International Women’s Day: Africa’s top 6 Most Powerful Women

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The African society is one that is fierce when it comes to the race for the top spots in all fields. For women the challenge becomes doubled, as they have to break extra barriers before they can rise through the ranks and file.

Africa's top three most powerful women 2016

Most powerful women in Africa

In the year 2016, some African women proved beyond a doubt that women in this part of the world can rise beyond the themes which for too long has seen them relegated to the background.

Of all women from Africa, three made it to the  Forbes’ list of 100 most powerful women in the world.


According to Forbes, the list contains the smartest and toughest female business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, philanthropists and CEOs making their mark in the world today.

Africa has many women of substance, below are 6 most powerful women in Africa, which cannot be toyed with. Those in the top 3, are they who made the Forbes list in 2016.

6. Hajia Bola Shagaya

She is a Nigerian businesswoman and fashion enthusiast. Undisputed, one of the richest women in Africa

Her career started with the audit department of the Central Bank of Nigeria before venturing into commercial activities in 1983. Her business experience started with the importation and distribution of photographic materials and she introduced the Konica brand of photographic materials into the Nigerian market and West Africa.

International Women's day: Africa's top 6 most powerful women

International Women’s day: Africa’s top 6 most powerful women

Hajia Bola Shagaya is also the managing director of Practoil Limited, one of the largest importers and distributors of base oil in Nigeria, serving local lubricant blending plants.

Her businesses also includes huge investment in real estate, spanning across major cities in the country with over three hundred employees.

She is currently on the board of Unity Bank (Nigeria) Plc[7] (formerly Intercity Bank) and has been for over eight years. She is also a member of the recently inaugurated Nepad Business Group – Nigeria.

Hajia Shagaya is a patron of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria, (FADAN), and a fashion and art enthusiast who supports and encourages the fashion and art industry. She also loves sports, especially polo. On the 22nd of July 2010, she was awarded by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR), the title of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON)

5. Ngina Kenyatta

Popularly known as “Mama Ngina”, she is former First Lady of Kenya. She is the widow of the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and also the mother of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

International Women's day: Africa's top 6 most powerful women

International Women’s day: Africa’s top 6 most powerful women

She has grown over the years to became one of the richest individuals in Kenya, owning plantations, ranches, and hotels.

She currently leads a quiet life in Kenya as a wealthy widow.

4. Isabel dos Santos

She is an Angolan investor considered by Forbes at some point, to be the richest woman not only in Angola, but the whole of Africa.

Born in Baku Azerbaijan on the 20th of April 1973 (age 43 years), her net worth sits at about 3.2 billion USD (2017) Forbes.

She is the daughter of Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled the country since 1979.

A 2013 research by Forbes, suggested that she might be Africa’s first billionaire woman.

In the early 1990s, Isabel dos Santos returned from London to join her father in Luanda and started working as a project manager engineer for Urbana 2000, a subsidiary of Jembas Group, that won the contract for cleaning and disinfection of the city.

Following that, she set up a trucking business. The widespread use of walkie-talkie tecchnology paved the way for her subsequent foray into telecoms.

International Women's day: Africa's top 6 most powerful women

International Women’s day: Africa’s top 6 most powerful women

It is reported that in 1997, at the age of 24, she started her first business by opening the Miami Beach Club, one of the first night clubs and beach restaurants on the Luanda Island.

Over a period of nearly 20 years she expanded her business interests, leading to the creation of several holdings, in Angola and mostly abroad, and to make substantial investments in a series of prestigious entreprises, especially in Portugal.

3. President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim

At third place is Mauritius’ President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim who made it narrowly to the 2016 Forbes list at number 96. Before she was pulled to politics in 2015, the 56 year old President was immersed in her Research center that was compiling a database of the plants on the Island nation and promoting the importance of biodiversity to an international audience.

She became the Island’s President after she was selected as a presidential candidate by the major political party. She has used her power to bring her concerns as scientist to a larger audience.

Africa's top three most powerful women 2016


“She (Ameenah) is working to advance awareness of global warming and to promote new investments in science and technology in Mauritius and greater Africa. She’s already making strides on both fronts, including partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to pilot 10 PhD research grants on the island, with plans expand the program to as many as 10,000 other scientists across Africa in the future.” Said Forbes

2. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

In second place is Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who comes in 83rd on the global list.

The 77 year old formidable leadership in rebuilding Liberia post-civil war and amidst crippling debts landed her on the list and was as well recognized for her efforts by the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Africa's top three most powerful women 2016

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Ms Johnson Sirleaf has been able to negotiate settlements, rebuild infrastructure, lift sanctions and rebuild women‘s rights.

“She (Sirleaf) came under fire for cronyism and corruption, and during the devastating Ebola outbreak of 2014, her decision to use troops to quarantine the heavily infected and poor West Point neighborhood was widely criticized. Despite this, she receives credit for some parts of her leadership, including her final presidential act: Stepping aside to let the country’s democratic process choose its next leader.” Says Forbes

1. Folorunsho Alakija

From Africa’s largest country comes the most powerful woman in the continent. She (Folorunsho Alakija) ranks number 80 in the world’s 100 most powerful women in the world.

At 65, Alakija is said to have a net worth of 1.73 billion dollars after investing in the oil industry. She is the vice chair of a Nigerian oil exploration company, Famfa oil, that is in one of Nigeria’s largest deep water oil discoveries.


Africa's top three most powerful women 2016

Billionaire Folorunsho Alakija, Africa’s richest woman.

Alikija’s net worth however, has fallen due to the low global oil prices.


International Women's day: Africa's top 6 most powerful women

International Women’s day: Africa’s top 6 most powerful women

According to Forbes, the top five most powerful women in the world include  Germany’s Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton Presidential candidate in the United States, Chair at the Federal Reserve in the United States Janet Yellen, Melinda Gates the Cochair at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and fifthly, Mary Barra the CEO of General Motors in the United States.

For International Women’s Day 2017, the world has been urged to #BeBoldForChange. People have been asked to call on the masses or call on themselves to help forge a better working world- a more inclusive, gender equal world.


About Emerald Mandela 1560 Articles
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