By Tolberts Joseph Sibuta
Gone are the days when a woman’s place was the kitchen. Africa has seen a new breed of women who are not afraid to tread in grounds that were/are dominated by men. From female presidents, to chief executive officers of bluechip companies; the continent is doing away with prejudices that favoured the male gender. On the economic front, women have not been left behind either. This writer takes a look at the top 20 richest women in Africa.
Women in Africa are now politically and economically woke.
Isabella Dos Santos
Company, Zon Multimedia
Net worth $2.8 billion
Isabella Dos Santos was born on the 1st of April 1972. She is one of Africa’s most famous and well-known entrepreneurs. She was born in Luanda, Angola. Isabella was a student at the prestigious King’s College in London. Her father is the former President of Angola. He was at the helm of the country from 1979 to 2019. She was the first African woman to reach the dollar billionaire status. She bought and invested in companies in Angola. The companies range from technology to cleaning to environmental work.
At first, she worked as a project manager. She worked alongside her father to fumigate Luanda. The project was known as Urbana 2000, and it helped kick start her business progression.
Today, Isabella tops the list for the richest women in Africa.
Company, The rose of Sharon Group
Net worth, $1.5 billion
Folorunsho Alakija is the second richest woman in Africa thanks to her massive business holdings. She was born in Lagos State, Nigeria, where she resides. She is a mother of four. Folorunsho is the director of the Rose of Sharon Group. She is also the Executive Vice Chairperson of Famfa Oil. In a nutshell, she is involved in fashion, oil, real estate and print media.
She first served as a secretary in 1975 for Sijuade Entertainment Company in Nigeria. She then took a job at the First National Bank of Chicago, which later became part of FCMB. She left the financial industry to establish Supreme Stitches, a tailoring company.
She made another career move into the oil industry, but she still kept up her fashion business. She started up a joint venture with Texaco, and she obtained a license for oil exploration. She is the second wealthiest woman in Africa.
Net worth $1 billion
Ngina Kenyatta, also known as Mama Ngina, was born on the 24th of June 1933. She is the third richest woman in Africa. Mama Ngina was married to Jomo Kenyatta (RIP) from 1951 until his death in 1978. She was originally born in Ngenda in the Kenya Colony in 1933.
Mama Ngina was Jomo’s fourth wife, and she was given as a “gift” from the Kikuyu to Kenyatta. The Kikuyu was Kenyatta’s ethnic group. Mama Ngina got her nickname as “Mother of a Nation” from this marriage. She had four children with Jomo.
She expanded her vast investments and holdings into business. She now owns plantations, hotels, ranches, and other properties. She made headlines when she converted to Roman Catholicism and began attending mass every Sunday with her children. Currently, Ngina resides in Kenya and is the mother of the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Net worth, $809 Million
Divine Ndhlukula was born on 5th of February 1960. She is the fourth richest woman in African. She is a Zimbabwean business lady. She received her education from Midlands State University, and has an MBA from Women’s University in Africa, where she has also a Ph.D. in Business. She first worked for telecom companies, starting with Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp.
Divine worked there for several years before moving on to Old Mutual, where she was an accounting officer. She then became part of Intermarket, servicing as a marketing executive for that insurance company. Divine decided to move from the executive role into the ownership role.
She later founded SECURICO, a security company that is known for its professionalism and paying its staff handsomely. She wanted to revolutionize the industry and provide motivated employees who would protect businesses and buildings across the country.
Haija Bola Shagaya
Company, Bolmus Group
Net worth, $630 Million
The fifth richest African woman, Haija Shagaya is one of Nigeria’s most eminent fashionistas. She was born on 10th October 1959, currently 60 years of age. She was born in Nigeria. Her mother was a seamstress and her father a public servant in Nigeria. She has her degree in economics from Armstrong College in the United States.
She is also a business-woman with holdings and several board memberships. Her business industries mainly focus on real estate.
Shagaya’s first career was at the Central Bank of Nigeria, where she worked as an auditor. She then went into commercial sales doing import and export work, introducing Nigeria to Konica, a brand of photography products.
She has board memberships with Unity Bank. She is also a contributing member of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria, also known as FADAN, and she also has membership status in the Order of the Niger.
Company, Liberty Investors
Net worth, $259.3 Million
Wendy Appelbaum is the richest woman living in South Africa, and the sixth richest woman in Africa. She is the director of Liberty Investors, Ltd and has also worked in several other industries. She was the deputy chairperson of Connection Group Holdings Ltd. After such a long background in finance and business, she has become a philanthropist with her millions.
Appelbaum owns a profitable wine farm in South Africa. She is known for being close friends with famous feminist activist Gloria Steinem. Appelbaum has made it clear in interviews that her wealth does not define her. Her recent philanthropic endeavors have included providing free annual breast exams ad checkups for female farmers. She has set up breast exam clinics near her home and throughout South Africa to help migrant farmers stay healthy.
Company, Pick N Pay Holdings
Net worth, $190.2 Million
Wendy Ackerman the seventh richest woman in Africa, one of the founders and director of the financial company Pick N Pay Holdings Ltd, together with her husband Raymond Ackerman. She was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and received her degree from the University of Cape Town and UNISA. She was a teacher for several years, teaching in Soweto. When she was a college student, she taught English for night school in South Africa.
Her husband, Raymond, bought Pick N Pay, and she joined him to help him in his business venture. Wendy was in charge of employee affairs, and she developed the corporation’s employee benefit plan and welfare plan.
She became the director of Pick N Pay in 1981. She is also a philanthropist, starting the Educational Trust Fund that helps underprivileged students get to school. She is also a patron of the Jewish Women’s Union.
Company, Smile Telecoms
Net worth, $150 Million
Irene Charnley is the eighth richest woman in Africa. She was born in South Africa on 6th May 1960. Her first business experience was union-related. She negotiated for the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa, a position she held for thirteen years.
She then took that experience and transferred to the telecom sector. She became the director of MTN Group. MTN Group is the largest telecom corporation in Africa, and she helped connect multiple African and Arab countries to MTN.
She was involved in making the company public for underprivileged African residents to buy shares, increasing their wealth. She now is the CEO of the telecom company Smile Telecom Holdings, Ltd., which operates in the Congo, Uganda, Nigeria, and other countries.
Company, Denver & Delilah films
Net worth, $130 Million
Charlize Theron is a world-famous South African and American actress who has received a number of awards for her acting. She was born on 7th August 1975 in Benoni province, South Africa but now resides in Los Angeles. She has both South Africa and American citizenship. Theron started her own film company, Denver & Delilah Films. She has received countless awards, including an Oscar for her chilling performance in the movie Monster.
She has also received a Silver Bear Award from the Berlin Film Festival, and a Golden Globe. She first shot to international recognition after starring opposite Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate. She then appeared in Mighty Joe Young and The Cider House Rules.
In Monster, she played Aileen Wuornos, a serial killer who claims she acted in self-defense. The movie was fictional, but had its basis in a real-life story.
Company, Mmakau Mining
Net worth, $100 Million
Born on 26th February, 1960 in South Africa, Bridget Radebe is one of the first African female mine operators in the African continent. Her first job was as a miner. She managed shaft mining operations and projects in the 1980s.
Years later, Radebe founded her own mining firm called Mmakau Mining. This firm explores for and helps produce gold, chrome, and platinum minerals. Radebe also has leadership positions within the mining community. She is the President of the SAMDA, a mining development program in South Africa.
With her many years of experience in the mining industry and business, Radebe is an outspoken critic of predatory, capitalistic mining schemes. She pursues projects seeking to change this status quo.
Company, Wananchi Online
Net worth, $100 Million
Njeri Rionge is one of Kenya’s most successful businesswomen, and Africa’s ICT personnel. She was described by Forbes as being a “serial entrepreneur.” She founded Wananchi Online, which provides internet services throughout East Africa. She has also founded other companies, many of which have made elevated her financial status. Wananchi Online is arguably one of her biggest successes.
She has also founded Business Lounge. Business Lounge is a Kenyan startup holding. It helps grow and incubate new businesses to make them as successful as possible. She also founded Ignite Lifestyle, which is a healthcare consultant firm.
Rionge started Incite, which is another online business. Incite is a digital marketing company that helps Kenyan businesses.
Company, Kimani & Michuki Advocates
Net worth, $50 Million
Jane Michuki is a Kenyan lawyer and businesswoman. She attended the University of Nairobi, Kenya School of Law and the University of Warwick. She received her degree in law and legal practice, and is a lawyer, investor and business magnate. She is the partner at Kimani & Michuki Advocates. She has been in business since 1997. Her law Chambers handle business clients, with major names such as Equity Group Holdings Ltd. Equity has more than nine million customers, and it is Africa’s largest bank holding company. Michuki also holds the distinction of being the largest female stockholder on the NSE.
Her net worth is approximately $50 million from these stock holdings, many of which are with public companies. She also owns 9.5% of the British-American Investments Company.
Company, Octodec investments
Net worth, $43.1 Million
Sharon Wapnick was born in South Africa. She received her education from the University of the Witwatersrand, where she achieved both a bachelor’s degree and graduate degrees. She inherited her father’s businesses, Premium Properties and Octodec Investments, both of which are in Johannesburg. These companies are financial, operating in the loan industry. She is the current chairwoman of Octodec. Furthermore, Wapnick is part of a commercial law firm, the TWB Attorneys, where she is the partner. She is among the top ten richest women in South Africa and the 13th in Africa. Sharon also has several shares in several businesses, including Pick N Pay Stores Ltd. and Net care, Ltd. Pick N Pay is a retail and food company, while Net care is involved in healthcare.
