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Thursday, April 18, 2024

20 Most Popular and Influential Women in the History of Africa

Today, several influential African women in leadership inspire the women of the next generation across the globe. Gone are the day’s women were marginalized and denied their rights. 

Modernization and industrialization go a long way in dragging African women from the shadow and mentality of accepting that women’s education ends in the kitchen.

We can now see that women have owned up to their rights in society, and they are making so much impact and becoming well known, influential, and powerful, hence creating a significant impact on the continent.

Below are the most popular and influential women in Africa.

1. Lilian Masediba Ngoyi, South Africa

Lilian Ngoyi, a political and anti-apartheid activist, is an African female personality who creates so many impacts in people’s lives around African and globally.

People call her “Mother of black resistance,” and she is from South Africa.

The famous personality happens to be a powerful anti-apartheid public speaker. She puts more attention on women’s rights and the liberation of black women in Africa but devout more interest in South African women.

Ngoyi has played many significant roles in Africa as the formal first woman elected in the ANC executive committee.

Also, this great personality has worked as the president of the ANC (African National Congress) Women League in the year 1956. 

She, among other personalities, founded a multi-racial organisation, the Federation of South African Women (FSAW), to eradicate socio-economic barriers and fight for equality for all South African women.

She was also one of the pioneer leaders of the ANC National Executive Council.

Ngoyi, together with Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, Rahima Moosa, and Helen Joseph, in the same year, led about 20,000 women in protest against the apathetic government demanding women to carry passbooks as part of the pass laws.

As a strong orator and fiery inspiration to South African women, she fought as a true women leader, integrating the qualities of a true African woman, a mom, and a worker, eliminating the effects of racial segregation and restrictions.

Lilian Masediba was born on the 25th of September 1911 in South Africa, precisely at Pretoria, married to John Ngoyi with three kids, and passed away on the 11th of March 1980 in Orlando Township Johannesburg.

2. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is a Nigerian-American environmental sustainability advocate, the commissioner emeritus, and co-chair of the global commission on the economy and climate.  

She is one of the women of substance in Africa and a notable person in the entire African community, born on the 13th of June 1954 in Ogwashi-Ukwu, Delta state, Nigeria. 

Apart from being a commissioner emeritus, she’s also an economist, a human campaign champion, a global development expert, and a fair trade leader.

The great personality is also a role model to all Africans, as the first woman and the first African personality who led as the director-general to the World Trade Organization.

Also, she serves the Brookings Institution as a nonresident distinguished member in the development program for the African Growth Initiative in the global economy.

Ngozi Okonji-Iweala has lots of recognition in Africa and across the globe, and the legacy she laid in the History of Africa cannot be swept under the carpet.

3. Yaa Asantewaa, Ghana

Yaa Asantewaa is among the female public figures in Africa well known, and she is a Ghanaian. 

She is among Africa’s inspiring women, and people recognize her brevity and unspeakable actions when defending her people in times of trouble.

The known personality played a significant role when the colonial master’s colonies Ghana, then she was the queen mother of the kingdom she fights for what belonged for them. 

Apart from being a clever woman, Yaa Asantewaa is also a human rights activist who has done many positive things.

4. Elsa Majimbo, Kenya

Elsa Majimbo is an internet comedienne and influential African young woman born on the 29th of June 2001 in Nairobi, Kenya, and people noticed her significant impacts during the COVID-19 quarantine period.

She gained more popularity in 2020 through her home-based hilarious quarantine videos using the pandemic happenings, where she won the people’s choice award. 

From spinning straw into gold, Elsa became an international celebrity and a booming global brand, displaying the brands of her tiny 1990’s sunglasses in MAC cosmetics and every shade.

Elsa Majimbo has also won many accolades following her success during the pandemic.

One of the awards she won in 2020 is the Favorite African Social Star during the People’s Choice Award, as one of the eight nominees in the American award in the class of African Social Start, during the E! People’s Choice Awards.

A famous YouTuber, Lilly Singh, conferred on Majimbo with the “Creator Honor” award at the 2020 10th Streamy Awards.

Sequel to her success as an African social star, her number of social media followers and Instagram fans skyrocketed from 10,000 to 2.2 million, making her feel amazed.

Lupita Nyong’o, together with Cassper Nyovest, Zozibini Tunzi, Chrissy Teigan, Snoop Dogg, Usain Bolt, Miss Universe, and Joan Smalls, are some notable African celebrities that applauded this young lady’s influence.

5. Hellen Dausen, Tanzania

Hellen Dausen is another African heroine from Tanzania, and she has inspired so many lives in Tanzania.

The young celebrity is the founder of Naya Essence; it is an organic luxury brand that helps women enhance their skin. 

Through her brand Nuya Essence, she created more jobs opportunity for women by teaching Tanzanian women how to make skincare oil. From there, most of them got the inspiration for entrepreneurship and became self-employed.

6. Hatshepsut, Egypt

She is also a very influential woman in the History of Africa, and she has record-breaking achievements as a one-time ruler of Egypt. 

