March could not end without a post about celebrating the “lionesses of Africa” as it is women’s month. Although this post took me MUCH longer than expected- I am glad made it, and here it is ;-)! I have decided to give you a snippet of some of the women from the continent that have caught my eye, inspired me and continue to inspire me (in beauty, blogging, travel/education, science/business and other). A warning, the post is long (again…lol!)-I decided against making it shorter…as this is meant to (i) celebrate these amazing women, and (ii) show us that the continent is not short of role models contrary to what is generally portrayed in the media, (iii) cover as many categories as possible to ensure everyone’s interest is covered (Kenaya got you…lol!). The fashion industry is not covered as this deserved a post on its own entirely (too many amazing designers…watch this space!)
- Tara Fela-Durotoye-Nigeria
This lawyer turned make-up artist made turned her passion for make-up into a well-established business in Nigeria. Her company House of Tara (http://www.houseoftara.com/). Tara is well known in Nigeria, and started off as bridal make-up studio. She is also passionate about women’s empowerment and started the first professional make-up school in Nigeria. Born and bred in Nigeria, I like her because besides being a house name on the beauty scene in Africa; she is also the perfect example of the fact that the sky is the limit when passion, meets hard work and determination.
- Suzie Wokabi, Kenya
Another make-up artist, which has turned her passion and profession into a business. This time she comes from Kenya, worked in the US and later established Suzie Beauty Cosmetics (http://suziebeauty.com/ ) a few years ago when she realised she could either not find the products she was accustomed in Kenya, or they were simply overpriced. She was also featured recently for having been bought out by Flame Tree Group, on the Nairobi Stock Exchange (http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/how-suzie-wokabi-sold-her-african-cosmetics-brand ).
- Zeze Oriakhi, Nigeria/UK/South Africa
Zeze is a 30 something woman, who started an award winning cosmetic brand called Malee Natural Science (https://uk.maleeonline.com/ ). Grew up in Nigeria, lived in the UK for 12 years and later moved to South Africa after completing a degree at the renowned Grenoble School of Business in France. In just a few years, she has launched a store in the Sassy Johannesburg neighbourhood-Parkhurst, London and has now her products are available online directly. The ingredients are all natural plants found on the continent and the name “Malee” was inspired by her great grand mother
- Getty Choenyana-South Africa
I am particularly proud to be writing about this one, as I studied (well sort of…) with Getty. She was a Mecheng, and I did Chemeng-we were both volunteering for GirlEng (the sister programme of South African Women in Engineering, SAWomENG-which aims to increase the participation of women engineers and provide them with the support required, see more details about its founder Naadiya below). Getty is a full time mechanical engineer, who set-up OAMOBU Naturals (https://oamobu.co.za/ ) to provide natural hair care products to African women. Her products are available online, well done Getty!
- Linda Gieskes Mwamba-DRCongo/South Africa
Linda is an export of the DRCongo (“mwasi kitoko” i.e. “beautiful woman” in Lingala), who grew up in South Africa. A lawyer by day, and lover of everything natural hair by night. Her love for African natural hair led her to establish Suki Suki naturals (http://www.sukisukinaturals.co.za/ )-a hair care line. The name “suki” in Lingala means “hair”.
- This is Ess-Kenya
Sharon Mundia is addictive, seriously! I came across her blog last year when looking for African beauty gurus and have been hooked since. She studied communications in South Africa, went back to Kenya and started blogging as a hobby to get over heartbreak [as I understand, we can only thank that guy-You gave her to us ;-)]…and has never looked back since. She won Kenya blogger of the year, and now shares her time between her various interest (radio-her blogging landed her a gig on Capital FM in Kenya, YouTube, presenting and travelling). Do check out both her blog (http://www.thisisess.com/) and YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqu5xVuKbxcfSfiKv4zZM4Q/videos).
- Adanna Ohakim Steinecker-Nigeria/Ireland
Adanna Ohakim Steinecker is the perfect example of brains and beauty…this qualified doctor and recently mother of one (congratulations Adanna!) runs a YouTube channel with her hubby, David. They first claim to fame started with the Instagram videos of the two of them breaking down to African songs on BellaNaija (link to the original article, http://www.bellanaija.com/2014/02/bn-weddings-couple-crush-the-cutest-dancing-duo-adanna-david/ ). David has won audiences as it is evident that not only he is in love with his wife, but also with Africa (these dance moves!). She motivates me because she strives for excellence in her work while looking smashing! If a doctor with a hectic schedule can look this good, so I too can make an effort-no excuses!
