Author Archives: vipiafrica

Impact Hub Zimbabwe’s Creative Space for Innovation

By Paul Ndiho

From an idea to a buzzword, the co-working movement is spreading rapidly worldwide. In the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, Impact Hub is changing the way young people are working and developing new businesses. Impact Drive Campaign

Tadzoka Pswarayi, is an entrepreneur and a co-founder of Impact Hub Zimbabwe.  A co-working space in the heart of Harare where she strives to cultivate an eco-system that supports budding entrepreneurs as they launch small businesses.

“Our mandate is to inspire, connect and enable change makers in Zimbabwe and across the world for positive social impact. We’re based in over a hundred cities across the world, and basically, we house change makers and help them in their quest to make a world a better place.”

At Impact Hub, new businesses are being spurred with secure funding while developing lifelong friendships.  Pswarayi says her vision is to support Zimbabwean entrepreneurs by helping them launch and grow their business.

“What got me started is a passion for change, a passion for people, and seeing that our local ecosystems need inspiring spaces where people who think big can get together and make things happen.”

More importantly, she says it also helps her to inspire young women to become involved the tech space.

“We have initiatives that seek to empower women with digital skills. One of them is E-skills for girls. Where we’re teaching girls how to code, how to use technology for the betterment of their lives. We also have a project called Code is female again where we’re teaching girls how to code. We work closely with Facebook developer circles so that we can leverage the tools and developers that exist within our system.

Several young change markers are benefiting from Impact Hub. For example, Namatai Kwekweza, uses the space to connect with other young people to address Zimbabwe’s economic challenges. Her start-up focuses on developing peer-to-peer interactions.

“We develop leaders across the board. We have economic leaders, business leaders, political leaders and what we do is that we aim to create an interactive program where the politicians interact with the entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs interact with the techies so that share Ideas, exchange ideas because we believe that this where ideas are.”

Entrepreneur Tapiwa Mupakati, a software test analyst with crystal quality assurance, is also taking advantage of the co-working space.

“We do testing for web applications, mobile apps, we do what we call functional testing to make sure that every function of software performs as expected.”

Simba Kanyimo runs Tariro Trust a non-profit charitable organization out of the Impact Hub facility in Harare.  His mission is to support young girls.

“We assist young girls in the high-density suburbs of Harare so that they can be able to go to school  Through payment of their school fees, school supplies, like uniforms, and stationery as well as life skills training.”

What started over ten years ago, as a gathering place for impact trailblazers in London, has grown to a community of thousands of professionals making an impact in towns and cities all around the world. And for Impact Hub Harare, they are seizing the moment.

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Economic And Political Empowerment Of Women In Africa

By Paul Ndiho

Friday, march 8th, is international women’s day. This year’s theme is “investment in women and girls for inclusive green growth.” But as women the world over celebrate this day, most  African women  still face enormous challenges to reach their full potential,  as they look for ways to advance gender equality, and empowerment, particularly in politics, entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology.

The African Girls Can Code Initiative 2018 launched-2

Investing in women’s economic empowerment across the globe is setting a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth. In February this year, U.S president Donald Trump signed the women’s global development and prosperity initiative, that’s focused on advancing female participation in the global economy.

The initiative will look to improve women’s’ access to quality education and skills training, support female entrepreneurship and reduce barriers to women’s’ participation in the global workforce in the developing world.

“Thank you very much. We’re here today to launch the first-ever U.S. government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries.

Across Africa, women are slowly breaking into the historically male-dominated domain of becoming elected officials, business owners and techpreneurs. For decades, women have been calling for equality. And today, they are making their mark. For example, the tech industry has provided unprecedented opportunities for women, even though trends indicate a growing gender digital divide and under-representation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and design.

 “Promoting the participation of women and girls in science means changing mindsets, fighting gender stereotypes and biases that limit girls’ passion, expectations and professional goals since their early childhood.”

Across Africa women are also raising the bar and igniting dialogue as they strive to reach the top of the ladder in the tech industry. Tadzoka pswarayi, a co-founder of impact hub Harare, says women in the tech sector are shaping the future, despite repeated hardship:

“The role of women in the tech space is precisely the same as the role of men; we have programs where we bring young women to teach them about technology. But when we do this, it’s imperative that we bring men to the table. At the end of the day, what we’re striving for is equality and technology is one of the spaces that are open for that.”

