December issue of New African Woman magazine presents the inaugural Women of the Year compilation. Like any other bid highlighting the most formidable women on the continent, this list is by no means exhaustive, and we are not negating or ignoring many others whose accomplishments we may not have noted as the year draws to a close.
Today, in the first of a two-part series, we bring you 15 of the 30 Women of the Year for 2015 selected by New African Woman.
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma | South Africa | Public Office
As chairperson of the AU Commission – the policy-making and driving arm of the AU – this continental heroine runs the day-to-day cycle of what is considered Africa’s most influential body, the African Union.
One of her passions to steer the AU away from foreign dependence for funding African projects. This year she has been unrelenting in her call on “African captains of industry” to pledge larger amounts to accelerate self-sufficiency in the African Union.
In 2015, she has also been very active against human trafficking and the struggles of women.
Arunma Oteh | Nigeria | Finance
The former director of the Securities Exchange Commission of Nigeria was recently named vice president and treasurer at the World Bank. Doubtless she will be using her new role not only to ensure Africa in top on the World Bank’s agenda, but that the bank’s objectives are more aligned to the continent’s needs than has been the case in the past.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf | Liberia | Politics
The “Iron Lady” of Africa has overcome many hurdles to steer her country out of the devastations of years of civil conflict. 2015 tested her to a whole new level. As the leader of one of the three countries devastated by the outbreak of the Ebola virus, her guidance was at the heart of the response and solution the the crises. She resolutely stepped up to the task of fighting and beating the deadly virus against all odds, with Liberia the first to be declared Ebola-free on 3 September by the WHO.
Amina J. Mohammed | Nigeria | Politics
A technocrat with serious pedigree, Mohammed has spent the last three years as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning; in other words, she is Ms Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Hardly a stranger to the public in her native Nigeria, her profile rose further towards the end of 2015 when she became one of the only four female ministers appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari. In a widely praised appointment, Mohammed id now Nigeria’s environment minister.
Anne Kansiime | Uganda | Arts and Culture
Africa is mesmerised and swept away by the insanely funny Anne Kansiime whose sketches are rib-cracking gems which have made this charming 28-year-old Ugandan a household name on the continent. The African Diaspora is also catching up is also catching up with her infectious comedy, with her YouTube channel one of the most visited in 2015.
Jamila Abass | Kenya | Civil Society
Jamila Abass is giving farmers in her country something they need to compete in this tech-mad world – M-Farm, a piece of software which links them not only to the markets for their produce but also creates an ecosystem of knowledge-sharing, which they can use to pass on ideas. This ingenious innovation even won the praises of Brack Obama when he visited Kenya in July.
Elizabeth Nyamayaro | Zimbabwe | Civil Society
Nyamayaro is credited as the visionary and mastermind behind Emma Watson’s viral feminism and gender equality campaign HeForShe which aims to promote gender equality, especially by encouraging men to become champions of the cause. A staunch advocate of economic empowerment, Nyamayaro is the founder of Africa IQ, an innovative social impact organisation with a mission to promote Africa’s sustainable economic growth and development. A political scientist by training, Nyamayaro is also Senior Advisor to the UN Women chief Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Obiageli Ezekwesili | Nigeria | Civil Society
Her zeal and tenacity over the abduction of the Chibok girls has been unrelenting. Oby (as she is fondly known) has continued to be the face of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and in 2015, she was unwavering. She also does other social activist work and tweets prolifically against social ills and injustices.
As a senior economic adviser for Open Society, a group founded by billionaire George Saros, she advises nine reform-committed African heads of state including Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia. She is also on the boards of Bharti Airtel, the World Wildfire Fund, the School of Public Policy of Central European University, the Harold Hortog School of Government and Policy, New African magazine, and the Center for Global Leadership at Tufts University.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka | South Africa | Public Office
an anti-apartheid heroine and former vice president in South Africa, the UN’s executive director of UN Women is no stranger to taking on difficult challenges. In her current role, she is entrusted with driving the UN’s global gender policy. This year she was one of the lead voices calling for an end to child marriages in some parts of Africa.
Linda Ikeji | Nigeria | Media
She is perhaps arguably one of Nigeria’s, if not Africa’s, blogger of the year, the lady behind one of Africa’s most visited blogs, the no-fuss lindaikejisblog.com which has made the 35-year-old one of the richest people in the country.
She became news herself last month when she announced the purchase of an expensive mansion in one of Lagos’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. As the year drew to a close, the African blogosphere as well as its social media populace went agog at Ikeji’s meteoric rise to celebrity status. With blogging not going anywhere anytime soon, Ms Ikeji is set to keep going in years to come. Just what will she blog about when she sees our list?
Namwali Serpell | Zambia | Literature
Described as “truly luminous” by the judges, Zambia’s Namwali Serpell bagged the prestigious 2015 Caine Prize for African short story writing. She is the first Zambian to win the £10,000 prize, described as Africa’s leading literary award.
Serpell made headlines for another first too – the generous and rather mutinous gesture she made by announcing she was sharing her prize money with the other finalists.
Bola Adesola | Nigeria | Finance
The highly respected MD and CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria Ltd, Adesola has over 25 years’ banking experience. The 2013 African Business award recipient and an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Nigeria, Adesola sits on the Board of the Financial Markets Dealers Association and chairs the Central Bank of Nigeria Bankers’ Sub-Committee on Women’s Economic Empowerment.
2015 saw her appointment as the first Nigerian member of the board of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative.
Tsitsi Masiyiwa | Zimbabwe | Civil Society
The First Lady of a world-renowned telecoms empire, Tsitsi Masiyiwa is the Executive Chairperson of Higher Life Foundation, which aims to address the specific developmental and social needs of African communities, focused on education, healthcare, and technology. Capernaum Trust, the privately funded scholarship programme in Sub-Saharan Africa, over the past 18 years provided over 100,000 scholarships to students in primary school, high school and university.
Uzo Aduba | Nigeria | TV and Film
With an uncanny knack for both drama and comedy, Uzo Aduba is the kind of actress that audiences can’t seem to get enough of. This year, Aduba picked up her second Emmy award for her role as Crazy Eyes and endeared the world with a heartfelt acceptance speech. And she is only gaining momentum – Aduba is set to show off her operatic vocal training in her latest role as Glinda in The Wiz.
Uche Pedro | Nigeria | Media
When she and husband Bode Pedro welcomed twin babies last April, Pedro announced the news on Bella Naija – a sentimental touch that hearkens back to the days she single-handedly did the blog which has become Africa and its diaspora’s go-to address for news from home. Considered one of the most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa, Pedro is getting ready for another celebration in 2016 as Bella Naija turns 10.
Find out more about our Women of the Year 2015 by getting your copy of our December Issue now and stay tuned for part 2 later this week.