- That Hayet Rida-Ghana/USA
Hayet Rida rise to fame came through her Instagram account, which documented her weight loss journey. She later rebranded herself and wanted to convey a positive story about body image, thank God for that! She now runs a plus size fashion blog called That Hayet Rida (http://www.thathayetrida.com/) and in just over a year has been featured online numerous times. Fashion runs in the family, as he sister in Ghana is a well-established stylist (Afua Rida)
- Amaka Benson-Nigeria/Switzerland/UK
This yummy mummy, captured my attention because she also studied chemical engineering, is sassy (more like beautifully hot!) and her public expression of her faith is just heart-warming. Amaka worked as an energy analyst, loves cooking and has just turned her passion for food into a business. She runs a blog on womanhood and parenthood (Makyscorner, http://www.makyscorner.com/ ), and is preparing to publish her first cookbook. Do check her out!
5. Zimasa Qolohle-South Africa
This one is closer to home for those residing in South Africa who likes to have someone closer to relate to. Zima is a corporate banker by day and blogger by night. She is passionate about empowering other women of colour in the corporate world and blog the Corporate Canvas (http://thecorporatecanvas.co.za/ ) which features young & sassy women in their rise to the top, and discusses relevant topics such as finances, careers and lifestyle, etc. Do check out her out!
C. Travel/Self development
- Zim Ugochukwu-Nigeria/USA
Born in the US, from Nigerian parents-she left the corporate world (a former biologist) to found Travel Noire (TN, http://travelnoire.com/ ), which has quickly become the No 1 digital platform for black travellers around the world. Yes, being featured on Travel Noire has fast become the equivalent of that must “selfie” after beating your face ;-). I have tried to tag TN for a few of my movements but have not made it yet to their timeline yet sadly….one day, one day…Lol!
- Cherae Robinson-US
Cherae founded Tastemakers Africa (https://tastemakersafrica.com/) as she saw a gap for it during her travels on the continent. As per their motto :”travel Africa, Skip Mediocre”-the main goal of her website and the app is to give travel tips and improve anyone’s experience while travelling on the continent by pointing people in the right directions (destinations, hotels, restaurants, clubs, etc.). You can choose to be part of this epic community either through becoming a curator and/or creating digital content for the website.
- Yasmin Belo-OSagie and Afua Osei, Nigeria and Ghana/US
Ex McKinsey management consultants, Yasmin and Afua founded She Leads Africa (SLA, http://sheleadsafrica.org/ ). It has become my default go-to site when feeling down and looking for inspiration to “keep going”. In less than two years of existence, SLA has earned its spot online and put Yasmin and Afua on Forbes’ List of Emerging Entrepreneurs to watch (http://www.forbes.com/sites/mfonobongnsehe/2014/09/11/10-emerging-women-entrepreneurs-to-watch-in-africa/#6b20a50353b6 ). SLA runs a number of #shehives across the continent, offer coaching sessions and organises the annual SLA pitch competition where selected female entrepreneurs have access to some of the best business coaches and win a cash prize. Their goal is very simple: ensure African women are equipped adequately to thrive and contribute to the Continent’s development. Can I get an amen for that? Yasss!!! Kudos to these ladies!
- Chrystal Beeko
I think it is safe to say that West Africa (esp. Ghana and Nigeria) is on my radar at the moment ;-). Chrystal was born in Ghana, left for Canada to study and later came back to Ghana convinced of the fact that the continent offered more opportunities than it was being given credit for. She and a friend founded the BE BOLD Show (https://www.youtube.com/user/thebeboldshow ), which stands for Bringing Education and Building Opportunities for Leadership and Development in Africa-which highlighted people contributing positively to Africa. She currently runs a PR form in Accra
- Naadiya Moosaje, South Africa
I have had the pleasure of meeting and knowing Naadiya personally, I am a proud product of the company she founded, South African Women in Engineering (SAWomENG, http://www.womeng.org/ ). A civil engineer, multiple awards and business owner (both a fashion line and restaurant), she realised that there was no structure to support females in what tends to be a male dominated industry. SAWomENG (and its sister organisation GirlEng)’s main goal was to attract women to engineering as a career field at University, and later ensure women remain in the field through series of an intense week workshop, and access to mentors. Are you an engineering student in South Africa and/or Kenya, do not miss this golden opportunity and apply for their fellowship week in June/July.