Embracing the whole tiles and regalias of a pharaoh, Hatshepsut, daughter of King Thutmose I, ruled Egypt as a woman king with unprecedented power from 1473–58 BCE

Queen Hatshepsut emerged as the second female pharaoh confirmed historically among the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt, after Sobekneferu.

During her time as a leader, she stipulated one of the peaceful reigns in Egypt and mobilized armies for war. Still, her main interest then is to establish trade relationships with foreign countries and then bring massive wealth to Egypt. 

Hatshepsut was an ancient Egyptian born circa 1508 B.C, married to Thutmose II, and they had one child, Neferure. She died on the 16th January 1458 BC, and her funeral took place at KV60, Egypt, KV20, Egypt.

7. Phillis Wheatley Peters, Senegal

Another influential African woman in history is Phillis Wheatley Peters, otherwise, Phyllis and Wheatly, born on the 8th of May 1753 in West Africa. Although her birthplace is uncertain, the story has it that it may be in Senegal or Gambia.

Between the age of 7 – 8, her people sold her off to slave traders in America, when the family of Wheatley John residing in Boston, Massachusetts, purchased her as their daughter; upon arrival.

She is the first African-American woman to publish poem books as the most famous pre-19th century American poet and an enslaved personality.

The pioneering African-American poet lived an exemplary life worth emulating during the American revolution, and West Africans, at large, never forget her impact.

Her marriage with John Peters yielded no surviving child, and it lasted from 1778 till the 5th of December 1784 when she died in Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

 8. Samba Yonga, Zambia

Samba Yoga, a long-time editorial director for Big Issue Zambia and founder of Ku-Atenga Media, is another famous African woman born in Lusaka, Zambia. 

She’s a media consultant, journalist, and publisher of many books who discovered her carer after winning an award with her short-story book while she was schooling. 

She established Ku-Atenga Media, a media consulting company in Lukasa, Zambia, for bespoke multimedia development.

According to history, Samba Yonga has developed several media projects such as the Zambian Museum of Women’s History, worked as a consultant for several media companies, and written many useful publications for establishments like Okay Africa magazine and The Guardian.

As of 2017, Samba was among Destiny’s “Power of 40” most influential women in Africa due to her contributions and efforts to the community and continent at large.

9. Sheila Tlou, Botswana 

Another influential woman in Africa is professor Sheila Dinotshe Tlou from Botswana, a visionary leader, an actor, HIV, gender, and human rights activist

She is a gynecologist, and a specialist nurse for HIV/AIDS, a one-time Minister of Health of the nation from 2004 to 2008 whose best achievements during her reign remain the best in Africa to date.

Also, she’s the co-chairperson for the Global HIV Prevention Coalition and NursingNow global campaign.

She plays a unique role in Botswana by using her initiative about HIV and AIDS to sensitize people.

Sheila also has several publications like books and articles on international health and development issues.

As a woman leader in global health, she was once the regional director for Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS for the Southern and Eastern African regions. She ensured to provide appropriate HIV/AIDS care, treatment, and prevention for the 21 countries.

She’s studied at the University of Illinois, Chicago, where she obtained her Ph.D. holder in nursing science.

Also, she acquired an internationally acclaimed membership with the American Academy of Nursing and the National Academy of Medicine, United States. 

She played a significant character, as an actor, in “The Number One Ladies Detective Agency,” an Anthony Minghella’s BBC movie.

Sheila is influential and famous for all her posts and the ones she still keeps in the health field, primarily in HIV/AIDS care and management.

Among her other achievements is WHO director for the Collaborating Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Development in the primary health centers and the professor of nursing at Bostwana University.

10. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda

Professor Agnes Binagwaho, MD, M(Ped), Ph.D., is another great heroine in Africa from Rwanda, the current Vice-chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity.

Prof. Agnes attended the University of Rwanda College of Medicine. She obtained her certificate as a doctor of philosophy and an honorary from Dartmouth College as a nominal Doctor of Science.  

She’s a pediatrician that provides preventative and proactive care and treatment in neonatology, pediatrics, and HIV/AIDS.

She has countless project management, health system strengthening, and government positions with many other professions, both in local and government jobs.

Prof Agnes Binagwaho is currently residing in her country since July 1996 after handling the Rwandan Genocide Against the Tutsi in 1994.

Between the years 2001 and 2016, prof, Agnes served the health sector of Rwanda, handling notable positions in government, as the Rwandan Minister of Health (for five years), permanent secretary for the Ministry of Health, and then as the executive secretary for the National AIDS Control of Rwanda. 

11. Meaza Asheneafi, Ethiopia

She is a lawyer by profession, born in 1964 in Asosa, Ethiopia, and has worked in various government legal offices.

She headed as the president of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia, according to the official appointment by the Federal Parliamentary Assembly in 2018.

She’s an adviser on gender and women’s rights in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. She is currently the first-ever woman president/ Chief justice of the Ethiopian Federal Supreme Court. 

Meaza is also an author and publisher of inspirational books like Public Decision Making in Ethiopia and Participation of Women in Politics, read across Africa and other continents worldwide.

12. Helen Suzman, South Africa

Helen Suzman is a famous woman both in South Africa, the continent at large. 

