05 Jul 2018 / Article

Exclusive list : 50 Influential women in business

The Africa Report, Jeune Afrique and the Africa CEO Forum assemble an exclusive list of the top African businesswomen who are shaping their sectors, helping a new generation of female leaders and improving their firms’ profitability

When Snowy Khoza was appointed executive chair of infrastructure company Bigen Africa Group in July 2016, nothing could have prepared her for what happened next. “The day I took office, 70% of the men resigned,” she recalled during the Women Initiative Panel at the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan in March. Even though she had earned her stripes as a leader, her skills were still questioned. “They had never been led by a woman, and a black woman for that matter,” she added.

Leading female business executives from across the continent gathered at the Groupe Jeune Afrique event to share strategies to bridge the gender leadership gap. Khoza’s experience is not unique; most female business leaders have encountered their share of gender-based prejudices in the workplace, not to mention the uphill battle required to get to the top.

From a low base, Africa has made considerable progress in recent years. Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa ranked in the top 10 worldwide for parliamentary gender equality on a 2017 United Nations (UN) list. Rwanda, which topped the list, has been praised globally for its decision to make female empowerment one of its keys to development. In 2008, the East African country became the first government in the world to have a majority of women in the legislature.

But while these strides cannot be overlooked, there is still a long way to go. According to the 2016 ‘Women Matter Africa’ report by consulting firm McKinsey & Co., ‘approximately half of women cabinet ministers hold social welfare portfolios, with arguably limited political influence, that do not open doors to top leadership roles.’

More women, More profit

The picture is not much brighter in the private sector. The number of female chief executives in Africa is above the 4% global average. But at only 5%, it is nothing to boast about. Companies need a strong pipeline of female talent – from the entry level to the highest ranks – and now just 29% of senior management roles in Africa are held by women.

Ibukun Awosika, chair of Nigeria’s First Bank and one of the 50 women influencers on our list, spoke of the loneliness at the top. “In my experience, the higher you get, the more alone you are. Lower down, there are more of us but not many of us will advance,” she shared at the 2017 Africa CEO Forum. This fact influenced her decision to join a group to address gender inequality in the workplace.

As studies have shown, most companies are missing out on the positive effect gender parity in leadership can have on their performance. There is a direct correlation between equal gender representation on corporate boards and better financial performance. And according to McKinsey’s report, the top 25% most gender-diverse African companies have earnings over 20% higher than their industry averages before interest and taxes.

In an International Finance Corporation (IFC) report entitled ‘Gender Diversity in Ghanaian Boardrooms’, Ronke-Amoni Ogunsulire, IFC’s Ghana country manager, concurs. She wrote that it is important to promote gender parity and increase participation of women on boards because it “adds value socially and economically and has the capacity to play a significant role in institutional capacity building and private-sector development”.

The UN estimates that gender inequality costs sub-Saharan Africa an average of $95bn annually and that equal participation of men and women in the economy could add as much as $28trn to the global annual gross domestic product by 2025. With these staggering figures, African leaders can no longer afford to put gender equality anywhere but at the top of their agendas.

Men spread the message

In April 2018 the UN Economic Commission on Africa, UN Women, the African Union Commission and the African Women Leaders Network launched a $500m fund that will invest in women-led companies over the next decade. This fund comes at a crucial time, as a global study of entrepreneurs has shown there is a significant funding gap, with female-led businesses receiving less than 3% of venture-capital funding.

And in all of this, men cannot be left out. Tonye Cole, co-founder of Nigeria’s Sahara Group, said that the other half of the population have an important role to play in advancing gender equality in the workplace. Speaking at the 2017 Africa CEO Forum, Cole announced his company’s commitment to hit a 40-60 female-male ratio on its board. Cole said women have “a sense of loyalty, a sense of dedication and a sense of trying to bring stability into the business”.

He also pledged to encourage other men to participate in the inaugural Women in Business Annual Leadership meeting, organised by the Africa CEO Forum in Paris on 2 and 3 July. The event will gather more than 200 women decision-­makers from the African public and private sectors.

Men can take concrete actions, too. Nigeria’s Sola David-Borha, now running Africa operations of the continent’s largest bank (see profile, page 60), recalled how, back in the 1990s, her then boss Atedo Peterside insisted he wanted women in senior leadership positions.

Developed in collaboration with sister magazine Jeune Afrique and the Africa CEO Forum, this year’s list of top 50 businesswomen in Africa puts a spotlight on icons, trailblazers and game-changers who are boldly scaling the heights of the corporate world. From young CEOs of multinationals to tycoons and seasoned executives, this year’s honorees are making their mark in different industries and continue to prove that talent and success have no gender.

Sola David-Borha
Nigeria
CEO: Africa, Standard Bank Group

David-Borha has a chance to show Western banks creeping out of Africa that they are making a serious strategic error. South Africa’s Standard Bank is aggressively pushing into francophone Africa, for example. It opened a bank in Côte
d’Ivoire in April of this year and is planning more in the region. “We seek to ensure that we can provide the full range of financial services to clients”, David-Borha told reporters, “compared to international competitors, who have a narrow corporate strategy.” But Standard Bank, too, wants to work with the continent’s corporate giants as they expand across the continent and further afield. David-Borha is a tough Nigerian banker schooled at Atedo Peterside’s NAL, the first merchant bank in Nigeria. When Peterside launched IBTC Chartered Bank, David-Borha joined at the start. This, she recalls, changed everything: “In IBTC, we actually had women in senior positions, so we were an outlier to the industry.”
When IBTC and Standard Bank’s Stanbic Bank Nigeria merged, the path was open. David-Borha was eventually made CEO at Stanbic IBTC, working at the position from 2012 to 2017. Success there cleared the way to her seat on the
board of Standard Bank Group in Johannesburg. She still had time to work as an associate pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, City of David parish.

BOLA ADESOLA
Nigeria
CEO, Standard Chartered Nigeria

With more than 25 years of banking experience, Adesola is the definition of a veteran banker. Prior to joining Standard Chartered as head of its Nigeria subsidiary in 2011, she worked at First Bank Nigeria and Citibank in Nigeria and Tanzania.
Adesola was recently appointed deputy chair of the board of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.

SALWA IDRISSI AKHANNOUCH
Morocco
CEO, Aksal Group

The influential entrepreneur and wife of Morocco’s agriculture minister, Aziz Akhannouch, is the founder and CEO of Aksal Group, a leading Moroccan company specialising in luxury goods, department stores and shopping malls. Aksal owns
a 50% stake in Casablanca’s Morocco Mall, one of Africa’s biggest shopping centres, where in October 2017 she launched her own beauty and cosmetics brand, Yan&One.

PATIENCE AKYIANU
Ghana
MD, Barclays Ghana

After five years at the helm of Barclays Bank Ghana as its first female leader, Akyianu will leave the institution in September 2018. She will take on the role of group CEO at insurance firm Hollard Ghana Holdings, parent company of Hollard Insurance Ghana and Hollard Life Assurance Ghana. Akyianu wants to help Hollard compete with the industry leaders, including the State Insurance Company, Star Assurance
and Enterprise Insurance.

FOLORUNSHO ALAKIJA
Nigeria
Deputy chair, Famfa Oil

Alakija is ranked the second-richest women on Forbes’ Africa Billionaires list, with an estimated net worth of $1.6bn as of January 2018. Her fortune mainly lies in Famfa Oil, an oil exploration company with a 60% stake in the deepwater Agbami oil field. Alakija has diversified her business into other fields, including publishing and fashion.

MAIDIE ARKUTU
Ghana
VP, Francophone Africa, Unilever

After a three-year stint as head of Unilever’s Ghana subsidiary, Arkutu became
the group’s vice-president for francophone Africa in January 2017. A trained marketer, her goal is to get more Omo washing powder and Lipton tea in consumers’ hands in Côte d’Ivoire and other major markets.

IBUKUN AWOSIKA
Nigeria
Chair, First Bank Nigeria

Awosika is the first female board chair of First Bank Nigeria. A multiple-award-winning entrepreneur, she is the founder and CEO of the Chair Centre Group, which comprises companies in retail, manufacturing and security system services. The Nigerian businesswoman is a fellow of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and the author of a Christian book, Business His Way.