In politics, women across the continent are shaking the pillars of government patriarchy and are putting the government establishment on notice– that they are now a political force to be reckoned with.  For example, in October 2018, the Ethiopian parliament approved shale-work Zewde as the country’s first female president. While the president’s post is a ceremonial one, her appointment marks another shift in Ethiopia’s political system.

In Malawi, former president Joyce Banda is running again for the top seat after reversing a decision to join an alliance with former vice president. Her announcement could be a game changer.  Women activists are also making their voices heard, for example in Nigeria, thousands of women from across the country marched for a violence-free election ahead of the country’s presidential elections.

“Time has gone when they thought that we women didn’t have a say – women should be seen and not heard. Our voices cannot be subdued.”

Despite these success stories, violence against women and girls is still rampant across the continent. It negatively affects women’s general well-being and prevents women from fully participating in society.  Analysts say that perhaps game-changing start-ups, social entrepreneurs, gender equality activists and women innovators may have found the right mechanism in which innovation can remove barriers and accelerate progress for gender equality and build an unshakable foundation that meets the needs of women and girls.

 

President Buhari wins re-election in Nigeria

By Paul Ndiho

Nigerian incumbent Muhammadu Buhari has been re-elected as president. Meanwhile, votes are still being counted in Senegal — but President Macky Sall is widely expected to win that country’s presidential election.

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Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected Wednesday as Nigeria’s president after a delayed poll that angered voters and raised political temperatures – but the opposition immediately vowed to challenge the election results.
It was the second victory at the ballot box for Buhari, a one-time military ruler who in 2015 was elected to lead Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer.
With ballots counted in all of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Buhari, 76, won with 15.2 million votes. His nearest rival, Atiku Abubakar, trailed by nearly four million votes. The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission announced the winner.
“Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress, having satisfied the requirements of the law and scored the highest number of votes is hereby declared the winner and returned elected.”
Abubakar on Wednesday rejected the result of the vote, which he says was marred by claims of rigging and corruption.
“I hereby reject the result of the February 23, 2019 sham election and will be challenging it in court.”


Buhari, thanked Nigerians for re-electing him “for the next four years”, saying he was “deeply humbled and profoundly grateful.
Addressing supporters and party leaders at his All Progressives Congress party campaign headquarters, he called his win “another victory for Nigerian democracy.”
“The new administration will intensify its efforts in security, restructuring the economy and fighting corruption,”
In Senegal, incumbent, Macky Sall, the heavy favorite going into last Sunday’s presidential election, is confident that when all the votes are counted he will remain president.
Despite no official announcement from the nation’s electoral commission — Prime Minister Mohammed Dionne, a Sall ally and appointee, claims incumbent President Macky Sall has secured enough votes to avoid a run-off.  “The compiled results are telling us today that we must congratulate President Macky Sall for his re-election in the first round.”
His comments are at odds with earlier statements from main opposition candidates Ousmane Sonko, a 44-year-old former tax official, who has galvanized young people with his promises of making government more accountable and transparent and Idrissa Seck, a three-time presidential contender and former prime minister.
The country’s election commission has been stern in warning on all the candidates to abstain from prematurely announcing any unofficial results.
Sall, 57, who cast his ballot in his hometown of Fatick, seeks re-election on his record as the builder of modern Senegal, building roads, high-speed train that links the capital to its brand new international airport and creating jobs to boot.
Opposition supporters maintained those efforts have not reached many in this West African country where young men often risk their lives to migrate to Europe.
This year’s vote also has been marked by allegations that President Sall has effectively blocked two prominent opposition politicians from participating in the election process.
Political observers say Senegal has long been a defender of democracy in the region — and so far, local and international observers are saying this election has already been given a clean bill of health.

 

Zimbabwe’s Youth Unemployment

By Paul Ndiho

Young people in Zimbabwe are coming together to solve daily challenges as the nation struggles amid violent protests. They say they need jobs instead of a crackdown to make ends meet.  Art_201708081318424705_Graduates12

Every day young people gather in different rooms at Open Parly, Magamba networks’ creative space for innovation located in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. They are journalists, and activists representing various communities.  Munya Bloggo manages the space.

“This place is model of what young Zimbabweans can do; young Zimbabweans aspire to do, this is something that came from ordinary Zimbabweans who saw a gap in the market and decided to fill it and opened it up to other young people to come and use it.”

While their eyes are fixated on their laptop screens, these young people are also focused on a mission. They are collaborating, and developing strategies to stay afloat during this economic downturn. Tatenda Simugayi is determined to keep pushing on despite challenges.