She is a role model, born on the 7th of November 1917 in Germiston, South Africa, and worked throughout her life as an anti-apartheid human activist and politician.

She used her position to fight against gender inequalities and racial discrimination till she died on the 1st of January 2009 in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Helen, who was married to Dr. Moses Suzman, is the initiator of a political group called the “Progressive Party” and had written several books, including A South African Memoirs – In No Uncertain Terms, and MORE.

13. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigeria

Chimamanda is an influential African woman, a Nigerian-American, and a book writer who has written many inspirational nonfiction books, short stories, and novels. 

The birth of Chimamanda Ngozi graced the family of Mr. James Nwoye Adichie’s family and Mrs. Grace Ifeoma on the 15th of September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria, and she married Ivara Edge. 

The public figure is well known for her publications, including Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), Americanah (2013), Purple Hibiscus (2003), and many others. 

She has won many awards like the MacArthur Genius Grant (in 2018), Global Leadership Award, Women’s Prize for Fiction, MORE, and Commonwealth Writer Prize for the best book overall, which she gained through one of her notable works, the Purple Hibiscus of 2003. 

Other works of Chimamanda include;

  • The Thing Around Your Neck of 2009 – short story collection
  • We Should All Be Feminists of 2014 – book-length essay

Her most recent books are:

  • A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, otherwise Dear Ijeawele, of 2017 
  • Zikora of 2020
  • Notes on Grief of 2021

14. Eve Bazaiba, Congo

Eve Bazaiba is a human rights activist, politician, and lawyer from Congo, born on the 12th of August 1965 in Orientale, DR Congo.

She was once the secretary-general of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo political party, with numerous awards and recognition in Africa.

Again, this influential African woman is an international consultant in Human Rights, a famous lawyer at the Kinshasa Bar, and a National Member of Parliament.

Currently, Eve Bazaiba is the Minister for the Environment of DR Congo and the Deputy Prime minister for Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde.

15. Rosebell Kagumire, Uganda

Rosebell is a seasoned and high-skilled blogger, a trained journalist, feminist writer, curator, and social-political commentator from Uganda.

She is the one who created “African Feminism” – an innovation of African women, also an editor to the platform. 

At present, Rosebell is the coordinator of the African Leader’s Act – a network of activists from Africa that applies online tools in assisting African leaders in finding solutions to various problems around the world.

16. Ama Ata Aidoo, Ghana

Another inspiring woman in Africa is Ama Ata Aidoo, from Ghana; she is a poet and a play writer. 

She has written several inspiring books like the Dilemma of a Ghost Ama Ata Aidoo, has worked as a minister of education, and has received many awards.

One of the awards of this famous African woman is the commonwealth award prize.

17. Nadia Mukami, Kenya

She is an influential woman in Africa, and she comes from Kenya.

Nadia Mukami is a songwriter and musician who has won many awards for her songs, making her famous in Africa and beyond. 

One of Nadia Mukami’s breakthrough songs gave her international recognition, and the same song called “Radio Love” also gave her many international nominees and won within the African countries.

18. Jennifer Bash, Tanzania

She is a great woman in Africa too, and she is from Tanzania.

Jennifer Bash is the founder and the owner of Alaska in Tanzania. It is the company responsible for the production and the distribution of all kinds of indigenous brand foodstuff.

She played a significant role in Tanzania; her sole aim is to reduce the importation and dependence on ethnic cuisine in Tanzania. She went ahead to replace it with her own by introducing her brand. 

19. Cleopatra, Egypt

Cleopatra is another famous woman in Africa; she is called the last active pharaoh due to her brave actions.

 She is a politician and a businesswoman with the ability to express herself easily in nine different languages.

She led an exemplary life that the Egyptians couldn’t forget in a hurry.

20. Unity Dow, Botswana 

She is also an outstanding personality in the History of Africa, born on the 23rd of April 1959; she has influenced many lives and done many essential things.

As a seasoned legal practitioner, she established the first all-female legal firm in 1997 and emerged as the first female judge at the High Court of Botswana. 

Dow Unity has written about four valuable books, emphasizing violence against women, HIV\AIDS, and other essential topics.

Between 2019 – 2020, Unity Dow headed the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Botswana as a female president.

Who are the most influential women in Africa?

In descending order, the most influential women in Africa include Agnes Binagwaho (vice-chancellor for the University of Global Health Equity), Amanda Mukwashi (the CEO, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), Amani Abou- Zeid, among many others.

The most powerful woman in Africa is who?

The most powerful woman in Africa is Agnes Binagwaho, a pediatrician from Rwanda and the University of Global Health Equity’s present vice-chancellor.

Which African countries have the most beautiful ladies?

The African countries with the most beautiful ladies are; Ethiopia, Nigeria, TanzaniaKenya, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and South Africa.

Final words

African women have, however, proved that they could contribute to the development of the entire African society.

They have achieved this by working hard in their career to debunking the notion that a women’s education is in vain.

Most of the women mentioned above are influential personalities in the history of Africa who have impacted many lives in many positive ways.

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