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Explore Africa

20 Modern African Women Leaders Who Are Opening New Trails For Women

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African women leaders are working in all spheres of life. Leadership in Africa has been male-dominated for centuries. However, that does not mean there have not been transformative female leaders in the picture too. Africa is a growing continent. It is experiencing social, cultural, political and economic growth, in which iconic African women have made and continue to make a significant contribution. These women have changed the narrative of African women taking the backseat by empowering fellow women, men, and children.

Many African women today are taking active roles in the different areas of life, politics the economy, name it. All that is owed to transformational African women leaders who challenged the status quo and opened the way for others to follow.

African Women Leaders

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Liberia

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is one of the great African women leaders have been democratically elected as Liberia’s 24th president. That is not all. Ellen entered history books as being the first female president of the African continent.

Her struggle for peace and democracy for her country led to her being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in 2011. Ellen has since made many accomplishments while in government by boosting her country’s economy, security and international relations.

Ellen has been passionate about leadership and was very aggressive in fighting corruption and nepotism in the government when she was appointed the minister of finance.

One of her major accomplishments was erasing nearly $5 billion in crippling foreign debt after just three years of being in office, paving the way for foreign investment and boosting the annual government budget from $80 million to $516 million.

 

Joice Mujuru has done an impressive job for her country. The great African woman leader deputized Robert Mugabe by being the vice president of Zimbabwe between years 2004-2014. During her time in government, she was able to serve in different ministries including Women’s affairs where she played an active role in ensuring that the women in her country were empowered.

Joice is one of the women leaders that were able to get into the male-dominated scene at a young age of 25. One of her major accomplishments was protecting her country while in the army which saw her rise to the ranks of a member of general staff in the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army.

Aja Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang – Gambia

Aja Fatoumata has served as the Vice president of Gambia. This strong African woman has played an active role in the fight for human rights, more so, women’s rights. She was also in the forefront of fighting Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorial regime which saw the country’s citizens gain back their freedom of expression and association.

Sophia Abdi Noor – Kenya

African Women Leaders

Coming from a marginalized community in Kenya where women had no much power, Sophia Abdi Noor impressed many. Against all the odds, she managed to beat her male counterpart making her the first female elected Member of Parliament from the region. Since then she has tirelessly been fighting for the rights of women in marginalized communities: this has seen her win international awards related to women empowerment.

Diane Shima Rwigara – Rwanda

Diane Rigwara is one of the African women leaders who is very vocal when it comes to women’s rights. Rigwara has tirelessly fought against bad governance, oppression and many other forms of injustices despite the constant intimidation by the government. Her dreams of running for president has encountered all sorts of resistance including being accused of indecency.

Mbali Ntuli – South Africa

Mbali Ntuli is one of Africa’s youngest femaleleaders having ventured into politics at a very young age back at her University. Her political efforts saw her being elected as a ward Councillor. Like many other African women leaders, she faced a lot of violence and intimidation, but that did not stop her from making the political scene friendly for women.

Alengot Oromait – Uganda

Alengot Oromait is one of the youngest African women leaders more so, in the political scene that is very passionate about health policy, the environment, and gender issues. She has been recognized by Forbes as Top 20 Power Women in Africa.  She became legislator at age 19, making her the youngest in African history. Alengot rose out of the obscurity after her father, Michael Oromait, died of hypertension on the morning of Saturday July 21, 2016.  She succeeded him as MP for Usuk County. She beat eight other candidates vying for the seat, earning more than double the votes of the nearest runner-up.

Saara Kuugongelwa-Ahmadhila – Namibia

Saara Kuugongelwa-Ahmadhila is the current Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia. She also doubles up as the only female head of government of Africa. You should not get confused because her counterpart in Ethiopia (below) is the only head of State in Africa. She entered into politics when she received an appointment as the Director General of the National Planning Commission at the age of 27 in 1995. The Right Honorable also served as a minister for finance in 2003.

Sahle-Work Zewde – Ethiopia

Sahle-Work Zewde recently entered the rank of transformational African women leaders by being the only female head of state in Africa currently. This iconic African woman looks to change the view of the political scene. She shows the world that any gender can occupy any leadership position. She also looks to empower women to set foot in the political scene. Zewde was also the first woman to receive an appointment to head the United Nations Office to the African Union.

