The Africa Report, Jeune Afrique and the Africa CEO Forum assemble an exclusive list of the top African businesswomen who are shaping their sectors, helping a new generation of female leaders and improving their firms’ profitability. Here are profiles of some of the 50 women
Bola Adesola, Nigeria, CEO, Standard Chartered Nigeria
With more than 25 years of banking experience, Adesola is the definition of a veteran banker. Prior to joining Standard Chartered as head of its Nigeria subsidiary in 2011, she worked at First Bank Nigeria and Citibank in Nigeria and Tanzania. Adesola was recently appointed deputy chair of the board of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.
Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch, Morocco, CEO, Aksal Group
The influential entrepreneur and wife of Morocco’s agriculture minister, Aziz Akhannouch, is the founder and CEO of Aksal Group, a leading Moroccan company specialising in luxury goods, department stores and shopping malls. Aksal owns a 50% stake in Casablanca’s Morocco Mall, one of Africa’s biggest shopping centres, where in October 2017 she launched her own beauty and cosmetics brand, Yan&One.
Patience Akyianu, Ghana, MD, Barclays Ghana
After five years at the helm of Barclays Bank Ghana as its first female leader, Akyianu will leave the institution in September 2018. She will take on the role of group CEO at insurance firm Hollard Ghana Holdings, parent company of Hollard Insurance Ghana and Hollard Life Assurance Ghana. Akyianu wants to help Hollard compete with the industry leaders, including the State Insurance Company, Star Assurance and Enterprise Insurance.
Folorunsho Alakij, Nigeria, Deputy chair, Famfa Oil
Alakija is ranked the second-richest women on Forbes’ Africa Billionaires list, with an estimated net worth of $1.6bn as of January 2018. Her fortune mainly lies in Famfa Oil, an oil exploration company with a 60% stake in the deepwater Agbami oil field. Alakija has diversified her business into other fields, including publishing and fashion.
Maidie Arkutu, Ghana, VP, Francophone Africa, Unilever
After a three-year stint as head of Unilever’s Ghana subsidiary, Arkutu became the group’s vice-president for francophone Africa in January 2017. A trained marketer, her goal is to get more Omo washing powder and Lipton tea in consumers’ hands in Côte d’Ivoire and other major markets.
Ibukun Awosika, Nigeria, Chair, First Bank Nigeria
Awosika is the first female board chair of First Bank Nigeria. A multiple-award-winning entrepreneur, she is the founder and CEO of the Chair Centre Group, which comprises companies in retail, manufacturing and security system services. The Nigerian businesswoman is a fellow of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and the author of a Christian book, Business His Way.
Selma Babbou, Tunisia, Deputy MD, Amen Group
Babbou is an influential businesswoman and the deputy managing director of Amen Group. The third-largest conglomerate in Tunisia, it has more than 3,000 employees working in sectors including agribusiness, health and banking. A chartered accountant by profession, Babbou also sits on the board of directors of the Société Africaine de Crédit Automobile.
Abiola Bawuah, Nigeria, Regional CEO, West Africa, UBA
In March, Bawuah was promoted to regional chief executive of United Bank for Africa, overseeing the bank’s businesses in six West African countries. Prior to her appointment she was head of the bank’s Ghanaian subsidiary, where she was credited for her stellar performance, recording 134% growth year-on-year in profit before tax.
Mosun Belo-Olusoga, Nigeria, Chair, Access Bank
Belo-Olusoga has been board chair of Access Bank since July 2015, having joined the board in November 2007. With more than 30 years of banking experience to her name, she is widely recognised as a credit and risk-management expert. She was previously head of investment banking at GT Bank, and now sits as a non-executive director on several boards as well as serving as the principal consultant for a boutique training company, KRC.
Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun, Morocco, Director, Holmarcom Group
Bensalah-Chaqroun wears many hats, among them airline pilot, humanitarian and a serious golf player. But she is most known for her business prowess, managing Holmarcom Group and working as CEO of Les Eaux Minérales d’Oulmès, a leading water and bottling company listed on the Casablanca Stock Exchange. She also headed the federation of Moroccan business owners for six years.
Wided Bouchamaoui, Tunisia, Administrator, HGB Holding
Bouchamaoui was previously head of the Union Tunisienne de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de l’Artisanat (UTICA), an influential employer’s organisation representing more than 150,000 private companies across several business sectors. UTICA was one of four members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, awarded the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the 2011 ‘Jasmine Revolution’. She is an administrator at family conglomerate HGB Holding, which is active in a wide range of sectors including automobile, real estate and distribution.
Yolanda Cuba, South Africa, CEO, Vodafone Ghana
Cuba is one of South Africa’s youngest business leaders, who at only 29 years old was appointed CEO of Mvelaphanda Group, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed conglomerate founded by politician Tokyo Sexwale. She was appointed CEO of Vodafone Ghana in June 2016 and previously served as an executive director at South African Breweries, a subsidiary of multinational brewer SABMiller.
Aïda Diarra, Mali, VP Africa, Western Union
With an interest in business developed at an early age thanks to the help of boundary-pushing female forebears, Diarra has been at money-transfer company Western Union since 1999. Western Union is the dominant player in the sector, and Diarra told media that “new technologies and new channels” are her focus to keep the firm on top and to fend off a growing number of newer and more agile competitors. In 2016, she told Jeune Afrique that she has no plans to leave Western Union anytime soon because “Africa’s prospects are phenomenal.”