 

SELMA BABBOU
Tunisia
Deputy MD, Amen Group

Babbou is an influential businesswoman and the deputy managing director of Amen Group. The third-largest con-
glomerate in Tunisia, it has more than 3,000 employees working in sectors including agribusiness, health and banking. A chartered accountant by profession, Babbou also sits on the board of directors of the Société Africaine de Crédit Automobile.

ABIOLA BAWUAH
Nigeria
Regional CEO, West Africa, UBA

In March, Bawuah was promoted to regional chief executive of United Bank for Africa, overseeing the bank’s businesses in six West African countries. Prior to her appointment she was head of the bank’s Ghanaian subsidiary, where she was credited for her stellar performance, recording 134% growth year-on-year in profit before tax.

MOSUN BELO-OLUSOGA
Nigeria
Chair, Access Bank

Belo-Olusoga has been board chair of Access Bank since July 2015, having joined the board in November 2007. With more than 30 years of banking experience to her name, she is widely recognised as a credit and risk-management expert. She was previously head of investment banking at GT Bank, and now sits as a non-executive director on several boards as well
as serving as the principal consultant for a boutique training company, KRC.

MIRIEM BENSALAH-CHAQROUN
Morocco
Director, Holmarcom Group

Bensalah-Chaqroun wears many hats, among them airline pilot, humanitarian and a serious golf player. But she is most known for her business prowess, managing one of the five largest industrial, commercial and financial companies in Morocco, Holmarcom Group. She is also the CEO of Les Eaux Minérales d’Oulmès, a leading water and bottling company listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange. She also headed the federation of Moroccan business owners for 6 years.

OUIDED BOUCHAMAOUI
Tunisia
Administrator, HGB Holding

Bouchamaoui was previously head of the Union Tunisienne de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de l’Artisanat (UTICA), an influential employer’s organisation representing more than 150,000 private companies across several business sectors. UTICA was one of four members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 ‘Jasmine Revolution’. She is an administrator at family conglomerate HGB Holding, which is active in a wide range of sectors including automobile, real estate and distribution.

IRENE CHARNLEY
South Africa
CEO, Smile Telecoms

The chief executive of Smile Telecoms is a born organiser. With a trade-union background, Charnley started in the world of business with the creation of the National Empowerment Consortium (NEC), a body aimed at empowering those who apartheid excluded from the commanding heights of the economy. The NEC then bought a 35% share of Johnnic Holdings – where Charnley was executive director – which in turn took a controlling stake in what became South Africa’s leading telecoms company, MTN, helping to drive its listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. And this commitment to sharing wealth has been constant. While at Johnnic, which is now called Times Media Group, she championed the Ikageng scheme, which turned 32,000 previously excluded South Africans into shareholders in Johnnic. And in 2002, Charnley led a R4bn ($3m) management and staff buy in to MTN. While commercial director of MTN, Charnley spearheaded the group’s expansion through Africa and beyond, anchoring the company’s reputation as the continent’s biggest telecoms player. The entry into Iran, however, did not come without controversy. MTN was accused by rival Turkcell of stealing its licence, something denied by MTN and Charnley.

A brief spell as the unpaid chair of the South African Broadcasting Corporation in 2009 – where she uncovered scandal after scandal – displayed her continued interest in public service. But it was not politics that Charnley pursued after stepping down as executive director at MTN in 2007. Instead, telecoms remains Charnley’s core passion: as chief executive of Smile Telecoms, Charnley has continued to push for expansion. Smile now claims one of the largest 4G networks in Africa, operating in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and soon in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

MARTINE HELENE COFFI-STUDER
Côte d’Ivoire
Chair, Bolloré Africa Logistics Côte d’Ivoire

