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Africa’s 10 Most Powerful Women

Last Updated: 6/14/2008 8:43:38 PM

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In the last few years, we have witnessed African women step out of the shadows of their male counterparts and take a more prominent role in shaping their societies. ClickAfrique looks at the ten most powerful women on the continent.....


Luisa Diogo has had a good year in 2007 which was capped off with being awarded the 2008 Global Women's Leadership Award.
Luisa Diogo has had a good year in 2007 which was capped off with being awarded the 2008 Global Women's Leadership Award.

In a continent known for its culture of male dominance, African woman have begun to take up more leadership and inspire not just women in their own country but around the world. We have listed the ten most powerful women in Africa below.



1. Luisa Diogo

Prime Minister, Mozambique
Since she replaced Pascoal Mocumbi as the prime minister of Mozambique in 2004, Luisa Diogo’s stock has risen internationally. She made her mark as an anti-poverty and health advocate, waging a battle to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic blighting her country, where 16% of its 20 million citizens have contracted the disease, costing the nation 1% of its GDP every year. She was recently awarded the 2008 Global Women's Leadership Award.


2. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

President, Liberia
Harvard educated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was just beaten to the top of the list of Africa’s most powerful women as her cool leadership of poverty stricken Liberia continues to garner the admiration of people around the world. She continues to rebuild the country’s fragile economy; Liberia has one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, fight corruption and demand transparency in contracts.


3. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Deputy President, South Africa
The first woman to hold the position of Deputy President and the highest ranking woman in the history of South Africa, Mlambo-Ngcuka courted controversy in 2005 when she said that South Africa could learn about the land reforms from Zimbabwe. Her position in South Africa’s political elite recently took a dent when she failed to be elected to the ANC's National Executive Committee.


4. Shirley Lue Arnold

Chairwoman of Telkom, South Africa
Arnold heads one of the ten largest companies in Africa and one of the largest in the world. Born in Durban, South Africa and raised in Swaziland, the much traveled Arnold is a member of the Chairpersons Forum, Gordon Institute of Business, and also a member of the Independent Directors Initiative and the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa.


5. Maria Ramos

CEO of Transnet, South Africa
Maria Ramos took up the position of Transnet chief executive in January 2004. One of the most sought-after financial gurus in the world, She was South Africa's Businesswoman of the Year in 2001, while director-general of the National Treasury. Together with Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, Ramos was credited locally and globally with nursing the South African economy back to health, reducing borrowings and instilling fiscal discipline.


6. Turai Yar'Adua

First Lady, Nigeria
Wife of the current president of Nigeria, Umaru Yar’Adua, Turai is the Chairperson of the African First Ladies Peace Mission and a vocal advocate of reducing the high maternal and infant mortality on the continent. She is also reported to have a more hands on approach in government affairs than her predecessors.


7. Monhla Hlahla

Chairwoman of Aiports Company of South Africa, South Africa
Hlahla heads the company that oversees the management of 10 South African airports (3 international airports and 7 local). The South African Businesswoman of the year in 2005, Hlahla is now charged to get all the airports under her care battle ready for the huge number of football fans that are to descend South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


8. Wendy Luhabe

Chairwoman of Industrial Development Corporation, South Africa
A highly respected businesswoman in South Africa and Chacellor of the University of Johannesburg, Luhabe was also involved in the establishment of Wiphold, currently worth about R2 billion ($300 million), to revolutionise the participation of women in the economy, and remains by far the most inspiring contribution to South Africa’s young democracy.


9. Cecilia Ibru

CEO of Oceanic Bank, Nigeria
Head of one of the largest banks in Africa, Celia Ibru is well respected by peers in the Nigerian financial sector. Under her stewardship the bank was twice awarded the Nigerian Bank of the Year in 2006 and 2007.


10. Joyce Mujuru

Vice President, Zimbabwe
One of the two Vice Presidents in the beleaguered government of Robert Mugabe. Joyce to married to former army chief and Zimababwe’s “king maker”, Solomon Mujuru. Together they are the most powerful couple in Zimbabwe and Mrs. Mujuru is seen as a potential president of the southern African country, even though she has often denied having presidential ambitions.




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