Laurence Do Rego, Benin/France, Head of commercial banking, Ecobank
After pointing out serious financial problems under the leadership of former boss Thierry Tanoh, the accounting expert has now been entrusted with weeding out bad debts at Ecobank’s commercial banking division. The sector represents 19% of its loans, but 39% of its bad debts. The success of the bank’s wider turnaround strategy will depend greatly on her efforts.
Hend El Sherbini, Egypt, CEO, Integrated Diagnostics Holdings
Excelling in the fields of medicine and business, El Sherbini successfully listed the firm she founded, Integrated Diagnostics Holdings, on the London Stock Exchange in 2015. The initial public offering put a value on the firm, which provides diagnostic services in Egypt, Jordan and Sudan, at $668m. In late 2017, IDH partnered with Man Capital and the International Finance Corporation to buy Nigeria’s Echo-Scan. To succeed in business, she told reporters: “You have to have a lot of self-confidence.”
Ada Eze, Nigeria, Executive VP, West Africa, Total
One of the highest-ranking women in the African oil business, Ada Eze is managing French oil giant Total’s operations in the booming West African oil sector. Under the leadership of the company veteran, Total has taken aim at Guinea and Mauritania for new exploration projects. Eze is also chairman of Total Senegal, and the firm signed a deal for an ultra-deep offshore exploration block there in May of last year.
Nadia Fassi-Fehri, Morocco, CEO, Inwi
The long-serving manager of royally owned firms launched a broadside in May against incumbent provider Maroc Telecom, suing it for disregarding government regulations on infrastructure sharing. Fassi-Fehri is overseeing more than $200m per year in investment to challenge competitors Maroc Telecom and Orange, with a big focus on high-speed mobile internet to capture more revenue from the fast-growing data segment.
Kate Fotso, Cameroon, MD, Telcar Cocoa
Fotso was half of a Cameroonian business power couple with the late André Fotso, who headed the country’s biggest business lobby. She runs Telcar, a joint venture with agribusiness giant Cargill, and the firm controls about one third of the local market for cocoa exports. She is a shareholder of Ecobank Cameroon and on the board of the Port Autonome de Kribi, Cameroon’s newest deepsea port.
Ghislane Guedira, Morocco, Executive VP, OCP
The financial engineering specialist is both the CFO and an executive VP at the continent’s top fertiliser producer. She has to make sure the money keeps on flowing where it needs to as OCP buys a 20% stake in Spain’s Fertinagro Biotech and makes progress on its planned $3.7bn in investments in Ethiopia, which has huge untapped agricultural potential. With experience at the state oil company and at a royal holding company, Guedira is helping Morocco Inc. to expand around the continent and beyond.
Yvonne Ike, Nigeria/UK, MD, SSA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
The former CEO for West Africa at Renaissance Capital and managing director at JP Morgan has more than two decades of high-level experience in the financial services business. Ike’s brief does not include South Africa, but shecould help the bank to review its Africa exposure after it lost an estimated $292m on a loan to South African investor Christo Wiese.
Amy Jadesimi, Nigeria, Chief executive, LADOL
Nigeria is emerging out of a big recession and oil prices are on the rise, which is good news for the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base, which provides services to the oil industry. To seize these and new opportunities, Jadesimi is preparing to list the company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange within the next two years and to expand operations, especially on its 100ha free trade zone.
Janine Kacou Diagou, Côte d’Ivoire, CEO, Groupe NSIA
Running francophone sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest insurance company is not enough for Diagou. In November 2017, she was named chair of the former West African subidiaries of Nigeria’s Diamond Bank, which NSIA purchased. The daughter of NSIA’s founder, Diagou said that she used to be in her father’s shadow but will not be defined as ‘a daughter of’: “I make progress through the strength of my work and my results.” Investors, including the National Bank of Canada, want to see if NSIA can compete with its Moroccan and South African peers.
Ghita Lahlou, Morocco, Director, Saham Assurances, École Centrale Casablanca
The director of Saham Assurances, who heads its health and offshoring units, does not limit her energies to the insurance sector. She is the president of Les Citoyens, a civil society platform to promote stronger communities. She balances all of this with her responsibilities at the École Centrale Casablanca, an engineering school that was launched in 2015.
Lizé Lambrechts, South Africa, CEO, Santam
The former chief executive of Sanlam Personal Finance runs South Africa’s top short-term insurer, which is owned by major insurance firm Sanlam. Sanlam and Santam both took big stakes in Morocco’s Saham this year, offering the opportunity to become much bigger players in other African markets.
SaÏda Karim Lamrani, Morocco, Executive VP, Holding Safari, Sofipar and Cofimar
The trained lawyer is making her way in the family business, which was founded by former prime minister Mohammed Karim Lamrani. Groupe Safari has holdings in many sectors, and she is the boss of SMEAI, a dealership that has the import rights for Jaguar, Land Rover, BMW and Mazda automobiles. She is on the board of the King’s foundation, Fondation Mohammed V.
Catherine Lesetedi, Botswana, CEO, BIHL
The leader of one of Bostwana’s top financial services groups has a tough task ahead after its investment in mircofinance institution Letshego proved less profitbale than initially predicted. Lesetedi has been leading the company since 2016. BIHL reported double-digit growth in premiums in 2017, and meanwhile Lesetedi is lobbying government to work with and strengthen the local financial sector.
Delphine Traoré MaÏdou, Burkina Faso, COO, Allianz Africa
Insurance industry expert Maïdou is the eyes and ears of German financial services company Allianz. She served as CEO of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty from 2012 and became the firm’s Africa COO in 2017. Allianz has operations in 17 African countries and bought a majority stake in Nigeria’s Ensure Insurance in 2017.
These profiles first appeared in the July/August 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine