By MACHARIA KAMAU
While there are still efforts needed in ensuring effective participation of women in the business, especially at the decision making level, the Kenyan woman has in recent years made strides in breaking the proverbial glass ceiling and made inroads in the corporate world.
The changing corporate landscape has seen a number of Kenyan women entrepreneurs and business leaders feted at the local, regional and global level for their achievements.
They include the late Prof Wangari Maathai whose conservation efforts are now the stuff of a legend, Njeri Rionge and Amolo Ngweno both among the foremost ICT entrepreneurs in the country and Tabitha Karanja, chief executive Keroche Breweries.
Recently the African edition of Forbes Magazine started recognising exemplary business leaders in Africa.
Every year, the magazine has a list of 20 most powerful young women entrepreneurs and in the list, there are always Kenyan women listed as among the most powerful on the continent.
Kenyans mentioned in previous years include Rionge, and Ory Okolloh who has stakes in segments in the technology sector.
Isis Nyong’o, who is vice-president and managing director of the world’s largest independent mobile advertising network, InMobi, and Olga Kimani-Arara, who works with Google in Kenya.
In 2012, the situation is no different and three Kenyans have been listed as among the most powerful young women in the continent. These include Juliana Rotich, who co-founded Ushahidi with Okolloh.
Ushahidi is a crowd sourcing crisis resolution platform most common for its use during Kenya’s post-election crisis in 2008 and Haiti. Also on this year’s list is Lorna Rutto, who is the founder of Ecopost, a firm that makes poles from plastic waste. Notable is how women in ICT have grown and made a name for themselves not only in Kenyan but abroad. In 2012, Forbes readers were introduced to a remarkable group of the 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa, heralding a new wave of African women taking control of their economic, social and political destinies.
Here are the 10 of 20 women Forbes listed – all under age 45, and shaping the narrative of the continent’s rising entrepreneurs.
In August, Forbes published its 2012 annual list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women and of the 100 women selected, 11 were Black, of whom three were Africans: Presidents Joyce Banda, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Nigerian Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Lorna Rutto – Kenya,
Sustainable Living and Green
Technology Entrepreneur, Ecopost
Rutto is the founder of Ecopost whose vision is “To Transform Africa’s Waste into Wealth.” Her Nairobi-based company, Ecopost, converts consumer plastic into durable, easy to use and environmentally friendly plastic lumber, an eco-friendly alternative to timber. Rutto is the 2011 Sub-Saharan Africa Cartier Laureate. She also won the 2010
Bid Network Nature Challenge Award, 2010 SEED Award and the 2009 Enablis Business Award.
Jepchumba – Kenya,
Digital Content Creator, Cultural Curator
Jepchumba is the Founder and Creative Director of African Digital Art, a platform for innovation and inspiration, which is dedicated to African digital media. Originally from Kenya, but based in Cape Town, South Africa, Jepchumba travels the world to share her views on African art and technology at popular conferences including South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, and most recently at TedxEuston in England.
Biola Alabi – Nigeria,
MD, MNET Africa
As Managing Director for multi-national cable and satellite content firm, MNET Africa, Alabi is one of the most powerful women in African media. Named a 2012 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, she has been at the forefront of the expansion of the AfricaMagic channels brand across the continent. In 2010 she served as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Entertainment. She is a graduate in communications from Daystar University in Kenya and was born and raised in Nigeria.
Patience Mthunzi, PhD. – South Africa
Senior Scientist, CSIR
Born in Orlando West, Soweto, Dr Mthunzi is currently South Africa’s only Senior Scientist for the Biophotonics Research Group – a field of study that enables microscopic study of biological molecules, cells and tissue using laser. Unable to study biophotonics in South Africa, she became the first South African PhD student at the School of Physics and Astronomy of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Mthunzi was recently awarded one of the country’s highest orders, the Order of Mapungubwe, for her contribution in the field of biophotonics.
Attorney & Co-Founder, LiveWello
A life-changing event, the diagnosis of her son with Autism gave birth to LiveWelloTM, social network targeted at health. A U.K-trained attorney, Iwegbue and her physician husband, a self-taught software developer, built LiveWello to support their Autistic son’s health while harnessing the best elements of their African culture: village life. By building a health app that was social in nature, they were able to collaborate with their son’s health providers, their health coaches and the rest of their family back home in Africa, to collectively manage his health. Now Iwegbue is helping other people manage their own health with the social network app she built.
The peace and women activist was one of three female recipients who were awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize “for non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Gbowee helped organise and lead the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, an alliance of Christian and Muslim women, in public protest during Liberia’s tumultuous times. Now, through her organisation, Women Peace and Security Network Africa, Gbowee trains and empowers women in Africa to bring peace to their own countries. Gbowee is a recipient of multiple awards including the Blue Ribbon Peace Award from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School, Gruber Prize for Women’s Rights, and the John F Kennedy Profile in Courage Award and the Medal for Justice from New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Rotich is co-founder and executive director of Ushahidi, a Nairobi-based technology company that specialises in developing free and open source software that aggregates and curates crisis data on a real-time basis and collates the data into live, interactive maps. She was named one of the “Top 100 Women” by The Guardian newspaper, “Top 2 Women” in Technology and “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2011 by The World Economic Forum. Rotich is a technologist and a TED Senior Fellow.
Social Entrepreneur, Technologist & CEO,
SpotOne Global Solutions
Senegalese-born Marieme Jamme is London-based CEO of SpotOne Global Solutions, a UK-based company that helps IT organizations establish a global footprint in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. CNN named Jamme one of Top Ten African Tech Voices to follow on Twitter. Jamme is also a co-founder of Africa Gathering, the first global platform where entrepreneurs and experts meet and share ideas about development in
Africa. A prolific speaker, particularly on Africa, Jamme is also the organizer of TEDx Accra and Dakar.
Lisa Opoku Busumbru – Ghana,
Chief Operating Officer, Goldman Sachs
US-based Black Enterprise magazine named the Wall Street executive one of its 2012 “40 Rising Stars Under 40 and one of “75 Most Powerful Women in Business” for 2010. She is the Chief Operating Officer for Goldman Sachs‘ securities division for the Asia
Pacific region. Opoku Busumbru earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with high honors in Sociology from the University of Minnesota in 1993 and a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1996.
Minister of Post andTelecommunications, Togo
Lawson is the Minister of Post and Telecommunications of Togo. Prior to her appointment, Lawson was a manager of Corporate Strategy and Business Development at the France Telecom/Orange Group in New York City and Alcatel-Lucent in Paris. Lawson began her career in telecommunications at the World Bank in Washington DC where she focused on regulatory reforms for developing nations. She is a graduate of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and was named a 2012 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.