For the first time ever, Forbes has compiled a Pan-African list of the most powerful women in Africa, derived from business, politics, media, science, sports, and public life.
These women, according to Forbes, are challenging the status quo and creating a trail on terrain where there was none. They are reshaping history, closing inequalities and pioneering new avenues of wealth creation and in turn, lifting others with them.
These are the East Africans that made Forbes list of Most powerful women in Africa.
1. Clare Akamanzi
Clare Akamanzi is a Rwandan lawyer, public administrator, businesswoman and politician, who is currently the chief executive officer of the Rwanda Development Board.
Clare Akamanzi is the most powerful woman in Rwanda and in East Africa, and the second most powerful woman in Africa.
2. Jennifer Riria
Jennifer Riria, is a Kenyan businesswoman , corporate executive, banker, and academic who serves as the group chief executive officer of Kenya Women Holding Group, a microfinance, banking and insurance group serving nearly one million mostly rural Kenyan women.
She has served on the boards of Kenyan and international organisations, including at the Nairobi Stock Exchange, being the first female to serve in that capacity. She has also served on the boards of Jitegemee Trust Limited, a microfinance company, National Bank of Kenya, and Kenya Post Office Savings Bank.
Jennifer Riria is the most powerful woman in Kenya and second most powerful woman in East Africa. She’s alo the third most powerful woman in Africa.
3. Louise Mushikiwabo
Louise Mushikiwabo is the fourth and current Secretary General of Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. She previously served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda from 2009 to 2018.
Louise is the second most powerful woman in Rwanda and the third most powerful woman in East Africa. She’s also the fifth most powerful woman in Africa.
4. Elsie Kanza
Elsie Kanza is one of the leading and most dynamic female leaders emerging from Africa. Born in Kenya to Tanzanian parents and educated in Kenya and then later in the United States, Kanza is the Director, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum.
Elsie Kanza is the second most powerful woman in Tanzania and the fourth most powerful woman in East Africa. She’s also the seventh most powerful woman in Africa.
5. Lydia Nsekera
Lydia Nsekera is the President, National Olympic Committee (NOC) OF Burundi and a member of FIFA Council.
Lydia is the fifth most powerful woman in East Africa and the nineteenth most powerful woman in Africa.
6. Winnie Byanyima
Winifred Byanyima is an Ugandan aeronautical engineer, politician, and diplomat. She is the executive director of UNAIDS. She was appointed to that position in August 2019, by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres.
According to Forbes, Winifred Byanyima is the sixth most powerful woman in East Africa and the twentieth most powerful woman in Africa.
7. Waris Dirie
Waris Dirie is a Somali model, author, actress and human rights activist in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). From 1997 to 2003, she served as a UN special ambassador against female genital cutting. In 2002 she founded her own organization in Vienna (Austria), the Desert Flower Foundation.
Waris Dirie is the seventh most powerful woman in East Africa. She was ranked 23rd in the list of the most powerful women in Africa.
8. Sahle-Work Zewde
Sahle-Work Zewde is the current President of Ethiopia and the first woman to hold the office. A career diplomat, she was elected president unanimously by members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly on 25 October 2018.
According to Forbes, Sahle-Work Zewde is not just the most powerful woman in Ethiopia, she’s also the eighth most powerful woman in East Africa and the 26th most powerful woman in Africa.
9. Ilwad Elman
Ilwad Elman is a Somali-Canadian social activist. She works at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center in Mogadishu alongside her mother Fartuun Adan, the NGO’s founder. She was voted the African Young Personality (Female) of the Year during the 2016 Africa Youth Awards.
According to the latest forbes ranking, Ilwad Elman is ninth most powerful woman in East Africa and the 33rd most powerful woman in Africa.
10. Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is an Ethiopian business woman, founder and executive director of soleRebels, Africa’s “fastest growing footwear company”.
Alemu has received honors and accolades for her business acumen, as well as her efforts to shift the discourse on Africa away from poverty to the continent’s entrepreneurial spirit, social capital, and economic potential.
Bethlehem Tilahun is the second most powerful woman in Ethiopia and the tenth most powerful woman in East Africa. She’s also the 36th most powerful woman in Africa.
11. Lupita Nyong’o
Lupita Nyong’o is a Kenyan-Hollywood actress whose role in 12 years a slave earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2014. She is only the sixth black actress to win the award and the first African actress to win the award, she’s also the first Kenyan actress to win an Oscar.
According to Forbes, Lupita is the eleventh most powerful woman in East Africa and the 46th most powerful woman in Africa.
12. Chief Theresa Kachindamoto
Theresa Kachindamoto is the paramount chief of the Dedza District in the central region of Malawi. She has informal authority over more than 900,000 people. She is known for her forceful action in dissolving child marriages and insisting on education for both girls and boys.
Chief Theresa is the 50th most powerful woman in Africa.