Women and the Changing Face of Entrepreneurship in Africa



Women and the Changing Face of Entrepreneurship in Africa Conference

Harvard University, October 1-2, 2020

It is with great pleasure that we invite you to attend a conference on Women and the Changing Face of Entrepreneurship in Africa hosted virtually by the Harvard University Center for African Studies taking place on October 1-2, 2020. We had previously scheduled this conference for April 2020; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we opted to postpone the conference and instead proceed with a virtual event. The topic remains important, more so now than ever, as the pandemic is impacting businesses, especially women-run businesses on the African continent.

The conference will feature four panels over two days with a keynote lecture on October 1, and the Hakeem and Myma Belo-Osagie Distinguished Lecture on African Business and Entrepreneurship in Africa will be delivered October 2 by Dr. Vera Songwe, United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa. These conversations will provide a clearer understanding of the landscape of women's entrepreneurship on the continent, identify challenges and opportunities, examine policy frameworks, and define policy actions that would position African women, leaders in global women entrepreneurship, to play a transformative role in the world’s largest emerging market.

The conference is a collaboration between Harvard University’s Center for African Studies, Lionesses of Africa, which is a 1 million-strong network of women entrepreneurs on the continent and Diaspora, London Stock Exchange Group, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and Standard Bank Group, a leading financial institution with a strong track record of supporting women entrepreneurs on the continent. The conference is also supported by Empower Africa.

We look forward to engaging with you virtually on this very important topic.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at africa@harvard.edu.

You can find recordings of the conference below.






Conference Agenda

(All times in EDT)

October 1, 2020


9:00AM*:         Welcome from Conference Hosts

  • Dr. Wafaie Fawzi, Oppenheimer Interim Faculty Director, Harvard Center for African Studies, and Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, Professor of Nutrition, Epidemiology, and Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of  Public Health
  • Dr. Margot Gill, University Marshal, and Administrative Dean for International Affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University
  • Melanie Hawken, Founder and CEO at Lionesses of Africa Public Benefit Corporation
  • Ibukun Adebayo, Co-head Emerging Markets Strategy at London Stock Exchange Group

9:15AM:         Panel One (Plenary Session): Women Entrepreneurs, Business Agility, and Africa’s Massive Job Creation Challenge


  • Kofo Akinkugbe, Founder & CEO, SecureID (Nigeria)
  • Sarah Collins, Founder & CEO, Wonderbag (South Africa)
  • Divine Ndhlukula, Founder & CEO, Securico (Zimbabwe) 
  • Adenike Ogunlesi, Founder & Chief Responsibility Officer, Ruff 'n' Tumble (Nigeria)
  • Kate Quartey-Papafio, Founder & CEO, Reroy Cables Limited (Ghana)

Melanie Hawken, Founder & CEO,
Lionesses of Africa (United Kingdom)

10:15AM:       Keynote Address: Gender, power, and entrepreneurial transformation for future Africa

Delivered by Dr. Zoe Marks, Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Moderated by Dr. Wafaie Fawzi, Oppenheimer Interim Faculty Director, Harvard Center for African Studies, and Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, Professor of Nutrition, Epidemiology, and Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of  Public Health

10:45AM:       Panel Two: Women Entrepreneurs, Value-added Commodity Processing, and Economic Diversification


  • Kimberly Addison, Co-founder, ’57 Chocolate (Ghana)
  • Tiguidanke Mounir Camara, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Tigui Holding (Guinea)
  • Flora Mutahi, Founder & CEO, Melvin Marsh International (Kenya)
  • Ndidi Nwuneli, Co-founder & Managing Partner, Sahel Consulting; Co-founder, AACE Foods; and Founder, Nourishing Africa (Nigeria)
  • Lorna Scott, Founder & CEO, Inverroche (South Africa)

Côté, Chief Risk Officer, London Stock Exchange Group, Director of Women Inspired Network (United Kingdom)


October 2, 2020


9:00AM:         Welcome from Conference Hosts

Hosted by Professor Ruth Okediji, Jeremiah Smith. Jr, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Co-Director of the Berkman Klein Center.