“I’m an activist because of the realization that being young I can’t continue to watch and wait for someone to do things for me. It’s frustrating, and the point is we have to do something about it. This is why I’m part of movement building, part of the solution creation to end this crisis.”


This is the harsh reality of Zimbabwe’s soaring unemployment rate that is particularly hard-hitting on young graduates.  Faith Mvododo says she is hoping for a better future.

“We have a situation whereby a young person has gone through university, and they can’t find an internship, they can’t find a job, and this has been quite sad for a lot of youth out there…. I’d appreciate it if they can bring up an incentive where the young can get subsidized fees allotment.”

Audrey Mutweri, shares a similar sentiment.

“For me as a young person, we need jobs. Currently, there are no jobs anywhere, and there graduates on the streets everywhere… We need something different.”
This creative space is getting a lot of attention, especially from the government and other security agencies. The shared space is seen as a rallying center for young people, who are often viewed as a threat to the establishment in light of the current protests.

“We have been targeted before, and we understand the risks of what comes with what we do. This building almost got demolished when the city council targets us. They tried to demolish saying that it was an illegal structure. Our community came to our rescue and started a #hashtag save motto republic, and they got the mayor, the minister to stop the demolition.”

Zimbabwe has been coping with a wave of protests from a groups representing nearly 500-thousand civil servants across the country.  Many unemployed young people say they are determined to keep the pressure on the government. And so far, there no end in sight to the demonstrations.   Armed soldiers are maintaining a presence on the streets. At least ten people have been reported killed in the unrest and more than 300 wounded, according to doctors and human right workers.

10 AFRICAN NATIONS HEAD TO HOLD ELECTIONS IN 2019

 

By Paul Ndiho

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems says that at least 10 African nations will hold general elections in 2019.  What’s really at stake as these countries use the ballot to deepen the quality of democratic governance?

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Tens of millions of people are expecting to vote in more than 10 African nations in 2019, according to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a Washington DC-based independent organization that supports citizens’ right to participate in free and fair elections in more than 145 countries.

Nigerian voters were scheduled to cast their ballots in the nation’s presidential and parliamentary elections on February 16th. But, just five hours prior to the polls opening, the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission announced a one-week delay in the vote to Saturday, February 23th.  The commission blamed logistical difficulties, including problems in the distribution of ballot and results sheets, as well as sabotage, after three fires at its offices in the last two weeks.

“This was a difficult decision for the commission to take but necessary for the successful delivery of elections and the consolidation of our democracy,”

The two main political parties swiftly accused each other of orchestrating the delay as a way of manipulating the vote, a sentiment echoed by some voters, many of whom had traveled long distances to vote in their hometowns.

Political observers are predicting a tight race between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and his chief challenger, former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.  Buhari, 75, has been in office since 2015. But his critics say he has failed to deliver on some of the promises he made like stamping out corruption.

In Senegal, voters head to the polls on February 24th where incumbent President Macky Sall is facing four other primary challengers. President Sall, 57, was first elected in 2012, taking the helm of one of West Africa’s most prosperous and stable countries.

Two opposition leaders, former Dakar mayor Khalifa Sall and ex-minister Karim Wade are barred from running due to previous convictions for misuse of public funds.  Thousands of supporters of both former candidates have staged protests in recent months calling for fair and transparent elections, while challenging the impartiality of the justice and interior ministries.  The former French colony is seen as a model of democracy in the region, having never experienced a coup — and successfully staging peaceful transfers of power in 2000 and 2012.

The stakes are high in South Africa as voters gear-up for general elections on May 8th.  The ruling African National Congress party is looking to reverse its declining popularity due to weak growth, unemployment, and corruption.  The opposition has latched onto ANC corruption as an election trump card.  The ANC, which has ruled since 1994, is facing a tough fight to retain its dominance — and is proposing constitutional changes to address land rights issues. The far-left South Africa Economic Freedom Fighters party has land expropriation and jobs at the top of its election agenda.

Malawians are expected to cast their ballots in tripartite elections on May 21st. Voters will select a President, Members of Parliament and local Councilors.  This election pits incumbent President Peter Mutharika, of the Democratic Progressive Party against his former Vice President Saulos Chilima.  Political observers say Chilima is seen as the biggest threat to Mutharika.  Meanwhile, former president Joyce Banda has also joined the race after reversing a decision to join an alliance with the opposition the former Vice President. Her announcement earlier this month could be a game changer.

