Africa: Matriarchs with the Midas Touch (the richest women from ECOWAS region)

Matriarchs

The global business world is largely male-dominated, and perhaps more so in Africa. Possibly, one of the reasons for the male dominance in the world of business has to do with the age old belief of the man being the breadwinner – a belief which often makes women take the backseat as home keepers.

However, there have been exceptional women everywhere who have stormed into the savage of international business and global economy to earn their place alongside their male counterparts as shrewd and successful business moguls.

In ancient Africa, there have been queens who ascended thrones and ruled empires, like Sobekneferu, Hatshepsut and the Queen of Sheba; however, it may be difficult to estimate the true worth or capacity of those ancient matriachs with regards to amassing wealth and conquering today’s business world.

In pre-colonial Nigeria, Madam Tinubu, an aristocrat and slave trader was a prominent woman of substance, acknowledged as the first female Nigerian own a car.

There are other enterprising women who are not as popular, but held their own in trade and business at a level, that rivalled and even surpassed many men.

In today’s world, as it has been, majority of businesses are operated by men, however, some female entrepreneurs have been resolute and have successfully earned their fortunes despite discrimination, limited opportunities in the workplace and often being overlooked for senior positions.

Below is a list of three notable West African women who have pushed boundaries and made their mark as successful business magnates.

1, Folorunsho Alakija
With a net worth of US$1.5 billion, Folorunsho Alakija is the richest woman in West Africa. The 69-year-old is the director of the Rose of Sharon Group and vice-chairwoman of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in the Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset.

She was born in Lagos State, Nigeria, and still resides there. Her first job was as a secretary in 1975. In the ’80s she ventured into business and started a tailoring company called Supreme Stitches.

In 1993, she made another career move into the oil industry but kept her fashion business.

In 2014, she was listed as 96th in the list of the world’s 100 most powerful women by Forbes, and in 2015 the business magazine listed her as the 86th.

Unlike other West African countries, Nigeria has numerous women who are business moguls and are changing the face of the business world in their nation.

As it is, Africa’s most populous nation is booming, with more than 20 female millionaires, some of whom are in business and others who are in the entertainment industry.

2, Patricia Poku-Diaby ranks as the richest woman in Ghana, with an estimated net worth of US$720 million. She also ranks as the 8th richest person in the country.

She started working in the family business before venturing out to found her own company.

She set up the Plot Enterprise Group in Ivory Coast, which was a precursor to the Ghanaian company.

The company produces about 60% of the country’s cocoa and in Ivory Coast it is engaged in the trading of cocoa, cashew nuts and wood products.

As in Nigeria, Ghanaian women are also adamant to stake their claim in the male-dominated world of businesspersons and tycoons.

According to the Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) released in 2019, Ghana has the highest proportion of female business owners, with women owning 46.4% of all businesses.

MIWE said that at the moment, most women’s businesses in Ghana are struggling to move beyond the micro level because of common factors such as the lack of finance, which affects women-owned businesses all over the world.

3, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a Liberian politician who served as the 24th president of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. Sirleaf was the first elected female head of state in Africa. Her net worth is estimated at US$23 million.

In 2011, the 81-year-old won the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her efforts to bring women into the peacekeeping process.

In June 2016, Sirleaf was elected as the chairwoman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), making her the first woman to hold the position since it was created.

It is clear that many West African countries are still battling to find sustainable solutions to a number of socio-economic problems and effective ways of fighting poverty and unemployment.

The struggle to raise business funds is an issue that many start-up owners are familiar with, but this problem is even more evident to female entrepreneurs, especially in Africa.

A study by the African Development Bank revealed that women manage their credit better than men, yet they find it more difficult than men to obtain funding.
This is because of patriarchal societies which still cast men in the traditional role of successful entrepreneur.

Despite a great deal of legislation surrounding women’s rights in multiple African countries, women continue to face societal constraints that hinder their business potential.

Source: African News Agency

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