African women have emerged as dynamic forces driving transformative change across various sectors, showcasing remarkable resilience, leadership, and innovation on the continent and beyond. In fostering community, these women serve as pillars, nurturing a sense of belonging, unity, and support. Through grassroots initiatives and community-building efforts, they create spaces where individuals can thrive, fostering social cohesion and empowerment.
Economically, African women have been instrumental in initiating and sustaining entrepreneurial endeavours that contribute significantly to local and national economies. From small-scale enterprises to larger business ventures, these women exemplify the role of entrepreneurship as a powerful tool for economic development. They are breaking gender norms and venturing into diverse industries, inspiring others and contributing to a more inclusive and robust economic landscape.
In government and governance, African women have played key roles in inspiring change despite marginalisation. Their involvement in politics and policymaking has been pivotal, advocating for inclusivity, gender equality, and social justice. As they assume leadership positions, they challenge existing norms, promote diversity, and contribute to the creation of policies that address the unique needs and challenges faced by women and marginalised communities.
At the industry level, African women have demonstrated exceptional leadership, innovation, and expertise. Whether in science, technology, arts, or other fields, they have proven their capabilities, breaking stereotypes and contributing to advancements that shape the continent’s future. Their accomplishments serve as beacons of inspiration for future generations of African women aspiring to make their mark in diverse professional domains.
On a broader scale, women inspire change in the hearts and minds of people in Africa. Through their stories, achievements, and advocacy, they challenge societal norms, reshape perceptions, and encourage others to pursue their dreams despite barriers. As African women continue to embody resilience and determination, they become catalysts for broader social change, influencing attitudes and fostering a more inclusive and equitable society. In essence, African women stand at the forefront of multifaceted progress, embodying the principles of community building, economic empowerment, government leadership, industrial innovation, and societal change.
We acknowledge that their impact echoes far beyond individual achievements, contributing to the collective advancement and transformation of the African continent. Thus, in this second edition of Ventures Africa’s 20 Women of Impact 2023, we profile women who initiated community and economic growth and inspired change in government, industries and people.
1# Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria)
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian-American economist, served as the seventh Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) from 2021. With over 40 years of experience in global finance, economics, and international development across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America, she brings a wealth of expertise.
Formerly the Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and a board member of Standard Chartered Plc and Twitter Inc, Okonjo-Iweala also served as the African Union (AU) Special Envoy, mobilizing international financial support against COVID-19. Additionally, she assumed the role of WHO Special Envoy for Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.
Known for her adept negotiation skills, Okonjo-Iweala has successfully brokered numerous agreements, fostering win-win outcomes. Her reputation as an effective consensus builder and honest broker has earned her the trust and confidence of governments and stakeholders alike. Passionate about the transformative power of trade, she firmly believes in its ability to uplift developing countries, fostering robust economic growth and sustainable development. As the first woman and first African to lead the WTO, her historic election has inspired countless young individuals to believe in and pursue their aspirations.
2#Aya Chebbi (Tunisia)
Aya Chebbi is a multi-award-winning Pan-African feminist. She rose to prominence as a voice for democracy and shot to global fame as a political blogger during the 2010/2011 Tunisia Revolution. She also served as the first-ever African Union Special Envoy on Youth at the African Union Commission Chairperson’s Cabinet in November 2018.
Appointed by the African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki in November 2018, as the youngest senior official in the history of the African Union and the youngest diplomat in the chairperson’s cabinet. She supports the Chairperson in addressing his thematic priority of working with and for young people and advocating to silencing guns by 2020.
In 2022, after the outbreak of the Russian-Ukraine war, she held a week-long engagement in Berlin with top intergovernmental bodies to provide safety for Africans who fled the war in Ukraine, after a series of meetings with African refugees. Some organisations include the United Nations Migration, Bridges Over Borders, etc.
Chebbi is the Founder of Nala Feminist Collective, a pan-African platform of women politicians and activists united towards the liberation of African women and girls. She received the 2019 Gates Foundation Campaign Award and was named in Forbes’ Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women and New African Magazine List of 100 Most Influential Africans.
3# Olapeju Ibekwe (Nigeria)
Olapeju Ibekwe is the CEO of the Sterling One Foundation, the social change arm of Nigeria’s Sterling Bank, dedicated to addressing the root causes of poverty in the West African nation. In her role, she collaborates with and supports various non-profits and social enterprises across Africa, providing capacity building, grants, alternative financing, and expert consultancy.
