Home » 10 powerful and influential North African businesswomen you need to know

10 powerful and influential North African businesswomen you need to know

by Mfonobong Nsehe
Pakinam Kafafi

Women in North Africa have been defying the odds and breaking barriers in the business world. Today, they lead some of the largest companies in the region, creating value for society while creating wealth for themselves and investors.

These women are pioneers in sectors ranging from finance to mining and agri-food, and they are making their mark not only in North Africa but internationally as well.

In a region where women have historically been excluded from decision-making positions, these businesswomen are setting an example for the next generation of female leaders.

Despite facing numerous challenges, businesswomen like Dalia El-Baz, Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch, and Pakinam Kafafi have achieved great success, and they continue to inspire others to do even greater things.

Their impact extends beyond the business world, as they have played a key role in the growth and development of their region in the past few years.

From creating jobs and economic opportunities to advocating for women’s rights and education, these women are making a difference in their communities.

In this article, we will highlight 10 of the most powerful businesswomen from North Africa that you should know.

#1 Dalia El-Baz

Nationality: Egyptian

Dalia El-Baz is a leading Egyptian businesswoman and executive, with a remarkable career spanning 28 years in the banking sector.

She joined the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) in 2008 as head of the operational risk management group, rising to the position of chief operating officer in December 2015.

El-Baz’s dedication and expertise led to her appointment to the bank’s executive committee in 2016. In September 2017, she made history by becoming the first woman to hold the position of executive deputy chairman of NBE, the largest bank in Egypt in terms of assets.

#2 Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch

Nationality: Moroccan

Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch is a highly accomplished Moroccan businesswoman, renowned for her exceptional leadership skills and business acumen.

She is the founder and CEO of AKSAL Group, a prominent retail company established in 2004, which boasts more than 1,130 employees.

AKSAL Group is the exclusive franchisee for 45 top-tier brands, including Zara, Gucci, Armani, and Fendi, making it one of the leading retail companies in Morocco.

Salwa’s outstanding achievements have earned her international recognition, and she is widely regarded as one of Africa’s most successful billionaires.

Notably, she is also the wife of Aziz Akhannouch, Morocco’s prime minister and richest man.

#3 Pakinam Kafafi

Nationality: Egyptian

Pakinam Kafafi began her career in finance and banking at EFG-Hermes in the mid-1990s, where she eventually became vice president in 2000. She later transitioned to the oil and energy sector, joining Gas & Energy Group (GENCO) as the strategy and investment general manager in 2003.

Following the acquisition of GENCO by Citadel Group and its subsequent merger with TAQA Arabia, Kafafi remained in her role and was eventually appointed as the company’s CEO in April 2013.

Under her leadership, TAQA Arabia expanded its business through the acquisition and merger of various gas distribution firms, including BG, ENI, Edison, and AMEC.

Kafafi also spearheaded the company’s diversification strategy into power generation and distribution, as well as its entry into the renewable energy market.

#4 Farida Guerfi

Nationality: Algerian

Farida Guerfi is a successful businesswoman who manages MSL Council, an Accounting and Advisory firm, and FAC, an Algerian-Canadian audit and consulting company.

She chose finance to pursue her dream of entrepreneurship and her strategy of dedicated hard work has paid off.

Throughout her career, she has held various positions of responsibility in public companies across different industries, including finance and accounting director and audit director.

In 2007, she won the AOCPA trophy and has since held the position of deputy assistant secretary-general for Algeria. 

Guerfi is also an international expert in accounting standards and holds the IAS IFRS diploma issued by the American Academy of Beirut.

She is presently the president of SEVE, the businesswomen’s association of Algeria, and an executive member of the Algerian National Council of Statistics.

#5 Leila Belkhiria Jaber

Nationality: Tunisian

Leila Belkhiria Jaber is an accomplished businesswoman who has been an Executive Board member of CNFCE from 2002 to 2012 and president since 2017.

She is the CEO and co-founder of Stelfair Tunisia, a pioneering organization in the field of e-marketing and web design since 1996.

Belkhiria Jaber has been instrumental in developing strategies for gender-equal opportunities, women’s entrepreneurship, and access to decision-making positions.

She was named Woman of the Decade in Business and Leadership in 2019 and was awarded the Female Entrepreneur of the Year in the ICT sector in 2015 and 2008.

She was also honored by the president of Tunisia and named commander of the republic in 2019.

#6 Rita Maria Zniber

Nationality: Moroccan

Rita Maria Zniber With more than 40 years of experience, Moroccan businesswoman Rita Maria Zniber came 33rd on the list.

She is the chairwoman and CEO of Diana Holding, which operates in the food and beverage sector.

Diana Holding has a “diverse business portfolio,” indicated the statement, explaining that the company’s business activities include agriculture, plastics, olive growing, and sea products, as well as, distribution, and retail.

#7 Rawya Mansour

Nationality: Egyptian

Rawya Mansour is an accomplished businesswoman and a proud descendant of one of Egypt’s oldest families, representing an illustrious legacy. In 1999, she founded RAMSCO for Refined Architecture and Interior Design, and in 2007, she expanded her business operations by starting RAMSCO for Trade and Distribution.

In 2012, she established the Organic Agriculture for Social International Solidarity in Monaco, further demonstrating her commitment to business excellence and her dedication to both her family and her industry.

Mansour is an inspiration to many, representing a modern success story of a woman who has defied the odds and made her mark in Egyptian business.

#8 Lamia Tazi 

Nationality: Moroccan

Lamia Tazi is a Moroccan businesswoman and the country’s leading pharma tycoon. She joined Marocaine Ste de Therapeutique (Sothema), a 100-percent Moroccan pharmaceutical company, in 1997, where she now serves as chairwoman and CEO, managing more than 1,000 staff.

Under her leadership, Sothema has become Morocco’s leading healthcare company, producing over 60 million pharmaceutical products a year, working with 35 global laboratories, and selling its products across Europe, the Maghreb, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Persian Gulf.

In addition to her roles at Sothema, Tazi is the chairwoman of the Omar TAZI Foundation and a general board member at Azerys, an agricultural and natural resources company

#9 Hafida Cheick

Nationality: Algerian

Hafida Cheick is a highly successful businesswoman in the construction sector, having begun her career in Saudi Arabia in 1995 as a public relations officer for a private company.

She then worked as a personal assistant in the Foreign Ministry’s cabinet from 2004 to 2007 before going on to lead the Department of International Cooperation at Petroleum Sonatrach.

In 2012, Cheick founded her own company, Ouali Corporation, specializing in truck transport.

In 2015, she expanded her business to include the trade of raw materials for construction products, such as cement, insulation, carpentry, and partition materials.

#10 Olfa Marsaoui

Nationality: Tunisian

Olfa Marsaoui is a highly accomplished businesswoman who comes from a distinguished family of experts in the manufacturing and sales of gold.

After graduating from the prestigious Institut superieur de Gestion de Tunis with a degree in computer science management, she joined forces with her father and grandfather to expand the family’s gold business.

Marsaoui is presently spearheading the growth of the company to include luxury gifts and crystal silverware.

In addition to being a member of the executive board of the CNFCE, she is also an active member of the Rotary Club of Notre Dame.

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