BBC 100: These are the 21 Most Inspiring and Influential Women in Africa (2020)

The BBC has revealed its list of 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2020.

21 Most Inspiring and Influential Women in Africa (2020)

This year 100 Women is highlighting those who are leading change and making a difference during these turbulent times.

The BBC’s 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for the year 2020 includes 21 women from Africa — one of them which is Nigerian activist and co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, Aisha Yesufu has been at the forefront of the End SARS movement, a campaign that drew attention to the excesses of a controversial police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

These are the 21 Most Inspiring and Influential Women in Africa (2020)

These are the 21 Most Inspiring and Influential Women in Africa (2020)

1. Loza Abera Geinore (Ethiopia)

Loza Abera Geinore is an Ethiopian football player who currently plays for Birkirakara Women of the Malta Women’s Premier League and the Ethiopian Women’s National Football Team as a forward.

2. Houda Abouz (Morocco)

Houda is a 24 year old Moroccan rapper.
She describes herself as a feminist and supporter of LGBT rights, said she was influenced by the pro-democracy protests that shook Morocco in 2011 during the “Arab spring.”

3. Yvonne Aki sawyer (Sierra Leone)

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, OBE is a Sierra Leonean politician, and the current mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

4. Ubah Ali (Somaliland)

Ubah Ali is social activist and feminist from Somaliland, an internationally unrecognized country.
At the age of 18, Ali has started her own organization in 2015 called Rajo:Hope for Somaliland Community, which educates orphans and Somali unprivileged students.

5. Nadeen Ashraf (Egypt)

Nadeen Ashraf, is the founder of Instagram account page ‘Assault Police‘ which helped spark the #MeToo movement in Egypt.

6. Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)

Tsitsi Dangarembga is a Zimbabwean novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. Her debut novel, Nervous Conditions (1988), which was the first to be published in English by a Black woman from Zimbabwe, was named by the BBC in 2018 as one of the top 100 books that have shaped the world. In 2020, her novel This Mournable Body was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

7. Ilwad Elman (Somalia)

Ilwad Elman is a Somali-Canadian social activist. She works at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center in Mogadishu alongside her mother Fartuun Adan, the NGO’s founder. She was voted the African Young Personality (Female) of the Year during the 2016 Africa Youth Awards.

8. Maggie Gobran (Egypt)

Maggie Gobran or Mama Maggie, a Coptic Orthodox, is the founder and CEO of the non-profit charity Stephen’s Children in Cairo, Egypt.

Mama Maggie Gobran has devoted her life to transforming those of marginalised children in Egypt. Abandoning a life of affluence and a distinguished academic career, she has dedicated all her energy and resources to observing children, washing their feet, and looking into their eyes and telling them that they matter.

Since 1989, Mama Maggie and her team have had a holistic approach that has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, providing psychological wellness, education, healthcare and, above all, dignity.

She is also a professor of computer science at the American University in Cairo, is married and has a son and a daughter. She was nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

9. Rebeca Gyumi (Tanzania)

Rebeca Z. Gyumi is a Founder & Executive Director at Msichana Initiative, a Tanzanian NGO which aims to empower a girl child through education, and address key challenges which limit girl’s right to education.

10. Uyaiedu Ikpe etim (Nigeria)

Uyaiedu Ipke-Etim is a feminist film-maker, director and LGBTQ+ activist, who has committed herself to creating stories about marginalised groups in Nigeria.

Her film Ifẹ́, which means “love” in Yoruba, tells the story of two Nigerian lesbians navigating the harsh, homophobic realities of the country they live in. Following the announcement of the film’s impending release, it has faced state censorship in Nigeria where homosexuality remains an extremely contentious issue.

11. Mulenga kapwepwe (Zambia)

Mulenga Mpundu Kapwepwe is a Zambian author, co-founder of the Zambian Women’s History Museum and is the daughter to Simon Kapwepwe Zambia’s former vice-president. She is also known for building libraries in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, to help young children educate themselves.

12. Jemima kariuki (Kenya)

Dr Jemimah Kariuki is deeply passionate about preventive medicine, especially in maternal and child health. She is the founder of the Peace Club, initiated in response to post-election violence in 2007, and the Public Health Club (which is instrumental in running cervical-cancer prevention drives).

As an obstetrics and gynaecology student, she noticed a sharp decline in maternal admissions, but a rise in complications, during the Covid-19 pandemic – especially during curfew.

Realising that access to health care was delayed by limited transport options, she came up with a solution – licensed vehicles, taking women from their homes to the hospital. This led to Wheels for Life – a free ambulance service.

13. Angelique Kidjo (Benin)

Four-time Grammy award winner Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest artists in international music today. She has cross-pollinated the West African traditions of her childhood in Benin with elements of American R&B, funk and jazz, as well as influences from Europe and Latin America.