Beyond her responsibilities with the Sterling One Foundation, Ibekwe holds positions on several boards, including the One Health Initiative. In this capacity, she contributes to shaping impactful policies and initiatives for medical practitioners and the general public in pursuit of improved healthcare.
Ibekwe, in collaboration with the Nigerian Network of NGOs, played a key role in launching the continent’s first free banking solution for non-profits with Sterling Bank. Her pivotal role in this initiative now allows changemakers to operate accounts without incurring transaction charges.
At the helm of the Africa Social Impact Summit (ASIS), she leads a collaborative program engaging private and public sector leaders. ASIS focuses on fostering partnerships and driving impact investments into developmental programs that align with the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in areas such as health, education, climate action, and more.
4# Dr Enobong Louisa Akaiso (Nigeria)
Dr Enobong Louisa Akaiso, an Accelerator coach and globally recognized Civility Trainer and Leadership expert, specializes in Image, International Protocol, and Leadership presence. With over fifteen years of experience and a passion for empowering individuals, Akaiso adopts a cutting-edge yet holistic approach, assisting leaders and corporations in understanding the rapid formation of perceptions about them.
She is the founder of Women Who Win Africa (WWWA), a women-focused non-profit, committed to advancing the role of women in Africa’s transformation and development. Through intensive leadership training seminars and workshops, WWWA mobilizes support for African women, equipping them with essential leadership skills and competence. Over the past decade, Akaiso has empowered more than 1000 African women to confidently assume leadership roles across various sectors.
In addition, Akaiso leads the Civility for The Girl Child Initiative, which addresses challenges faced by girls in Africa. The initiative focuses on the overall well-being of the girl child, covering health, emotional well-being, and education with a proactive performance-oriented approach.
In December 2023, the WWWA team initiated a comprehensive project in Ghana, encompassing education on reusable pads, installing a mechanized borehole for an enhanced Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) system, and distributing disposable pads thoughtfully to girls in need.
5# Dr Ola Brown (Nigeria)
Dr Ola Brown is a startup founder and venture capitalist known for her role as the founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria. This tech-enabled urgent care services marketplace specializes in emergency services, virtual patient care, and medical equipment. It caters to industries such as oil & gas, mining, and international sectors, aiming to revolutionize emergency healthcare provision throughout Africa.
In addition to her work with Flying Doctors Nigeria, Dr. Brown established Health Capital Africa (HealthCap), an Africa-focused investment firm. With a mission to enhance the lives of over 1.4 billion Africans, HealthCap focuses on two key asset classes: infrastructure and venture capital. The infrastructure arm concentrates on healthcare, clean energy, and social infrastructure projects, particularly in areas like clean water, with a specialization in public-private partnerships. Simultaneously, the venture capital arm invests in pre-Series A startups within fintech and healthtech.
HealthCap has an extensive portfolio, having invested in around thirty startups in fintech and healthtech. Furthermore, it boasts a robust pipeline of nearly $800 million for healthcare, clean energy, and clean water infrastructure projects spanning the entire continent.
6# Maya Horgan-Famodu (Nigeria)
Maya Horgan-Famodu is Partner and Founder of Ingressive Capital and co-founder of Ingressive For Good. Ingressive Capital is a $10 Million VC Fund I and $50 Million Fund II focused on early-stage tech startups in Africa. Since its inception over five years ago, the fund has invested in pre-seed and seed startups located in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco. Ingressive Capital portfolio companies include Paystack, Bamboo, Carry1st, Mono, Tizeti, Lenco, Jetstream, 54gene, and OZÉ among many others. She is on a mission to ensure that brilliant people, wherever they are located, have access to the resources they need to build wildly scalable businesses.
Through Ingressive for Good, a nonprofit she co-founded, Horgan-Famodu is providing micro-scholarships, technical skills training, and talent placement for people in Africa. She also launched Ingressive Advisory, an advisory firm providing market entry, market ops services and tech research for corporates and investors. Horgan-Famodu is not just a serial technopreneur and venture capital investor, she is also a two-time Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur accolade recipient.
7#Blessing Abeng (Nigeria)
Blessing Abeng is the Co-founder and Director of Communications at Ingressive for Good, a startup she established alongside Maya Horgan Famodu and Sean Burrowes. This 501(c)3 edtech nonprofit focuses on enhancing the earning potential of underprivileged African youth by providing them with tech skills, resources, community support, and work opportunities. The startup operates through three core pillars: micro-scholarships, technical training, and talent placement.