Joyce Hilda Banda – Malawi

Joyce Banda was the president of Malawi from 2012 to 2014. She founded and led the People’s Party in 2011. Prior to becoming the fourth president of Malawi she was the immediate former vice-president of the country. For these reasons, Banda broke two important records in Malawi and Africa of serving as the first female vice-president and president. Her leadership and contributions to the development of her country and Africa is immense. this is because she also served ministerial positions, as a philanthropic and activist.

Louise Mushikiwabo – Rwanda

Louise is an African woman leader that is doing great things. One of her achievements is her role as secretary general of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF). She has successfully done the job of bringing together 58 countries and regional governments hence ensuring that there is a peaceful coexistence among the people. Previously, she was the Foreign Affairs and Cooperation minister. Before that, she was the minister of information. Additionally, she also served as the Rwandan Government Spokesperson.

Ngozi Okonji-Iweala – Nigeria

Ngozi Okonjo is one of the African women leaders that is making a difference in the modern world. This transformational leader is looking to make the digital environment, especially twitter safer and healthier for the over 300 million users being in the board directors. Among her other accomplishments is holding several positions at the World Bank. Previously, she served as finance minister for two terms in Nigeria.

Fatma Samoura – Senegal

Fatma proves to the world that every job can be done by any gender. She is the highest-ranking women in the  Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) governing body. She is the first woman to attain the rank in FIFA as secretary-general, and is doing a great job which has, in turn, motivated even the younger women to achieve goals that previously proved impossible. She features in this list due to her immense recognition worldwide. Forbes named her as number one in the Most Powerful Women in International Sports in 2018. Additionally, the BBC recognized her as one of their 100 women.

Amina Mohammed – Nigeria

Economic and Social Council: Operational Activities for Development Segment ~ Opening Session ~ DSG

Amina has served in the top ranks in the United Nations. Her job is to ensure that the African child, both boy and girl have everything they need to make their dreams come true. Before taking up the UN job, Amina served as Minister of Environment of Nigeria. She also previously worked closely with the president of Nigeria to realize the Millennium Development Goals. Her contributions to African leadership and development is immense and spans many years.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma- South Africa

Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma is a South Africa politician and apartheid activist. She has served as government minister in many dockets including the current Minister in the Presidency for the National Planning Commission for Policy and Evaluation. Popularly known as NDZ, Nkosazana served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under president Mandela, Mbeki and Motlanthe. When her former husband of 16 years Zuma took over as president, he moved her to Home Affairs. She has served in the AU and harbored dreams of un-sitting Zuma as the President of the National Congress. this dream was put on hold by Cyril Ramaphosa.

Martha Karua – Kenya

Martha Karua

Martha Karua

Martha Karua is known as the “Iron Lady” of Kenya due to her no-nonsense approach to leadership, politics and activism. She is one of the pioneer female legislators in the East Africa leading economy. As a lawyer by profession, Karua has made immense contributions to family law in Kenya. She came to political limelight in 1992 when she was first elected as member of parliament for Gichugu constituency. During her time in politics, she served as a minister in the ministries of Justice and Constitutional Affairs as well as Water Resources Management. Her last attempts at presidency and later gubernatorial positions were unsuccessful. However, she remains a force to reckon with in Kenyan politics.

Winnie Byanyima – Uganda

Winnie Byanyima

Winnie Byanyima is one of the African women leaders that are relentlessly fighting for human and women’s rights. Her fight against poverty is inspirational too. As a result of her competencies, she has been serving as the executive director of Oxfam International which is a global humanitarian relief organization. Previously, the served as a member of parliament in Uganda for 11 years. Additionally, she has the capacity to professionally shift gears from diplomacy, aeronautical engineering and politics.

Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka- South Africa

Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka looks to use her post as the Executive Director of UN Women. One of the major achievements is serving as South Africa’s deputy president. She leads in efforts of fighting for gender parity in politics, equality and equal pay for women.

