Systemic bias against women in the workplace is not exclusive to women on the African continent. It is everywhere. Women have had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to attain the career heights that come seamlessly for their male counterparts.
Most of these biases, firmly rooted in cultural and religious values, have been unremittingly entrenched work policies that have created uneven playing grounds for women in the marketplace. Using fintech as a yardstick for other sectors, one of the key challenges most female founders face is funding which is closely linked to limited female representation in capital allocation.
According to Findexable’s Diversity for Growth Report of Novermber 2022, only 1.5% of fintech companies are solely founded by women. While Asia has the highest proportion of female founders at 7.7%, Africa has 7.4%, Europe at 6.5% and North America at 4.8%, Of the 1,000 top-performing fintechs in the FDR1000 index, just 16 were founded solely by women.
Despite the biases and career bottlenecks, women across the continent are achieving remarkable feats as C-suite executives across various sectors, especially in the management sub-sector, where the heat is the hottest. Therefore, in commemoration of International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023, dubbed #DigitALL, we have compiled an inexhaustive list of ten female C-suite executives holding the reins of multinationals across Africa.
1# Mpumi Zikalala, CEO of Kumba Iron Ore Ltd- South Africa.
Mpumi is the CEO of Kumba Iron Ore Ltd. Kumba Iron Ore is an iron-ore mining company in South Africa and the fifth largest iron-ore producer in the world and the largest in Africa. It is a subsidiary of Anglo American Plc.
She was appointed Chief Executive Officer on 1 January 2022 and joined the Kumba Board as an executive director. She assumed the role of Chairman of the operating entity, Sishen Iron Ore Company (Pty) Ltd.
She was a bursar in De Beers Group bursar and officially joined De Beers in 2001 as a process engineer. After 6 years of hard work in the mining company, she was appointed General Manager at De Beers Kimberley Mines in 2007, becoming the first female General Manager in the De Beers Group. In 2010, she was appointed General Manager of De Beers Voorspoed mine and three and a half years later became Senior Vice-President of De Beers Sightholder Sales South Africa.
Mpumi was promoted to Deputy CEO of De Beers Consolidated Mines in November 2017. She eventually rose to the position of Managing Director, De Beers Group Managed Operations, in April 2019, managing the company’s operations in South Africa and Canada. She previously served as a non-executive director of various companies including the Black Management Forum and Mintek.
2# Brenda Mbathi, CEO of General Electric (GE) East Africa- Kenya.
Brenda Mbathi is the CEO of General Electric (GE) East Africa, a Boston-based company which focuses on energy, healthcare and aviation. She was appointed CEO in 2019. Prior to this appointment, she served as GE Africa’s government affairs director, overseeing corporate social responsibility in sub-Saharan Africa.
Brenda was Group Corporate Relations Director for East African Breweries before joining GE in 2015.
3# Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, CEO of Naspers -South Africa.
Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa is Naspers South Africa’s CEO. Naspers Limited is a South African multinational internet, technology and multimedia holding company headquartered in Cape Town, with interests in online retail, publishing and venture capital investment. Phuthi joined the company in July 2019.
Before Naspers, she was the co-founder and Executive Chairperson of Sigma Capital, an investment holding company founded in 2015. She also held the position of CEO at Shanduka Group, an investment holding company from 2004 to 2015.
Before all these achievements, she was the Head of the Project Finance South Africa business unit at the Development Bank of Southern Africa. She serves on the advisory board of Stellenbosch University’s business school.
She sits on the board of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation and was Chair of the Kagiso Shanduka Trust (KST) Audit and Risk Committee in 2016. The following year, in 2017, she was appointed to the KST Board of Trustees.
4# Belinda Ajoke Olubunmi Disu, Executive Vice Chairman of Globacom Ltd- Nigeria.
Belinda Ajoke Olubunmi Disu is a Nigerian businesswoman and Executive Vice Chairman of Globacom Ltd, a Nigerian multinational telecommunications company founded in 2003 by her father Mike Adenuga- one of Africa’s billionaires. Globacom Ltd. operates as a telecommunications service provider. The Company offers international and voice calling, sms, high-speed internet, ADSL for homes, and fixed landline services, as well as provides telecom solutions. Globacom serves customers in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Ghana.
More so, she is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Abumet Nigeria Ltd. Abumet is a full-service aluminium and glass solutions provider with 30 years of experience delivering innovative high-quality aluminium and glass products and services within the Nigerian building construction sector.
Furthermore, Belinda is the CEO of Cobblestone Properties and Estates Ltd and a non-executive director of Julius Berger Nigeria Plc- a top construction company in Nigeria.
5# Thandi Orleyn, Chairperson of Implats, South Africa.
