There is no doubt about it, Africa’s women entrepreneurs have been making the headlines for all the right reasons in 2014, scooping top entrepreneur awards and accolades, and achieving global recognition for their business and brand building efforts. Lionesses of Africa celebrates the success of 10 of Africa’s women entrepreneur trailblazers who in our opinion have been the continent's leading newsmakers over the past 12 months.
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, founder and Managing Director of soleRebels
You can't seem to keep this dynamic Ethiopian shoe brand builder with a deep social conscience out of the news. In 2014, Bethlehem earned a significant international honour by being named United Nations Development Programme - UNDP Ethiopia’s Goodwill Ambassador for Entrepreneurship. She also received the FACE Award for Entrepreneurship; was an honoree on the Good Magazines 2014 Good 100 List; and was recognised on Choiseul Institute of France list of Africa’s 100 Most Promising Young Business Leaders Under the Age of 40. However, her biggest news of 2014 was the launch of SoleRebels first US offering, a flagship store of her eco-friendly shoe brand in Silicon Valley, California.
Divine Ndhlukula, founder and MD of SECURICO, Zimbabwe
Africa's queen of the security industry has had a busy year. During 2014 Divine won the EY Exceptional Entrepreneur Award at the World Entrepreneur Awards; won a UNCTAD Empretec Women in Business Award; was inducted into the World Hall of Fame by the Women’s Heritage Society; and was an awardee of the IWEC 2014 International Women's Entrepreneurial Challenge. All this while remaining a true champion of women’s empowerment in Zimbabwe where her company is the largest employer of women in the country outside the government sector.
Juliana Rotich, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Ushahidi, Kenya
In 2014 this inspiring technologist was recognised by Fortune Magazine on their World’s 50 Greatest Leaders List. Juliana has a long history of making news by being part of building things, such as Ushahidi, Crowdmap and the iHub. This year she gained massive media attention with the rollout of BRCK, a robust modem-cum-router device aimed at solving last-mile connectivity issues in Africa where electricity and internet connections are often problematic. The product launch included a campaign that saw its developers literally 'road-test' the BRCK on the 'BRCK Expedition', covering thousands of miles of the harshest African terrain, across multiple countries, all designed to provide the sternest test for the device. And, of course gain really great media coverage along the way.
Tabitha Karanja, founder and CEO of Keroche Breweries, Kenya
2014 saw Tabitha awarded Business Woman of the Year at the East African round of the CNBC Africa All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA). Earlier in the year, she launched her Keroche Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping young Kenyan entrepreneurs harness their leadership potential and passion to sustain business ideas. Her commitment to Kenya's people and her modest and open approach to accommodate media interviews and public engagements ensure she remains one of Kenya's most popular business personalities. In fact, in December, The Star newspaper of Kenya through its comprehensive survey of Kenya's best and worst performers in politics, business, civil society, fashion, entertainment and sports, named Tabitha the most popular business personality in Kenya after she came tops with 35.14 per cent of the vote.
Swaady Martin-Leke, founder of Yswara
2014 has been a busy year for this elegant and always energetic Afropolitan entrepreneur, previously listed on the '20 women who make Africa' list by Forbes. Swaady's business acumen and her passionate commitment to promoting African luxury was rewarded this year when she was nominated an Emerging Leader by the Aspen Institute France under the patronage of President Francois Hollande. She also featured on the BBC's African Dream series talking about her growing luxury tea brand. And, despite her demanding work-life she remains passionately committed to her role at the Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship Programme.
Dr Ola Orekunrin, founder and MD of Flying Doctors Nigeria
Ola is one those personalities who is always a media favourite. Afterall, how many young women anywhere in the world are a medical doctor, helicopter pilot and founder of a first-of-its-kind air ambulance service before the age of 30. Not surprisingly, she was this year named by Time Magazine as one of their Five Next Generation Leaders; and named by Oprah Winfrey’s Oprah Magazine on their 2014 Power List. Her company has also been featured on various local TV and radio stations as well as the BBC and CNN.
Julian Omalla, founder and MD of Delight Uganda and Global Food Securities, Uganda
2014, saw Julian, one of Uganda's most respected women entrepreneurs, named EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the emerging category. She was also named as one of the 100 most honoured women making a mark in the world by Canadian Women. Julian is consistently a powerful voice of advocacy for improving economic access and opportunities for Uganda's women in business. She is a leading member of the Uganda Gender and Growth Coalition, a group of seven women’s rights advocacy groups.
Tara Fela-Durotoye, Founder & CEO of House of Tara International
This Nigerian-born lawyer turned Africa's leading beauty and makeup entrepreneur had a busy year making headlines. When she wasn't taking the message of Nigeria's massive business opportunities across the globe - making appearances on several global platforms including the New York Forum Africa, she was making news expanding House of Tara International into new countries like Kenya as part of her continental expansion strategy. She also featured on the inaugural Choiseul Institute of France list of Africa’s 100 Most Promising Young Business Leaders Under the Age of 40.
Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola, founder of WeCyclers, Nigeria
In 2014, this truly inspiring young social entrepreneur was recognised for her great work and won the prestigious Sustainia Award chaired by Arnold Schwarzenegger. This award follows her 2013 award as the Cartier Women’s Initiative Laureate for Sub-Saharan Africa. Her company's creative business model that gives low-income communities in Lagos a chance to capture value from waste and clean up their neighborhoods through incentive-based recycling continues to attract global attention and has seen her featured on both the BBC and CNN this year.
Lorna Rutto, founder of EcoPost, Kenya
2014 saw Lorna continue her outstanding work as an eco-preneur in Kenya. This year, she won the Green Award by the Transform Kenya Awards, a joint initiative of the Standard Group and Deloitte in recognition of her work. She previously won the World Wildlife Fund’s Nature Award, 2010 SEED Award, the 2009 Enablis Business Award, the 2010 Bid Network Nature Challenge Award and the 2011 Cartier Women’s Initiative Award. She continues to make news for all the right reasons and remains passionately committed to her vision to “Transform Africa’s Waste into Wealth".