Top Women in Business in Africa

When we tick boxes, we are not putting labels. We are actively celebrating the women who take the mantle of leadership not because they are women but despite it.

Celebrating their achievements means that there is someone that made it – made things happen for herself and others. 

It tells girls that they have a role model and that they can touch the skies because women are there already breaking the glass ceilings!

So, here we are celebrating this diversity of thought and sheer tenacity: 

 

Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi

(Source: UN: Damilola Odufuwa. Photo by Aisha Ife and Odunayo Eweniyi. Photo by Anny Robert)

Damilola Odufuwa and Odunayo Eweniyi are young entrepreneurs from Nigeria. Both made it to TIME’s Next 100 list in 2021 and Bloomberg’s 50 list of people who changed global business in 2020.

And they used their hard-earned privilege wisely! 

Focusing on political participation of women in Nigeria, women’s rights and safety and economic empowerment, Odufuwa and Eweniyi created the Feminist Coalition in 2020. The organisation famously supported the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria in 2020 and held a food drive for low-income women and families.

Eweniyi believes that putting “structures in place” will help in “driving meaningful change” with Odufuwa echoeing the same, adding that “willingness to unlearn biases and listening to constructive feedback” will effect change.

 

Folorunsho Alakija – Nigeria

(Source: Twitter/@alakijaofficial)

Folorunsho Alakija is a Nigerian billionaire and philanthropist. She started her journey in 1974 as a secretary at Sijuade Enterprises and switched to banking soon after. She then took a plunge in the fashion world and has now entered the oil industry. Folorunsho is the owner of Famfa Oil Limited with a mission on leading indigenous oil and gas exploration as a production company in Nigeria. 

Folorunsho has promoted Nigeria in the world of fashion and style. She is also a trustee in the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN). She also founded The Rose Of Sharon Foundation, which has programmes that provide educational opportunities and financial independence to widows and orphans.  

 

Julian Adyeri Omalla – Uganda

(Source: delightug)

Founder of Delight Uganda Limited, Julian Adyeri Omalla, also known as Mama Cheers, is considered among the top female entrepreneurs in Uganda. The brand is known for its fruit drink ‘Cheers’. She was awarded as the Commonwealth Entrepreneur of the Year 2013. 

She won the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)’s Empretec Women in Business award for inclusive business model in 2020, recognising her for work in mobilizing and engaging more than 500,000 vulnerable female farmers to grow their produce in orchards, intercropped with short-term seasonal crops for financial income along with sustainability. She also diversified her investments which began with drinking water and later grew to include baking, among other things.

 

Mosunmola Abudu – Nigeria

(Source: ebonylifetv)

Mosunmola Abudu is a celebrated Nigerian filmmaker and broadcaster. She moved to Nigeria from the United Kingdom and worked in different firms before founding the EbonyLife TV, the first global Pan-African television network in 2013. In 2015, Forbes named her “Africa’s Most Successful Woman”. Acutely aware of the fact that the continent has often been viewed from a western lens, she actively built a brand that went on to become “a voice for Africa by Africans.” 

As per The Guardian, less than a year into going live, her EbonyLife TV, was already ranking among the top most-watched channels on the DStv platform.

 

Sibongile Sambo – South Africa

(Source: CNN Travel)

Widely considered a trailblazer leader in aviation, Sibongile Sambo is the founder and managing director of SRS Aviation, the first ever 100% black woman-owned aviation company in South Africa. She is also a board member of Commercial Aerospace Manufacturing Association of South Africa (CAMASA). Interestingly, she wanted to be a flight attendant but ended up starting her own aviation company.  

SRS Aviation offers personalized services including cargo, medical evacuation services, game count, tourist and luxury flights and helicopter to countries around the globe. 

In her interview to bizcommunity in 2020, she recounted how her mother and aunt invested their pension money into her business and her company won the first contract involving flying strategic cargo for government. 

In 2006, she won the Black Woman in Business Award (BIBA) in London and has been named “Leader of Tomorrow” by Fortune Magazine, among other accolades. 

 

Tabitha Karanja – Kenya

Source: TabithaKaranja/Twitter

Kenyan entrepreneur, businesswoman, and industrialist, Tabitha Karanja in 1997 founded Keroche Breweries, the first such large brewery in the country owned by a non-multinational company. 

This territory has been dominated by East African Breweries Limited (EABL), an international company, for about 90 years. 

Her endeavour is marked by resilience in the Kenyan market which embraced her beer brand Summit. 

In 2010, she was honored by President Mwai Kibaki with the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (M.B.S.) Award. 

 

Adenike Ogunlesi – Nigeria

(Source: Nigeria Hall of Fame Records/Facebook)

A Nigerian fashion entrepreneur, designer, manufacturer, and retailer, Adenike Ogunlesi is the founder and CEO Of Ruff ‘N’ Tumble, which was the result of her discovery about the Nigerian local market that children’s clothing was imported, poorly made and was extremely expensive. 

From selling the clothes at bazaars, local markets and even from the boot of her car, she later expanded with more tailors, opening her flagship store in 2000. She won the Diamond Woman at Diamond Band Awards, Creativity and Excellence at Nigeria Entrepreneur Awards and Business Woman of the Year at CNBC Africa in 2014, among other accolades. 

She is serving as an advisory board member at the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) and is a founding member as well as the first president of the Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW) in the Nigeria Employer’s Consultative Association (NECA).

 

But these superwomen are just few of many, many others on the continent! 

There are prominent African entrepreneurs such as Carmen Tal, Bridgette Radebe, Khanyi Dhlomo, Hajia Bola Shagaya, Yasmin Belo-Osagie, and Afua Osei, among others and they are extraordinary examples of women in business and their sheer determination. 

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