NIGERIA DECIDES – WHAT’S AT STAKE IN THIS ELECTION

By Paul Ndiho

Nigeria has Africa’s biggest economy, and voters there head to the polls for general elections on February 16th. Political observers are predicting a tight race between President Muhammadu Buhari and his chief challenger, former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.  Nigeria-Buhari-Atiku-Abubakar-Elections-PDP-APC_0

Campaigning in the Nigerian presidential election enters its final days and the wealth and patronage networks of the two main parties are driving the countries politics. President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress party recently held a pivotal rally in the heart of Lagos. At the rally, Buhari told thousands of supporters he would continue to act on his election promises from his 2015 victory to rid Nigeria of endemic corruption, fix the economy and tackle security threats.

“I assure you that the promise we had made in 2015, based on which you elected us, we made tremendous progress as I mention by those who told you what the administration is doing on security, economy and fighting corruption.”

Haija Adekoya is an avid supporter of APC the ruling party. She says President Buhari has made good on his fight against corruption.

“Fighting corruption. I support Buhari is because of his fight on corruption. He is a man of the intelligence and a man of the people.”

Buhari is fighting a tough battle against his longtime rival, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who heads up the People’s Democratic Party. Beyond general pledges to tackle corruption, Abubakar is primarily focusing his presidential campaign on how he will further stimulate the nation’s economy. According to the Bloomberg financial organization, Buhari says his economic plan will specifically focus on reforms to boost the oil and non-oil sectors, while Abubakar says he will pursue a more market-friendly policies.

Abubakar’s “Get Nigeria working again” slogan — not only plays on his image as a successful businessman, but highlights what he believes is incumbent Mohammadu Buhari’s alleged failings. Abubakar says security is also a top priority.

“I will restore peace in the North East, and we will restore total peace in Nigeria and anybody that knows me knows I don’t take things for granted and I am not scared.”

This year’s campaign is the fifth time Abubakar has run for Nigeria’s top job. Given his age, 72, and the country’s increasingly young population, it may well be his last.  Muhammadu Buhari, 75, who has dealt with some health issues and has sought treatment outside the country, could also be running in his last campaign.

Political analysts say voters in Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer are hoping to use the ballot to deepen the quality of democratic governance. Not long ago, demonstrators took to the streets in Abuja protesting the removal of Nigeria’s Chief Justice for allegedly breaching asset-declaration rules for state officials. A decision that drew worldwide criticism ahead of Saturday’s presidential election.

GRAND INGA DAMS IN DRC

By Paul Ndiho

At a price tag of US$80 billion, the Grand Inga dam project in the DRC is arguably one of the largest infrastructure development projects on the continent. Once completed, proponents say Inga dams will develop a power grid that will spur the Africa’s industrial economic development. IMG_0107

The African continent faces a huge energy deficit that has contributed to slow economic development. But with these challenge, they’re great opportunities. There is a huge potential for producing all forms of energy including hydropower, natural gas, solar, and wind energy. For example, the Grand Inga dam on the Congo River has tremendous hydropower potential to light Africa and beyond.

It’s estimated that Inga dam will produce over 40,000 MW of electricity, more than a third of the total electricity currently produced on the Continent and twice as much the power generation of Three Gorges Dam in China.

In the 1970s and 1980s, former President Mobutu Sese Seko oversaw the construction of the Inga 1 and 2 dams, but most of the electricity produced was for domestic consumption. But the Congolese government says it aims to avoid repeating past mistakes – it wants to make sure the Inga project can be a viable business. Their aim is to export this hydroelectric energy beyond its boarders.

Grand Inga foresees a massive expansion of hydroelectric generating capacity, reaching a total output of close to 50,000 MW, with transmission lines carrying electricity as far as South Africa If fully completed would be the world’s largest hydroelectric plant.

At a price tag of US$80 billion, concerns are growing that foreign companies will gain vast economic benefits from this mega-project, taking attention away from the development needs of Congolese people.

Furthermore, corruption is prevalent in the DRC and huge infrastructure like this one is   prone to corruption.  In 2014, the World Bank approved a US$73.1 million grant to support the technical aspect of Inga 3, but in 2016 the bank cancelled its support to the project sighting corruption. Other stake holders including the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Investment Bank have expressed similar concerns.
Large dam projects like Inga are widely attacked by environmentalists for their impact on river flow, which affects habitat and concerns that more than half of the Congolese population has no access to electricity and yet the continent’s biggest infrastructure investment would all be for export and the mining industries far-away especially in the Katanga province.