Within Ingressive, Abeng actively contributes to elevating the earning potential of millions of African youth, leveraging her branding and communications expertise to fuel the organization’s growth. Ingressive for Good has successfully cultivated a thriving community exceeding 200,000 members and has imparted tech skills, including software development (backend, frontend, mobile), design, and data, to over 100,000 individuals. The organization has forged partnerships with esteemed global brands such as Coursera, Datacamp, Facebook, Figma, TeamApt, MasterClass, and various other prestigious tech companies.
8# Adesuwa Okunbo-Rhodes (Nigeria)
Adesuwa Okunbo-Rhodes is the Founder of Aruwa Capital Management, a Lagos-based early-stage growth equity and gender lens fund led by women. Aruwa stands out as one of the few private equity funds in Africa owned or headed by a woman.
Okunbo-Rhodes directs equity and equity-linked capital, through Aruwa, towards well-established and rapidly expanding companies within the small to lower mid-market segment in Nigeria and Ghana. The majority of her targeted businesses are undervalued and overlooked by larger financial institutions.
Okunbo-Rhodes envisions tackling gender bias in women’s access to capital in Africa by fostering more female capital allocators. Consequently, her fund channels growth capital into untapped indigenous businesses with a proven operational history. A crucial aspect of Aruwa’s investment strategy is its commitment to businesses that align with its gender lens criteria. Aruwa Capital portfolio companies include Wemy Industries, Lifestores Pharmacy, Taeillo, AgroEknor, Crowdforce, KoolBoks, Omniretail and Fastizers.
9#Aderonke Ajose-Adeyemi (Nigeria)
Aderonke Ajose-Adeyemi is the founder and CEO of Losode, an innovative e-commerce platform initially launched as a fashion hub in the UK. In the past three years, Losode has evolved into a comprehensive business model, transcending fashion. Aderonke envisions Losode as a digital trailblazer, laying the foundations for thriving e-commerce in Africa.
Adeyemi-Ajose is utilizing Losode to connect continents, countries, and communities within Africa, ensuring seamless trade and commerce. The platform empowers sellers in rural communities to reach a global audience without intermediaries or logistical challenges. Currently registered in the US, the UK, and Nigeria, Losode has positioned itself as a key player in the African market, with a primary focus on Nigeria.
However, Losode plans a pan-African expansion into 10 more African countries by the end of 2024, facilitating seamless access for more African brands to the global market.
10#Bola Bardet (Ivory Coast)
Bola Bardet is the CEO and co-founder of Susu, a startup that tailors unique healthcare packages for Africans in the diaspora. Susu is striving to make healthcare affordable and accessible for Africans, in an integrated approach which connects the beneficiaries of the services, their families, and healthcare professionals.
These packages aim to optimize healthcare fund allocation for their loved ones on the continent. Through Susu, Bardet taps into financial support from the diaspora to bridge accessibility gaps for medical services. This initiative helps alleviate high premiums and expenses, contributing to the overall well-being of individuals in Africa.
Susu emphasizes the significance of global networks and family ties, offering hope and improved healthcare outcomes in regions where obtaining health insurance can be challenging. Bardet is driven by a passion for creating end-to-end solutions, tackling daily problems, and witnessing the tangible impact on people’s lives. In December 2023, Susu successfully secured €4.5 million from investors, a testament to the team’s dedication and vision.
11# Dr Funmi Adewara (Nigeria)
Dr Funmi Adewara is a British-Nigerian Physician and Cambridge-trained Bioscience multi-award-winning entrepreneur and a globally recognised telehealth expert, with a background in Medicine, Pharmaceutical and business development. She is the founder of Mobihealth International, a distinguished telemedicine and digital healthcare clinic leading the charge in healthcare innovation through AI-powered integrated telehealth. Her platform seamlessly connects users with doctors in Nigeria and globally within minutes, eliminating the need for extended travel and long waits in hospitals. Mobihealth provides a comprehensive solution, extending access to genuine medicines, diagnostics, and wellness programs through strategic third-party partnerships.
Since its inception, Mobihealth has positively impacted over 100,000 lives. Notably, the platform has significantly reduced the time to diagnosis and treatment by more than 70%, making substantial strides in enhancing access to reproductive, maternal, and child health by over 70%. Additionally, Mobihealth plays a pivotal role in empowering individuals with chronic diseases to manage their health more effectively through remote consultations and monitoring. Dr. Adewara firmly believes in the transformative potential of telemedicine, asserting that 60% of medical conditions can be successfully addressed through this innovative approach.