Discreet, well-connected and effective, Coffi-Studer, a former communications minister in Côte d’Ivoire has the political touch that can often help get things done on the continent. Her recent victory in the courts in a dispute over a plot of land in the economic capital Abidjan – which had been seized by regime baron Adama Bictogo – is a case in point. Listened to by both President Alassane Ouattara and his frenemy Henri Konan Bédié, Coffi-Studer also has good international links, as chair of the Ivorian subsidiary of French transport giant Bolloré Africa Logistics since 2014. The firm is now building a new logistics hub on the grounds of Abidjan’s airport, which is part of a wider plan to create eight bases in strategic areas of the continent.
At Bolloré, she was vital in the ultimately successful fight to win the contract for a second terminal at the port in Abidjan. And within the Bolloré Group as a whole, she sits on several company boards. She was confirmed at Bolloré Côte d’Ivoire for another term in office in May of this year. Her expertise is solicited elsewhere, too: Coffi-Studer sits on the board of 10 other companies, often in an executive role. These include the Compagnie Ivoirienne de Production d’Electricité, a private power-producer that sits in the industrial zone of Port-Bouët. Armed with a degree in economics, she started out in advertising, creating Océan Ogilvy in 1988. The company is now present in more than 20 African countries.

YOLANDA CUBA
South Africa
CEO, Vodafone Ghana

Cuba is one of South Africa’s best-respected business leaders, who at only 29 years old was appointed CEO of Mvelapha nda Group, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed conglomerate founded by politician Tokyo Sexwale. She was appointed CEO of Vodafone Ghana in June 2016 and previously served as an executive director at South African Breweries, a subsidiary of multinational brewer SABMiller (now AB Inbev).

AÏDA DIARRA
Mali
VP Africa, Western Union

With an interest for business developed at an early age thanks to the help of boundary-pushing female forebears, Diarra has been at money-transfer company Western Union since 1999. Western Union is the dominant player in the sector, and Diarra told media that “new technologies and new channels” are her focus to keep the firm on top and to fend off a growing number of newer and more agile competitors. In 2016, she told Jeune Afrique that she has no plans to leave Western Union anytime soon because “Africa’s prospects are phenomenal.”

Nadia Fettah
Morocco
CEO, Saham Finances

The meteoric ascension of Nadia Fettah has surprised few who know her. From consultancy to insurance via an entrepreneurial interlude, Fettah has a reputation for efficiency and responsibility. In March 2017, she was made head of Moroccan insurance giant Saham Finances, as well as chair of Saham Assurance Maroc. She has made a client-centred approach her method for conquering markets. “In the past, insurers imported an old industry in its oldest form into the youngest continent,” she told Jeune Afrique. “But the African client has different needs to the European client.” One year later, South African insurance giant Sanlam bought Saham Finances, rocketing Fettah into the executive committee of Sanlam Emerging Markets, now part of business linking the continent from north to south. Fettah’s ambitions have grown with her responsibilities. For example, though Sanlam and Saham have combined, they remain a small player in two large markets, Nigeria and Kenya. “We can’t stay small in these two markets because we want to be credible,” Fettah told reporters.

LAURENCE DO REGO
Benin/France
Head of commercial banking, Ecobank

After pointing out serious financial problems under the leadership of former boss Thierry Tanoh, the accounting expert has now been entrusted with weeding out bad debts at Ecobank’s commercial banking division. The sector represents 19% of its loans, but 39% of its bad debts. The success of the bank’s wider turnaround strategy will depend greatly on her efforts.

HEND EL SHERBINI
Egypt
CEO, Integrated Diagnostics Holdings

Excelling in the fields of medicine and business, El Sherbini successfully listed the firm she founded, Integrated Diagnostics Holdings, on the London Stock Exchange in 2015. The initial public offering put a value on the firm, which provides diagnostic services in Egypt, Jordan and Sudan, at $668m. In late 2017, IDH partnered with Man Capital and the International Finance Corporation to buy Nigeria’s Echo-Scan. To succeed in business, she told reporters: “You have to have a lot of self-confidence.”

ADA EZE
Nigeria
Executive VP, West Africa, Total

One of the highest-ranking women in the African oil business, Ada Eze is managing French oil giant Total’s operations in the booming West African oil sector. Under the leadership of the company veteran, Total has taken aim at Guinea and Mauritania for new exploration projects. Eze is also chairman of Total Senegal, and the firm signed a deal for an ultra-deep offshore exploration block there in May of last year.