9:10AM:         Panel Three: The Digital Economy and Economic Growth for Africa’s Women Entrepreneurs


  • Nkemdilim Begho, Founder & CEO, Future Software Resources (Nigeria)
  • Rebecca Enonchong, Founder & CEO, AppsTech (Cameroon)
  • Suzan Kereere, Global Head Merchant Sales & Acquiring, Visa Inc. (United Kingdom)
  • Catherine Mahugu, Founder, Chiswara & Soko (Kenya)
  • Aisha Pandor, Co-founder & CEO, SweepSouth (South Africa)

Roshini Naidoo, Executive and General Manager, Discovery Limited (South Africa)

10:10AM:       Hakeem and Myma Belo-Osagie Distinguished Lecture on African Business and Entrepreneurship

Delivered by Dr. Vera Songwe, United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa

Moderator: Professor Emmanuel Akyeampong, Oppenheimer Faculty Director, Harvard Center for African Studies, Ellen Gurney Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

11:10AM:       Panel Four: Strengthening Institutional and Policy Frameworks, Funding, and Networks to Advance Women Entrepreneurs


  • Sola David-Borha, Chief Executive, Africa Regions, Standard Bank Group (South Africa)
  • Hend El Sherbini, Founder & CEO, IDH (Egypt)
  • Essma Ben Hamida, Co-founder & Chairperson, Enda Inter-Arabe (Tunisia)
  • Natalie Kolbe, Partner, Actis (South Africa)
  • Vanessa Moungar, Director of Gender, Women and Civil Society, African Development Bank (Côte d'Ivoire)

Chantelé Carrington, Africa Business Group COO, PwC United Kingdom (United Kingdom)


12:30PM:       Closing Remarks

Myma Belo-Osagie, Of Counsel at Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie (Nigeria) and Chair, Harvard Africa Advisory Board




*All Times in EDT

6:00AM PDT  | 9:00AM EDT | 2:00PM WAT  | 3:00PM CAT  | 4:00PM EAT

Panel Details

Panel One (Plenary Session): Women Entrepreneurs, Business Agility, and Africa’s Massive Job Creation Challenge
Here we seek to understand factors for the rise of high-growth women entrepreneurs, pathways that can facilitate their international expansion, and how we can support the next generation of high-growth entrepreneurs. How has the landscape been changed by COVID-19, and how are women entrepreneurs adopting new ways of doing business? We also seek to correct the prevailing picture of African women enterprises as small or medium scale. In agriculture, digital, manufacturing, artisan enterprise, fashion, and services, Africa’s women entrepreneurs are creating large-scale businesses. How do we support, scale up, sustain, and replicate such large-scale endeavors both in the present environment and as we look towards a post-pandemic economy?

Panel Two: Women Entrepreneurs, Value-added Commodity Processing, and Economic Diversification. 
We seek to understand the trend of women entrepreneurs creating newer, more dynamic, and higher value agro-products such as chocolate, beauty products, botanicals, teas, and coffees. African women have entered into mining and minerals beneficiation. We have long recognized the need for diversification in the commodities and natural resources sectors, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the push for economic diversification, processing of commodities and raw materials, and industrialization.

Panel Three: The Digital Economy and Economic Growth for Africa’s Women Entrepreneurs. How do we solve the connectivity gap and create opportunities for Africa’s women and girls to be part of a more inclusive digital world? How do we provide access to digital technologies that allow Africa’s women to benefit fully from the goods, services, and capital available across online markets? How do we leverage emerging technologies and business models to remove longstanding barriers to women’s economic opportunities in poor countries? What examples have arisen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that illustrate the embrace of new digital platforms, e-commerce, and mobile payment solutions?

Panel Four: Strengthening Institutional and Policy Frameworks, Funding, and Networks to Advance Women Entrepreneurs.
How can policy formulation promote and elevate women’s entrepreneurship as a priority for African economies? How do we overcome the funding gap? How can we design banking products and offerings that African women entrepreneurs need? How do we strengthen corporate governance and legal frameworks to guide women entrepreneurs to on the international scene? What national responses to the economic impacts of COVID-19 have been successful in supporting women’s entrepreneurship and getting funding to those who will most benefit?

Speaker Biographies

Kimberly Addison, Co-founder, ’57 Chocolate (Ghana)
Kimberly Addison Profile Photo

Kimberly Addison, Co-Founder & CEO of  ‘57 Chocolate, is passionate about education, development, and the empowerment of girls and women in Africa. Previously, she worked in international organizations and non-profits focusing on women and education, homelessness, and human trafficking.  Kimberly fell in love with the possibility of making chocolate after a factory tour in Switzerland where she was living. Intrigued by the fact that Ghana grew the main ingredient in chocolate (cocoa) but produced very little chocolate itself, Kimberly decided to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure taking up the challenge of learning to make high quality chocolate from bean to bar, in order to add more value to the cocoa bean in Ghana, her native country.