12#Funke Akindele (Nigeria)
Funke Akindele is a Nigerian actress, film producer, scriptwriter, and entrepreneur. She is popularly known as ‘Jenifa’, a character she played in a movie titled Jenifa. Funke Akindele has carved out a niche for herself in the Nigerian entertainment industry despite having a first degree in Law.
Her journey to stardom began when she played the role of a curious but brilliant secondary school student in a popular TV series, I Need to Know which aired from 1998 -2002. I Need to Know is a United Nations Population Fund sponsored Sitcom program created to enlighten the public on the issues teenagers face while growing up.
Funke has featured, written and produced many Nollywood movies- both English and Yoruba movies- and has many hit movies to her name. She has successfully broken the glass ceiling in movie production, a sub-sector that is male-dominated. Her 2022 comedy-drama, Battle on Buka Street, was one of Nollywood’s highest-grossing movies, raking in ₦668,423,056. According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), her latest movie, A Tribe Called Judah, currently ranks 9.7/10 and is liked by 97% of Google users.
13#Hilda Baci (Nigeria)
Hilda Effiong Bassey, widely known as Hilda Baci, is a multi-talented Nigerian chef, restaurateur, and actress. In May 2023, she held the Guinness World Record (GWR) for a marathon cooking session, clocking an impressive 93 hours and 11 minutes. However, her record was surpassed later that year by Irish chef Alan Fisher with 119 hours and 57 minutes. Hilda Baci undertook this challenge to highlight the richness and diversity of Nigerian cuisine. That further served as an inspiration for fellow Nigerians.
In August 2021, she clinched victory in the inaugural Jollof Face-Off Competition in Ghana, securing a grand prize of $5000. Beyond her culinary prowess, Hilda Baci stands out as a visionary, trailblazer, and role model. Her pursuit of the GWR title drew significant attention, crashing the website as many Nigerians rallied behind her.
Her victory not only sparked interest in GWR challenges but also motivated numerous Nigerians to participate in similar feats. Hilda Baci’s achievements and influence extend beyond the kitchen, making her a prominent figure featured across various media platforms.
14# Toyosi Etim-Effiong (Nigeria)
Toyosi Etim-Effiong, a versatile media entrepreneur, is dedicated to bringing authentic African stories to a global audience. With nearly a decade of diverse experience in the media industry, she possesses the expertise to drive media projects, both experiential and content-related, while crafting effective communication strategies for personal and corporate brands.
In her roles as the Global Director of Content for the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) and the Publishing Editor of the CNN-powered Folio.NG, Etim-Effiong has demonstrated her leadership and strategic acumen. Additionally, she is the founder and CEO of That Good Media.
Committed to advancing the Nigerian creative sector, especially the media and film industries, she initiated an independent producers’ workshop for aspiring TV producers and media executives. Recognized as one of Nigeria’s most inspiring and influential women by Leading Ladies Africa in 2022, Etim-Effiong continues to contribute to the growth and development of the industry.
In July 2023, Etim-Effiong collaborated with the Essence Film Festival to lead a delegation of Nollywood stakeholders for the festival’s inaugural Nigeria Day in New Orleans. This historic event, a first in the Essence Festival of Culture’s history, featured an Africa House and Nigeria Day, spotlighting the vibrant Nigerian film industry (Nollywood). The aim was to promote diversity and representation in the global film industry.
15#Rita Idehai (Nigeria)
Rita Idehai is the founder and CEO of Ecobarter, a Nigerian sustainable waste management company employing technology to directly collect waste from households and consumer groups, enabling them to utilize their waste as a digital currency. The company transforms waste into digital products through the integration of mobile and web applications and a network of offline community-based infrastructures. Ecobarter is instrumental in powering Nigeria’s last-mile waste recovery system with traceable, socially, and environmentally sustainable practices.
Over the past five years, the company has served more than 5000 households, collected over 469,000 kg of waste, and significantly reduced Nigeria’s carbon emissions by 1300 mt. Idehai also serves as the President of the Recyclers Association of Nigeria (RAN), an industry association uniting all facets of the waste recovery and recycling process in Nigeria. This collaboration aims to achieve shared value and direct economic impact.
In a recent discussion on Creating a Circular in Nigeria with the Lagos Business School Sustainability Centre, Idehai presented a case study highlighting the challenges, risks, opportunities, and prospects within the waste value chain. Idehai has earned her spot as a thought leader and innovator in the Nigerian circular economy.
