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  • Writer's pictureErnest Ademola Ehigie

Celebrating African Women Who Have Chosen To Challenge The Status Quo

The list of African women pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo is inexhaustive, but we have decided to put the spotlight on a select few from various sects, including politics, diplomacy, art, activism, entrepreneurship, business leadership, sports and entertainment.

We celebrate their immense work towards the progress of Africa, the World, and humanity on this special day.

Happy International Women's Day. #ChooseToChallenge

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Country: Nigeria

Portfolio: Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO), and Chair, board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI).

If anyone knows what makes good financial sense, it's Okonjo-Iweala. She previously served twice as Nigeria's Finance Minister, from 2003-2006, 2011-2015, and briefly Foreign Minister in 2006, the first woman to hold both positions.

She spent a 25-year career at the World Bank as a development economist, rising to the No. 2 position of Managing Director, responsible for an $81 billion operational portfolio including Europe and Central Asia, South Asia, and Africa (2007-2011).

Angélique Kidjo

Country: Benin

Portfolio: Four-time Grammy award winner and humanitarian.

She is a Beninese-American singer-songwriter, actress, and activist noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. Time Magazine described her as "Africa's premier diva". The BBC has included her in its list of the continent's 50 most iconic figures, and in 2011 The Guardian listed her as one of their Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. Forbes Magazine has ranked Angelique as the first woman in its list of the Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. She is the recent recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, and the 2018 German Sustainability Award.

Ibukun Awosika

Country: Nigeria

Portfolio: Founder and CEO, The Chair Centre Group and Chairman, First Bank Plc.

She is a Nigerian businesswoman, motivational speaker and author. She currently serves as Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria's premier banking brand. She is considered a mentor to many leading women in different sectors of the economy.

In 2008, Ibukun was among five Nigerian entrepreneurs who appeared in the first African version of the Dragon's Den. She also hosts a T.V programme called Business His Way. She also starred in the 2020 film "Citation".

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Country: Liberia

Portfolio: First female president of Liberia and Nobel Peace laureate.

An economist per excellence that served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. Sirleaf was the first elected female head of state in Africa. She was one of three recipients, along with Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karmān, of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Peace for their efforts to further women's rights.

Fatma Samoura

Country: Senegal

Portfolio: Secretary-General, Fifa

Fatma is a former diplomat and senior executive. She was appointed as the first female Secretary-General of FIFA by President Gianni Infantino on 13 May 2016 and assumed her post on 20 June 2016. Previously, she worked in various positions at the United Nations.

Lupita Nyong'o

Country: Kenya

Portfolio: Oscar-Winning Actor

Since winning the Oscar for best supporting actress in 2014 for her performance in the movie, "12 Years a Slave" and several other films to her credit. She has been rendering her voice to promote several causes concerning women, while advocating for Africans to take pride in their natural hair and dark African skin.

Graça Machel

Country: South Africa and Mozambique

Portfolio: Graça Machel Trust and a member of The Elders

She is considered one of the most powerful and historical women in Africa. Her first platform was as the minister of education in Mozambique, a position she held from 1975 to 1989.

She uses The Graça Machel Trust to promote women's empowerment and leadership, child rights, and good nutrition. She believes that impact is much more important than power.

Sahle-Work Zewde

Country: Ethiopia

Portfolio: President of Ethiopia

Sahle-Work Zewde is the current President of Ethiopia and the first woman to hold the office. A career diplomat, she was elected president unanimously by members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly on 25 October 2018. Her election as Ethiopia's first female president has been overwhelmingly greeted in Ethiopia and beyond, raising hopes among advocates for gender equality in the conservative country.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Country: Nigeria

Portfolio: Multiple Award-winning Writer

She is considered one of Africa's leading contemporary literary voices, signalling the African literary greats' rebirth - Chinua Achebe, Camara Laye, and Cyprian Ekwensi. In 2006 her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, won the coveted Orange Prize. Adichie is a fierce campaigner for equal gender rights and women empowerment.

Folorunso Alakija

Country: Nigeria

Portfolio: Executive vice-chair, FAMFA Oil

She a dynamic Nigerian businesswoman and philanthropist involved in the fashion, oil, real estate and printing industries.

Folorunso is an acclaimed public speaker and the first female to be appointed as Chancellor of a public university in Africa. She is a prolific writer and has authored several inspiring books, including her revered autobiography.



Ernest Ademola Ehigie is a Copywriter, Content Developer, Author, Brand Consultant, and Communications Manager with over 5 years in marketing communications. He has written several articles, policy documents, press releases, radio and TV adverts for businesses and organizations. He's the author of the book, "Why You Must Lead" and currently works as a content manager for Detail and Avedia, a leading retail and media consulting firm.


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