NADIA FASSI-FEHRI
Morocco
CEO, Inwi

The long-serving manager of royally owned firms launched a broadside in May against incumbent provider Maroc Telecom, suing it for disregarding government regulations on infrastructure sharing. Fassi-Fehri is overseeing more than $200m
per year in investment to challenge competitors Maroc Telecom and Orange, with a big focus on high-speed mobile internet to capture more revenue from the fast-growing data segment.

KATE FOTSO
Cameroon
MD, Telcar Cocoa

Fotso was half of a Cameroonian business power couple with the late André Fotso, who headed the country’s biggest business lobby. She runs Telcar, a joint venture with agribusiness giant Cargill, and the firm controls about one third of the local market for cocoa exports. She is a shareholder of Ecobank Cameroon and on the board of the Port Autonome de Kribi, Cameroon’s newest deepsea port.

 

GHISLANE GUEDIRA
Morocco
Executive VP, OCP

The financial engineering specialist is both the CFO and an executive VP at the continent’s top fertiliser producer. She has to make sure the money keeps on flowing where it needs to as OCP buys a 20% stake in Spain’s Fertinagro Biotech and makes progress on its planned $3.7bn in investments in Ethiopia, which has huge untapped agricultural potential. With experience at the state oil company and at a royal holding company, Guedira is helping Morocco Inc. to expand around the continent and beyond.

YVONNE IKE
Nigeria/UK
MD, SSA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

The former CEO for West Africa at Renaissance Capital and managing director at JP Morgan has more than two decades of high-level experience in the financial services business. Ike’s brief does not include South Africa, but she- could help the bank to review its Africa exposure after it lost an estimated $292m on a loan to South African investor Christo Wiese.

AMY JADESIMI
Nigeria
Chief executive, LADOL

Nigeria is emerging out of a big recession and oil prices are on the rise, which is good news for the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics base, which provides services to the oil industry. To seize these and new opportunities, Jadesimi is preparing to list the company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange within the next two years and to expand operations, especially on its 100ha free trade zone.

JANINE KACOU DIAGOU
Côte d’Ivoire
CEO, Groupe NSIA

Running francophone sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest insurance company is not enough for Diagou. In November 2017, she was
named chair of the former West African subidiaries of Nigeria’s Diamond Bank, which NSIA purchased. The daughter of NSIA’s founder, Diagou said that she used to be in her father’s shadow but will not be defined as ‘a daughter of’: “I make progress through the strength of my work and my results.” Investors, including the National Bank of Canada, want to see if NSIA can compete with its Moroccan and South African peers.

TABITHA KARANJA
Kenya
CEO, Keroche Breweries

Taking on the entrenched multinationals to create the only Kenyan-owned brewery is no small challenge. After a debut in fortified wine, Karanja launched Summit Lager, whose popularity allowed the company to build a $29m factory expansion at their Naivasha headquarters. Now producing 10m litres, the company will be able to produce 110m litres. But fighting local market leader East African Breweries, owned by global drinks giant Diageo, has proved tough. Distributors are unwilling to take on small producers like Keroche. But that did not stop Karanja from spotting a gap in the market for low-income drinkers, who often swallow cheap and dangerous homemade concoctions.

Recent years have been more of a strain, due in no small part to a sparring match with the tax authorities. But Karanja recently won her court battle with the Kenya Revenue Authoritiy and has now hired a new managing director, Sam Shollei, to run the brewery. Karanja is now mulling a regional expansion. “My dream is to see Keroche grow to the whole of Africa,” she told reporters.

GHITA LAHLOU
Morocco
Director, Saham Assurances, École Centrale Casablanca

The director of Saham Assurances, who heads its health and offshoring units, does not limit her energies to the insurance sector. She is the president of Les Citoyens, a civil society platform to promote stronger communities. She balances all of this with her responsibilities at the École Centrale Casablanca, an engineering school that was launched in 2015.

LIZÉ LAMBRECHTS
South Africa
CEO, Santam

The former chief executive of Sanlam Personal Finance runs South Africa’s top short-term insurer, which is owned by major insurance firm Sanlam. Sanlam and Santam both took big stakes in Morocco’s Saham this year, offering the opportunity to become much bigger players in other African markets.

