African women are key drivers of the African market. Long before colonialism, African women had mastered the art of trade and commerce. Probably because a significant number of African traditions systematically made women of old, mostly married to polygamists, breadwinners of their households. So, they worked hard to put food on their tables, clothes on their children’s backs, and pay tuition for them.
Many of these women were active in agriculture, manufacturing (clothing and textiles) and services (teaching and catering) sectors. Consequently, they traversed to other neighbouring communities and countries trading in food, textiles, crafts, manufactured goods, etc. As the world advanced, so have African women.
Earlier in the year, the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) revealed Africa as a leader in its 2021 score for female entrepreneurs globally. According to the index, Botswana (38.5%), Uganda (38.4%) and Ghana (37.2%) ranked as the countries with the most women business owners globally, for the third consecutive year. But Angola ranked first among all the economies analyzed for “women’s entrepreneurial activity rate”. Their commercial activities surpassed that of men, although “government SME support” and “general access to finance” for women lag at the very bottom compared to funding for male-owned enterprises.
The MIWE report is an indicator of women’s economic impact on the continent. It noted that empowering women’s entrepreneurship will fuel a global recovery that is more equitable and sustainable for everyone. Below is an inexhaustive list of ten notable female entrepreneurs in Southern Africa:
1# Ntsiki Biyela (Aslina Wines, South Africa)
Ntsiki Biyela is South Africa’s (SA) first black female winemaker. She is the founder and director of Aslina Wines, a company she established in 2016 after more than a decade of service to a leading SA winery, Stellekaya Wines.
In 1998, Biyela’s first red wine won a gold medal at the Michelangelo awards. Aslina Wines- named after her grandmother- now has a global footprint, a realisation of Ntsiki’s dream to create an exceptional world-class brand
In 2021, she bagged the Wine Harvest Commemorative Event Diversity and Transformation Award. She also won the Sakura Awards in Japan.
2#Dulce Oliveira (Fazenda MMM, Angola)
Dulce Oliveira is an investment banker and Founding Director of Fazenda MMM, one of Angola’s top flower farms. Her mother founded the family enterprise in 2008. But it gained popularity during the COVID-19 lockdown as it met the needs of local customers who could no longer access imported flowers.
Since Oliveira took her seat in the family enterprise in 2018, she has helped to innovate the business. The farm produces white, red, yellow, soft and strong pink roses. Fazenda now generates more foreign earnings and has diversified into fruit production, growing lemons, limes, oranges Avocados.
3 #Filomena Matimbe, (Finana Mozambique)
Filomena Matimbe is the Founder and CEO of Finana, a Mozambican company that processes dry bananas and banana flour. She uses 100% of the fruit, enhancing the nutritional quality while extending its shelf life from 9 days to two years and eliminating waste by converting its peels to animal feed.
Since its establishment in 2015, Finana has won multiple awards including the World Gold Medal at the II World of Inventors and Innovators Forum, and the SANBio Award in Mozambique 2017. Her products are widely distributed in the country through supermarkets, convenience stores, and pharmacies.
4#Jeanne Groenewald (Elgin Free Range Chickens, South Africa)
Jeanne Groenewald is the Founder and CEO of Elgin Free Range Chickens (EFRC), a poultry farm she started in 1997 with 100 chicks, to provide a healthy option for her family. But the business grew into a thriving enterprise that produced 150000 chicks weekly.
EFRC fowls are raised in a spacious and stress-free environment that allows them to roam, forage, peck, and dust-bathe outside during the day, and to also migrate (naturally) indoors at night to roost
Groenewald has received several awards such as the Top Commercial Female Entrepreneur in the 2014 Female Entrepreneur Awards. She currently sits on several boards including EFRC Holdings RRY LTD and Caledon Hatchery PTY LTD.
5#Lebogang Manson (Cherished Kidz, Botswana)
Lebogang Manson is a serial entrepreneur and Founder of Cherished Kidz, a mobile tech-enabled child transportation system that seeks to guarantee the safety of children for professional moms in Botswana. Cherished Kidz made it to the Top 5 International (Africa and the Middle East) Women’s Prize of the Orange Social Venture Prize in 2020. In 2021, she got selected by the Tony Elumelu Foundation to receive non-refundable seed capital.
In July 2022, she was one of the recipients of the Diamond Do Good Entrepreneurship Grant ( a global non-profit), following the intensive United People Global Biashara Entrepreneurship Program and business pitch competition.
6# Sarah Collins (Wonderbag, South Africa)
Sarah Collins is the CEO and Founder of Wonderbag, a simple and revolutionary, non-electric slow cooker. Wonderbag was founded in 2008 to develop a solution to the South African energy shortage forcing blackouts across the country to allow families to continue cooking daily meals during blackouts.
The hand-made cookware also aims to reduce carbon emissions while making meal preparation safer, cleaner and more affordable for women. Collins designed the award-winning cooker to empower rural African communities with climate-smart solutions.
Wonderbag is one of Africa’s fastest-growing carbon offset projects. With over 1.5 million bags sold since its inception, Collins has received numerous global awards. Wonderbag was accredited by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and was awarded 1st place in the Climate Change Leadership Awards and Eskom’s 2012 Innovation Award.
7#Sandra Mwiihangele (Kiyomisandz, Namibia)
Sandra Mwiihangele is the Founder of Kiyomisandz Beauty Products, a cosmetic and toiletry manufacturing company based in Windhoek, Namibia. The company was founded in 2015 to manufacture its products and to offer contract manufacturing services for customers. In 2016, the brand won the Development Bank of Namibia Innovation Award.
In 2017, Forbes Africa magazine selected Sandra to be on the “30 Under 30” list. She is the first Namibian to be named on the list.
8# Sethebe Manake (Gosmartvalue, Botswana)
Sethebe Manake is the Founding Director of Gosmartvalue, a Botswana-based proptech startup providing data for informed decision-making in real estate in Botswana. The tech platform uses artificial intelligence to simplify the property valuation process, making it convenient for customers. It provides instant valuations, connects customers and valuers, and gives customers access to specific information about a property.
Manake is on a mission to solve the problem of misinformation plaguing the prop-tech industry. She is leading in the use of technology in the real estate sector. In August 2021, Gosmartvalue raised BWP480,000 ($37,498) in a pre-seed round from Angel Network Botswana.
9#Siphiwe Lukama (Kasenga Agro Solutions, Zambia)
Siphiwe Lukama is the CEO of Kasenga Agro Solutions, a business that trains women in beekeeping techniques, forest management, honey production, and financial literacy. Kasenga adopted an out-grower model in beekeeping and honey production. It also works with rural women to empower them and improve the quality of their lives.
Lukama has successfully trained honey growers, built a small processing plant and installed a solar-powered water pumping system with a $25,000 grant from USADF in 2020. The water source has helped her business and the surrounding community, which only had access to well water prior.
10#Forget Shareka (Chashi, Zimbabwe)
Forget Shareka is an agronomic engineer, award-winning entrepreneur, and environmentalist. She is the co-Founder and product developer of Chashi Foods. Chashi was established in 2018 to deliver holistic and sustainable postharvest and food waste management solutions through transformative agro-processing opportunities.
Chashi seeks to create a positive social impact and bring about change in the agriculture and food economies. Its ultimate goal is to strengthen food security, promote sustainable income generation, reduce poverty and create employment for rural Zimbabwean women and youth.
Shareka is also the founder of LiHFA, a community-based organisation she established to empower youth and women in agribusiness, entrepreneurship, and vocational skills in Zimbabwe and Costa Rica.