Samia Suluhu Hassan-Tanzania

African Women Leaders

Samia Suluhu Hassan is the very first and only vice-president in Tanzania. She is the second vice president in East Africa after Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe who served between 1994 and 2003 in Uganda. She was the running mate of John Pombe Magufuli who clinched the presidency in 2015. Previously, she served as the member of parliament representing Makunduchi Constituency. In addition to this, Samia also served as a minister in various dockets in Zanzibar and Tanzania.

Hanna Tetteh – Ghana

Hanna Tetteh has served in many government positions in Ghana. The peak of her achievements was her appointment in 2013 as Minister of Foreign Affairs by President Dramani Mahama. Additionally, she has a background in law and therefore well versed in her duties. She is also perfect in showing the world the leadership material she possesses. For these reasons, she is a darling to the public in Ghana.

Africa is proud of the female leaders above; they have made an enormous difference and played a significant role in challenging stereotypes around women.

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Business and Development

Sustainable Growers Rwanda Improving The Livelihood Of Female Coffee Farmers

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Sustainable Growers Rwanda (SG-R) is a local non-profit. The organization is offering training to low-income female coffee farmers to improve their livelihood. Majority of the low coffee yields are due to wrong farm practices. Some of the farming techniques SG-R are teaching the female farmers are mulching and timely application of fertilizers and pesticides.

The program SG-R is teaching the female coffee farmers has topics like cooperative management, agricultural practices, governance and leadership, home coffee roasting, and gender mainstreaming. The training happened in the Huye District of Rwanda. The female coffee farmers were also trained in quality control and cupping. These are necessary to increase their access to bigger markets. The Regional Director at Sustainable Growers, Christine Condo, said,

“We have a heavy agenda to enrich women’s potential with skills and means. Their focus and discipline inspire me greatly. These initiatives impact positively on the entire life-cycle of their respective families and Communities. We believe that 60 percent of coffee quality is achieved from the farm. That is why we have been training them to take care of coffee from seedlings to roasting, to cupping and marketing.”

Impact of the training to female coffee farmers

Sustainable Growers Rwanda is training female coffee farmers

A lot of Rwandan female coffee farmers are already reaping the benefits of the training. For example, Prisca Mukamurenzi has been suffering from low yield. The 46-year-old female coffee farmer used to harvest one kilogram of coffee from one tree. However, since attending the training, her fortune has changed for the better.

Mukamurenzi was one of the graduates of the SG-R training program comprising of about 3700 female coffee farmers. In attendance were farmers from the districts of Nyamagabe, Gisagara, Nyaruguru, and Huye. Last year Mukamurenzi was able to generate Rwf460,000 (approx. $510) from 250 kg of coffee. She also increased the coffee trees in her garden from 185 to 250.

To ensure the farmers implemented what they learned, SG-R also developed a reward scheme. The reward scheme called “Wakoze neza Muhinzi”, Premium Sharing Rewards was worth Rwf17 million (approx. $19,000). Depending on their level of performance, the women were rewarded with phones, radios, fabrics (ibitenge), mattresses, solar lights, pruning saws, pruning shears, sprayers, goats, pigs, and cows.

About Sustainable Growers Rwanda

Sustainable Growers Rwanda started its training in Nyaruguru District three years ago. However, the training has spread to other districts in the past years. The aim of their training is to improve the quality and prices of coffee as well as enhance transparency in coffee trading. Female coffee farmers in Nyaruguru are now reaping 100 percent increase in yield.

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Business and Development

Tanzanian Government Wants Visitors To Accept This Minor Inconvenience

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Plastic accumulation is becoming a menace around the globe. Marine life often consumes these plastics which eventually get into humans. Many countries around the world are exploring alternatives to plastic use. However, Tanzania is the latest country to officially place a ban on the use of plastic bags. The ban will take effect from the 1st of June 2019. On Thursday 16th of May 2019, the government released a statement titled “Notice To Travelers Planning To Visit Tanzania” which read in part,

“The Government of Tanzania wishes to make an official note to travelers planning to travel to Tanzania that from 1st June 2019 all plastic bags, regardless of their thickness will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in mainland Tanzania.”

Consequently, the government is planning to set up a special desk at entry points to ensure total compliance. With the announcement, Tanzania joins about thirteen other African countries that have either introduced levy or banned plastic bags. However, the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa is calling on plastic bag manufacturers to find alternative technologies for bags.

The problem with plastic bags and exceptions to the ban

Tanzania bans plastic waste

The major problem with plastic bags is the length of time it takes to decay. Some researchers are speculating it can take up to 1,000 years. Consequently, their accumulation can lead to flooding when they block drainages. Also, they can prevent rainwater from penetrating the soil leading to low crop yield.

However, the government understands the importance of plastic in packaging and makes exceptions for a few. According to the statement, plastics or plastic packaging for sanitary and waste management, foodstuff, agricultural sector, construction industry, industrial products, and medical services are exceptions to the ban. “Ziplo Bags” used for carrying toiletries are also permitted for travelers since they are unlikely to be disposed of in the country. Another part of the statement reads,

“The government does not intend for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban. However, the government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from this plastic bags ban.”

Commendations for the new law

The international community is sending their message of congratulations to the Tanzanian government for the historic move. One of such messages came from Dr. Amani Ngusaru, the WWF Country Director. Ngusaru lauded the move as a boost to environmental and natural resources protection.

“Plastic is a number one polluter of environment and a silent killer of our natural environment and resources than most people understand. This is because it takes more than a hundred years for a single plastic bag to decay. We are happy that Tanzania is among the very few African countries to ban the use of plastic bags and we will work hard toward supporting the government in the fight against plastic pollution”.

Other African countries with a plastic control

In 2007, Uganda placed a ban on lightweight plastic bag. However, the ban was never implemented. In August 2018, Kenya introduced a total ban on the use of plastics. Consequently, those using plastics illegally in Kenya risk 4 years in prison or a fine of $40,000. Also, it is illegal to import, produce, use, or sell plastic bags in Rwanda. Currently, there are over 40 countries around the globe that banned, restrict or tax the use of plastics including Italy, France, and China.

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Reaching Out

Nigeria Makes This Touching Gesture To Help Alleviate Malawi’s Devastation From Cyclone Idai

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Nigeria is popular as the giant of Africa for the ‘big brother’ role the country play. The federal government of Nigeria on Monday 13th of May 2019 extended a brotherly hand to the government of Malawi by donating 30,000 tonnes of drugs, medical equipment, insecticide-treated nets as well as $500,000 cash. This was Nigeria’s way of sympathizing with the country which was recently hit by Cyclone Idai.

Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister of Foreign Affairs led the Nigerian Government delegation that delivered the relief materials to Mr. Nicholas Dausi, the Malawi Minister of Homeland Security and Disaster Management Affairs. Speaking during the presentation, Onyeama said a misfortune to any African nation affects Nigeria.

“We share this burden and the loss with you in this country. When the hurricane happened, Nigeria was conducting the election. [However], President Buhari instructed us that as quickly as possible we had to mobilize resources to bring to this country. We mobilized over 8,000 medical items, equipment to assist and also cash donation of 500,000 U.S dollars.

Delivery of Nigeria’s donations will take a while

Onyeama further extended President Muhammadu Buhari’s condolence to the people of Malawi. Cyclone Idai led to the death of many with an estimated 86,000 displaced from their homes. Apparently, 30,000 tonnes of items is a lot. However, according to Onyeama, it will take Nigeria a maximum of two weeks to deliver all the items.

“The amount is huge, 30,000 tonnes of items, which will be transported to Malawi in the next one or two weeks maximum. Some of our big transporters C130 will deliver the equipment may be in two trips but we sent some of the equipment with a small plane, for this occasion. Please, accept our deepest sympathy and the statistics are very disturbing…with some deaths and injuries.”

Malawi’s benefits beyond the material donation

Mr. Dausi thanked the government of Nigeria for assistance. According to him, the materials will go a long way to help the victims. Consequently, Mr. Dausi also said there were 67 camps housing the victims of the disaster.

“On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Malawi and the people… across 67 camps in the disaster and over 886,000 people affected, I want to sincerely express our deep thanks for your thoughtfulness.”

However, this is not the first time Nigeria will be assisting Malawi. According to the minister, Malawi has benefited from Nigeria in education as well as human support during the struggle to end apartheid. Consequently, the Malawian Minister congratulated President Buhari for his reelection. This is a gesture worth emulating by other African nations.

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