SAIDA KARIM LAMRANI
Morocco
Executive VP, Holding Safari, Sofipar and Cofimar

The trained lawyer is making her way in the family business, which was founded by former prime minister Mohammed Karim Lamrani. Groupe Safari has holdings in many sectors, and she is the boss of SMEAI, a dealership that has the import rights for Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW and Mazda automobiles. She is on the board of the King’s foundation, Fondation
Mohammed V.

CATHERINE LESETEDI
Botswana
CEO, BIHL

The leader of one of Bostwana’s top financial services groups has a tough task ahead after its investment in microfinance institution Letshego proved less profit-bale than initially predicted. Lesetedi has been leading the company since 2016. BIHL reported double-digit growth in premiums in 2017, and meanwhile Lesetedi is lobbying government to work with and strengthen the local financial sector.

DELPHINE TRAORÉ MAIDOU
Burkina Faso
COO, Allianz Africa

Insurance industry expert Maidou is the eyes and ears of German financial services company Allianz. She served as CEO of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty from 2012 and became the firm’s Africa COO in 2017. Allianz has operations in 17 African countries and bought a majority stake in Nigeria’s Ensure Insurance in 2017.

ELISABETH MEDOU-BADANG
Cameroon
Director, Middle East and Africa, Orange

Medou-Badang has steadily climbed the ranks at the French telecom provider Orange. She became CEO of Orange Botswana in 2009 before returning to her home country in 2013 to head up Orange’s operations there. She was named director for the Middle East and Africa this year, a post she hopes to use to spread the digital and mobile-money revolutions even further.

JALILA MEZNI
Tunisia
CEO, Société d’Articles Hygiéniques (SAS Lilas)

Mezni shuns the spotlight, but her success in manufacturing personal care products has made her an influential member of the Tunisian business elite and she is one of the few women to run a listed company. SAH got a big boost in 2016 when the private equity firm Abraaj acquired a stake, promising to help Mezni expand operations into the West African market.
Mezni is now taking some of her fortune and investing it in the private education sector.

NICKY NEWTON-KING
South Africa
CEO, Johannesburg Stock Exchange

The CEO of the continent’s biggest stock market is busy defending her institution after recent financial scandals, including the meltdown of Steinhoff. With that and high-profile corruption cases, she says her focus is on winning people’s trust. In a recent op-ed she lamented: “We have become too sceptical of those in positions of authority […] to trust that anyone would act other than for their narrow self-interest.” She hopes that a turnaround in South Africa’s economy will soon lead to a slate of new listings.

ANTA BABACAR NGOM
Senegal
CEO, Sedima

The 33-year-old France and US-trained business executive is taking a family business with activities in poultry and real estate to new heights. She joined the company in 2009 and became its boss in January 2016. In that year Sedima ploughed $29m into two new factories, a flour mill and an abattoir. Sedima has operations in Mali, Equatorial Guinea and DRC, and aims to be a top West African agribusiness within a few years.

NONKULULEKO NYEMBEZI-HEITA
South Africa
CEO, IchorCoal

Nyembezi-Heita started her career as an engineer for IBM, but unleashed her full potential when she got into business. After her role as head of investment group Alliance Capital Management, she became CEO of ArcelorMittal South Africa, and now of IchorCoal. She is also chairman of the JSE and the first woman to chair the board of insurance company Alexander Forbes Group Holdings.

HUGUETTE OYINI
Gabon
Deputy MD, BGFIBank

After 14 years at BGFIBank, Oyini took over its second most important post, as deputy to Henri-Claude Oyima. She is in charge of the efficiency of the company’s subsidiaries, a pan-African mission considering that
the bank is active in seven African countries. She is also busy with digitalising the bank’s services, and the court case by e-Doley for using its mobile transfer technology.

MARIA LUISA PERDIGÃO-ABRANTES
Angola
Director, U.S.-Africa Business Center

The ex-wife of Angola’s former president José Eduardo dos Santos and former chair of its National Agency for Private Investment (ANIP), Perdigão-Abrantes still half-way between business and politics. In 2016 she was appointed a non-executive director of the U.S.-Africa Business Center, a US chamber of commerce programme to increase trade and investments across the Atlantic.

