5 African Women Who Should Have Been on the 2018 Forbes Power Women List

Every year, Forbes publishes its list titled: ‘The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women’. The women on this list are some of the most intelligent, resilient and influential leaders of today. Making their mark in the world in all fields including politics, business, philanthropy, media, technology, and finance.

They are creating solutions for some of the world’s biggest problems and leaving lasting legacies along the way.

Members of the 2018 Most Powerful Women list represent women in six categories.: Business (27 honorees), technology (18), finance (12), media & entertainment (16), politics & policy (22), and philanthropy (5).

Combined, the ‘Power Women’ control or influence nearly $2 trillion in revenue and oversee 5 million employees.

While I know this list is highly competitive and the women on the list all deserve the honor, there is a serious problem when it comes to diversity.  

Only 1 African woman made the 2018 Forbes 100 power women list, at no 97. Why? Read more... - @lizgrossman87 Click To Tweet

Just look at the numbers: North America has 50 women represented, Asia and the Pacific has 22, Europe has 24, (with the United Kingdom boasting 7 from that number), the Middle East has 3,  and only one in Africa – the newly minted President of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde at position 97.

Of course, picking the Power Women is no easy feat. Forbes uses four metrics every year:

  1. Money – net worth, company revenues, assets, or GDP
  2. Traditional, digital and social media presence
  3. Spheres of influence
  4. Impact – analyzed both within the context of each woman’s field (media, technology, business, philanthropy/NGOs, politics, and finance) and outside of it.

Criteria number one, money, can place African women at a disadvantage. According to the IMF, in 2017 Nigeria had the largest nominal GDP of any African country at $376 billion, but ranks 30th globally, with most African countries trailing far behind.

The top ten African businesses range from $58 billion (Sonatrach) in revenue to $8 billion (Imperial Holdings), none of which have a female CEO.

Fortune’s top ten global companies range from over $500 billion (Walmart) to $242 billion (Berkshire Hathaway). These simple numbers and economic imbalance alone may explain why so few African women make it on the Power 100 list, but it is reductionist to define power in terms of money.

Power can be defined as the ability or right to control people and events or to influence the way people act or think in important ways.

 African women have historically been influential leaders, dating back to the 17th century with Queen Nzinga from Angola, through to the struggles for independence by women like Yaa Asaantewa, Rose Chibambo, Graça Machel, Winnie Mandela, Joice Mujuru, Lillian Ngoyi and Albertina Sisulu, to the modern historical figures such as former female Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Dr Joyce Banda, Ameenah Gurib Fakim and Catherine Samba Panza.

Businesswomen like Njeri Rionge from Kenya, Sibongile Sambo from South Africa are running multi-million dollar enterprises. We must also praise countries like Rwanda, for having the most number of women represented in parliament.

African women leaders are resilient, influential and changing their societies and the world. And they wield significant power.

Forbes has recognized African women on past lists, such as Folorunso Alakija, Dr. Joyce Banda, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ameena Gurib Fakim, Gail Kelley (the only African woman to ever be named in the top 10, #8 of 2010), and others.

However this year, I would like to suggest five African women who should have been considered for the Power Women List.  

Here are 5 African Women who should have been on the 2018 Forbes Power Women List - @lizgrossman87 Click To Tweet

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka 

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, a position she has held since August 2013, expanding the agency to raise the most revenue in its history and provide financing for almost 50,000 beneficiaries globally.

She boasts over 83,000 followers on Twitter, speaking engagements on some of the world’s most influential stages, and sets the policy agenda for gender equality in the core of the United Nations.  

She uses her experiences as an active leader in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, as well as serving in some of the highest positions of government, including Deputy President, to influence the lives of all women across the world.

Obiageli Ezekwesli 

With a glowing career in civil society, government, policy-making, and advocacy, Obiageli Ezekwesli spearheaded the #BringBackourGirls Campaign, creating a global movement to insist on returning the Chibok Girls.

More than one million people, including the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama have tweeted the hashtag.  HBO has recently released a documentary on two of the girls, which is a result of this campaign.

She was a 2018 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in transparency in the extractive sector.  She is currently running for President of Nigeria and using her global platform to disrupt Nigeria’s politics of failure, as evidenced by her interview with CNN’s Christine Amanpour, and through a strategic campaign targeting young Nigerians.

Tsitsi Masiyiwa

Tsitsi Masiyiwa is a Zimbabwean philanthropist and social entrepreneur who has devoted much of her life to empowering the lives of young people through education and technology.

She and her husband, billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, founded the Higher Life Foundation in response to the AIDS crisis, and now provide education, access to technology, and healthcare in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi, and Lesotho.

Every year, the Higherlife Foundation provides 20,000 scholarships for African students and gives 600,000 students a month access to education through the Ruzivo online learning platform they developed.

Tsitsi is a sought after philanthropist and speaker, serving on boards such as the Global Philanthropy Forum, PATH, the Giving Fund, and the End Fund, where she uses her expertise to influence decisions about major philanthropic investments globally.

Amina J Mohammed

Amina J Mohammed serves as the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations,  the second in command of the entire UN system, with a budget of $5.4 billion.

After years in the private sector, Amina served in government under three Nigerian Presidents, including as Minister of the Environment,  before joining the United Nations as Ban Ki-Moon’s advisor on the post-2015 Development Agenda.

Sharing stages with major world leaders, she is working to better share the humanitarian work of the United Nations, and encourage reforms within the system, including on climate change, the Every Woman Every Child initiative, women’s health,  and developing future African political leaders through the African Women Leaders Network.  

Bozoma Saint John

A top executive hailing from Ghana with a career spanning PepsiCo, Apple, Uber, and now Endeavor, Bozoma “Boz”  St John is disrupting music, pop culture and business as we know it.  

She was the mastermind behind Beyonce’s Superbowl Halftime show in 2013 and created Apple Music’s ad campaign with black celebrities. Boz’s work has been featured on superlative lists including Billboard Magazine’s list of top women in music, Fast Company’s 100 most creative people, and the Hollywood Reporter’s 2018 Women in Entertainment Power 100.

At the 2018 BET Awards, she encouraged entertainers and executives to use their platforms to advance various agendas, and use their power for good. She also sits on the board of Vital Voices, a powerful international organization identifying women leaders and supporting their visions.

I encourage everyone to keep an eye on these women, as well as the growing movement of African women leaders both on the continent and across the globe.

As Africa continues to produce top talent, as nations grow, and policies are written and implemented invest heavily in women and girls, I am confident the Forbes Power Women list will become more geographically balanced and reflect this growth.

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About Liz Grossman

Liz Grossman is an American entrepreneur, educator and communications specialist with over 12 years of experience living and working across Africa. Collaborating with some of Africa’s most powerful leaders in politics, development, education and business, Liz forges strategic partnerships to drive resources to changemakers across Africa. An expert and speaker on women’s leadership, education, development policy, mentorship and communications holding a Masters in International Education Policy from Harvard, Liz is renowned for her ability to convene powerful communities and provide people with tools to build bridges and collaborate. She currently lives in New York City, and can be spotted rocking colorful wax prints, finding the city's best places to eat fufu and dancing Afrobeats.

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