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The top 10 African women in government you should know

by Ishioma Emi

Gender parity in government has been a major challenge in African politics. A problem deeply rooted in the continent’s indigenous cultures, religions and traditions is the relegation of women to the background. 

However, in recent years, African governments have intensified efforts to ensure gender inclusiveness in government, as they strive to catch up with the UN 2030 Gender Parity goals.

According to a report, women are facing a barrage of challenges underpinned by entrenched sexism, be it a dearth of opportunity, lack of economic support, or outright prejudice.

Nevertheless, women occupied 24 percent of Africa’s 12,113 parliamentary seats in the upper and lower houses in 2020, up nine percent in 2000.

Below is a selected list of some of the top 10 women in African governments as of 2021 worth knowing:

#1 Sahle-Work Zewde (Ethiopia)

Designation: President

Sahle-Work Zewde is an experienced diplomat and the first female head of state in Ethiopia’s modern history. 

She was a UN special representative to the African Union and head of the UN Office to the African Union — the first woman in the role. She was previously director-general of the UN Office in Nairobi and held a range of diplomatic posts, including Ethiopia’s ambassador to France and Djibouti.

#2 Samia Suluhu Hassan (Tanzania)

Designation: President

Samia Suluhu Hassan is Tanzania’s sixth and current president. She is the first female head of state in Tanzania and a member of the ruling social-democrat Chama Cha Mapinduzi party. 

She took office in March following the untimely death of President John Magufuli.

#3 Jessica Rose Epel Alupo (Uganda)

Designation: Vice President

Jessica Rose Epel Alupo, commonly known as Jessica Alupo, is the ninth and current vice president of Uganda. She has been in the role since 2021. She is a Ugandan politician, educator and former military officer. The 47-year-old previously served in the cabinet as an education minister between 2011 and 2016.

#4 Mariam Chabi Talata (Benin Republic)

Designation: Vice President

Mariam Chabi Talata Zime Yerima is a Beninese politician. She is the vice president of Benin after being elected in the 2021 Beninese presidential election as the running mate of President Patrice Talon.

Talata is one of the founding members of the Progressive Union Party and also the first female vice president of the National Assembly.

#5 Anne Waiguru  (Kenya)

Designation: Governor

Anne Mumbi Waiguru is the second governor of Kirinyaga County in Kenya. She assumed office on Aug. 22, 2017.

Previously, she served as the first cabinet secretary in the Devolution and Planning  Ministry. Waiguru is the first of only three female governors in Kenya. She served as the first female vice-chair of the Council of Governors between December 2017 and January 2019.

#6 Patricia De Lille (South Africa)

Designation: Cabinet Minister

Patricia de Lille is a South African politician, who is the current public works and infrastructure minister and leader of the Good political party. She was previously mayor of Cape Town from 2011 to 2018 and Western Cape provincial minister of social development from 2010 to 2011

#7 Clare Akamanzi (Rwanda)

Designation: Cabinet Minister

Clare Akamanzi is an international trade and investment lawyer, CEO of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and member of the Rwandan cabinet. Prior to these roles, she served as the head of strategy and policy for President Paul Kagame and as COO of the RDB for more than seven years.

#8 Dagmawit Moges Bekele (Ethiopia)

Designation: Cabinet Minister

Dagmawit Moges Bekele is a 37-year-old Ethiopian politician serving as the transport minister of Ethiopia since October 2018. She once served as deputy mayor and the head of the Communication Affairs Bureau of the Addis Ababa City Administration.

#9 Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe  (Nigeria)

Designation: Deputy Governor of Kaduna State

Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe is a Nigerian politician and the deputy governor of Kaduna State in Nigeria. She is the state’s first female deputy governor. She was elected in the 2019 Nigerian general elections in February under the ruling APC political party.

On Oct. 15, 2019, as acting governor, she presented the 2020 budget to the Kaduna State House of Assembly, thereby becoming the first woman in Northern Nigeria to do so.

#10 Pauline Kedem Tallen (Nigeria)

Designation: Cabinet Minister

Pauline Kedem Tallen is Nigeria’s women affairs minister. She made history to become the first deputy governor of Plateau State and the first woman to be a deputy governor in northern Nigeria in 1999. 

She was appointed minister in 2019 by President Muhammad Buhari after turning down an ambassadorial nomination in 2015. She refused the nomination on the grounds that she was not consulted prior to the announcement. She also stated that she would not accept the offer for equal distribution of power among the three senatorial districts of her native state of Plateau because she is from the same local government as Governor Simon Lalong.

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