Mfonobong Nsehe, Contributor
Every year since 2011, I have enlisted readers’ help to identify 20 young, extraordinary and inspiring African women, aged 45 and under, who are making the most dramatic impact in individual African countries in the world of politics, business, technology, policy, diplomacy and media for the annual tally of the 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa. Now in its 4th year, the list celebrates 20 influential female leaders, groundbreakers and ceiling crashers who are transforming the continent from their communities.
Following my November request for nominations, I received more than 700 nominations – many familiar names, others not so familiar. But each one of them has one thing in common: they are doers. They are resolute in their resolve to change, to build, inspire and transform. And they are out there making it happen. They are change makers, trendsetters, visionaries and thinkers, builders, and young global leaders. They are at the vanguard of Africa’s imminent socio-economic revolution and its contemporary renaissance.
Meet the 2014 class of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa: the continent’s emerging power brokers, the Amazons to watch, and the custodians of tomorrow.
Fatima-Zahra Mansouri, Moroccan, Mayor of Marrakech
Mansouri, 38, is the Mayor of Marrakech, the third largest city in Morocco with a population of more than 1 million. After studying commercial law in France, she returned to Morocco where she established and ran a successful commercial law firm. She was elected Mayor of Marrakech in 2009 at age 33 after she won a seat at the City Council on the platform of the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM). In the last 5 years, Mansouri has significantly cut down on graft, and is widely credited with introducing transparency, accountability and efficiency within Marrakech’s 96-member city council. Her father, Abderrahman Mansouri, previously served as deputy governor of Marrakech and Ambassador of Morocco to the United Arab Emirates.
Ada Osakwe, Nigerian, Advisor to the Honorable Minister Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria
Nigeria’s agricultural sector has attracted more than $4 billion in private sector investment commitments over the last year, and Ada Osakwe is an integral reason why. Osakwe, 34, currently serves as the Senior Investment Adviser to Nigerian Minister of Agriculture Akinwunmi Adesina – arguably the best-performing member of President Goodluck Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet. She works directly with the minister, advising him on his policies regarding private sector investments into the food and agriculture sector. Osakwe also interacts with current and prospective agribusiness investors and champions innovative approaches to channel sustainable private sector engagements in the sector. Previously, she served as Vice President of Kuramo Capital, a New York-based investment management firm. She also worked in various capacities at the African Development Bank.
Amy Jadesimi, Nigerian, Managing Director, LADOL
The 39-year-old Nigerian businesswoman is the Managing Director of the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL), Nigeria’s only indigenous-owned deep offshore logistics base. Jadesimi earned a BA in physiological sciences at Oxford University, and then went on to work for the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs in London. She subsequently attended Stanford Business School, where she earned her MBA, and returned to Nigeria to set up a financial consultancy outfit before joining LADOL (a company founded by her father) as Managing Director. Since it was founded in 2001, LADOL has turned a former industrial wasteland into a $500 million industrial village and specialized port facility, providing an environment in which high value operations, such as oil and gas drilling and production support, ship building and repairs, specialized manufacturing and engineering can take place 24/7 in a secure Free Zone. The second phase of the LADOL development is currently ongoing and it includes Nigeria’s single largest local content development – a $300 million investment in West Africa’s largest vessel fabrication and integration yards. LADOL Free Zone was created to make Nigeria the hub for West African maritime and oil and gas activities through long-term investment in world class facilities and services. Jadesimi is spearheading this vision.
Naisula Lesuuda, Senator, Kenya
At 30, Lesuuda, a journalist, Peace Ambassador and Girl Child champion, is the youngest female member of the Senate, the upper house of the Parliament of Kenya. In 2010, Lesuuda, who previously worked as a journalist and anchor at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, became the youngest person to be awarded the presidential Order of the Grand Warrior for her work in leveraging journalism to highlight social issues in Kenya and promoting peace among warring pastoralist communities in northern Kenya. She is also a recipient of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Wedge Award 2011 for Outstanding Professional Woman. A vocal defender of the human rights of girls and children, she runs the Naisula Lesuuda Peace Foundation which advocates and supports the education of girls, while creating awareness of the dangers of female genital mutilation and child marriage.
Amira Elmissiry, Zimbabwean, Special Assistant to the President of the African Development Bank
Elmissiry, 31, is the Special Assistant to the President of the African Development Bank (ADB), a multilateral development finance institution established to promote the economic development and social progress of African countries. Elmissiry advises ADB President Donald Kaberuka on issues regarding policy, operations and strategy. A British-trained lawyer, she joined the bank in 2009 and rose through the ranks. Prior to her current role, she served as the ADB’s Senior Legal Counsel in Private Sector and Microfinance Operations.
Rimini Makama, Nigeria, Director, Africa Practice
Rimini Makama, 34, is the Communications Director at Africa Practice, Africa’s foremost strategy and communications consultancy. Over the last half a decade, Makama has successfully introduced some of the largest international institutions on the continent and beyond into the Nigerian market, simultaneously helping to strategically positioning them as key players in their industry and encouraging foreign investment in the country. Some of her clients include BlackBerry, Union Bank, Renaissance Capital, Bloomberg, Western Union, World Economic Forum Africa, The Africa Union and Paypal. Rimini has a background in law and after obtaining a BL from the Nigerian Law School and an LLM in International Law and World Order. Prior to a career in communications, she joined the Office of Legal Affairs at the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) in Lyon, France where she worked as a lawyer primarily reviewing notices and individual requests safeguarding international security and safety across borders. She also drafted cooperation agreements between the 190 member countries.
