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Top female financial thought leaders to follow in Africa

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Top female financial thought leaders to follow in Africa

Women excelling in finance are driving financial inclusion in Africa. These trailblazing experts in economic strategies disrupt male-dominated norms by offering innovative solutions, particularly in fintech.

African women opinion leaders in finance

Five African women finance experts are capturing attention with pivotal roles, from shaping budgetary policies to holding strategic positions within major financial institutions. These influential figures serve as inspirations for the new generation of young women aspiring to high-responsibility positions.

Louise Mushikiwabo : Renowned Rwandan diplomat

Louise Mushikiwabo, an African finance expert, exemplifies the impact of women in Africa’s financial narrative. This influential diplomat has held key positions like Minister of Finance in Rwanda, contributing to bolstering economic stability and growth. Her influence extends globally as the Secretary-General of La Francophonie, showcasing her comprehensive expertise.

Arese Ugwu : Best-selling author

Arese Ugwu, the bestselling author of « The Smart Money Woman », is inspiring the emerging generation of African women in finance. Her groundbreaking work, blending financial literacy and compelling storytelling, leaves an inspiring mark in the narrative of female finance leaders in Africa. Through her initiative, Smart Money Africa, this expert is dedicated to guiding African youth toward financial independence. This platform motivates the millennial generation to take charge of their finances, emphasizing the crucial importance of acquiring financial knowledge to earn, save, and grow their money.

Bola Sokunbi, financial education expert

Bola Sokunbi, a bestselling author and globally recognized educator, emerges as an expert dedicated to the economic well-being of African women. As the creator of Clever Girl Finance, a comprehensive platform for personal finances, this visionary is committed to the financial empowerment of women. Sokunbi is dedicated to equipping American women with the tools necessary to achieve financial success. Her work focuses on financially educating women by promoting savings and debt prevention, aiming to build substantial wealth.

Arunma Oteh : Global financial expert

Arunma Oteh led the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria and held roles as Treasurer and Vice President at the World Bank. Adding depth to her career, she held various positions at the African Development Bank, notably contributing to the development of financial systems.

Anne-Marie Chidzero : Investment Director at Alitheia IDF

Anne-Marie Chidzero stands out in the financial world with over two decades of experience in microfinance and investments in Africa. Presently, this influential woman holds a position in investment leadership at Alitheia IDF. This expert is shaping the future by strategically investing in businesses led by women across the African continent.

Portrait of African women working in fintech who have succeeded

The fintech sector is experiencing rapid growth, with a market estimated to reach 230 billion USD by 2025, according to McKinsey’s analysis. This relentless expansion is marked by a surge in startup creations and fundraising. Although largely dominated by men, a few women entrepreneurs have managed to carve out a place in this pan-African phenomenon. During Black History Month in February 2023, five of the most prominent Black female leaders in the fintech sector were recognized.

Kahina Van Dyke

With 20 years of flourishing experience in fintech, Kahina Van Dyke is a recognized pioneer. Her impact spans from Standard Chartered Bank to Progressive Insurance. This finance expert was appointed as a director at Advent International, becoming an operational partner in October 2023. This thought leader made history at MasterCard, Citibank, Facebook, and Ripple as a senior executive.

At Citibank, Van Dyke revolutionized the financial sector by launching the first global mobile banking wallet. Her leadership at MasterCard was distinguished by innovative strategies for globally deploying payment solutions, with a focus on Africa to promote financial inclusion. As an observer at MoneyGram International, her success in managing minority investment in 2019 solidified her reputation as an accomplished and visionary strategist.

Kahina Van Dyke has received notable distinctions such as :

  • Ranked number one in the Financial Technology Report 2019
  • Top Women in Banking by fintech Futures in 2020
  • An inclusion in The Board IQ’s inaugural list of the top 100 best Afro-Americans/Blacks in 2021.

Peggy Alford

Also mentioned among the top 25 women leaders, Peggy Alford is honored as a key figure in the fintech sector. This expert is the first black woman to sit on Facebook’s board of directors and simultaneously held the role of Senior Vice President of Markets at PayPal. Alford led the company’s commercial teams across key markets in North America, the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Australia.

Joining The Macerich Co.’s board of directors, Peggy is also listed in the Black Enterprise 2018 Registry of Corporate Directors. In an interview with Black Enterprise in 2020, this figure highlighted her remarkable stroke of luck when eBay acquired Rent.com, appointing her as the Chief Financial Officer.