16# Nthabiseng Mosia (South Africa)
Nthabiseng Mosia, a South African innovator and advocate for Climate Justice and Energy Access, is the COO and co-founder of Easy Solar. This leading distribution company in West Africa is dedicated to making energy and financial services more affordable and accessible to underserved communities.
Established in 2016 by Mosia, alongside Eric Silverman and Alexandre Tourre, Easy Solar began as a commercial initiative aiming to extend high-quality solar energy devices to underprivileged communities in Sierra Leone. The company employs financial initiatives, including rent-to-own on a pay-as-you-go basis, enabling economically challenged households to afford solar panels.
During their graduate studies, Mosia and her co-founders conceived the idea of providing reliable and affordable electricity to households without grid access in West Africa. Securing significant funding from competitions and hackathons in the US, such as the D-Prize in 2015 and the Columbia Venture Competition in 2016, they initiated a survey on energy availability across 1,500 Sierra Leonean households.
With a dedicated team of over 800 individuals passionate about energy access and financial inclusion, Mosia has successfully reached over 1 million beneficiaries in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
17#Adejoke Lasisi, Plannet 3R (Nigeria)
Adejoke LASISI, an African fabric designer and environmentalist, is the founder of Planet 3R and Jokelinks Weaving School. Recognized as a “wastepreneur,” she innovates fashion products and designs using nylon and textile waste, repurposing materials straight from the dump.
Raised in a traditional Aso-Oke weaving family in Ibadan, Oyo State, Lasisi skillfully blends wool with nylon to create various fashion items such as bags, purses, slippers, mats, and artwork. She is fighting the predominate waste problem in her immediate environment through her work, thereby reducing the carbon footprints of her community.
Her accolades include being the AYEEN 2014 Business Grant Winner and receiving the YALI SPIRIT AWARD at the YALI Regional Leadership Center West Africa in Accra, Ghana, as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative YALI 2015. Lasisi was also the runner-up in the Franco-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce grant competition in 2016. Notable nominations include the best indigenous textile designer at the ACE Awards in 2017 and 2018, among other recognitions.
18#Mawuse Christina Gyisun (Ghana)
Mawuse Christina Gyisun serves as the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Sommalife Ltd in Ghana. The company specializes in offering support services for local producers, particularly those in the shea value chain. Its mission is to sustainably increase business income for these producers while contributing to environmental conservation.
Sommalife facilitates access to finance, training, logistics, and global markets, empowering local producers to deliver high-quality commodities for the food and cosmetic industries. The company adopts digital tools to manage its operations, enhancing transparency, traceability, and impact measurability.
Gyisun is dedicated to making continuous strides in sustaining income and positively impacting rural communities to eradicate poverty. Under her leadership, Sommalife has connected 7,047 rural women in the Ghanaian shea industry to markets, safeguarded 630 acres of shea trees, and elevated the income of local producers by 22.75%.
19# Oluwaseyi Oluyole (Nigeria)
Oluwaseyi Oluyole is a social entrepreneur and advocate for universal quality education, especially for children in marginalized communities in South-West Nigeria. She founded Dream Catchers Academy in 2014. This initiative, established in collaboration with the Dream Nurture Initiative (an initiative she also founded in response to the rising number of out-of-school children in Nigeria), aims to provide underprivileged children with access to formal education, sustainable education, leadership skills, and arts education.
Oluyole has garnered numerous awards and recognition, locally and internationally, for her impactful work with the academy. Dream Catchers Academy has gained international acclaim from prominent figures such as Beyoncé, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Diddy, Cardi B, John Boyega, and more.
In May 2022, Oluyole, along with Dream Catchers Academy, partnered with Global Citizens #WECANPERIOD PROJECT ON PERIOD POVERTY to enhance menstrual and sexual health education in secondary schools in Nigeria.
2o# Edna Frimpong (Ghana)
Edna Frimpong, a Ghanaian shoemaker, serves as the co-founder and Head of Public Relations at Ahofade, a Ghanaian e-commerce fashion marketplace dedicated to showcasing the talent and creativity of Ghanaian fashion designers. The platform supports entrepreneurs in the fashion industry, fostering business growth and promoting the beauty and diversity of Ghana-made fashion products, including clothing, shoes, bags, and accessories.
Known as the Shoemakergurl, Frimpong specialises in crafting unique and stylish footwear for fashion-forward individuals. She challenges the notion that women are unfit for the Ghanaian shoemaking sector. At Ahofade, Frimpong shares her knowledge, empowers women in shoemaking, and facilitates a platform for creatives to showcase their craft.