BY Beulah Osueke, 12:00am September 08, 2011,

Foundations for the Future; Powerful Women in Africa

Based on an article originally published by, below is a listing of nine powerful women who are making strides for themselves, their countries and women across the globe. 


Foundations for the Future; Powerful Women in AfricaEllen Johnson-Sirleaf: President, Republic of Liberia

In 2005, Johnson Sirleaf was elected as the first female president of Liberia, she was also the first female president in all of Africa. One of her greatest accomplishments, while in office, has been reducing Liberia’s national debt from $4.9 billion. Her administration found success in negotiating for debt relief from international creditors. In June 2010 the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund waived Liberia’s $4.9 billion foreign debt. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has also limited excess borrowing by restricting annual borrowing to 3% of GDP and also by limiting the spending of borrowed funds to infrastructure projects. 


Foundations for the Future; Powerful Women in Africa


Wangari Mathaai: Founder, Greenbelt Movement

Kenyan environmental and political activist Mathaai founded the Greenbelt Movement in 1977. Greenbelt Movement is a non-governmental organization committed to environmental conservation and women’s rights. In 2004, Mathaai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her contributions towards sustainable environmental development, democracy and peace.


Foundations for the Future; Powerful Women in Africa

Dr. Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala: Managing Director, World Bank

Before she became the Managing Director for the World Bank, Okonjo-Iweala was the first woman to hold the positions of both Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria from June 2006 to August 2006, and Minister of Finance and Economy of Nigeria from July 2003 to June 2006. Okonjo-Iweala had a pivotal role in negotiating a deal with the Paris Club, a group of bilateral creditors, to pay a portion of Nigeria’s $12 billion external debts in return for receiving an $18 billion debt write-off. Demonstrating her commitment to business in Africa, Okonjo-Iweala co-founded the Makeda Fund which is a $50 million private equity fund that invests in women-owned businesses.


Foundations for the Future; Powerful Women in AfricaNonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita: CEO, ArcelorMittal South-Africa

In 2008 Nyembezi-Heita acquired the position of CEO of ArcelorMittal South Africa which is a unit of global giant ArcelorMittal and the continent’s largest steelmaker. 
Diezani Allison-Madueke: Minister of Petroleum Resources

In 2010, Allison-Madueke was appointed Nigeria’s first female petroleum resources minister. With the opportunity presented her in this position, Allison-Madueke is urging for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill which will provide for increased indigenous participation in Nigeria’s upstream industry.


Foundations for the Future; Powerful Women in Africa


Siza Mzimela- CEO South-African Airways

Mzimela  graduated from being a South African Airways research analyst in January 1996 to becoming the first woman to assume the CEO position in February 2010. Mzimela is also a board member of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.






Foundations for the Future; Powerful Women in Africa


Isabel Dos Santos: Businesswoman

As the eldest daughter of Angola’s President, Dos Santos began in business by taking advantage of her father’s influence to gain state contracts at the age of 24. Dos Santos is now a millionaire with solid interests in oil and diamonds. In 2010, Dos Santos acquired a 10 percent stake in the Portuguese media conglomerate, Zon Multimedia.






Foundations for the Future; Powerful Women in Africa


Mamphele Ramphele: CEO, Circle Capital Partners

Ramphelee, a former anti-apartheid activist, was described in Forbes as one of Africa’s most prominent venture capitalists and Boardroom gurus. She served as the managing director of the World Bank from May 2000 to July 200. She was the first South African to hold the position. In this role, Ramphele was responsible for managing the institution’s human development activities in the areas of education, social protection, health, nutrition and population.





Foundations for the Future; Powerful Women in AfricaBridgette Radebe: Chairman, Mmakau Mining

Radebe is known as the first black South African to become a mining entrepreneur. She started mining in the late 1980s and went on to establish “Mmakau”- a successful mining company with interests in platinum, coal, chrome and gold mines. Radebe is the president of the South African Mining Development Association and is credited with participation in the design of the South African Mining Charter.




These women’s claims to success range dynamically and illustrate the variety in which it is possible to gain power, influence and wealth as an African woman. The present actions of women such as these are laying the foundation for generations of strong women to come. Girls are taking note of the brave pioneering moves of these women and embedding in their heads a message of hope and daring to dream about their own fate when their time for shine comes.

In a land where women are treated as having no voice or control, these women have taken their destiny into their own hands and are steering road of success and accomplishment.

Encouragement and motivation do not sufficiently describe the fire that these women are placing in the hearts of their fellow women. The sturdy path that these women are carving is one that will be travelled down for years to come by women who not only dream but women who know when it’s time to wake up and bring these dreams to fruition.

Last Edited by: Updated: June 19, 2018


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