Afua Osei (Ghanaian) and Yasmin Belo-Osagie (Nigerian), Co-Founders, She Leads Africa
Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei, both 27, are co-founders of She Leads Africa, a platform that provides the most talented female entrepreneurs across the continent with access to the knowledge, networks and financing needed to build and scale strong businesses. Their goal is to jumpstart female entrepreneurs from SMEs to pan-African industry leaders, and they are certainly on the way. Within less than a year, and while juggling full-time positions at McKinsey & Company, Yasmin and Afua successfully launched an entrepreneurship showcase competition which drew close to 400 applications from 27 countries and multiple industries. To date, the two have recruited nearly 1,000 women-led start-ups into their network; their goal is to engage at least 10,000 female entrepreneurs in 2015. She Leads Africa is set to become a staple of the African investment community with VC funds already seeking access to its database of female entrepreneurs. It has the potential to become the 500 Startups of Africa. Its leaders are two young women who are positioned to significantly increase the volume and impact of female entrepreneurs.
Phumzile Van Damme, South African, Member Of Parliament
At 31, Phumzile Van Damme is one of the youngest members of South Africa’s Parliament. Prior to May 2014 when she joined the Parliament, Damme was the Democratic Alliance’s Head of Parliamentary Research and Communication. The Democratic Alliance has been the official opposition in South Africa since 1999, and between 2013 and May 2014, Damme was charged with the responsibility of communicating the party’s role as the official opposition in Parliament. She is also a National Spokesperson for the party.
Tebogo Mashego, South African, Entrepreneur
The 32 year-old South African entrepreneur is one of the very few women operating in South Africa’s metal and aluminum manufacturing industry. Mashego is the co-founder and CEO of Diep K Steel & Aluminum, a company that manufactures balustrades and stainless steel staircases, designer steel gates and aluminum roofing, among other products. She started the business in 2004 with her husband and managed it on a part-time basis, while maintaining her job as a human resources officer for a municipality. When her husband divested from the business in 2008, she resigned from her job to run the manufacturing company full-time.
Naadiya Moosajee, South African,Co-founder, Women In Engineering
Moosaje, 30, is a co-founder of the WomEng (Women in Engineering – formally SAWomEng) – a global non-profit organization aimed at attracting, developing and nurturing the next generation of women engineering leaders through various streams, including workshops for high school students, an annual innovation challenge for university students and networking events for women in the engineering industry. WomEng presents an invaluable platform for the advocacy, advancement and education of females entering the engineering industry. Moosajee is a Fellow of the African Leadership Network.
Irene Koki Mutungi, Kenyan, Pilot
In April, Kenya Airways appointed Mutungi, 39, as a Captain on the Boeing B787 Dreamliner, making her the first African female Dreamliner Captain in the world. Mutungi joined Kenya Airways in 1993 and became the airline’s first female pilot and the first woman to earn the captain title in Africa.
Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, Nigerian, Social Entrepreneur
Ogunsiji, 31, is the Founder of RISE NETWORKS, a Nigeria-based private and public sector funded Youth Interest social enterprise with a primary focus on wholesome youth and education development. The organization focuses on creating intellectual development and capacity building programs for young Nigerians between 16 and 30 and receives generous support from several state governments and blue-chip companies. Ogunsiji is an alumnus of the United States Government’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
Yvonne Khamati, Kenyan, Deputy Head of Mission at Kenya Embassy, Somalia
In 2007, former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki appointed Yvonne Khamati as Kenya’s head of Chancery and deputy permanent representative to the Kenya Mission to the United Nations Office in Nairobi. She was only 25 at the time, and thus became the youngest envoy in Kenya’s history. Now 32, Khamati is still one of the youngest diplomats in Kenya and serves as the Deputy Head of Mission at the Kenya Embassy in Somalia.
Kamayirese Germaine, Rwandese, State Minister for Energy and Water, Rwanda
Germaine, 33, a trained engineer, is the Minister of State in Charge of Energy, Water and Sanitation in the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA), Rwanda. She carries the responsibility of executing and implementing Rwanda’s National Policy and Strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation services as well as governing the activities of power production, transmission, distribution and trading within and outside Rwanda’s territory.
Adiat Disu, Nigerian, Founder, African Fashion Week
Adiat Disu, 27, is an international publicist and founder of Adirée, a New York-based communications and brand strategy company. In 2009, Adirée launched the annual Africa Fashion Week in New York, one of the most popular international African-focused fashion events, in an effort to place structure around Africa’s fashion industry and promote international economic partnerships while promoting brands from Africa on a global scale. It has been a resounding success. Disu and Adirée are also working on hosting other international African Fashion Weeks in other fashion capitals of the world including Paris, Milan, London and Tokyo.
Jamila Abass, Linda Kwamboka, and Susan Oguya, Kenyan, Co-founders, MFarm
Abass, Kwamboka and Oguya are the founders of MFarm, a revolutionary Kenyan mobile software company that could potentially transform the fortunes of millions of African farmers if replicated across several African countries. MFarm, founded in 2010, provides agricultural producers and buyers with the most recent retail price information about products. It also operates a virtual marketplace where consumers can buy their farm products directly from manufacturers while farmers can find buyers for their produce.
Tabetha Kanengoni Malinga, Zimbabwean, Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture
Last year, Malinga was appointed Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture. At 32, she is the youngest member of President Robert Mugabe’s cabinet and also serves as a Member of Parliament, representing Mazowe Central Constituency. Her father, the late Elias Kanengoni, was the deputy director (internal) of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).