INTRODUCING FORBES AFRICA’S 50 OVER 50 LIST – OUR FIRST- EVER COMPILATION OF 50 WOMEN OVER THE AGE OF 50 SCALING NEWER HEIGHTS AND INSPIRING THE NEXT CADRE OF LEADERSHIP ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT. AGE IS JUST A NUMBER FOR THEM AND RETIREMENT NOT AN OPTION OR THE END OF THE ROAD, AS THEY CONTINUE TO POWER THEIR WAY INTO HISTORY BOOKS AND THE HEARTS OF AFRICANS. FROM BUSINESS TYCOONS TO TECHNOCRATS, FOUNDERS TO C-SUITE EXECUTIVES, AND ACTIVISTS TO ENTERTAINERS, THEY HAVE BROKEN BARRIERS THROUGHOUT THEIR IMPACTFUL CAREERS, AND TAKEN UP SPACES TO ENSURE OTHERS HAVE A VOICE IN THOSE VERY SPACES AND BEYOND. READ ON: THE SENIOR-MOST CHANGE-MAKER ON THIS LIST IS 98 AND STILL UNSTOPPABLE!
By Chanel Retief, Lillian Roberts and Marie Shabaya
– With inputs from West Africa by Peace Hyde
We are in 2023 talking about mainstreaming electric cars, virtual reality, drone deliveries and space travel.
Sure, NASA is talking about landing a woman on the moon by 2024, but back on earth, gender disparity is still a norm, a discussion point, an unfinished business. As it has been for a long time And sadly, as reports suggest, as it will remain.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022 states that the gender gap globally has been closed by 68.1%, but at the current rate of progress, it will take another 132 years to reach full parity.
The statistics speak. But so do generations of women wanting the needle to move, faster.
Although no country has yet achieved full gender parity, the top 10 economies have closed at least 80% of their gender gaps, with Iceland (90.8%) leading the global ranking. The only sub-Saharan African countries to make the top 10 in narrowing the gender gap are Rwanda (81.1%, 6th) and Namibia (80.7%, 8th).
In an analysis by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), their gender parity index (GPI) report showed that 30 (66.67%) countries have increased gender parity while 15 (33.33%) have decreased gender parity. For ACCORD, this is an average increase for the continent when comparing the gender gap between 2013 and 2021.
But even with these figures, the reality is that women in Africa make a sizeable contribution to the continent’s informal and formal economies. The African Development Bank (AfDB) in its Empowering African Women report states that women on the continent are “more economically active as farmers and entrepreneurs than women in any other region of the world. It is the women who grow most of Africa’s food, and who own one-third of all businesses”.
But yet, the well-entrenched stereotypes and conditioning have been hard to break.
Says Nonkululeko Gobodo, Chief Executive Officer at AWAKENED Global and better known as South Africa’s first black female chartered accountant, in an interview with FORBES AFRICA: “Because these topics [racial and gender inequalities] are so embedded in history, we are so confused by this history that has defined who black people are and who women are that we’ve been unable to break free from [them]. I call them myths, because whatever people believe about women
or black people are just really myths that were created.”
Milestones were hard won, particularly for this generation that had to also look past historical hardships, as they powered on.
“My parents lost everything, including all their life savings because they were on the Biafran side,” Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first woman and first African to lead the World Trade Organization as Director-General, said in FORBES AFRICA’s December 2020-January 2021 issue when she won African of the Year. “I was eating one meal a day and children were dying. So, I learned to live very frugally. I often say I can sleep on a mud floor as well as a feathered bed and be very comfortable. It has made me someone who can do without things in life because of what we went through.”
The AfDB report shows that while African women work 50% longer hours than men, the pay gap between men and women is still very wide.
But this has not swayed the fairer sex to give up on their goals.
“I am in full of admiration for women all over the African continent,” Okonjo-Iweala said at the 2021 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit for the closing keynote address. “Our priorities for African governments make sure girls are in school getting an education.”
Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, wrote in her column for FORBES AFRICA’s 10th anniversary issue in 2021: “Woman leaders, particularly young women, when given space to share their creativity, will show how to build societies able to overcome any crisis and to unleash the potential of all.”
“I’ve always viewed myself not as a woman but as a human being,” Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, renowned South African AIDS researcher, tells us. “And what is it that I want to contribute to leaving the world as a better place. And what is it that I can do to enhance our lives and ensure a sustainable future.”
This is what spells success for these 50 powerhouses on our 50 Over 50 list.
Each of them has taken the time to ensure a foundation has already been built for their successors to further build on.
In 2020, at the helm of a new decade, FORBES WOMAN AFRICA ran a list of Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women; those challenging the status quo and paving the way where there was none.
There are many formidable personalities from that list you will find on these pages too; from Wendy Luhabe to Wendy Appelbaum to Wendy Ackerman and Angélique Kidjo to Arunma Oteh to Amina J Mohammed, you will find them here, amongst several new names too from across the African continent.
“There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise,” says Louisa Mojela, the CEO of WIPHOLD in South Africa, aptly.
No matter their work in entrepreneurship, entertainment, investment, activism or philanthropy, this 2023 edition is a befitting list of respected change-makers to honor International Woman’s Day on March 8 (which is also when the eighth instalment of the FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit will be held in Pretoria, South Africa).
