Thanks to centuries of slavery and colonial occupation, Sub-Saharan Africa today is by far the poorest and most desolate region in the world. Yet, the peoples of Africa have not yet given up on the prospects of catching up with the rest of the world. In keeping with the high esteem with which women are regarded in Black African culture, the ‘fair sex’ has been actively participating in the artistic, socio-economic and political development of the continent.

Here, we take a brief look at five Black women widely considered to be global industry leaders in their particular fields:-

1)  Hafsat Abiola

Hafsat Olaronke Abiola-Costello, 48, is an American-educated Nigerian scholar and activist admired throughout for her foundation and leadership of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND). As a youth prodigy, Abiola established the KIND in 1997 and has led it since. The award-winning organization specializes in providing leadership training for thousands of women working in a wide range of service sectors, and is one of the largest of its kind in Nigeria, the most populous country on the continent.

As a prominent figure in charity work, Abiola also currently serves as the President of Women in African Initiative (WAI), and is one of the 50 councillors for the World Future Council, a Special Envoy to Africa for Women Political Leaders. She has been celebrating by inclusion in the Vital Voices 100, BMW Foundation’s Responsible Leaders Group, the World Economic Forum’s Community of Young Global Leaders, and many other platforms for the advancement of talented leaders worldwide. In 2019, Abiola was honored with the U.S. Civil Rights Museum Public Service Award.

2)  Natalia Allen

The African-Spanish fashion celebrity Natalia Allen is widely considered to be a leading innovator in an ultra-competitive field. She graduated from the Parsons School of Design, where she received the distinction of Designer of the Year. After her education, Allen went on to start a remarkable career in fashion designing as the founder and Chief Executive of Design Futurist, an award-winning consultancy firm known for promoting sustainable textiles and clothing.

Natalia Allen has worked with multinational brands DuPont, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and spoken to international forums on the importance of sustainable design. Allen has also been acclaimed as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, among others.

3)  Adolophine Sheeley

A native Congolese citizen now residing in Harlem, Adolophine Sheeley is the President of Adolophine Inc., a luxury home decoration and accessory brand that invests the bulk of its earnings to support struggling female entrepreneurs in Africa. Since its foundation in 2018, Adolophine specializes in bringing authentic, high-quality indigenous work from Africa to the American and international markets. Specifically, the brand is widely acknowledged for its pioneering patronage of African craftsmanship and hand artisan work. Its latest collection, ‘Kongo, with Love’ is an elaborate ‘love letter’ to the material culture and natural beauty of the medieval Kongo Kingdom. The company runs stores on both sides of the Atlantic under the leadership of Sheeley.

The best part? Adolophine reinvests the bulk of its profits in empowering the African artisans responsible for creating the artwork. The company achieves this through cash transfers and via its multiple orphanages and non-profit partners in Congo.

4)  Martine Harris

The Haitian-based Speech and Language Pathologist and author Martine Harris is known for her disability advocacy work as the founder and current President of Travel & Give. Growing up with a cousin with serious disability, Harris came to develop and appreciation for the experiences and struggles of children and adolescents with disability, an appreciation that she now endeavors to materialize with her non-profit work. Harris’ foundation is active in both Haiti and Kenya, where it works to spread awareness, as well as provide the necessary tools and resources for the advancement of youth with speech, learning, mental, and physical disabilities. During the pandemic, the organization added another dimension to its on-the-ground work with its 24/7 Telehealth Program.

5)  Daphne Nkosi

The South African entrepreneur and social activist Daphne Mashile-Nkosi is well-known figure in the country’s non-profit sector. Specifically, Nkosi has worked as a die-hard advocate for women’s economic rights ever since she was arrested in a student protest during the Apartheid era. Nkosi is a prominent name in the National Movement of Rural Women, and has worked in several key capacities for the Women’s Development Bank. By far the most famous and successful of Nkosi’s business endeavors is the acclaimed Kalagadi Manganese. Active since 2001, it the first mining company in the world which is majority-owned and run by African women.

A strong woman in every sense of the word, Nkosi has created a sprawling and robust business empire aimed at providing financial security and good working conditions for thousands of working-class women in South Africa, all of which started with little to no private investment and succeeded only due to her sheer persistence. Nkosi herself describes her leadership style as “Autocratic with a feminine touch”. She has received recognition as the IPM CEO of the Year, African Female Business Leader of the year Award, Geneva International Star for Quality, and Africa CEO of the Year, among others.

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Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the 2020, 2021 & 2023 Dateline award for Excellence in Local Journalism.

Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...

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