MARIA RAMOS
South Africa
Chief Executive, Absa Bank

Previously director general of the National Treasury of South Africa, Ramos took over the reins of Transnet in 2004. As chief executive, she restructured and partly privatised the state-owned transports company, before becoming CEO of Absa, which she is taking to the Nigerian Stock Exchange. She also serves on the board of luxury goods holding company Richemont.

HANIA SADEK
Egypt
COO, HSBC Bank Egypt

Sadek started her career as head of the IT department of HSBC Egypt in 1983, and climbed the ladder to the very top. Appointed COO in 2010, she is also an executive director of the bank. Her 35 years of banking experience and her deep understanding of the company makes her a powerful woman in Egypt’s finance landscape.

FELLENG SEKHA
South Africa
Head of regulatory affairs and public policy, MTN

After leaving her executive position at MTN in 2006, where she participated in MTN’s arrival on the Nigerian market, Sekha is back to work with the South African telecom company, with a new unit created specifically for the ICT law specialist. She had also been working as a deputy chairperson of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

GLORIA SEROBE
South Africa
Founder, executive director of Wiphold and CEO of Wipcapital

A member of various boards such as Sasol Mining and South African arms manufacturer Denel, Serobe is known for her contribution to the empowerment of black women. She founded Wiphold (Women Investment Portfolio Holdings) in 1994, which is majority black- and women-owned.

HEATHER SONN
South Africa
Chair, Steinhoff International

Sonn is the former Legae Securities CEO and president of the South African Association of Investors. In
2017 she was reappointed to Steinhoff ’s supervisory board in December as chairperson. She has since been busy dealing with the fraud scandal that hit the company in late 2017 and led to the resignation of its CEO, Markus Jooste.

MAMA TAJMOUATI
Morocco
CEO, Ynna Holding

At 81, Tajmouati is the most senior businesswoman on our list. In 2016 she inherited her husband’s empire, comprising more than 30 firms owned by Ynna Holding, of which she was already an active member. The company covers many sectors, such as real estate, construction, hotels, petrochemicals and retail, making its diversity the driver of its growth.

LAMIA TAZI
Morocco
Managing director, Sothema

Trained as a pharmacist, Lamia Tazi went on to head Sothema, the Moroccan pharmaceutical company founded by her father, Omar Tazi. She has restructured the company’s exports division, while supervising the Dakar factory and launching the production of cancer medications. She is also the new secretary general of the Moroccan pharmaceutical industry association.

BINTA TOURÉ NDOYE
Mali
Managing director, Oragroup

The Malian banker led the Malian and Togolese subsidiaries of Ecobank before arriving at Oragroup, owned by Emerging Capital Partners. Ndoye’s main goal is to amplify the bank’s growth and to widen its customer base from small and medium-size enterprises to individuals through the digitalisation of its services.

MARY VILAKAZI
South Africa
COO, FirstRand

In July Vilakazi assumed the role of COO of FirstRand, leaving her position as deputy CEO of MMI. The chartered accountant is the first female executive to join the bank’s board and will be responsible for internal audit, regulatory and enterprise risk management, as well as the group’s insurance and rest-of-Africa strategies.

SHARON WAPNICK
South Africa
Founding partner, Tugendhaft Wapnick Banchetti & Partners

Sharon Wapnick has built her empire both through her father’s wealth and her own hard work. A real-estate mogul, Alec Wapnick founded City Property, of which Wapnick is now a director. She is also the chair of Octodec Investments, a JSE- listed real estate investment trust, and an attorney and senior partner of TWB.

RITA MARIA ZNIBER
Morocco
CEO, Diana Holding

As CEO of the spirits and agribusiness company Diana Holding, Zniber started off strong, becoming the majority shareholder of French spirits company Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits. Her aim is to internationalise Morocco’s oldest wine and spirits company, while keeping the whole value chain, from production to distribution, under control.

 

Text written by Oheneba Ama Nti-Osei

Read more

09 Apr 2019 / Report

Expert presentation : New horizons in healthtech

03 Apr 2018 / Report

Expert presentation: Harnessing natural gas for economic value in Africa

27 Aug 2019 / Article

Healthtech: “Despite all the innovations, progress is still too slow”