Ibukun Adebayo, Co-head Emerging Markets Strategy at London Stock Exchange Group
Ibukun Adebayo Profile Photo

Ibukun is responsible for London Stock Exchange Group’s growth and collaboration strategy in emerging markets with a key focus on India and Africa. He has driven key initiatives such as LSEG’s “Companies to Inspire Africa” publication and also launched the Exchange’s first International Advisory Group for Africa bringing together key business leaders, investors, and African regulators to solve the challenges facing African capital markets.

Prior to this Ibukun was Head of LSEG’s equity listings business covering key markets in South Asia, Middle East, and Africa. Managing relationships with companies, international advisors and regulators, Ibukun was involved in over 200 initial public offerings in London by issuers from these regions.

Educated in Bath, United Kingdom, Ibukun holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and started his career as a foreign exchange trader for NatWest Markets in London in 1995. He went on to set up and run a successful business specialising in managing foreign exchange risk for African and Asian companies and managed a Forex fund investing in the dollar major currency pairs.

Immediately prior to joining the London Stock Exchange, Ibukun worked in the financial communications division of United Business Media. There he ran an operation dedicated to blue chip clients from across the globe in the capacity of financial communications adviser and was one time adviser to the Lakhsmi Mittal family and their companies.


Kofo Akinkugbe, Founder & CEO, Secure ID (Nigeria)
Kofo Profile Picture
Kofo is a trail-blazing entrepreneur of tremendous energy and courage, passionate about innovative technology and committed to changing the narrative on manufacturing and gender perspectives in Africa. She is the founder of SecureID Nigeria and Secure Card Manufacturing where she currently serves as the Managing Director/CEO. SecureID is a MasterCard, VISA, and Verve certified Smartcard Personalization Bureau and Digital Technology company whilst Secure Card Manufacturing is the first polycarbonate Smartcard manufacturing plant producing high security identity cards and documents for the banking, telecoms, and public sectors across Africa and beyond. She is a prize-winning graduate of mathematics from the University of Lagos and British Chevening scholar at the Strathclyde Business School, Glasgow, UK. Kofo has attended several international Leadership and personal development programs at leading global institutions including London Business School, INSEAD France, Lagos Business School/IESE Barcelona (Chief Executive Program - CEP), and Harvard Business School (Owner/President Management - OPM). Kofo’s initial work experience spanned the banking and financial services sector where she had stints at International Merchant Bank (IMB), an affiliate of First National Bank of Chicago, and Chartered Bank PLC (now Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC).

Professor Emmanuel Akyeampong, Oppenheimer Faculty Director, Harvard Center for African Studies, Ellen Gurney Professor of History and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
Emmanuel Profile Picture

Emmanuel Akyeampong is Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the Harvard University Center for African Studies, Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. He was appointed Loeb Harvard College Professor in July 2005.

Akyeampong is a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (FGA), and a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK). He serves as the president of the African Public Broadcasting Foundation (US), a partnership of academic researchers, African broadcasters and African producers dedicated to the production of development oriented programs for broadcast on television, radio, and the Internet. He is a co-founder and director of the International Institute for the Advanced Study of Cultures, Institutions, and Economic Enterprise based in Accra, Ghana. He served as chair of the Committee on African Studies at Harvard from July 2002 to June 2006.

He is the author of several books and articles including Drink, Power, and Cultural Change: A Social History of Alcohol in Ghana, c.1800 to Recent Times (1996); Between the Sea and the Lagoon: An Eco-Social History of the Anlo of Southeastern Ghana, c.1850 to Recent Times (2001); and editor of Themes in West Africa’s History (2006); and with Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Dictionary of African Biography 6 Vols. (2012). His research interests are social history, comparative slavery and the African diaspora, environmental history, the history of disease and medicine, and economic and business history. Akyeampong has been an editor of the Journal of African History (2006-2010), was founding co-editor of African Diaspora and has served on the editorial advisory boards of African Arguments, African Affairs, the International Journal of African Historical Studies, Journal of African History, Journal of the Social History of Medicine, Ghana Studies, the Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, and Research Review. He was a member of the board of directors for the African Studies Association in the United States, and a former Council Member of the International African Institute.


