Women are powerful agents of change. Around the world, women leaders are driving pandemic recovery to achieve an inclusive and equal future for all. Little girls and boys need to see more African women presidents to show that girls and women can do anything they put their minds to. Here is a list of women presidents in Africa.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania, in office since April 2021.
In 2000, President Hassan joined politics. She was elected as a special seat member to the Zanzibar House of Representatives and was appointed a minister by President Amani Karume. She was the only high-ranking woman minister in the cabinet and was “looked down on” by her male colleagues because of her gender. She was re-elected in 2005 and was re-appointed as a minister in another portfolio. In 2010, she sought election to the National Assembly, standing in the parliamentary constituency of Makunduchi and winning by more than 80%. President Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as the Minister of State for Union Affairs. In 2014, she was elected as the Vice Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution. In 1986, she undertook an advanced diploma in public administration from the Institute of Development Management (present-day Mzumbe University) while working as a clerk at the Ministry of Planning and Development. Between 1992 and 1994, she attended the University of Manchester and graduated with a postgraduate diploma in economics. In 2015, she obtained her MSc in Community Economic Development via a joint-programme between the Open University of Tanzania and the Southern New Hampshire University.
Prime Minister Dogbé Tomegah, Togo, since September 2020.
Victoire Sidémého Dzidudu Dogbé Tomegah is the new Prime Minister of Togo (since 28 September 2020). She is the first woman to hold the office. Prime Minister Dogbé Tomegah is respected and seasoned politician. Prior to 2008, she worked at the United Nations Development Programme. In 2008 Dogbé Tomégah served as the Cabinet Director of the President. Here she managed the portfolio of Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister in charge of development at the base which had just been created in Togo. In 2010, following the re-election of President Faure Gnassingbé, Tomegah Dogbé was appointed Minister of Grassroots Development, Youth Craft and Youth Employment in Gilbert Houngbo’s second mandate. She retained her ministerial functions in the 1st government of Kwesi Ahoomey-Zunu from 2012 to 2013 and the 2nd government of Ahoomey-Zunu from 2013 to 2015. After the presidential election of April 2015, Komi Sélom Klassou replaced Ahoomey-Zunu as prime minister on 5 June 2015. Klaassou formed his cabinet on 28 June 2015 in which Tomegah Dogbé still retained the Ministry of Development at the Base, crafts, youth and youth employment.
Prime Minister Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, Gabon, in office since July 2020.
Christiane Ossouka Raponda is the first woman Prime Minister of Gabon (16 July 2020). Prime Minister Raponda was born in 1964 in Libreville. She is an economist by training. She received a degree in economics and public finance from the Gabonese Institute of Economy and Finance. She has served Gabon for decades. Raponda worked as Director General of the Economy and Deputy Director General the Housing Bank of Gabon. She served as Budget Minister from February 2012 until January 2014. Following that, she was elected Mayor of the capital city Libreville on 26 January 2014, representing the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party. She was the first woman to hold the position since 1956 and she served until 2019. She also became President of United Cities and Local Governments Africa. Raponda has played a vital role in Africa’s peace and security. She served as the country’s Defense Minister from February 2019 to July 2020.
President Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia, in office since October 2018.
Madam President is a seasoned diplomat. President Sahle-Work Zewde has served as an ambassador for Ethiopia in Senegal, Djibouti and France. She has also held a number of UN positions. Zewde served as Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). She was also the Director-General for African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.In 2011, Zewde was appointed to the position of Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She was the first person to hold the post at the level of Under-Secretary-General.President Sahle-Work Zewde also served as the UN representative at the African Union. Madam President studied natural science at the University of Montpellier, France. She is fluent in Amharic, French and English.
Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Namibia, since 21 March 2015.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila returned to Namibia following her graduation from Lincoln University and took a position as a desk officer in the Office of the President under President Sam Nujoma. In 1995, at the age of 27, she was named Director General of the National Planning Commission, a position in the rank of a minister. She was appointed as Minister of Finance in 2003. On Heroes’ Day 2014, she was conferred the Most Brilliant Order of the Sun, Second Class. Alongside President Hage Geingob, she was sworn in as the 4th Prime Minister of Namibia on 21 March 2015. She is the first woman to hold the position.
First women president in Africa: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia, in office from 21 January 2006 to 22 January 2018.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the first elected female head of state in Africa, serving as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. She was educated at the College of West Africa. She completed her education in the United States, where she studied at Madison Business College and Harvard University. She returned to Liberia to work in William Tolbert’s government as Deputy Minister of Finance from 1971 to 1974. Later she worked again in the West, for the World Bank in the Caribbean and Latin America. In 1979, she received a cabinet appointment as Minister of Finance, serving to 1980. After Samuel Doe seized power that year in a coup d’état and executed Tolbert, Sirleaf fled to the United States. She worked for Citibank and then the Equator Bank. She returned to Liberia to contest a senatorial seat for Montserrado County in 1985, an election that was disputed. Sirleaf continued to be involved in politics. She finished in second place at the 1997 presidential election, which was won by Charles Taylor. She won the 2005 presidential election and took office on 16 January 2006. She was re-elected in 2011. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, in recognition of her efforts to bring women into the peacekeeping process. She has received numerous other awards for her leadership.