Net worth, $18 Million
Liya Kebede was born on the 1st day of March, 1978 in Ethiopia. She spent her childhood in her motherland. She attended school at Lycee Guebre-Mariam. At school, Liya was interested in Modeling and acting. It’s from this point that a film producer spotted her. He introduced her to a modeling agent from France, and her career took off. She worked in both Paris and New York City as a model.
She got her first big modeling break when she walked for Tom Ford at his Gucci fashion show in 2000. She has been on Vogue covers and worked for many different fashion labels. She is signed to DNA Model Management, though she was previously signed to IMG and VIVA.
She is also an activist. She started her own foundation, the Liya Kebede Foundation, which focuses on maternal and child health.
Company, Keroche Industries/ Breweries
Net worth, $14 Million
Tabitha Karanja is a Kenyan businesswoman and industrialist who has been in the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages since 1997. She was born on 29th August 1964 in Naivasha, Kenya. She is the CEO of Keroche Breweries. Tabitha is married to Joseph Karanja, her husband and business partner. The two began making wine in 1997. The fortified blend was cheap and accessible.
The government taxed wine heavily in 2007, and Karana was kicked out of the Kenyan wine market. However, she didn’t give up. She ventured in Vodka and Beer. Beer helped the Keroche brand take off. Production increased in 2013 as its popularity soared. Karanja and her husband went from 60K bottles per day to 600K bottles per day. They just bought a new plant for $55.5 million.
Company, Movie actress
Net worth, $8 Million
One of the world’s famous actresses, Lupita Nyong’o was born on the 1st day of March, 1983. She has dual citizenship, both Kenyan and Mexican. According to the starlet headlines, of recent, she is one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood. She has acted on film and onstage, receiving critical acclaim for her work.
Lupita started her career in 2008 when she performed in the short film called East River. Prior to that, she had worked as a production assistant on feature films. She then moved from America to Kenya to star in Shuga, a hit Kenyan television show. She scored her first major Hollywood role in 12 Years a Slave, a historical drama that went on to win the Academy Award for best picture. Nyong’o herself won an Oscar for her supporting role in the film. She recently starred in the horror hit us, directed by Jordan Peele
Net worth, $5 Million
Sophie Okonedo was born on 11th August, 1968. She is an actress of Nigerian descent. Her father was employed by the government of Nigeria. Sophie received her acting education from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She later travelled to Britain from where she started her film career. She has worked in television and film. One of her first projects was Doctor Who. She provided the voice for Alison Cheney, the good Doctor’s companion.
She also played Jenny in Clocking Off, and she had roles in Storm breaker, Oliver Twist, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and more. Her performance in Hotel Rwanda, however, scored her an Academy Award nomination.
Okonedo also received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath. She also appeared in the film The Secret Life of Bees as a woman struggling with depression
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Net worth $5 Million
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu was born on 20th April 1980 in Ethiopia. She graduated in 2004 with a degree accounting, from the Unity University. She is a major advocate for the prosperity of Africa as well, often discussing her desire to change the discourse about Africa from one of poverty and despair to the throw stone of prosperity and business success.
She founded SoleRebels, a footwear company that is among the fastest-growing shoe companies on the African continent. She started the company to help bring jobs to her local community. Alemu as well wanted to provide Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa with jobs, but she wanted the work to be sustainable and ecologically non-harmful. The company grew quickly. She was nominated as a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum
Net worth, $5 Million
Tiwa Savage, Full names Tiwatope Savage Balogun is a famous Nigerian pop star, song writer and actress, born on 5th February 1980 in Isale State, Nigeria. She attended the University of Kent’s Berklee College of Music. She was always interested in music, and she played the trombone in her high school band. Savage emerged onto the music scene in 2006.
Savage appeared on the UK’s The X Factor, and she made it to the final twenty-four, though she struggled with the limelight. She was cut before making it to the final twelve, never gave up on her music. She eventually managed to get a recording deal with Sony. A few years later, she was signed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. She has since collaborated with American and African artists. She is involved in charity, particularly charities focusing on youth development in Africa.
Yemi Eberechi Alade
Net worth, $4.2 Million
Yemi Alade is a famous pop star from Nigeria. She was born on 13th March 1989. She came to the limelight after her “Johnny,” hit, and she first burst onto the music scene in 2009 after winning the Peak Talent Show. She was born in Abia State, Nigeria. She has been in the music industry since 2005, singing in smaller venues before getting her big start in 2009. In 2005, she was part of a girl group, Noty Spice, but it wasn’t until she went solo that her talent really began to shine. She was part of the Effyzzie Music Group, and her first single was the song “Ghen Ghen Love.”
“Johnny” was her second single, and it was a hit not just in the UK, but in South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana and many other countries. Today, Alade is one of the wealthiest women on the African Continent