“I think everyday should be a day celebrating women and what women achieve,” says Wendy Ackerman, Founder and Honorary Life President of Pick n Pay Stores.
“Because everyday is a miracle what we do achieve. I watch my daughters and I watch the other women around me. In the company, I’ve watched how women have risen through the ranks, and educated themselves while working. I really believe that we should all celebrate women, and protect them.”
Here’s presenting Africa’s inter-generational female champions.
Editor’s Note: The list follows no particular order
|Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka||67||South Africa||Chair, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Advisory Committee on Human Rights|
|Nolitha Fakude||55||South Africa||President, Minerals Council South Africa and Group Director, Anglo-American plc|
|Dr Helena Ndume||62||Namibia||Head, Ophthalmology Department at Windhoek Central Hospital|
|Tsitsi Dangarembga||63||Zimbabwe||Author, Playwright and Filmmaker|
|Juliet Ehimuan||50+||Nigeria||Country Director, GoogleChief Justice Martha Koome|
|Chief Justice Martha Koome||63||Kenya||15th Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya, President of the Supreme Court of Kenya|
|Dr Victoria Kisyombe||50+||Tanzania||Founder and CEO, Selfina|
|Dr Agnes Kalibata||50+||Rwanda||President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Policymaker and Agricultural Scientist|
|Folorunso Alakija||71||Nigeria||Managing Director, Rose of Sharon Group|
|Louise Mushikiwabo||62||Rwanda||Secretary General, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie|
|Dr Matshidiso Moeti||69||Botswana||Regional Director, World Health Organization Africa||
|Wendy Luhabe||65||South Africa||Social Entrepreneur|
|Arunma Oteh||50+||Nigeria||Chair, Royal African Society, Former Treasurer and Vice President of the World Bank|
|Nomhle Maggie Mliswa||58||Zimbabwe||CEO, Summerhill Farms|
|Graça Machel||77||Mozambique-South Africa||Founder and Chair of the Board for the Graça Machel Trust, Co-founder and Deputy Chair, The Elders|
|Irene Charnley||62||South Africa||Chair, Gibela Rail Transport Consortium|
|Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita||62||South Africa||Chair, Standard Bank Group and Standard Bank of South Africa|
|Alda Salomão||50+||Mozambique||Environmental Lawyer, Human Rights Activist, Land Specialist|
|Olajumoke Adenowo||54||Nigeria||Founder, AD Consulting|
|Zipporah Kittony||80||Kenya||Former Chairperson, Maendeleo ya Wanawake and Veteran Politician|
|Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala||68||Nigeria||Director-General, World Trade Organization|
|Grace Onyango||98||Kenya||Veteran Female Politician|
|Dr Frannie Léautier||50+||Tanzania||CEO, SouthBridge Investments|
|Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa||52||South Africa||CEO, Naspers South Africa|
|Amina J Mohammed||61||Nigeria||Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations|
|Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe||58||South Africa||Co-Founder and CEO, Motsepe Foundation and Founder and Executive Chair, African Fashion International|
|Connie Ferguson||52||South Africa||Actress, Filmmaker and Co-Founder, Ferguson Films|
|Wendy Ackerman||60+||South Africa||Founder and Honorary Life President, Pick n Pay Stores|
|Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim||63||South Africa||President, UNESCO-TWAS, Professor in Clinical Epidemiology, Columbia University and Vice-Chancellor for African Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal|
|Jennifer Karina||64||Kenya||Board and Governance Expert, Founder and CEO, Anchor Relationship Network|
|Ellen Johnson Sirleaf||84||Liberia||First Female President of Liberia, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate|
|Flora Mutahi||50+||Kenya||Founder and CEO, Melvin Marsh International|
|Ibukun Awosika||61||Nigeria||Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The Chair Centre Group|
|Lydia Nsekera||55||Burundi||Chair, International Olympic Committee for Gender Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion|
|Magda Wierzycka||54||South Africa||Founder and Executive Chairperson, Sygnia|
|Judy Dlamini||63||South Africa||Founder and Chairperson, Mbekani Group|
|Dr Jennifer Riria||50+||Kenya||Veteran Women’s Rights Campaigner, Founder and CEO, Echo Network Africa|
|Catherine Wijnberg||64||South Africa||Founder, Fetola|
|Nonkululeko Gobodo||62||South Africa||Co-Founder, SNG Grant Thornton|
|Louisa Mojela||60+||South Africa||Co-Founder, WIPHOLD|
|Thuli Madonsela||60||South Africa||Advocate and Professor of Law|
|Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch||75||Kenya||Former Judge of the High Court of Kenya and Presiding Judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague|
|Wendy Appelbaum||62||South Africa||Entrepreneur, Founder, DeMorgenzon Wine Estate|
|Nokugcina Elsie Mhlophe||64||South Africa||Storyteller, Writer, Playwright, Director|
|Chileshe Kapwepwe||64||Zambia||Secretary General, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)|
|Professor Glenda Gray||60||South Africa||President, South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)|
|Connie Chiume||70||South Africa||Actress and Filmmaker||
|Angélique Kidjo||62||Benin||Five-Time Grammy Winner, Singer-Songwriter, Actress and Activist|
|Rebecca Enonchong||55||Cameroon||Founder and CEO, AppsTech||
|Yvonne Chaka Chaka||57||South Africa||Singer, Songwriter, Actress, Entrepreneur and Humanitarian|