Nkemdilim Begho, Founder, Future Software Resources (Nigeria)
Begho Profile Picture

Nkemdilim Begho is founder and Managing Di­rector of Future Software Resources Limited, an IT solutions provider focused on online solutions, e-learning, and IT security. As one of a few Nigerian women in the industry, her success is founded on a passion for driving innovative thinking, building a globally recognized technology brand, and setting trends in the Nigerian technology space.

Respected and recognized as a leader in her industry, Nkem is regularly featured in newspaper and magazine publications and as an expert speaker on ICT in Africa. She’s a recipient of many awards including the Jim Ovia Prize for Software Excel­lence and the Etisalat Prize for Innovation. She regularly volunteers for mentoring and empowerment programs, often sharing her experiences with young Nigerians and less privileged children.


Myma Belo-Osagie, Of Counsel at Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie (Nigeria) and Chair, Harvard Africa Advisory Board
Myma Profile Picture

Myma Belo-Osagie recently retired as Senior Partner at Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie. She is now Of Counsel with the firm, in which capacity she continues to lend her expertise and wealth of experience to the firm, in areas relating to foreign investment, corporate restructuring, acquisitions, regulatory communications, equity finance, and infrastructure projects, among others. She graduated from the University of Ghana with a LL.B degree and obtained a LL.M degree and a SJD degree from Harvard Law School. She serves as the Chair of Harvard’s Africa Advisory Board.

Essma Ben Hamida, Co-founder & Chairperson, Enda Inter-Arabe (Tunisia)
Essma Profile Photo

In 1990, Essma Ben Hamida, returned home after a successful career as an international journalist and co-launched the first and leading microfinance institution in Tunisia, Enda Tamweel (380m000 active borrowers and 62% women). In 2018, she resigned as CEO of Enda Tamweel and serves as its board member representing the NGO Enda Inter-Arabe, the major shareholder of the newly created company. She is also chairperson of the NGO, which is offering entrepreneurial training, coaching, and education to excluded micro-entrepreneurs,  especially youth and women. 

Essma holds a university degree in geography and history. Prior to her career in microfinance, Essma worked as a journalist/reporter in Tunisia, New York, Rome, and Geneva as well as a consultant for United Nations agencies. She received several awards, including the distinction of “Outstanding Social Entrepreneur in the Middle East and North Africa” by the prestigious Schwab Foundation and the World Economic Forum (Marrakech 2010) and the “The most influential" women on Tunisia's economy by the Women Entrepreneurs of Tunisia 2016.


Tiguidanke Mounir Camara, Founder, Tigui Holding (Guinea)
Tigui Profile Picture

A Guinean native, Mrs. Camara is one of the youngest women mining executives and one of the few women mine owners in Africa.  A visionary and proactive businesswoman, she uses her entrepreneur background to pursue her objective of creating a conglomerate of natural resources and innovative technology companies. Ms. Camara firmly believes in the growing mineral resources industry as a main driver of economic development, especially those of African countries. She leverages her relationships with communities, governments, and investors to promote sustainable business ventures as well as the next generation of women in the mining industry. Ms. Camara uses her knowledge and connections to identify economically viable opportunities and translates them into reality. Ms. Camara’s mineral resource companies specialize in Africa, with a particular emphasis on West Africa. They develop ambitious projects through strategic partnerships and alliances to play a crucial role in shaping the future of the region.


Chantelé Carrington, Africa Business Group COO, PwC United Kingdom (United Kingdom)
Chantele Profile Picture
Chantelé is the COO of the Africa Business Group at PwC UK. She is also the Advisory Group Chair of the Africa Investment Technical Assistance Facility for the Department for International Development (now FCDO). She was previously the Africa Financial Services and Southern Africa Lead as well as Global Relationship Director for a FTSE100 multinational. Chantelé is an auditor and consultant by background, and has written on investment governance for global financial media. Chantelé is a Non-executive Director for Siat Group and an Advisory Board Member of the South African Chamber of Commerce. She was also previously a Trustee of the help2read Board, an innovaBRICS & Beyond Advisory Board Member, and a Judge and Member of the Selection Committee for the Hult Prize. She received an award for her significant contribution to building strong financial institutions in Africa and commitment to opening African markets to the world at Cambridge University.


