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Historically, women have had fewer opportunities to participate in the economy than men. This may largely be the result of their untapped market potential. The McKinsey Global Institute estimated that the female economy is the world’s largest emerging market, set to add $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025. Much of that will likely be contributed by the women entrepreneurs of the world.
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2018/2019 Report indicated that roughly 252 million women entrepreneurs and another 153 million are running established businesses. The highest rate for total entrepreneurial activity by women was found in sub-Saharan Africa (21.8 percent). Yet, as the African Development Bank estimated, these entrepreneurial-minded women have struggled to grow their businesses thanks to a $20 billion financing gap—a gap many organizations are working to address.
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Below—in the first of our three-part series, Rising Women, Africa Series—Global Group Media spotlights dozens of women in Africa who are thriving and influencing developments in the areas of politics, socio-economic development, health, education, technology, finance, and culture.
[A note from Oni Aningo, Executive Director and Founder, Global Group Media and Creator, Rising Women Series: In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, this article is dedicated to the late Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, the Nigerian physician and health advocate who diagnosed and contained Nigeria’s first-ever Ebola patient in July 2014. After losing her life to the disease, Ameyo’s family established the DRASA Trust to ensure Nigeria developed a strong health care system to prevent, detect, and contain infectious diseases.]
Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC),The Hague, Netherlands: Gambian lawyer Bensouda lives and breathes justice. As the ICC’s chief prosecutor, she has focused on prosecuting war criminals, especially those who’ve raped and exploited women and children.
Amina Maina, Group COO, MRS Holdings Ltd, Nigeria: An experienced professional of the oil and gas industry, Maina oversees all trading, supply, and operations of this Pan-African conglomerate operating in six countries.
Adesuwa Okunbo-Rhodes, Founder and Managing Director, Aruwa Capital, Nigeria: Okunbo-Rhodes‘ private equity firm launched a $20 million co-investment vehicle for Africa. The firm operates one of the few gender lens funds investing in Africa seeking strong financial returns while having a positive and scalable impact on women.
Fatma Alloo, Community Activist, Author, Founder Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA) Tanzania, and Founder of Pan-African–The African Women's Development and Communication Network: A social activist, Alloo is also a community activist, author, and founder of Pan-African, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET).
Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senior Special Advisor to the President on, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's), Nigeria: The former Deputy-Governor of Lagos State and Commissioner for Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Orelope-Adefulire is an accomplished politician. Currently, she works to fast-track the implementation of the country’s sustainable development goals.
Deola Sagoe, Founder, House of Deola, Nigeria: Called “the Leading Lady of African Haute Couture,” Sagoe has been a fashion influencer for over 30 years.
Titilope Olubisi Ejimagwa, 5 Star Director Longrich Africa, Nigeria: The first black five-star director in the region, Ejimagwa is an experienced businesswoman with 20 years in the network marketing industry.
Viola Llewellyn, Co-Founder and President, Ovamba, Cameroon and USA: Llewellyn’s company provides short-term capital to micro, small, and medium-sized businesses in Africa, emerging markets, and the GCC for trade, inventory purchases, and growth. Ovamba has distributed over $20 million to businesses.
Sandra Locoh-Donou, Founder Finlo, Kenya: Created to finance small businesses in Africa and give them the tools necessary to scale, Finlo supports the most vulnerable African businesses, often owned and operated by women.
Carole Wamuyu Wainaina, Chief Operating Officer, Africa50, Kenya: Wainaina served as the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources before joining Africa50. An infrastructure investment platform, Africa50 focuses on high-impact national and regional projects, mostly in energy and transportation.
Ifeome I.Idigbe, Finance and Human Resource Consultant, Founder, boys to MEN Foundation, and founding Trustee and ex-Chairwoman Women in Management Business and Public service (WIMBIZ), Nigeria: A seasoned business advisor and analyst, Idigbe has over 30 years’ experience in banking, finance, human resource management, and general administration. Her foundation is dedicated to developing boys and men into responsible and ethical gentlemen.
Laureen Adams, Founder, Amara's Health Spa, Zimbabwe: Adams is a leader in the wellness entrepreneurship space, including product development. She is also an ambassador to Women in Africa, an initiative that supports women in business.
Hajiya Maryam Mairo Aminu Tambuwal, First Lady, Sokoto State, Nigeria: Tambuwal’s MMWAT Legacy Initiative is a humanitarian aid organization that aims to mobilize youth and care for the elderly, vulnerable, and women from all strata of society.
