Here are Forbes list of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa for 2012, all under age 45, shaping the narrative of the continent’s rising.
1. Leymah Gbowee, Liberia, Peace and Women’s Rights Activist
The peace 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 organize 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 organization 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, the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, the Medal for Justice from New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Women’s eNews Leaders For the 21st Century Award.
2. Cina Lawson, Togo, Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Togo
Lawson is currently 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.
3. Juliana Rotich, Kenya, Co-Founder Ushahidi
Rotich is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Ushahidi, a Nairobi-based tech company that specializes 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.
4. 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 within the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) National Laser Center in biophotonics – 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. Dr. Mthunzi was recently awarded one of the country’s highest orders, the Order of Mapungubwe, for her contribution in the field of biophotonics.
5. Maud Chifamba, Zimbabwe, 14-year old University Accounting Student
At 14-years old, Chifamba made history this year when she became the youngest student (male or female) in Zimbabwe and possibly the whole of Southern Africa to enroll at university. The young genius was admitted to the University of Zimbabwe where she will study towards a Bachelor of Accountancy Honors Degree. An orphan, Chifamba’s mother passed away last December, days after she sat for her final exams, and her father nine years ago when she was five years old. Despite this and abject poverty (her two brothers were unable to pay her fees for regular school), Chifamba home schooled herself and broke academic records earning a four-year scholarship of nearly USD$10,000.
6. Florence Iwegbue, Nigeria, Attorney & Co-Founder, LiveWello
A life-changing event, the diagnosis of her son with Autism gave birth to LiveWello™, 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.
7. 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.
8. Leila Lopes, Angola, 2012 Miss Universe
On September 12, 2011, Lopes was crowned Miss Universe, becoming the first Angolan woman to win the position, the fourth African to win the title (Miss South Africa took the title in 1978, Miss Namibia won in 1992, Miss Botswana won in 1999) and the second Black African woman to win following Mpule Kwelagobe from Botswana in 1999. As the reigning Miss Universe, Lopes used the platform for advocacy for HIV and AIDS patients worldwide.
9. Isha Sesay, Sierra Leone, News Anchor & Journalist, CNN
Sesay reports for “African Voices” and “ Inside Africa“, CNN International’s award-winning, weekly program that covers political, economic, cultural and social trends in Africa. Sesay is also an anchor on CNN International and a contributor to CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and HLN’s nightly news show “Evening Express.”
10. Rainatou Sow, Guinea, Women’s Right Activist, Founder & Executive Director, Make Every Woman Count
Originally from the West African country of Guinea, Rai is a human rights and social justice advocate and women’s rights activist. Founded in December 2010, two months after the declaration of the “African Women’s Decade” by the African Union, “Make Every Woman Count” is a U.K-based non-profit organization that monitors women’s rights in every African country. The organization publishes an annual report as an audit of the status and conditions of women in each African country. Rai was awarded the “Most Inspirational Woman of the Year 2012″ by Women4Africa.
11. Biola Alabi, Nigeria, Managing Director, MNET Africa
As Managing Director for multi-national cable and satellite content company, 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.
12. Lorna Rutto, Kenya, Sustainable Living and Green Technology Entrepreneur, Ecopost
13. Yolanda Sangweni, South Africa, Senior Editor/Producer, ESSENCE.com
14. Danai Gurira, Zimbabwe, Actress & Writer
17. Jepchumba, Kenya, Digital Content Creator, Cultural Curator, African Digital Art
18. Redi Tlhabi, South Africa, Journalist, Broadcaster & Author