FREEDOM UNDER ATTACK IN AFRICA

By Paul Ndiho

Across Africa, young people are putting their respective governments and longtime leaders on notice. They are standing up to abuses of power and expressing their disapproval through protests. But at what cost?Screen Shot 2019-02-07 at 7.28.02 AM
In its annual report, Human Rights Watch says violent government crackdowns against dissent shaped Africa’s human rights landscape in 2018. Government leaders often bullied peaceful protesters, political opponents, human rights defenders and civil society organizations, while suppressing the freedoms of citizens.

From Harare to Khartoum — to Kampala, Kinshasa and Luanda, there were mass arrests of peaceful protesters, beatings, excessive use of force, and, in some cases, killings.

For example, in the wake of violent protests over massive fuel price hikes In Zimbabwe, the government impose unlawful restrictions and bans on peaceful protests.


“We have received reports of serious human rights abuses including beatings, abductions, torture and the involvement of ZANU-PF, the ruling ZANU-PF party, groups beating up people in the high-density suburbs around Harare.”

Throughout the region, people were denied their right to peacefully protest through unlawful bans, use of excessive force, harassment and arbitrary arrests. The right to freedom of assembly was the exception, rather than the rule, as young people advocated for democratic values.

Dirk Ferry, a Zimbabwean rights activist, says the democracy cannot just be about the majority towards those who did not vote for the ruling party.

“In a democracy what is important is the balance of power. The institutions do we have strong institutions or what can the elected officials  get away with, If the executive does something blatantly bad can the parliament hold them to account.”

In Sudan, demonstrations calling for President Omar al-Bashir to step down continue. The anti-government protests first erupted in mid-December over inflation, and soaring food and fuel prices. Human Rights Watch says that protection of democratic values, self-determination and freedoms are being challenged every day.

“If you’re an autocrat, it’s very convenient to violate human rights. It’s the way you stay in power. It’s the way you fill up your bank account. It’s the way you pay off your cronies. So, there are reasons why governments want to violate human rights.”

Attacks on freedom of speech are seemingly at an all-time high, as democracy is continuously being challenged, instead of being perfected, according to Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow on Foreign Policy at Brookings Institute, a Washington DC-Based non-profit organization devoted to independent research and policy solutions.

“Having an informed public requires freedom of media, freedom of speech, but it also requires access to media and assets, it requires that people have the physical space to concentrate on something other than their survival. For example, assuring access to basic healthcare, assuring access to basic food and livelihoods, all of those determine what kind of quality and democracy there is.”

Vanda says in some African countries, you have longtime leaders exploiting ambiguities in the law to extend their term in office — while simultaneously undermining the nation’s constitution.

“I would say presidential term limits are a crucial facet of democracy. And It’s something that is very much contested around the world. Certainly, throughout Africa there has been a lot  movement to abolish term limits and change constitutions.”

As some African administrations clamped down on dissenters, they became more emboldened to attack traditional media and social media too — including blocking the internet and text message services.

EMPOWERING YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS IN ZIMBABWE

By Paul Ndiho

Zimbabwe has no shortage of educated young people with college degrees, but the majority of them are unemployed. Could entrepreneurship and innovation be the ultimate answer to solving this serious problem?a54 zimbabwe entrepreneurs

The Zimbabwean economy has been in a slump for more than a decade, with cash shortages and high unemployment — and now demonstrators are clashing with government security services in Harare.  The protesters are angry over the massive rise in fuel prices ordered by the government.

Boost Fellowship, a non-profit youth-based organization, is trying to reverse the economic downturn by empowering young people with entrepreneurial skills, and more employment opportunities.

Busisiwe Marandure is the Executive Director at Boost Fellowship.

“It’s indented to empower the youth in Zimbabwe, through providing them opportunities for their future.”

The fellowship works in conjunction with ENACTUS, a global learning platform that operates in 36 countries and strives to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“These projects are entrepreneurial in nature, they must be environmentally sustainable, economically viable and must cause social change.”

Many young people are turning to entrepreneurship and innovation to make a living during the economic slowdown.

“Currently there is an issue with unemployment for young people graduating and coming out of university than the jobs that are available on the market. So young people now have to be innovative and create their jobs.”

Created in 2000, the ENACTUS fellowship has trained over 2,000 young people between the ages of 20-25 in work readiness skills — and over 300 participants have secured internship opportunities which have resulted in full-time employment.

Bryan Mmirimi is an apprentice at Boost Fellowship.