Thandi Orleyn is the Chairperson of Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd (Implats). Implats is a South African holding company that owns several companies which operate mines that produce platinum and platinum group metals, as well as nickel, copper and cobalt. Its most significant mine is the Impala mine in the North West province of South Africa. The company also has mines in Zimbabwe and Camada.
Thandi is a South African lawyer and business executive who has been active mainly in the financial sector. She is a co-founder and executive director of Peotona Group Holdings, an investment company with a portfolio consisting of investments in De Beers, Italtile, Lafarge Industries, Lafarge Mining, Ash Resources, etc.
In August 2020, Thandi was appointed Chairperson of the Implats board of directors. She was previously a long-serving member of the board until she stepped down in 2015. More so, she held several senior-level positions in the public sector including as the director of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
6# Jane Karuku, Group MD/CEO of East African Breweries Ltd- Kenya
Jane Karuku is the Group MD/CEO of East African Breweries Ltd (EABL), a position she assumed in 2020. EABL is a Kenyan-based holding company that manufactures branded beer, spirits, and non-alcoholic beverages. Founded in 1922, it is Kenya’s largest and most popular alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage producer.
The group’s headquarters are located in Nairobi, Kenya, with subsidiaries in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan. The group has distribution partners in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
Between August 2003 – December 2014, she served as a Non-Executive Director of Barclay’s Bank Kenya (over 11 years). Barclays is a British multinational universal bank, headquartered in London, England.
She was also the President of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa for two years (2012-2014).
7# Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American Platinum- South Africa.
Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American Platinum (South Africa). She was appointed CEO in April 2020. Before this appointment, Natascha was group head of Processing for Anglo American, a position she had held since 2014. She also sits on the Anglo American Platinum Board and the Group Management Committee of Anglo American plc.
Natascha is a seasoned senior executive, bringing 28 years of operational experience from across the mining industry, spanning many different countries, metals and minerals including the platinum group metals.
This followed six years at Lonmin, where she served on the executive committee as executive vice president of Processing, also with responsibilities. Lonmin is a British producer of platinum group metals operating in the Bushveld Complex of South Africa.
8# Moira Moses, Chairperson Steinhoff -South Africa
Moira Moses is the Chairperson of South Africa-based Steinhoff Investment Holdings Ltd. Steinhoff International is a multinational holding company that is dual-listed in Germany and South Africa. The global retailer has over 40 brands in over 30 countries, primarily in furniture and household products such as beds, sofas, chairs, and tables. It holds a 43,8% stake in South Africa’s Pepkor group.
Asides from her appointment with the giant retailer, Moira also sits on the board of Kansai Plascon Africa Ltd., Steinhoff Service GmbH, Steinhoff International Holdings NV (was former Chairman-Supervisory Board) and Thusanang Trust.
She has a long list of career accolades to her name. She previously occupied the position of General Manager-Re-Engineering at Transnet Ltd. (South Africa), Managing Director at Control Instruments Automotive (Pty) Ltd., Managing Director at Volvo Southern Africa Pty Ltd, Managing Director at Jaguar Cars South Africa (Pty) Ltd. and Managing Director at Jaguar Land Rover (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd.
9# Nolitha Fakude, Chairperson of Anglo American- South Africa.
Nolitha Fakude is Chairperson of Anglo American Plc’s South African Management Board. Anglo American plc is a British-listed multinational mining company with headquarters in London, England. It is the world’s largest producer of platinum, with around 40% of world output, and also a major producer of diamonds, copper, nickel, iron ore and steelmaking coal. The company has operations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
Prior to this appointment, she was a non-executive director of the Anglo American plc Board. She also holds the position of a Non-Executive Director of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and serves on the Boards of Discovery Bank Holdings and International Woman’s Forum South Africa (IWFSA).
Nolitha has over 30 years of experience across a diverse range of industry sectors, including oil and gas, petrochemicals, financial services and retail. She has also served on numerous Boards including Sasol, African Oxygen Limited (AFROX), a Deputy Chair and Lead Independent Director of Datacentrix Holdings Limited and a Non-Executive Director of Harmony Gold and Woolworths Holdings, to mention a few.
10# Nompumelelo (Mpumi) Thembekile Madisa, CEO of Bidvest Group- South Africa.
Mpumi Madisa is CEO at Bidvest Group Ltd. Although, she became CEO-designate on 8 March 2029, she assumed office on CEO 30 September 2020. She is the first black and African female to be appointed CEO of a JSE to 40 listed company.
Asides from this appointment, Mpumi is the chairperson of the UN Global Compact SA board a role she assumed on 24 May 2022.
She is also the Chairperson of Adcock Ingram. Prior to this, she serves as a non-executive director of the Adcock board of directors. Adcock Ingram is a South African pharmaceutical manufacturer listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). She has served as a director of numerous Bidvest subsidiaries and has held various senior management and executive board director positions.