In recent years, the African continent has witnessed an increase in women attaining multi-millionaire status in various industries such as IT, fashion, manufacturing, oil and more. The advancement has disproved the gender stereotype that portrays women as less capable and weaker.
In 2021 only 12.9% of the 3,311 billionaires around the globe were female.
When you think of female entrepreneurs, names like Linda Ikeji and Folorunsho Alakija quickly spring to mind.
However, there are some African multi-millionaires you don’t know, that are bold and fearless ambitious entrepreneurs who are shaping the future of the continent. Let’s take a look at seven of them.
1. Salma Okonkwo
Ghanaian businesswoman and executive Salma Okonkwo works in the energy sector. She is the founder of Blue Power Energy, a company that develops solar farm projects in Ghana and uses alternative energy sources.
Her career in the energy sector officially began in 2003 after she returned to Ghana from Los Angeles and was hired by the oil and gas firm Sahara Energy Group.
“Our purpose is to ensure that every Ghanaian, every village in Ghana, has their required petroleum products. We want to make a difference by being green, and in Ghana we’re the first company to do that,” she said in a video interview with Voices of Ghana.
2. Nkemdilim Begho
Nkemdilim Begho, sometimes referred to as the “leading lady” of the Nigerian IT industry, was in charge of founding one of the top IT service providers in the nation.
She is the founder and managing director of Future Software Resources, also known as Futuresoft.
She took over the company of her well-known father Chris Uwaje had started when she returned to Nigeria, she rebranded it. She changed the company’s offerings to include online services like website design, IT security, web hosting, and more for students.
“African women have always worked very, very hard. When you have to go very far for water and for food, that turns you into a hardworking person,” Nkemdilim Begho said in a LoA “Women in Tech” interview in 2015.
3. Monica Musonda
After a successful career as a lawyer, Monica Musonda transitioned into the food processing industry in 2012, and founded Java Foods and a Zambian citizen.
Today, eeZee Instant Noodles, Java’s original product, is one of the most well-known names in Zambia.
She worked for Dangote, a Nigerian industrial powerhouse, in what she described as “a stable employment” before venturing into the unpredictable realm of entrepreneurship.
She described her “aha moment” in a lecture at TEDx Talks in 2016 when her Nigerian supervisor brought up Zambians’ lack of economic activity there as her “aha moment.”
“I was living in Nigeria and seeing that Nigeria runs its economy, but in Zambia, we are just spectators in our economy, and we’re happy to do that,” the 43-year-old said.
4. Thabiso Mahlape
Thabiso Mahlape launched BlackBird Books under Jacana Media in 2015 with the goal of promoting black authors in South Africa.
She took her time learning about the publishing industry, initially spending four years studying to become an engineer before attempting to switch to journalism.
In 2010, she finally applied for a publishing internship at Jacana Media after a career counsellor encouraged her to think about a future in the industry.
She soon realised that the South African publishing industry was largely white and made the decision to take on the job of changing that.
“Authors disrespect you more, and distribution channels owned by men just aren’t willing to see you, even when you do the work that you do… Even with black men—because I don’t always do things the way they want me to—it can be a bit problematic,” she said.
5. Tara Fela-Durotoye
When Tara Fela-Durotoye started House of Tara International in her Nigerian living room, she was a pioneer in the African beauty market.
House of Tara International’s creator and CEO, based in Lagos, is currently in charge of an African network of makeup salons, shops, and workshops.
She attributes a lot of her success to the lessons she has learnt from her adoring father and her stepmother.
“She is the one who gave me the passion for cosmetics and beauty, because she was extremely fashionable and liked to look beautiful. She was in a salon every weekend, having her nails polished,” Tara Fela-Durotoye recalled in CNN’s African Voices program in 2017.
6. Teta Isibo
Teta Isibo, 34, started her jewellery and accessory company in Rwanda without any formal training in design, fashion, or business. She received her training as an urban planner in the UK before moving back home soon after.
Before she made the leap and began concentrating on locally manufactured apparel in 2010, creating jewellery and accessories was just a personal pastime and “part-time side hustle,” as she puts it. She performed all her marketing herself on social media.
“As I didn’t have a background in business, I attended many different entrepreneurship programs that helped me learn how to run a business,” she told FemaleOneZero in an email from Rwanda.
7. Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola
As a student, Nigerian social entrepreneur Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola already knew she wanted to launch a recycling company to help her country’s severe waste management issues.
In 2012, she returned home to launch Wecyclers after earning her degree in waste management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“I saw the opportunity that was there, in this field, and I also saw the impact we could have on people’s lives, and that’s really what drove me,” Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola said in NdaniTV’s Yeong CEO program in 2014.
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