and Media - Angola
First daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos, President of Angola, Isabel dos Santos has made her mark as perhaps the most powerful and richest woman in her country. Deftly using family influence and financial backing by her father, she started her own business. Through strategic investing, she currently has holdings in the diamond-trading industry, media, retail and energy both in Angola and Portugal.
Mamphele Ramphele, CEO Circle Capital Partners Former MD of World Bank - South Africa
Former managing director of the World Bank group, Mamphele is a renowned academic and businesswoman. She has succeeded in her work as a medical doctor and anti-apartheid activist and she now sits on the boards of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, both of which reward good governance in Africa, and leads Circle Capital Ventures, a black economic empowerment private equity firm.
Bridgette Radebe, Founder and Chairperson, Mmakau (Platinum, Coal, Chrome, Gold) - South Africa
Bridgette Radebe, elder sister of South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe, wields great power in the mining industry. She founded and runs Mmakau Mining, which has investments in platinum, gold, coal and chrome. She is the nation’s first black female mining entrepreneur, serves as the President of the South African Mining Development Association, and was awarded the International Business Person of the Year Award in 2008 by the Global Foundation for Democracy.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, World Bank, Minister of Finance, Co-founder of Makeda Fund - Nigeria
Well known for her role as the managing director of the World Bank and for her part in shaking up Nigeria’s finances, Dr Ngozi has returned to her country as the current minister of finance and leader of President Jonathan’s economic team. She continues to work towards economic reform and investing in capital projects with the aim of reducing Nigeria’s high unemployment rates. She founded the Makeda Fund, which invests in helping African women entrepreneurs.
Folake Folarin-Coker, CEO, Fashion Designer, Tiffany Amber - Nigeria
Responsible for revolutionising the Nigerian fashion industry in 1998, Folake started the Tiffany Amber brand. Every collection created pays respect to her African heritage and is blended with the influence of her childhood spent in Europe. The Tiffany Amber collections have received wide acclaim in the global fashion industry and have been shown in fashion weeks in Lagos, London, Paris and South Africa. She is the first African designer to have shown twice at the New York Fashion Week.
Dolly Mokgatle, CEO Peotona Group Holdings Ltd, and Thandi Orleyn, Co-founder, Peotona Group Holdings Ltd - South Africa
Dolly and Thandi co-founded Peotona Capital, an innovative women’s investment company with stakes in De Beers, South Africa, the world’s top diamond miner. Peotona also has holdings in Lafarge, one of South Africa’s cement makers. Prior to this, Dolly served as the CEO of Spoornet, a heavy-freight rail company. She has set up and continues to support numerous women’s initiatives. Thandi is a highly qualified lawyer and an expert in labour and employment matters.
Iman Abdulmajid, Founder and CEO, Iman Cosmetics - Somalia
Somali-born former supermodel Iman is best known for her high-profile modelling career and for her beautiful cosmetics created for women of colour. During her 14 years of modelling and TV appearances, Iman mixed her own products to match her skin tone and, after retiring, she started the self-named cosmetics brand to fill that gap. As of 2010, Iman Cosmetics was a USD25-million a year business.
Joyce Banda, Former Country President; CEO, Joyce Banda Foundation and National Association of Business Women - Malawi
Joyce Banda has had a long and successful business and political career. Prior to her role as the current vice-president of Malawi, she was the founder and CEO of Joyce Banda Foundation, which focuses on improving educational opportunities for children and orphans and in providing microcredit for poor women. She also founded the National Association of Business Women to empower women economically. She received the United Nations Population Fund International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women in 2006 and the African Woman Development Fund Woman of Substance Award in 2010.
Maria Ramos, Group CEO, Absa Group Bank - South Africa
From her former role as director-general of South Africa’s national treasury, Maria later became the CEO of the Barclays Bank subsidiary, Absa, a role in which she has excelled, raising group profits significantly, even through trying financial times.
Linah Mohohlo, Governor, Bank of Botswana - Botswana
Linah Mohohlo has served as the governor of the Bank of Botswana since 1999, following 23 years in other areas within the bank. She has also worked as an International Monetary Fund special appointee and has been a member of the International Monetary and Financial Committee. An eminent academic, she has published several papers, books and chapters in the fields of economics, reserves management and governance. She is the recipient of Botswana’s highest public service award, the Presidential Order of Honour.
These trailblazing women have opened the door for a younger generation of African power women. The next six women represent, increasingly, the next generation of African women taking on the mantle in business.
Susan Mashibe, Founder and Executive Director, TanJet Aviation - Tanzania
At 29, Susan Mashibe returned to her home in Tanzania to start up TanJet in 2002, a company offering logistical support for company, diplomatic and private jets. Her clients include heads of state, monarchs, celebrities and corporate gurus. She has received numerous awards and was honoured as 2011 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
Khanyi Dhlomo, CEO and Editor of Destiny Magazine, Destiny Man - South Africa
Through a combination of wit, passion for media and good luck, Khanyi Dhlomo has positioned herself as a leader in the South African media industry. At 22, she was appointed editor of True Love magazine and succeeded in doubling circulation within her first year. She acquired an MBA from Harvard University and set up her own company, Ndalo Media, a joint venture with the publishing arm of South Africa’s largest media company. Destiny Magazine, Destiny Man and DestinyConnect.com are the successful products of Ndalo.
Isis Nyongo, Managing Director, InMobi Africa - Kenya
Isis was appointed vice-president and managing director of InMobi, the world’s largest independent mobile advertising network in 2011. She is well suited to the task of driving the company’s business strategy for Africa, having previously led the African business-development initiatives for Google. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Business School, Isis has been instrumental in driving the launch of MTV networks and setting up Kenya’s first online recruitment service, MyJobsEye.
Magatte Wade, CEO, Adina World Beat Beverages - Senegal
Who knew a business could be based on the hibiscus flower? Magatte Wade co-founded Adina World Beat Beverages in 2004, a manufacturing company based on a simple, sustainable, fair-trade model relying on manufacturing and products from Africa. Their beverages include herbal drinks, organic coffees and teas sold across the United States of America. Her company supports the Quality Biological Agriculture Cooperative (QABCOO), a group of Senegalese women earning a living by producing the traditional hibiscus drink. Adina’s annual revenues are reported to be over USD3million by UNDP.
In a global economy that values mental power, the region’s new comparative advantage could well be its large, educated and, increasingly, female workforce. Economic growth relies increasingly on a country’s quality of human resources, and women remain a largely untapped resource. Therefore, gender issues need to be viewed as central in policy design and implementation. Gender equality is not only for the sake of women. It promotes growth and aids the welfare of society in general.
Source: Forbes and Ventures Africa
Breaking the Gender Mould
Job segregation by gender (or the assumption that some jobs are better suited for men, while others are better suited for women) by placing a premium on physical or social attributes is being re-examined and is changing. This has created new opportunities and experiences and is leading to a reconsideration of employers’ assumptions about who can best do a job.
With incredible business savvy, determination and resilience, many African women have succeeded in creating a ‘name’ for themselves. Whether they achieved this by moving up the ranks of the corporate world, through entrepreneurial innovation or by fighting for social justice, these women represent some of the most powerful of the African business cohort across various industries.
What is important to note is that most ‘male-dominated’ careers are diminishing and that women are
EMPOWERED LEADERSHIP | Breaking the Gender Mould
By Shalane van Rensburg