After exploring the roads of Africa’s diaspora in her take on the Talking Heads album Remain in Light, the French-Beninese singer is now investigating the African roots of celebrated icon Celia Cruz, the Cuban-born “Queen of Salsa”.

Angelique also advocates on behalf of children as a Unicef ambassador, and through her own charitable foundation, Batonga, which supports the education of young girls in Africa.

14. Ishtar Lakhani (South Africa)

Ishtar is a feminist, activist and trouble-maker in the field of social justice advocacy. Her work has ranged from coordinating a radical, feminist advocacy network for survivors of sexual violence to advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work.

15. Josina machel (Mozambique)

Josina Z Machel is a long-standing defender of human rights, born into a legacy of activism. She is fiercely passionate in her life’s calling to advance women’s rights.

She holds an MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). A a survivor of domestic violence, she is turning her personal trauma into purpose through the Kuhluka Movement. The organisation helps to accelerate social change with regard to gender-based violence, and to create safe havens for survivors of violence in communities across southern Africa.

16. Bulelwa Mkutukana (South Africa)

Bulelwa Mkutukana best known by her stage name Zahara, is a South African singer and songwriter.

The singer-songwriter uses her platform to speak out about violence against women in South Africa, something she revealed has happened to her.

17. Fouce Namwezi N’ibamba (DR Congo)

Namwezi N’Ibamba is a multimedia journalist and founder of Uwezo Afrika Initiative (, a non profit initiative promoting women’s empowerment through journalism, job training and social entrepreneurship.

18. Vanessa Nakate (Uganda)

Vanessa Nakate, 23, is a climate activist from Uganda and founder of the Africa-based Rise Up Movement. She campaigns internationally to highlight the impacts of climate change already occurring in Africa. She focuses particularly on how the climate crisis is exacerbating poverty, conflict and gender inequality.

In January 2020, the Associated Press (AP) cropped Nakate out of a photo featuring Greta Thunberg and other European activists, following their attendance at the World Economic Forum.

Nakate subsequently spoke up about racism in the global climate-change movement. AP later reinstated Nakate in the photo. While indicating there was no ill intent, it did not apologize.

19. Ethelreda Nakimuli-mpungu (Uganda)

Dr Ethel Nakimuli-Mpungu, of Makerere University in Uganda, works towards making therapy more culturally appropriate, particularly for people living with HIV and depression.

She has developed a highly cost-effective group-therapy programme that can be delivered by lay health workers. It has also been shown to reduce symptoms of depression dramatically and improve adherence to antiviral medication among those affected.

20. Philis Omido (Kenya)

Phyllis Omido, is a Kenyan environmental activist. She was one of 6 people to be awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015. She is known for organizing protests against a lead smelting plant located in the middle of Owino Uhuru, a slum near Mombasa. The plant was causing lead poisoning by raising the lead content in the environment, killing residents, in particular children, and harming others, including her own child. The plant was ultimately closed.

21. Aisha Yesufu (Nigeria)

Aisha Yesufu is a Nigerian activist demanding good governance in her country.

She is co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, launched in response to the 2014 abduction of more than 200 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, Nigeria, by the militant group Boko Haram.

She was also a prominent participant in the “EndSars” protests, during which saw Nigerians take to the streets to demand greater accountability from the Nigerian Police Force, beginning with the dissolution of the controversial Special Anti Robbery Squad (Sars) members of which have been accused of the murder, rape and robbery of civilians.

21 Most Inspiring and Influential Women in Africa (2020)

Name Country
Loza Abera Geinore Ethiopia
Houda Abouz Morocco
Yvonne Aki sawyer Sierra Leone
Ubah Ali Somaliland
Nadeen Ashraf Egypt
Tsitsi Dangarembga Zimbabwe
Ilwad Elman Somalia
Maggie Gobran Egypt
Rebeca Gyumi Tanzania
Uyaiedu Ikpe etim Nigeria
Mulenga kapwepwe Zambia
Jemima kariuki Kenya
Angelique Kidjo Benin
Ishtar Lakhani South Africa
Josina machel Mozambique
Bulelwa Mkutukana South Africa
Fouce Namwezi N’ibamba DR Congo
Vanessa Nakate Uganda
Ethelreda Nakimuli-mpungu Uganda
Philis Omido Kenya
Aisha Yesufu Nigeria

How were the 100 Women chosen?

The BBC’s 100 Women team drew up a shortlist based on names gathered by them and suggested by the BBC’s network of World Service languages teams. We were looking for candidates who had made the headlines or influenced important stories over the past 12 months, as well as those who have inspiring stories to tell, achieved something significant or influenced their societies in ways that wouldn’t necessarily make the news. The pool of names was then assessed against this year’s theme – women who led change – and measured for regional representation and due impartiality, before the final names were chosen.

This article was excerpted from an international news agency feed, source or website. Please see end of article for details and relevant links


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