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The 10 most distinguished African women on the international arena

For centuries, people of color — primarily Black Africans — have been marginalized on the world stage.



U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar.

For centuries, people of color — primarily Black Africans — have been marginalized on the world stage.

Until the mid-20th century, when nationalist voices first started to become amplified, they were mainly viewed as objects of slavery. Among those early nationalists were prominent women, including Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Margaret Ekpo and Yaa Asantewa.

Now decades later, Black African women working hard to solidify the legacies of these women through intelligent activism and prolific leadership. No longer needing to shatter the fragile glass ceiling of yesteryear, they are fighting to destroy today’s obsolete status quo.

Below is our list of 10 of the most distinguished African women on the global stage. The list is not all-inclusive: they were selected based on their track records, global impact and responsibilities.

#1 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria)

Designation: Director-General of the World Trade Organization 

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian-American economist who became the first woman and African to serve as director-general of the World Trade Organization.

She is a fair trade leader, environmental sustainability advocate, human welfare champion, sustainable finance expert and global development expert. 

Okonjo-Iweala was appointed as co-chair, alongside Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Lawrence Summers, of the high-level independent panel on financing the global commons for pandemic preparedness and response, which was established by the G20 early this year.

In July 2021, she joined the Multilateral Leaders Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccines, Therapeutics, and Diagnostics for Developing Countries, co-chaired by Tedros Adhanom and David Malpass.

#2 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia)

Designation: Former Liberian President

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a Liberian politician who served as the 24th president of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. She was the first elected female head of state in Africa. 

She won the Nobel Peace Prize given her consistent efforts to bring women into the peacekeeping process in 2011 and the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in 2017.

Internationally known as “Africa’s Iron Lady,” Sirleaf is a leading promoter of freedom, peace, justice, women’s empowerment and democratic rule. 

Last year, she founded the Amujae Initiative, which aims to shift the landscape for women in public leadership in Africa, moving from a culture of tokenism to one that genuinely values women leaders.

She sits on the board of several organizations, including the Mastercard Foundation.

#3 Amina Mohammed (Nigeria)

Designation: Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations

Amina Jane Mohammed is a Nigerian diplomat and politician serving as the fifth deputy secretary-general of the United Nations. 

She was Nigerian minister of environment from 2015 to 2016 and was a key player in the Post-2015 Development Agenda process.

#4 Valentina Mintah (Ghana)

Designation: Board Member of International Chamber of Commerce

Valentina Mintah is the first black woman to sit on the board of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

She founded West Blue Company, an ICT company that created technological systems that have helped save African governments, including Nigeria and Ghana, millions of dollars in annual revenues.

The Ghanaian technology executive is responsible for developing and implementing ICC strategy, policy and actions, and overseeing the organization’s financial affairs.

#5 Ilhan Omar (Somalia)

Designation: U.S. Congresswoman

Ilhan Omar is a former Somali refugee who now serves as the first Somali-American in Congress. She is one of the first Muslim-American women to serve in Congress after being elected in January 2019. 

Her election to the House of Representatives resulted in Congress changing its rules regarding headwear as she wears a hijab.

Omar serves as the whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She has advocated for a $15 minimum wage, universal healthcare, student loan debt forgiveness, the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

#6 Aya Chebbi (Tunisia)

Designation: Special African Union Envoy on Youth

Aya Chebbi is a Tunisian diplomat and a pan-African and feminist activist. She became the first appointed African Union envoy on youth in November 2018. 

She was appointed the youngest senior official in the AU’s history in November 2018 by AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki.

Chebbi is co-founder of the Voice of Women Initiative.

#7 Rasha Kelej (Egypt)

Designation: CEO of Merck Foundation

Rasha Kelej is an Egyptian senator, pharmacist and philanthropist.

She is passionate about women’s empowerment, providing them with better access to healthcare in African and other developing countries.

In 2016, 20 years after joining Merck KGaA, a German-based pharmaceutical multinational, she became the CEO of its philanthropic arm, Merck Foundation. 

Her “More than a Mother Campaign” is helping to destigmatize women living with infertility in Africa, while training fertility experts across the continent.

She is reportedly working closely with 20 first ladies across the African continent.

#8 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)

Designation: Writer

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a globally renowned author of Nigerian descent. 

She uses her writings to express her views on gender construction and sexuality adn the underrepresentation of various cultures and history.

Her 2009 TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” has become one of the most-viewed TED Talks of all time with more than 27 million views.

Her work has been translated into over 30 languages.

#9 Tlaleng Mofokeng (South Africa)

Designation: UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Health

Tlaleng Mofokeng is a medical doctor and sexual and reproductive health and rights activist. She is passionate about quality access to sexual and reproductive health services.

In 2020, she was appointed as the UN special rapporteur on the right to health, the first African woman to take on the role.

She currently runs a sexual health clinic in Sandton, South Africa.

#10 Fatou Bom Bensouda (Gambia)

Designation: Newly Retired ICC Prosecutor

Fatou Bom Bensouda is a Gambian lawyer and served as the country’s former miner of justice between 1998 and 2000.

She was the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court from June 2012 until June 2021. Earlier, she served as a deputy prosecutor in charge of the ICC Prosecutions Division from 2004 to 2012.

During her tenure, the court brought to justice and booked many individuals for crimes against humanity, including former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

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Namibian tycoon Quinton van Rooyen’s Trustco wins round in court against JSE

Shares in the group rose 35.56 percent as a result.