“From Boost you learn to be confident, to manage projects and how to get yourself into projects, how to network, how to meet the big people. So you do learn a lot of things.”

Alvin Tapera is a university student who hopes to start a business one day, instead of joining the ranks of the unemployed.

“As young students, we’re coming from Universities; we need to run the big companies, we need to drive our economies. Basically, in Africa we’re lagging behind the Western and Eastern countries. So as the youth we want to push the economies of Africa further and to bring our economies in Africa to be competitive economies in the world.”

The program is working with universities in Zimbabwe, and they have created five power teams that go into communities to implement waste management models.

“We have five power teams that are running entrepreneurship initiatives in Zimbabwe. For instance, we have one that is into making crafts from cans so they’re earning from what we see as waste, and they’ve also developed a mobile app that is into a waste collection. Once you have waste in a neighborhood, you can call them, and they’ll come and collect at no cost.”

Business analysts say given the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe, the Boost fellowship is making a significant impact on the country’s youth.

When President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over from Robert Mugabe, he pledged to revive the failing economy, end the country’s international isolation and restore badly needed confidence in Zimbabwe. But critics say that he has failed to turn the economy around, triggered the angry protests.

AFRICAN WOMEN ASPIRING FOR LEADERSHIP POSITIONS

By Paul Ndiho

African women are facing enormous challenges to reach their political goals. Their stories of resilience and their ability to succeed, despite repeated hardships are remarkable. diane-shima-rwigara1538735414314_aspr_1.489_w938_h630_e

Women are slowly breaking into the historically male-dominated political domain of becoming an African president.   For decades, women have been calling for equality. And today, they are shaking the pillars of government patriarchy.  Many women are now telling their stories and sparking essential and necessary dialog as they strive to reach the political mountaintop of their countries.

“For generations, women have been fighting for their right. We need to continue until we have won our victories.”

In October 2018, the Ethiopian parliament approved Sahle-Work Zewde as the country’s first female president. While the president’s post is a ceremonial one, her appointment marks another shift in Ethiopia’s political system – under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, became the first democratically-elected female president in Africa, when she won the West African nation’s presidential poll in 2005. She rose to power vowing to empower Liberian women.  Her achievements as president, made her an excellent role model for women across the continent.

“I have an opportunity to open the doors for more African women to hold high-level political positions, challenging because I represent the aspirations and expectations of Liberian African women, maybe women all over the world and therefore the pressure is on me to make sure that I succeed.”

As a trailblazer for women, Sirleaf has inspired more women to join politics and change the mindset that only men can aspire to become their nation’s head of state.

The rise of former Malawian President Joyce Banda did not come easy.  Her ability to reach her nation’s highest office, despite repeated hardships is remarkable. She rose through ranks to become Malawi’s first female president and she says any African girl can now grow up to be a leader.

“The first recommendation I make is to enhance political will to empower girls and appoint qualified women to leadership positions.”

Another woman who reached the pinnacle of her country’s political ladder is former Central African Republic President Catherine Samba-Panza, who served as interim president of the C-A-R from 2014 to 2016. She was the first woman to become head of state in that country.

Another female politician on the rise is Gambian Vice-President Fatoumata Tambajang, appointed in 2017, she is a strong advocate for women and a staunch human rights defender.

Political observers say despite these success stories, discrimination remains, but the pool of qualified women is growing as more women vie for political office.

Former long-time Zimbabwean vice president Joice Mujuru was considered a potential successor to Robert Mugabe until he fired her in 2014, accusing her of leading a plot to oust him.

Young, energetic and ambitious African women are now entering the political arena on a regular basis. Diane Rwigara rose to fame after she announced that she was challenging Rwanda’s Paul Kagame in the country’s July 2017 presidential election.  However, Rwigara was not allowed to run — and later thrown into jail for allegedly “inciting insurrection” among other charges.

Rwanda’s high court later acquitted her and all charges dropped. But Rwigara continues to be a beckon of hope for many young women across the region.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, Nigeria’s leading female presidential candidate recently withdrew from the crowded field of candidates running in the February 16th presidential election, citing differences in values and visions within her political party, the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria.

The former government minister and World Bank vice president, led the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign that raised awareness of the 270 girls who were kidnapped from their school in the northwest town of Chibok in 2014 by the Boko Haram terrorist group. She is also a co-founder of the anti-corruption group Transparency International.

Women across Africa are putting the government establishment on notice, that they are now a political force to be reckoned with.

 

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