Girl power

Mfonobong Nsehe lists 10 African businesswomen who have built million-dollar businesses

Women entrepreneurs are changing the face of Africa. An increasing number of remarkable women are building successful, innovative companies that are upending industries, setting new standards and creating fortunes. msafiri profiles ten of them here…

Divine Ndhlukula, Zimbabwean
Founder Securico
In 1999 Zimbabwean-born Divine Ndhlukula founded Securico Security Services in her backyard cottage. She started out with only four employees and grew the business organically to the annual US$20 million company it is today. In 15 years Securico has become one of the largest security companies in the southern African country, and a market leader in the provision of bespoke guarding services and cutting-edge security solutions. It is also the first Zimbabwean security company to be certified to the internationally acclaimed ISO9001:2008 Quality Management System standard. The company has more than 4000 employees – 920 of whom are women.

BusinessPeopleBethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Ethiopian
Founder SoleRebels
The Ethiopian-born entrepreneur is the founder of SoleRebels, a social enterprise that sells Fairtrade, handcrafted, locally-produced footwear that blends ancient Ethiopian craftmanship with contemporary Western designs. SoleRebels’ shoes are all hand-crafted by the company’s staff in Addis Ababa, and are becoming increasingly popular across Africa. The company’s products are sold in 55 countries, and bring in revenues of more than US$3 million.

New factory
Bethlehem recently talked to msafiri about SoleRebels’ new factory, now under construction.
“We are aiming to have this ready for next year. It will be a state-of-the-art production facility. This will be the most innovative and unique production facility of its kind in this country and I believe anywhere. (At the factory) we can showcase what we do in its full glory – from handspinning cotton, handweaving, handdying and handcrafting leather to full artisan footwear assembly. This facility will allow us to create thousands of new, well-paid jobs while simultaneously preserving, promoting and keeping indigenous artisan crafts relevant through their continued use as inputs in our world-class footwear products.”

Bridget Radebe, South African
Founder Mmakau Mining
Radebe is the first black South African woman to start a mining company. She is the founder and leading shareholder of Mmakau Mining, which operates as a metal and coal mining company in South Africa. It holds interests in coal, platinum, gold, ferrochrome and uranium assets, as well as exploration and mining services. Radebe was a recipient of the International Businessperson of the Year Award in 2008 from the Global Foundation for Democracy.

Rapelang Rabana, South African
Founder Yeigo Communications
The 30-year-old South African entrepreneur was the co-founder of Yeigo Communications, a Cape Town-based innovative communications software development company which developed software that allows customers to make free phone calls, send emails and communicate via short text messages with other users through the Internet. In 2008 Swiss mobile telecoms firm Telfree acquired a 51% stake in Yeigo. Rabana recently founded Rekindle Learning, a company that provides adaptive mobile learning solutions.

Njeri Rionge, Kenyan
Founder Wananchi Online
One of Kenya’s most storied women entrepreneurs, Rionge is a co-founder of Wananchi Online, one of Kenya’s earliest Internet Service Providers. Wananchi has now metamorphosed into East Africa’s leading cable, broadband and IP (Internet-based) phone company. She is also the founder of Ignite Consulting, a successful business consultancy, and Business Lounge, Kenya’s leading startup incubator.

Rebecca Enonchong, Cameroonian
Founder AppsTech
Enonchong, a Cameroonian national, founded AppsTech in 1999 in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. AppsTech, which is an Oracle Platinum partner, is a global provider of enterprise solutions with clients in 40 countries on three continents, primarily offering enterprise software products and services such as implementation, training and application management services for large and medium-sized companies.

Irene Charnley, South African
Founder Smile Communications
Charnley is the founder and CEO of Smile Telecoms, a telecommunications products company working out of Mauritius. The company delivers affordable, high-quality broadband access and communication services to customers across Africa. Smile Telecoms made history when it launched Africa’s first 4G LTE broadband Internet service in Tanzania in March 2012. The company now runs Africa’s largest 4G LTE network and operates in Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa. 54-year-old Charnley made her first mark as a negotiator for the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa. She later became Executive Director at MTN, before striking out on her own.

Tara Fela-Durotoye, Nigerian
Founder House Of Tara
This Nigerian lawyer and beauty entrepreneur is the founder of House Of Tara, Nigeria’s leading beauty and cosmetics company. It was founded in 1998, develops a wide range of African-themed beauty products and perfumes and also operates Nigeria’s foremost beauty academy.

Khanyi Dhlomo, South African
Founder Ndalo Media
When she was 20, Dhlomo made history as the first black anchor of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) evening news. Now 39, she owns Ndalo Media, a South African publishing company that publishes Destiny and Destiny Man, two of South Africa’s most popular magazines. She also runs Luminance, a high-end fashion and lifestyle department store in Johannesburg.

Monica Musonda, Zambian
Founder Java Foods
Musonda, a Zambian citizen, is the founder of Java Foods, which manufactures the eeZee brand of instant noodles in Zambia. Musonda who previously served as director of legal and corporate affairs at Dangote Group, owned by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, also serves on the Boards of Dangote Industries Zambia Limited and the Central Bank of Zambia. In addition, Musonda is the Chairperson of Kwacha Pension Trust Fund, Zambia’s largest single employer pension fund.