7 of the Most Powerful Women in Africa

There are strong and amazing women in Africa who are leading the way with their power and influence. Not only are these women tearing down barriers, but they are also transforming industries, regulations, and views.

Their stories inspire, their accomplishments astound, and their perseverance pave the road for a brighter future on the continent. From boardrooms to political arenas, these extraordinary women are rewriting the continent’s story.

NewsofAfrica examines these extraordinary women and the wonderful things they are doing for Africa.

1. Hon. Emma Theofelus (Namibia)

Emma Inamutila Theofelus is Africa’s and Namibia’s youngest female government minister. Theofelus serves on the National Council of Higher Education’s board of directors as the deputy minister of Information, Communication, and Technology, ICT.

Former youth activist Theofelus served as deputy speaker of the Children’s Parliament from 2013 until 2018. Since her appointment as minister, Theofelus has directed public communication on COVID-19 prevention measures in Namibia.

As a Member of Parliament, she also facilitated the designation of feminine hygiene products as a tax-free commodity through a motion.


2. Graça Machel (Mozambique, South Africa)

Machel is the widow of former Mozambican President Samora Machel and former South African President Nelson Mandela. She is the only woman in modern history to have held the positions of First Lady of both South Africa and Mozambique.

She is well-known for her advocacy for subjects ranging from health to children’s rights, education, leadership, and economic development.

Machel is the founder of the Graca Machel Trust and a member of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), a group of ten eminent individuals that work for equitable and sustainable development in Africa at the highest levels.


3. Hajer Sharief (Libya)

As a peace and human rights activist, Hajer Sharief co-founded the nonprofit Together We Build It (TWBI). Sharief is a Tripoli Law School graduate who founded her organization in response to the carnage of Libya’s civil war.

She was named one of the United Nations Women’s 12 Champions for Women, Peace and Security, and Human Rights. She is a full-time war survivor who believes that politics should be a way of life for everyone.


4. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria)

Ngozi Okono-Iweala is the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Director-General. She is the World Trade Organization’s first female and African Director-General.

She serves on the boards of many organizations, including Danone, Standard Chartered Bank, MINDS: Mandela Institute for Development Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, One Campaign, and GAVI: Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

Ngozi worked as a development economist for the World Bank for 25 years. She was also Nigeria’s Finance Minister twice, leading negotiations with the Paris Club that resulted in the cancellation of $30 billion in national debt.


5. Sahle-Work Zedwe (Ethiopia)

The Federal Parliamentary Assembly unanimously elected Sahle as Ethiopia’s president. As Ethiopia’s first female president, Sahle was rated the world’s 96th most powerful woman and the highest-ranking African woman on Forbes’ list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

Sahle was also an ambassador for both the communist People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Ethiopia’s post-civil war Transitional Government. Sahle, an Ethiopian foreign service veteran, has served as Ambassador to Senegal, Djibouti, and France.


6. Lupita Nyong’o (Kenya)

Lupita Nyong’o is a Kenyan-Mexican actress who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s drama 12 Years a Slave. The film sparked a movement of self-acceptance and celebration of one’s individuality.

Nyong’o speaks passionately about her dark skin and has used her platform and voice to promote inclusive beauty norms. The Kenyan actress is also an outspoken advocate for sexual harassment prevention and women’s and animal rights.

Sulwe, her children’s novel, became a New York Times Best-Seller.


7. Aya Chebbi (Tunisia)

Chebbi rose to prominence after joining others in calling for political reform in Tunisia. She is said to have used social media to inspire change and to have founded several platforms that promote intergenerational leadership in Africa.

Afresist, a youth leadership program and multimedia platform recording youth work in Africa, and the Youth Programme of Holistic Empowerment Mentoring (Y-PHEM), which coaches Africa’s next generation of social activists, are two of her efforts.

Chebbi, the African Union’s youngest diplomat, has worked with young people in over 65 nations around the world.

Written by PH

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