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Africa is often viewed as a destitute region consumed by war, famine and disease. These are all very real facts and we are not here to minimise their severity. However, we do want to shed some light on the immense potential that some of these countries are showing. And this potential is in part due to the sheer force and determination of African women (over 520 million on the continent!) We all know that women are born fighters. They fight for their rights, for their children and for their future.
From a 20-year-old who manufactures bikes with Ghanaian bamboo, to a Rwandan businesswoman who created a mobile tech empire, here are the top five women in Africa to keep an eye on!
Ndidi O. Nwuneli
Ndidi has an impressive background. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA (with Honours) in Multinational and Strategic Management from Wharton.
After working as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, she joined and became a Partner at Sahel Capital, a private equity and advisory firm focused on the West African agribusiness sector. She is also Co-Founder of AACE Foods, an agro processing company. In the midst of this exceptional career, Ndidi managed to fulfil her passion of promoting entrepreneurship in Africa by establishing LEAP Africa in 2002, which is a leading non-profit organisation focused on leadership and ethics. Nwuneli received a National Honour from the President of Nigeria and was recognized as one of 20 Young Powerful African Women by Forbes in 2011. What else is there to say!
Magatte has a very international background. She was born in Senegal, educated in France, and started her entrepreneurial career in the US.
After recruiting finance professionals for Silicon Valley startups in the 1990s, she launched her first company, Adina World Beverages. Based on indigenous Senegalese beverage recipes, the company became one of the most widely distributed US brands, with points of sales in Whole Foods Market, Wegmans and United Natural Foods.
In 2009, after raising additional VC funding, Magatte left Adina to launch her second company, Tiossan. It offers skin care products based on ancient Senegalese recipes, sold online and at high-end boutiques. Magatte was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos and is a mentor for the MIT Legatum Center for Entrepreneurship and Development. Hats off!
Winifred is the Founder and CEO of Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative. A recent graduate of the Joy Standard College, she launched her organisation in 2010, at the age of 15. She then followed with Afrocentric Bamboo Limited (the profit arm) in 2013. Her company manufactures and markets bicycles made from bamboo, using the bamboo fibre material (often taken for granted in Ghana) in a smart way by adding value to it. The bicycles are sold locally for US$100 to US$150, and internationally for about US$250, as the materials used for foreign markets need to be compatible with all types of weather.
Winifred was a finalist at the 2014 Cartier Women’s Initiative Award. If she has already achieved all of this at age 20, we are eager to see what she will deliver next!
Teresa is the founder and leader of Econet Education, a system that reduces the cost of textbooks for students by working with producers to distribute ebooks via tablets.
She previously worked at Google on its Education team and partnered with the Emerging Markets Outreach team to provide free open source education materials to emerging markets.
In 2013, she joined Econet Wireless as the youngest executive, where she created her project baptised Econet Education. Since then, Teresa has launched three education services (Econet Zero, EcoSchool and EcoSchool Academy) in Zimbabwe, with further aims for international expansion. We are eager to learn more!
Clarisse is the CEO of Kigali-based mobile tech company HeHe Limited, which builds mobile solutions for the government and Rwanda’s main mobile network. She studied Computer Engineering and Information Technology at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.
Her drive? Find viable solutions to provide relevant information to Rwandans. After receiving the People’s Choice Award, she won a US$50 000 grant from Inspire Africa, a Rwandan TV entrepreneurial contest, in 2010. At that stage, she was ready to start building an empire. Could Kigali be the next tech hub? Let’s wait and see!
This article was originally published on SeedStars World Blog with the title ‘Women Entrepreneurs Around The World Chapter 1: Africa’. It was republished with the author’s permission.