Each year on March 8, we stop and honor women and their accomplishments – and raise awareness for their continued fight – on International Women’s Day. Applause Africa recognized 20 African women with powerful and inspiring voices
Rapelang Rabana (South Africa) is CEO of ReKindle Learning and Yeigo Communications. ReKindle Learning is an innovative technology-driven education company that uses and integrates the power of mobile and internet technology to improve and complement learning for students and corporate employees. ReKindle Learning, an interactive mobile learning platform is designed with the idea of ‘learning as a lifestyle.’ Rabana states, “Education is the way out of poverty. For Africa to leverage on its population, the continent must focus on education and work hard to improve the educational system.” Her other company, Yeigo is credited with creating ground-breaking applications and services that took advantage of the internet, mobile and cloud computing technologies to tackle the cost of communication in South Africa. In 2008, the Swiss-headquartered Telfree Group of Companies, a pioneering next-generation telecoms operator, acquired a majority stake in Yeigo, enabling the group to provide the full range of telecommunications services.
Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola (Nigeria) is CEO and Co-Founder of Wecyclers, a for-profit social enterprise working to help communities reclaim their neighborhoods from unmanaged waste. Founded in 2012, Wecyclers, in partnership with the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), utilizes low-cost cargo bicycles called “wecycles” to provide convenient recycling services to households in Lagos, Nigeria using a SMS-based incentives system. Adebiyi-Abiola is a graduate of Fisk University, Vanderbilt University, and MIT’s Sloan School of Management. While at MIT, Adebiyi-Abiola was a Legatum Fellow. She is currently an Echoing Green Fellow, Tech Award recipient, and laureate of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.
Spectra Speaks (Nigeria) is a queer afrofeminist writer and activist. Spectra is also the founding director of Queer Women of Color and Friends, a grassroots organization and media collective dedicated to highlighting LGBTQ women of color, immigrant, and diaspora voices. Her blog, Spectraspeaks.com is a global afrofeminist blog which publishes social commentary about gender, sexuality, diaspora communities, and movement-building through the lens of “Love” and media psychology. Her work uses media to amplify the voices of marginalized people which has featured on both mainstream and alternative media outlets, including ABC network, Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, Curve Magazine, Racialicious, and BET.com.
Mametja Moshe (South Africa) is executive director at Identity Mineral Resources (Pty) Ltd., an African mining investment company. Moshe is one of Africa’s leading voices in the mining industry. Before joining the Identity group of companies, Moshe worked as an Investment Banker at Morgan Stanley covering the South African, Zambian, and Nigerian Mergers & Acquisitions and Equity capital markets for the mining industry. Moshe has sat on the boards of EuroDollar Foreign Exchange (Pty) Ltd and Southgold Exploration (Pty) Ltd. Moshe holds a B. Com Hons (Accounting) and a B. Com Hons. (Management Accounting) degrees from the University of Kwazulu Natal. Moshe is a qualified Chartered Accountant and a graduate of the Global Executive MBA Program at Columbia University and London Business School.
Vivian Onano (Kenya) is a Moremi Initiative fellow, a ONE Campaign Congressional District Leader, a UNA-USA campus advocate, and a Half the Sky Movement Campus Ambassador. Her goal is to help create sustainable healthcare systems in rural parts of Africa which will change the lives of women and girls. Vivian has participated in a number of global international development gatherings, including serving as a panelist at the Clinton Global Initiative, and CARE International’s conference to unlock the power of Girls. She was also a youth representative at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
Hussainatu Blake (Cameroon/Atlanta) is co-founder of Focal Point Global (FPG), a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower underserved youths in Namibia and Cameroon using education and technology to address social issues. Hussainatu Blake was also recognized as a White House Champion of Change. Her organization, Focal Point Global will launch the Gambia and Namibia HIV/AIDS Education Initiative–an inter-African and multi-religious (Muslim and Christian) program focused on linking African youths to one another to discuss how to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS on the continent.
Juliana Rotich (Kenya) is co-founder and executive director of Ushahidi – a web-based reporting system that utilizes crowdsourced data, mobile phone, and web reporting to formulate visual map information of a crisis on a real-time basis. Rotich is an African Futurist and a TED Senior Fellow. Her organization, Ushahidi documented the Kenyan presidential election crisis of 2007-2008; the platform has since been used in Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Haiti. As a blogger, she has authored articles on Afrigadget.com, acted as Environmental Editor of Global Voices Online, and participated in the TED Global conference in Arusha. As a public speaker, she is known for her commentary on technology in Africa and voicing concerns about the loss of indigenous forest and water catchment areas in Kenya. Juliana Rotich was named Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year in Africa by the World Economic Forum.