Quinton van Rooyen.

Trustco Group, an investment holding majority owned by Namibian businessman Quinton van Rooyen and his family, has won a round in court against the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

The Pretoria High Court ruled that the company may not be suspended from the JSE until the hearing of its review application in September.

The presiding judge, Nicoline Janse van Nieuwenhuizen, pre-dismissed every argument made against Trustco. The judge issued a decision, in which she ordered the JSE to be interdicted and restrained from suspending Trustco shares from trading on the local bourse.

“The grounds of review are all deserving of a proper hearing in due course, and I am satisfied that Trustco has asserted a prima facie right to fair and just administrative action,” she said in her decision.

In response to the news, shares in the group rose 35.56 percent to R0.61 ($0.0367), from a price of R0.45 ($0.0271) at the start of trading this morning.

The increase in Trustco’s share price pushed its market capitalization above R985 million ($60 million) and the value of van Rooyen’s 63.94-percent stake above R630 million ($38 million).

The court also prohibited the JSE from implementing or attempting to implement the decision that Trustco restate its annual financial statements for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019, as well as the interim results for the six months ending Sept. 30, 2019.

The legal battle between Trustco and the JSE began on Nov. 11, 2020, when the exchange’s authorities claimed that the company had not met the listing requirements for its 2019 annual financial statements and 2020 interim results.

As part of the allegations, the JSE accused Trustco of violating international accounting standards by misrepresenting features of two loans and reclassifying land that it owns.

Trustco questioned the JSE’s authority to order corporations to amend their financial statements. It claimed that only boards have that authority and stated that all transactions had been “exactly accounted for, reported, and disclosed.”

Amid the legal battle between Trustco and the JSE, wary local bourse investors sold their stakes in the company, fearing a potential delisting of its shares, which caused the share price to crash to an all-time low in July before rebounding recently by double digits.

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Ugandan tycoon Charles Mbire to pocket $1.15-million interim dividend from MTN Uganda

Mbire owns a significant 3.98-percent stake in the Ugandan telecom outfit.



Charles Mbire.

Ugandan multimillionaire businessman Charles Mbire is on track to receive an interim dividend of Ush4.48 billion ($1.155 million) from his stake in MTN Uganda after the telecom group reported a double-digit percent increase in earnings in the first half of 2022.

MTN Uganda is Uganda’s leading telecom service operator.

Mbire, the chairman of MTN Uganda and one of Uganda’s wealthiest businessmen, owns a significant 3.98-percent stake in the Ugandan telecom outfit, which operates as the fourth operating subsidiary of the South African multinational mobile telecom company, MTN Group.

The interim dividend will be paid electronically into his bank account at a later date from the group’s retained earnings of Ush902 billion ($232.4 million) at the end of its 2022 fiscal year. It is his first dividend from the telecom company since its shares were listed more than eight months ago.

The dividend payment follows a significant rise in the group’s earnings in the first half of 2022 despite a 4.9-percent decline in voice revenue, as it looks set to replicate its stellar performance in 2021.

As a result of the company’s strong financial performance, the board of directors approved the payment of an interim dividend of Ush5 ($0.00128) per share for the six months ending June 30, totaling Ush11.95 billion ($28.9 million), which is subject to withholding taxes.

According to data retrieved from the company’s earnings report for the first six months of 2022, its profit increased by 48.1 percent to Ush193.6 billion ($50.2 million) in the first half of 2022, compared to Ush130.7 billion ($33.7 million) in the first half of 2021.

The double-digit increase in profit can be attributed to a 10-percent surge in the company’s service revenue, which was driven by a significant increase in data and fintech revenue, which were more than sufficient to offset the 4.9-percent decline in voice revenue.

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Billionaire Robert Smith’s Vista to acquire Avalara business software for $8.4 billion

Smith directs Vista’s investment strategy.



Robert Smith.

Avalara Inc., a leading tax compliance automation provider for businesses, has agreed to be bought by Vista Equity Partners for $8.4 billion.

Vista Equity Partners is a leading global investment firm led by America’s richest Black person, Robert Smith.

The transaction received unanimous approval from the Avalara board of directors and is expected to close in the second half of 2022, subject to customary closing conditions such as shareholder and regulatory approval.

Under the terms of the deal, Vista will acquire all outstanding shares of Avalara common stock for $93.50 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $8.4 billion, including Avalara’s net debt.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Vista has secured a total of $2.5 billion in loans from private lenders as part of the move to bring in institutional investors as co-investors.

The purchase price represents a 27-percent premium over the company’s closing share price on July 6, the last trading day prior to the announcement of the deal.

“For nearly two decades, Avalara has ambitiously pursued its vision of automating global compliance, making tax less taxing for businesses and governments around the world,” Avalara Co-Founder and CEO Scott McFarlane said.

“As a category leader, we believe that continuing to invest in innovation and experience is exciting for our customers, partners, and employees,” he said. “We are excited to work with Vista and will benefit from their enterprise software expertise as we build and improve our cloud compliance platform.”

After the conclusion of the deal, Avalara shares will no longer trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Avalara will become a private company managed by Vista.

Smith has an $8-billion stake in Vista and directs its investment strategy.

He also serves on its executive committee, the company’s governing and decision-making body for all matters affecting overall management and strategic direction. He has supervised more than 570 completed transactions, with a total transaction value of more than $265 billion.

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