Sarah Collins, Founder & CEO, Wonderbag (South Africa)
Sarah Profile Picture

Entrepreneur, CEO and equality innovator Sarah Collins is best known as the creator of the Wonderbag, a globally conscious enterprise. Over the past 10 years, more than 1.5 million Wonderbags have been activated in the world. Sarah’s extreme dedication, resilience, and determination has earned her Fortune Magazine’s Top 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, Oprah’s African Heroines, and the Women’s Economic Forum Woman of the Decade for Entrepreneurship.

Using heat retention technology, the Wonderbag allows women to cook food without using excess fuel or producing fumes. After bringing food to the boil on a stove for just 20 minutes, putting the pot into a Wonderbag allows it to continue cooking for up to 10 hours – fuel, smoke, and hassle-free.


Diane Côté, Chief Risk Officer, London Stock Exchange Group, Director of Women Inspired Network (United Kingdom)
Diane Profile Photo

Diane Côté currently serves as the Chief Risk Officer of the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) and has been holding this position as a member of LSEG’s Executive Team since June 1, 2013. Before assuming the role of Chief Risk Officer, Diane was the head of LSEG’s risk and audit department. Prior to joining LSEG, Diane has held numerous positions in a leadership capacity across several leading organizations such as Aviva plc and Standard Life Assurance. In addition, she is also a non-executive director and member of the audit committee for Société Générale.

Diane is a strong supporter of gender diversity in the workplace and was one of the founders of the LSEG’s Women Inspired Network, for which LSEG won a 2016 Women of the Future award. She was also named as one of the 100 most influential women in finance in 2017 by London’s Financial News.


Sola David-Borha, CEO Africa Regions, Standard Bank Group (South Africa)
Sola Profile Photo

Sola David-Borha is the Chief Executive of the Africa Regions for Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest bank by assets with operations in 20 countries across the continent. She has over 30 years’ experience in financial services and took up her current role in January 2017. Prior to this appointment, Sola served as Chief Executive of Stanbic IBTC Bank and held several senior roles since joining the group in 1994. Sola David-Borha is an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), a council member of the CIBN Practice License Board, and Vice Chairman of the board of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group. She holds an MBA from Manchester Business School, United Kingdom, and her executive educational experience includes the Advanced Management Programme of the Harvard Business School and the Global CEO Programme of CEIBS, Wharton, and IESE.


Hend El Sherbini, Founder, IDH (Egypt)
Hend Profile Photo

Dr. Hend El Sherbini, Founder and CEO of the Integrated Diagnostics Holdings (IDH), is Professor of Clinical Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University. She currently serves on the Board of the American Society for Clinical Pathology in Egypt and advises on the international certification process.

Dr. Hend El Sherbini joined IDH in 2012 as Executive Director and formed the first team of the Holding Company. The merger of Lab Laboratories and Al Borg is a milestone in both their development and in the region’s healthcare sector. The merger created IDH with a vision to be one of the largest medical diagnostic groups in the emerging market and is now on track to achieve its goal of being one of the dominant companies in the market.

Dr. Hend El Sherbini has previously served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Medical Lab Laboratories, a private medical and diagnostic testing company that improves patient care by providing fast and reliable information on medical tests at the clinical point of care. Under the leadership of Dr. Hend El Sherbini and through its expansionist vision, Al-Mabtab has evolved to become one of the most respected factories in the region with its presence in Egypt, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia.

Hend received her MBA from London Business School, Diploma of Executive Management from American University - Cairo, Doctorate of Immunology: Clinical Pathology Department from Cairo University, Master degree of Public Health: Epidemiology Department from Emory University with a thesis on “Factors influencing physicians’ overprescription of injections in Romania leading to transmission of HBV infection” in collaboration with Dr. Yvan Hutin, Hepatitis branch, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia, a Master degree of Clinical & Chemical Pathology from Cairo University, and a Medical Degree From Cairo University.


