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Breaking Barriers: African Women Amazons in Politics, Business, and STEM

Mar 15, 2024 10:00AM ● By Okechukwu Nzeribe

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebration on March 8, 2024, was “Invest in women: Accelerate progress” which was apt as time has shown that an empowered woman remains a powerful force in shaping society. Over the years the world has continuously witnessed the emergence of powerful women who are breaking ground in the world of Politics, Business, and STEM.

In its 2023 release of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the World, 4 African women made it to the list. A paltry number some might argue but when one considers that in the past very few African women made up the list, it is easier to appreciate how far African women have risen through various sectors of society.

Referred to as Amazons, these women are overcoming every hurdle, changing the narratives, and challenging every stereotype of what women can or cannot accomplish. 

In the world of politics, business, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), let us take a look at the African women making their mark.


Ngozi Okonjo Iweala


The current Director-General of the World Trade Organization made news when she became the first woman and African to hold the position.

An alumnus of Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she held positions in the World Bank as a Vice President and corporate secretary as well as a development economist for the same institution. 

She would later go on to occupy the position of Nigeria’s Finance Minister to two successive administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan.

In 2021 she was appointed the Director-General of the WTO through a consensus among its members. Okonji Iweala sits on several advisory boards such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI); the African Union, Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Twitter amongst many others.

Her achievement is widely recognized and lends credence to the capacity of African women on the global stage.

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Mpumi Madisa


Mpumi Madisa is the Chief Executive Officer of Bidvest, a South African company with a ZAR 86 Billion Market Capitalization. As CEO, Mpumi became the only Black female chief executive to occupy a top company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Holding a bachelor's and master's degree from Wits University in economics and mathematics, and finance investment, she began her career at Hollard Insurance as a trainee marketing assistant before moving on to work with Prestige, one of the Bidvest subsidiaries where it could be said was the kick start to her growth as CEO of the parent company.

In 2019, after years of occupying several positions and being appointed to the Bidvest board, she was appointed as Chief Executive Officer and assumed the role in 2020.

Her capacity to introduce innovative means has seen the company grow to become one of the top 40 companies in South Africa. Across industries, the company is positioning itself to play a major role in the global market.

Passionate about women's empowerment, Mpumi continues to advocate for the inclusion of women and the promotion of equal opportunities in the workplace.

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Rapelang Rabana


A technology entrepreneur who co-founded Yeigo Communications, a company whose innovations in mobile voice-over protocol (VoIP) and Internet Protocol (IP) applications in Africa brought global recognition to the company especially as it developed instant messaging and other communication advancements. 

A graduate of Business Science from the University of Cape Town, her specialty in Computer Science was the needed experience to head the research and development department when Yeigo merged with the Swiss Telecommunications Company “Telfree” and to create an entertainment website called Tomplyago.

In 2013, Rabana founded a Technology platform called “Rekindle Learning” which is targeted at providing knowledge through the use of technology and making it accessible to school children, graduates, business owners, and entrepreneurs. The technology platform also offers online programs to build English proficiency.

Named Chief Digital Officer of BCX, one of the top communications firms in South Africa, Rapalang was listed on the ‘O Power List’ by Oprah Magazine and was recognized by Forbes as one of the Young Best Entrepreneurs in Africa.

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 Okechukwu Nzeribe works with the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, in Anambra State, Nigeria, and loves unveiling the richness of African cultures. [email protected]

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