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Africa's most powerful women

Since the beginning of time in Africa, women have been revered for their remarkable qualities to rule empires, give and nurture life, provide food security and overall proper function of our communities. On Carob magazine this month, we look at a few of some of the most powerful women in our continent in different fields.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Her latest novel Americanah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.

A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

 Swaady Martin-Leke


Swaady Martin-Leke, an Ivorian entrepreneur, prides herself as a custodian of Africa’s rich culture and history. And she preserves it with style. After an eventful, highflying 11-year career at GE, where she held leadership positions in several divisions across the world (including acting as the Director for Sub-Saharan Africa of GE Transportation and acting-CEO for GE South Africa Technologies), she decided to follow her passion for African culture & heritage and founded YSWARA, a growing home-grown African global luxury brand.

YSWARA creates luxury products using the continent's natural resources, produced by African artisans. Products include gourmet tea, chocolates and home and accessories collections such as homeware, spoons, home fragrances and artisan jewelry, aim to capture true African luxury as well as preserve and promote Africa’s endangered cultural heritage by revisiting the continent’s ancestral craftsmanship. YSWARA is only a year old, but it is already present in 4 countries -South Africa, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and France -- with 15 different direct and indirect retail points.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu (born 1980) is an Ethiopian businesswoman, founder and executive director of sole Rebels, Africa's "fastest growing footwear company". Alemu has received honors and accolades for her business acumen, as well as her efforts to shift the discourse on Africa away from poverty to the continent's entrepreneurial spirit, social capital, and economic potential.  Alemu launched "The Republic of Leather", designing sustainable luxury leather goods.


The company began out of a workshop on a plot of land owned by Alemu's grandmother in Zenebework. SoleRebels has flourished, growing to one hundred employees, with distribution to thirty countries worldwide, selling to market kingmakers Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters and Amazon. Franchised and company-owned stores were planned to open in Austria, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UK. Alemu wanted to create well-paid jobs which could create prosperity using the artisan talents and natural resources of Ethiopia. The selection of footwear as the launch product for the company came later. Alemu was inspired by the seleate or barabasso, the traditional recycled tire sole shoe crafted in Ethiopia, and footwear became the locus around which she chose to build the company.

Khanyi Dhlomo

Khanyi Dhlomo (born 17 December 1974 in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal).Khanyi Dhlomo is the Managing Director of Ndalo Media, which she founded in 2007. She is also the founder of DestinyConnect and the Founding Editor of Destiny Magazine. Prior to beginning her own media company, Dhlomo served as editor of True Love magazine for eight years. She was named most influential woman in South African Media by The Media Magazine in 2003 and made the 2011 Forbes list of 20 Young Power Women in Africa. 

Amy Jadesimi

Dr Amy Jadesimi is the Managing Director of LADOL, an oil and gas fabrication and multi-logistics services base in Nigeria. Beyond LADOL, Amy contributes to Forbes and recently joined the 2015 Advisory Board for the UN Development Programme’s “Africa Human Development Report”. Amy cut her teeth at Goldman Sachs and Brait Private Equity in London, before returning to Nigeria to join LADOL’s management team. Amy has a number of accolades under her belt: in 2012, she was named an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellow; in 2013, a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum; also in 2013, a Rising Talent by the Women’s Forum for Economy and Society; in 2014, Forbes included her in The 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa; and in July 2015, the Financial Times named her one of top 25 Africans To Watch.

Amy holds a MBA from Stanford University, as well as a BA and BMBCh from the University of Oxford.