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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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Nigeria’s oldest bank confirms billionaire Femi Otedola’s acquisition of $54.2-million stake

Otedola is known for building corporate juggernauts in the energy, shipping, real estate and finance sectors.



Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola. ©Billionaires.Africa

After a frenzied 24 hours of back and forth between the media and one of Nigeria’s largest banking groups, First Bank of Nigeria Holdings (FBNH), its management has confirmed the acquisition of a substantial stake in the lender by Nigerian billionaire Femi Otedola.

In a notification sent to the Nigerian Exchange, the financial services group disclosed that Otedola has completed the acquisition of a 5.07-percent stake, or 1,818,551,625 units of shares, from the company’s issued share capital, which amounts to a total of 35,895,292,791 shares.

Information contained in the notification revealed that the billionaire made the acquisition through one of his investment vehicles, Calvados Global Services Limited, which was at the forefront of his sale of a 75-percent stake in Forte Oil Plc to Prudent Energy in 2019.

The acquisition of the shares worth N22.27 billion ($54.2 million) makes him one of the largest shareholders in the Nigeria-based lender, ahead of Obafemi Otudeko, the former chairman of FBNH, and Remi Babalola, who is the current chairman of the holding.

FBNH has a free float unit of 35,773,669,647 ordinary shares, which translates to 99.67 percent of the company’s 35,895,292,791 issued shares.

Otedola’s acquisition of the stake has sent the holding’s share price up by more than 60 percent in the past 28 days. Its market capitalization skyrocketed from a valuation of N267.4 billion ($650.6 million) on Sept. 24 to N440 billion ($1.07 billion) as of the time of writing.

Recall that Billionaires.Africa previously reported that the billionaire acquired a significant stake in the leading Nigerian banking group on Oct. 22.

In reaction, in an earlier statement, FBNH disclosed that it had not received any notification from Otedola in line with the acquisition as mentioned in the news report.

The lender noted that it will notify the appropriate agencies and authorities whenever it receives any notice of significant shareholding from shareholders and the company’s registrars.

Otedola’s acquisition opens up fresh debate surrounding who holds the largest stake in the group, as experts believe that aside from Tunde Hassan-Odukale, who holds a 5.36-percent stake in the lender, Nigerian billionaire Mike Adenuga could be one of its largest shareholders.

Following his purchase of the stake, experts expect Otedola to bring fresh ideas that will drive forward the bank’s growth, as they believe the billionaire will take on a management role.

Otedola is known for his ability to innovate in disparate sectors after building and leading corporate juggernauts in the energy, shipping, real estate and finance industries.

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Led by Tunisian Ben Yedder family, Ennakl Automobiles posts $153 million in revenue in 9M 2021

Ennakl is a Tunisian auto retailer selling cars under the Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Porsche brands.



Ennakl Automobiles Chairman Abdellatif Hmam.

Tunisia-based automobile company Ennakl Automobiles has posted TND429.91 million ($152.9 million) in revenue in the first nine months of 2021, as the automobile company continues to benefit from strong growth in demand.

Ennakl Automobiles is a Tunisia-based automobile retailer engaged in the retail sale of cars under the Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Porsche brands. The company is majority-owned by the affluent Ben Yedder family and operates under the management of Chairman Abdellatif Hmam.

In addition to its retail activities, the company engages in the importation and distribution of auto parts through its subsidiary, Car Gros, which enables it to offer after-sale services to customers.

Compared with its revenue of TND288 million ($102.4 million) in the first nine-month period of 2020, the company’s consolidated revenue in 2021 rose by 49.3 percent to TND429.9 million ($152.9 million).

The growth in revenue indicates a significant improvement in sales despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its operating environment, as the company was able to sell 6,393 vehicles in the first nine months of 2021, up 58.3 percent from the 4,039 units sold last year.

The management noted that the company’s excellent financial performance at the end of Q3 2021 consolidated its leading position among importers in the automotive sector, resulting in Ennaki seizing a 14.24-percent market share during the period under review.

In line with its commitment to create value for stakeholders and improve its market dominance in the automobile industry, Ennakl Automobiles signed a distribution contract with Renault Trucks on Sept. 7 to become its second non-exclusive importer on Tunisian territory.

Ennakl also invested TND2.3 billion ($817.8 million) in its operations, maintaining its budgeted investments, particularly with the extension of the SEAT brand showroom.

As of press time, Oct. 23, shares in the company were trading at TND12 ($4.30). This is 1.5-percent higher than its opening price this month.

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Paystack Co-Founder Ezra Olubi partners with group of investors to inject $1.7 million into Brass Banking startup

The Nigerian digital banking startup seeks to address the underserved banking needs of local entrepreneurs.



Nigerian fintech tycoon Ezra Olubi.

Leading Nigerian tech founders have partnered with investors to raise $1.7 million in funding for Brass Banking, a Nigerian digital banking startup that seeks to address the underserved banking needs of local entrepreneurs across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ezra Olubi, co-founder of Paystack, which was earlier acquired by Stripe, and Olugbenga “GB” Agboola, co-founder of Flutterwave, joined forces with Hustle Fund, Acuity Ventures, Uncovered Fund and Ventures Platform to raise the capital.

Brass Banking is a fintech startup that delivers easy access to affordable premium commercial-grade banking services for small- and medium-sized businesses. It helps create a current account for companies within 10 minutes, a service hardly obtainable with traditional banks.

The digital bank was founded by Sola Akindolu, former head of product at Kudi, and Emmanuel Okeke, former engineering manager at Paystack, in July 2020,

Brass will invest the funds in accelerating its expansion into South Africa and Kenya, Nairametrics reported.

Moreover, Brass plans to launch several new product categories, including an expansion of its credit-market presence as it seeks to broaden its customer base.

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