Lorna Rutto (Kenya) is an innovator, social entrepreneur, and founder of EcoPost, a company that specializes in environmentally friendly solutions that save the environment from deforestation, pollution, and creates jobs for marginalized communities. Ecopost manufactures fences from wasted plastics, a green alternative to expensive timber fence products – with only two percent woodlands cover–and this provides an important service to Kenya’s fencing industry. Through her work, Rutto has spawned an ecosystem of new jobs as traders buy plastic waste from the public, sort it, and resell it to her company. She is also a laureate of the Cartier Women’s Initiative.
Nkemdilim Begho (Nigeria) is managing director of Future Software Resources. Begho has successfully re-branded the company, thus changing its focus from stand-alone solutions to web-based educational, enterprise, and business solutions. Prior to her appointment at Future Software Resources, Begho has contributed to various research projects, such as the Wazobia Linux Initiative, the E-Government Interoperability Framework, NITDA open standards framework, as well as the deployment of e-commerce and e-portal solutions in the Nigerian public and private sector. Her company, Future Software Resources is also winner of the Etisalat Nigeria Prize for Innovation which created the iConnect project, which is focused on making ICT and education more accessible to Nigerian youths. Nkemdilim is an active board member of the World Summit Youth Award, and co-founder of the Bake for Change Development Foundation.
Lilian O. Ajayi (Global) Ambassador Lilian O. Ajayi is the Founder and CEO of Global Connections for Women foundation (GC4W). GC4W foundation was created in direct response to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) and established to support women and youth in underserved communities across the globe. Lilian sits on the board of Harvard Crimson Impact, NAAEP Ltd., Madison Square Boys & Girls Club, the HOPE Program and International Women in Business (IWIB). She is also the Vice Coordinator of the New York State Chapter, Goodluck Support Group (GSG) USA. She spent a portion of her career working at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, representing the Mission of Nigeria to the UN, and served on the Social Economic Committee as the Economic Development Policy Negotiator. Lilian was appointed as the Ambassador of Goodwill and Honorary Citizen of the State of Arkansas by Governor Mike Bebe. She was awarded with the Special U.S. Congressional Award for Outstanding Community Service from Congresswoman Barbara Lee and recognized by Applause Africa Magazine as “Top 40 under 40” Most Inspiring African in the Diaspora. Lilian Ajayi was recently selected as Black Enterprise Magazine “Power Women of the Diaspora.” Lilian continues to inspire, connect and empower other women to follow and live out their passions through her foundation’s community of over 50 thousand Global followers.
Marieme Jamme (Senegal/London) is co-founder of Africa Gathering, a global platform that brings together entrepreneurs and experts to exchange ideas about Africa’s development. Jamme is also CEO of SpotOne Global Solutions which helps international technology companies selling enterprise software solutions to get a foothold in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Jamme is a blogger, tech activist, and social entrepreneur who works tirelessly to empower her fellow Africans through education, mentoring, leadership, and economic development. Jamme has also supported Google in organizing the Apps4Africa contest. She recently joined the Microsoft 4AfriKa team as a council member, advising on how to engage the youth in Africa’s development and increase their competitiveness in the global market by creating profitable SMEs.
Ola Orekunrin (Nigeria) is an innovator and a 2013 New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute. Orekunrin is also a member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine, a TED fellow, medical doctor, helicopter pilot, and managing director of the Flying Doctors Nigeria Ltd, West Africa’s first indigenous air ambulance service and a crucial link for critically injured people. Her articles have been featured in the New York Times and the Huffington Post.
Esther Agbarakwe (Nigeria) is an award-winning advocate with extensive experience in facilitating and managing youth-led projects on Population, Health, and the Environment. She co-founded the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition, the biggest youth climate movement in Nigeria. She sits as an adviser to the African Youth Coalition on Climate Change (AYICC). Agbarakwe was recently recognized by the Future Africa Awards as one of “100 Guardians of the Future,” an honor presented by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Namadi Sambo.
Minna Salami (Nigeria/London) is a writer, blogger, and commentator on African feminism. Salami is also owner of the MsAfropolitan Boutique, an online shop featuring designs by women of African heritage. Salami’s areas of expertise include extensive research and writing on gender issues in African society; media and popular culture in an African context; speaking engagements, university guest lectures as well as providing workshops and master classes. Minna received a Master of Arts with Distinction in Gender Studies from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She is also a graduate of Lund University’s Political Science Bachelor’s Program.
