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Women who changed the face of business in Africa

08.03.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
For many years now, it is considered that the place of the woman is at home, taking care of the babies she makes, cooking, cleaning, washing and tending to her husband.
In some cases, the education of the girl child is considered as a taboo, and women are forbidden from doing the things men do. Over the past 60 years, women have proven that they can do better than just manage homes and care for children. Thanks to the enlightenment of the society and the fight for gender equality women are more involved in other matters in the societies they find themselves in.
Technological advancements have been very instrumental to women, as the creation of baby diapers and the artificial milk to substitute breast-milk has given women more time to tend to other occupations.

Some African women have proven their worth out of their homes, by becoming pilots, scientists, politicians and great businesswomen. Africa has the greatest number of female entrepreneurs in the world, for example, 46.4% of businesses in Ghana, and 41% in Nigeria according to MasterCard.

 Business women in Africa

Njeri Rionge

Njeri Rionge is a Kenyan businesswoman and entrepreneur who started out as a yogurt seller and hairdresser in her early twenties. She became the one of the first African women to invest in IT in 2000, after she co-founded Wananchi Online; East Africa’s largest first mass market internet service provider. Today, Wananchi Online is the leading broadband, cable and internet-based phone distributor in the region, worth over 150 million Dollars.

Over the years, Njeri Rionge created other successful businesses, such as Business Lounge; Kenya’s largest incubator for startup, Ignite Consulting for business consultancy, Insite; a flourishing digital marketing agency and Njeri Rionge Business Consultancy Inc.

Njeri Rionge has been able to find a balance between being an entrepreneur, a mother and wife.

Sibongile Sambo

The 45 years old woman is the first South African woman to penetrate the male-dominated aviation industry to own a 100% black aviation company in South Africa. She founded SRS Aviation Ltd, when she failed to meet the minimum height requirement to be a flight attendant with South Airways.

Her dream to be part of the aviation business did not end with her inability to become a flight attendant, as she decided to take the bold step and create her own company with her mother’s pension money, loans from her family memebers and the money she made after selling her car.

Her first flight was in 2004 when she was commissioned by the South Africa government. 15 years after, SRS Aviation Ltd offers professionalized and private aviation services, including tourist charter, helicopter and VIP Charter services to their South African and international clients worldwide.  SRS Aviation Ltd also provides maintenance, and fleet management services to private jet owners. One of her greatest dream is to inspire young women to join the aviation industry.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

She is that one African woman who has proven that humble beginnings are not a barrier to becoming a great entrepreneur. In 2005, she created SoleRebels, which turned out to be the fastest growing African footwear brand in the world and the first footwear brand from a developing country.

Born and raised in one of Ethiopia’s poorest communities, Bethlehem decided to create a company using her community’s artisan heritages. As a result she set out to creating eco-friendly footwear and in the process created jobs for the members of her community and nation as a whole. Today SoleRebels is an internationally recognized brand and has more than 18 stores in Africa, Europe and Asia.

SoleRebels is hailed as the “Nike” of Africa and through her hard work; Bethlehem has created hundreds of jobs for Ethiopians and the citizens of the countries where SoleRebels stores are found.

After SoleRebels, she also founded “The Republic of Leather” which creates luxurious leather goods out of recycled material, and “Garden of Coffee” which retails Ethiopian coffee.

It is worth noting that the 37 year old is married and a mother of 3.

Folorunsho Alakija

After realizing that being a secretary was not enough for her, Folorunsho Alakija quit her job to study fashion designing in England in the 80s. Few years later, she returned to Nigeria and established Supreme Stitches, a fashion label for the elite class, especially women.

She established an oil company in 1991, known today as Famfa Oil Limited; an oil exploitation business which is considered the main source of her wealth.

The 68 year old mother of 4 is also a philanthropist; she set up the “Rose of Sharon Foundation” to help widows and orphans in Nigeria.

Divine Ndhlukula

Zimbabwe’s richest woman, Divine Ndhlukula founded her security company; SECURICO in 1998. Before then, she worked as Accounting Officer for 6 years and then as a Marketing Executive for Intermarket Life Assurance for 16 years.

She started SECURICO in her cottage with just 4 employees, after identifying a need in the market for a quality oriented security company. She set out to create SECURICO which became the leading security company in the country.

Divine Ndhlukula has proven that women can thrive in a male dominated world as her company became the first to be certified under IOS9001:2008 Quality Management System.

Today SECURICO has over 3,400 employees; including more than 900 women. The company offers complete security services; uniformed armed officers, armored cars, onsite banking and electronic security systems among others.

These women have proven that with just the right push and motivation, women can succeed to play the roles of home manager and entrepreneur. They are also role models and a source of inspiration for upcoming female entrepreneur on the African continent.

Also, platforms like “Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneur Forum”, and the Africa CEO Forum; an international conference which brings together CEOs, investors, policy makers and international investors from the private sector, enables the flow of ideas and information geared at developing the business potentials of the continent. These forums also encourage and promote upcoming female entrepreneurs on the continent.

The 7th edition of the conference is planned to hold in Kigali, on the 25-26 March 2019, under the theme “Shaping the Future of Africa”

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit images : google images/africa powerfull women

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