- Olajumoke Adenowo, Nigeria
I came across this woman by pure accident while surfing the net at some odd hours one night, when I was struggling to focus and finish a report; needless to say I quit whining and went back to the grind…lol! What an inspiration! She is an architect by training who started her own firm in her early twenties (AD Consulting, http://www.adconsultinglimited.com/ ), has designed some of the key buildings in Nigeria. She juggles many responsibilities e.g. radio host, presenter, philanthropist (who believes in giving back to her community), author, wife and mother and as if that was not enough she also blogs regularly (http://olajumokeadenowo.com/?page_id=49 ). Do check out her interview on CNN at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2CIQuastvw
- Rebecca Oppong Beeko, Ghana
Stalking Chrystal Beeko (yes no shame in admitting I sometimes do that…lol!), helped me discover this woman who happens to be her sister in law. Born and bred in Ghana as well. She appears on the list of Ghana’s richest women and established a construction/real estate company (the Manet Group, http://www.manet.com/manet/ ) after her first business venture (a fishing company failed). This just proves to show like the popular sayings that “do not ever let your failure be a full stop but a comma in your story”. Today, her net worth is estimated at ~$ 420 millions.
- Bilikiss Adebiyi, Nigeria
An ex MBA student from MIT in the US, and co-founder of the recycling company in Nigeria WeCyclers (http://wecyclers.com/ ). She first studied computer science, later completed masters before embarking in Business School. Bilikiss has won multiple awards on the model used by WeCyclers, as it has literally kicked two birds with one stone (i.e. cleaned the streets of Lasgidi and created income for the waste collectors).
5. Patricia Nzolantima-DRCongo
I came across Patricia when applying for the Young African Leaders Initiative (#YALI) organised by President Barack Obama as she was among the first selected from the DRCongo in 2012. What a truly phenomenal woman! I sometimes get the feeling that successful entrepreneurs from Francophone Africa do not nearly get the credit they deserve. Hoping this post highlights the great work she is doing! She is a multi-business owner (runs an advertising agency, helps organise cancer awareness activities in Kinshasa), but her biggest venture to date is her effort to develop her original micro-credit facility for Congolese women (“Femmes du Future” i.e. “Women of the Future”) into the African Women Development Bank to enable access to credit and increase participation of women in business.
The women in this category have been written about multiple times online either by Forbes, Ventures Africa, CNN or BBC…so I have decided to just list them and give a link to an article about them (in an effort to keep this short and sweet)
- Arumna Oteh (Nigeria)– Treasurer and Vice President of the World Bank, https://www.weforum.org/people/arunma-oteh
- Ory Okolloh Mwangi (Kenya), founder of Kenya Pundit and currently working as director of Investment for the Omidyar Network, https://www.omidyar.com/people/ory-okolloh
- Isis Nyongo (Kenya)
Cousin to the amazing Lupita Nyongo, Isis is a tech entrepreneur in Africa (http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/meet-the-boss-isis-nyongo-tech-investor/ )
4. Rebecca Enonchong (Cameroon), founder of Apps Tech
This IT mogul studied in the US and later moved back to her homeland Cameroun, http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/meet-the-boss-rebecca-enonchong-ceo-appstech/
Congratulations…you have made it to the end in one piece…lol! I could go on and on….alas, everything must come to an end at some point. Hope you enjoyed the post… I keep myself motivated by reading about other women just like me, who show up each day and make the best out of the opportunities to achieve their dreams. Do shout (aka leave a comment) if you feel strongly that there someone needs to be represented here. I hope this also helps you at the very least know that we, as young African women, are part of a bigger community out there…
Happy women’s month again; may you strive in what you are currently doing and plan to achieve!