Dr. Ibilola Amao, Principal Consultant, Lonadek Global Services, United Kingdom and Nigeria: Amao created Lonadek from her passion for developing local content and to help women participate in business. Over the past 25 years, Lonadek has successfully empowered 98,000 in the STEM field.
Obiageli ‘Oby’ Ezekwesili, Richard von Weizacker Fellow, Robert Bosch Academy, Advocate for Bring Back Our Girls, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Nigeria: A former Federal Minister of Education, Ezekwesili served as Vice-President of the World Bank's Africa division, where she took charge of the bank’s operations in 48 countries including those in Sub-Sahara Africa and supervised a lending portfolio of over $40 billion.
Dr. Dorothy Jeff-Nnamani, CEO, Novo Health Africa, Nigeria: A mental health enthusiast, medical doctor, and entrepreneur, she has developed and pioneered successful initiatives targeted at providing accessible, affordable, and quality healthcare.
Nneka Aningo, Founder, NIA Fitness, Nigeria: Aningo is a fitness professional, fellow of the Institute of Registered Exercise Professionals (IREP), and an advocate for unapologetically strong women.
Dr. Yewande Austin, Founder and Executive Director, Change International, USA: Recognized as an international expert in strategic diversity leadership, social responsibility, and youth development (see video below), Austin is an award-winning lecturer, social activist and honorary U.S. Cultural Ambassador.
Awamary Lowe-Khan, Founder, Innovate Gambia, and The Women Boss, The Gambia: Lowe-Khan’s organization creates initiatives to help revitalize economic development in The Gambia region and to spark innovation for girls and women.
Faith Akovi Cooper, Humanitarian/Disaster Preparedness Practitioner, Country Director, International Rescue Committee, Liberia: Cooper works to strengthen West African countries’ capacities in disaster preparedness.
Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, Deputy Governor, Rivers State, Nigeria: The first female deputy governor in Rivers State, Banigo, a medical doctor, has held positions as Director of Public Health Services, Acting Commissioner, Director-General and Permanent Secretary in Nigeria.
Dr. Amy Jadesimi, CEO, Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL), Nigeria: As CEO, Jadesimi oversees the growth of West Africa's largest privately developed logistics and engineering facility operating in the first sustainable industrial-free zone.
Netsanet Fekadu Belay, Photographer, Ethiopia: Belay also has an academic background in experimental pharmacology.
Isioma I. Idigbe, Senior Associate, PUNUKA Attorneys & Solicitors, Nigeria: An advocate for the Nigerian media and entertainment industry, Idigbe has pioneered and hosted extensive media and entertainment law training sessions.
Benedicta Ogar, Founder, Citybee Services, Nigeria: Ogar runs a company involved in hospitality business set-up, staffing, and service training, as well as operations management.
Penda Cisse, Founder, Piment Bleu and Co-Lab, Cote d’Ivoire: A world-traveler as a child, Cisse moved to Cote d’Ivoire to open Piment Bleu, a communications agency and Co-Lab, a coworking space.
Mansata Kurang, Founder, VR Revival, United Kingdom: Kurang’s company created a virtual reality platform for people with dementia, allowing them to relive lost memories.
Kenza Bounjou, Partner, Dentons Sayarh & Menjra, Morocco: Bonjou is active in project finance, public-private partnerships, and banking and finance and has developed expertise on the legal and financial environment in Morocco and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ify Oke, Founder, Pregnant and Perfect along with Moms and Mamas, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia: Oke’s organizations are communities of over a million mothers and expectant mothers from 193 countries worldwide.
Morenike Molehin, Founder, Oak and Teak Interiors, Nigeria: Once a member of the corporate world (including ExxonMobil), Molehin opened a leading, full-service interior design and furniture-making company.
Fatoumata Ba, Board Chair, Investor, and Entrepreneur, Janngo, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire: Ba’s company is a female-led venture capital fund focused on companies with African women founders. The fund, which invests in women-led businesses or businesses benefiting women, has raised about $16.5 million from the European Investment Bank towards its goal of $65 million.
Yasmin Elnour, Architect, Artist, and Founder, Kandaka khronicles, Sudan: An artist working in digital collage, Elnour’s art reflects the modern Sudanese identity.
Helen Isibor-Epega, Singer-songwriter, composer, performance artist, Founding member Venus Bushfires and creator of Opera in Pidgin: An innovative artist, Isibor-Epega’s composed a unique opera which kept the strings and added African instruments to the beat.
Jaha Dukureh, CEO, Safe Hands for Girls, Anti-FGM Activist, United Nations for Women Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, The Gambia: A prominent women's right activist and anti-female genital mutilation campaigner, Dukureh was recently named L’Oréal’s newest international ambassador.
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