Oreoluwa Somolu (Nigeria) is an Ashoka fellow and executive director of the Women’s Technology Empowerment Centre, a non-profit working to encourage Nigerian girls to use technology to empower themselves socially and economically. W.TEC’s work is carried out through projects, which helps women build their technology skills and supports them through mentoring. Notable among these programs is the Girls Technology Camp, which seeks to help girls develop an early interest in computers. Somolu holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Essex University, U.K., and a Master’s degree in Analysis, Design and Management of Information Systems from the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is the recipient of the Anita Borg Change Agent Award for her commitment to issues of women in computing.
Mary Olushoga (Nigeria) Mary Olushoga is founder of awpnetwork.com, an online platform powering small business success for African entrepreneurs. Recognized at the UN World Summit Youth Award (WSYA) and listed as an Apps4Africa Innovation, the AWP Network is also known to be one of the leading organizations supporting African Women in Technology. Olushoga is the first-ever GOOD Maker/Oxfam America International Women’s Day Challenge Winner, a Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) Associate, and an Oxfam America Sisters on the Planet Ambassador. Olushoga received a bachelor’s degree from Union College in Schenectady, New York and a Master of Science degree from Baruch College. She has served as a Public Policy Fellow at the University at Albany, Center for Women in Government and Civil Society and most recently participated in the Sub-Saharan African Women In Public Service Fall Institute. Olushoga has featured on BBC World News, Black Enterprise, iwantherjob.com, AFK Insider, BET Networks, and has presented her work on African women entrepreneurs at the Columbia University Africa Economic Forum, the United States Department of Labor Strategy Meeting on Inclusion, Entrepreneurship, and Disability, W!se Institute, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the United Nations ECOSOC Youth Employment Forum, and the Rockefeller Foundation Tech Salon. Olushoga also writes for GE Ideas Lab and the Huffington Post.
Rainatou Sow (Guinea/United Kingdom) is founder of Make Every Woman Count, an organization led by a team of volunteers’ in Africa, America, and Europe who use their passion and experience to promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls. Sow is a campaigner for a peaceful and equitable world. She has appeared on CNN’s African Voices, and her work was recognized by the Women4Africa foundation.
Semhar Araia (State of Eritrea/Washington D.C) Semhar Araia is the founder and executive director of the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN), an organization whose mission is to develop and support the next generation of African diaspora women focused on African affairs. A lawyer by training, she specializes in US-Africa affairs, diaspora engagement, humanitarian affairs, conflict resolution & international development. She is an adjunct professor at George Washington University, teaching on conflict, identity & development in the Horn of Africa. Prior to that, Semhar worked for Oxfam International, US Congress, Nelson Mandela’s organization The Elders, and as an attorney for the implementation of the 1998-2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia peace process.
Semhar is also a community organizer with extensive grassroots and leadership experience working with communities in the diaspora and East Africa. She is a White House Champion of Change and African Union Diaspora Awardee of the Year, recognized for her outstanding contributions in the Africa diaspora community. She has lived, worked and visited over 30 countries in East Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Europe. Semhar earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Saint Thomas and her law degree from Marquette University Law School. She was born in New York City to Eritrean immigrant parents and resides in Washington, DC. You can follow Semhar on Twitter at @Semhar.
Amanda A. Ebokosia Amanda A. Ebokosia is a Nigerian-American freelance journalist and Founder & CEO of The Gem Project, Inc., a nonprofit organization that educates school-age children, youth and young adults about the issues that affect them and their communities. Through the involvement as activity leaders, youth strengthen skills of leadership and community organizing. Since inception, The Gem Project has directly impacted the lives of 1,950 youth and young adults, through the hosting of educational workshops, weekly programs and events at participating sites within the Greater Newark, New Jersey area.
Honored by The White House, The City of Newark and making the annual FORBES Magazine 30 under 30 list, Ebokosia and her team have demonstrated a great ability to engage communities and young people in ways that develop their leadership skills, which have the capacity to change their lives. The Gem Project and Ebokosia have been featured in News 12 New Jersey, Black Enterprise.com, Forbes Magazine, Forbes.com, GOOD magazine, NJ.com, Rutgers Magazine and others.
As a freelance journalist, Ebokosia explores the psychology of people as it relates to their leadership styles. She also focuses on business, women issues and education. She earned a BA in biology with a minor in psychology at Rutgers University. She has also completed the Nonprofit Executive Certificate program from Rutgers Institute of Ethical Leadership at Rutgers Business School. This year, Forbes has named Ebokosia among 20 millennials on a mission. She currently resides in New Jersey.”