Olayinka Odeniran

Founder and President of the Black Women Blockchain Council (BWBC), Olayinka Odeniran ranks third among influential black female leaders in the fintech sector. The BWBC promotes the inclusion of young black girls and women in blockchain and emerging technologies. Its ultimate goal is to contribute to the revolution as a black community.

Olayinka defines the platform’s mission : to provide educational events and resources aimed at training black women in distributed ledger technology, thus promoting their presence in the sector. This expert was acknowledged for her compliance and risk management skills in Fortune’s 2021 article titled « These 8 Black Women Use Technology to Combat Financial Inequality ».

Sheena Allen

Sheena Allen, founder and CEO of the neo-bank CapWay, ranks fourth among influential black women in fintech. This entrepreneur was recognized by Fortune as America’s youngest female business owner. CapWay focuses on providing financial services to those excluded from the traditional system. Additionally, the young woman leads her mobile app company, Sheena Allen Apps.

Sheena Allen, founder and CEO of the neo-bank CapWay, ranks fourth among influential black women in fintech. This entrepreneur was recognized by Fortune as America’s youngest female business owner. CapWay focuses on providing financial services to those excluded from the traditional system. Additionally, the young woman runs her mobile application company, Sheena Allen Apps.

Allen made history by publishing « The Starting Guide », the first book by a non-technical founder detailing her journey in technology. This fintech trailblazer identified the opportunity for the unbanked or underbanked population to access mobile digital services. She effectively showcased the importance of expanding cashless economies in the United States, refusing to overlook similar opportunities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Charlène Fadirepo

Charlene Fadirepo, founder and CEO of Guidefi, leads a fintech platform aimed at connecting women of color with financial experts and wealth education courses. Her commitment also extends to integrating cryptography and Bitcoin for small businesses and non-profit organizations. Fadirepo particularly emphasizes such transformations in Nigeria.

The CEO of Guidefi also authored « Sade’s Satoshis », a children’s book about Bitcoin, expanding her literary contributions. As a former regulator, Charlene Fadirepo led audit teams at the Federal Reserve. Also, a former consultant at PwC, this expert advised Wall Street banks on Dodd Frank compliance after the financial crisis.

In honorable mention, Susan M. Collins is named as the « first black woman to lead a Fed bank », subsequently assuming the role of director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Factors influencing the rate of female entrepreneurship in Africa

Several factors influence the rate of female entrepreneurship in Africa. The socio-cultural environment plays a major role. Conservative systems, sexist beliefs, and restrictions imposed on women can hinder their entrepreneurial spirit. Additionally, limited access to financing is an obstacle for women entrepreneurs. The lack of capital, coupled with legal discrimination, hampers their ability to create and develop businesses.

The choice of industry and business practices can also impact the entrepreneurial performance of women. For instance, most female entrepreneurs in Africa operate in the informal sector, often marked by instability and low profitability. Education is a key factor influencing female entrepreneurship. Proper training can assist women in acquiring the skills needed to effectively manage a business and navigate the business environment.

Government measures to encourage female entrepreneurship in Africa

Several African governments have taken initiatives to stimulate female entrepreneurship.

  • Nigeria, the government has launched the Women’s Assistance Fund (WAF), intended to provide affordable financing to women entrepreneurs.
  • South Africa, the Department of Economic Development has set up the Isivande Women’s Fund program, which offers discounted loans to companies owned and run by women.
  • Côte d’Ivoire, the government has launched the « Women, Entrepreneurship, and ICT » program aimed at enhancing the digital skills of female entrepreneurs.

These government measures aim to reduce the financial and educational obstacles that hinder female entrepreneurship in Africa.

International institutions in support of women entrepreneurs in Africa

Various international institutions play a crucial role in supporting women entrepreneurs in Africa. The African Development Bank’s African Women in Business Initiative aims to strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of national associations of women business leaders. Additionally, the International Labour Organization (ILO), through its WEDGE project, works to enhance economic opportunities for these women.

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) is a multilateral partnership designed to assist women in accessing markets, financing, and technology. Moreover, ImpactHER has trained over 99,511 African women entrepreneurs on how to manage successful companies and become investment-ready.

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