Rebecca Enonchong, Founder & CEO, AppsTech (Cameroon)
Rebecca Profile Photo
Rebecca Enonchong is founder and Chief Executive Officer of AppsTech, a leading global provider of enterprise application solutions. She is also co-founder and CEO of I/O Spaces, an inclusive coworking space in the Washington DC metro area. She is Board Chair of Afrilabs, a panafrican network of over 50 innovation centers. She is also Board Chair 
of ActivSpaces, an incubator in Cameroon. She sits on the board of Venture Capital for Africa (VC4Africa), of Salesforce.org, and the African Media Initiative. She is cofounder and President of Cameroon Angels Network and cofounder and Vice-President of African Business Angels Network. Ms. Enonchong currently serves as a mentor/advisor to several technology startups. A recipient of numerous awards, Ms. Enonchong was named a Global Leader for Tomorrow (GLT) by the World Economic Forum of Davos, Switzerland. Forbes magazine listed Ms. Enonchong as a top female tech founder in Africa.


Dr. Wafaie Fawzi, Oppenheimer Interim Faculty Director, Harvard Center for African Studies, and Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, Professor of Nutrition, Epidemiology, and Global Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of  Public Health
Fawzi Profile Photo

Wafaie Fawzi is the Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences and Professor of Nutrition, Epidemiology, and Global Health at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. He is currently serving as the Interim Oppenheimer Faculty Director of the Harvard Center for African Studies. The primary focus of his research is on the discovery and translation of interventions to enhance maternal and child health and development. Over the past 25 years, hisgroup has led the design and implementation of more than 30 randomized controlled trials of maternal/neonatal and child/adolescent health, and infectious diseases, with emphasis on nutritional factors. They also undertake observational studies to understand the broader epidemiology of global health challenges, with a focus on developing countries in Africa and Asia. In the past 15 years, they have expanded their work to study the scale up and translation of various interventions that have shown to be efficacious, and pursue this in partnerships that integrate multiple public health disciplines. Their findings are disseminated through more than 450 papers to date that Professor Fawzi has authored or co-authored.


Dr. Margot Gill, University Marshal, and Administrative Dean for International Affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University
Margot Profile Photo

Dr. Margot N. Gill is the Administrative Dean for International Affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. She also serves as Interim University Marshal. She currently chairs the University’s Committee on General Scholarships and oversees agreements and government relationships throughout Latin America, Asia, Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Her academic area of interest is African archaeology, and she has conducted extensive field work in both East and West Africa. She has taught anthropology and pre-history courses in institutions ranging from the University of Nairobi to MIT. .


Melanie Hawken, Founder & CEO, Lionesses of Africa (United Kingdom)
Melanie Profile Photo

Melanie Hawken is founder and CEO of Lionesses of Africa Public Benefit Corporation, the fastest growing community of women entrepreneurs on the African continent. This social entrepreneur is on a mission to positively impact 1 Million African women entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur most of her life, Melanie has over 35 years experience in media, publishing, and communications. She is now harnessing this expertise to grow a powerful network of women entrepreneurs committed to sharing, inspiring, and connecting with one another for accelerated success. Melanie passionately believes it’s time to provide the support, the business tools, and inspiration to ensure the next generation of women-led businesses in Africa can flourish and fulfill their potential.


Suzan Kereere, Global Head Merchant Sales & Acquiring, Visa Inc. (United Kingdom)
Suzan Photo

Suzan heads the Global Merchant Sales & Acquiring organization at Visa. She is responsible for helping Visa’s merchant and acquiring clients grow by being their preferred partner to enable secure, digital commerce for current and future generations of buyers and sellers. Suzan’s remit spans Visa’s merchant acquiring partners around the world, giving her a truly global view of the business and her team.

Suzan has built her career in the payments industry across a spectrum of disciplines including finance, global operations, servicing, and business development. She has managed both business-to-business and consumer segments to drive topline growth and profitability. She has also lead global businesses and teams in Europe, Australia, Asia, and North America. She has brought her passion for people and cultivating diverse talent to all her positions.

Her track record as a business leader is reflected in the breadth of her roles. At American Express, she managed relationships with Fortune 100 merchants where she negotiated complex commercial agreements that launched innovative technologies including reward points as currency and multibillion dollar business-to-business growth partnerships. As the head of the Global Network organization, she also led the strategy and execution of their migration to EMV and launch of contactless payments. Most recently, Suzan led the Europe Merchant Sales & Acquiring team at Visa where she was responsible for the growth strategies and innovation with Europe’s top merchants and acquirers.

Suzan holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in Economics from Tufts University. She serves as a non-executive Director on the board of Grange Insurance Company, a Columbus, OH based Mutual company. Suzan has also served on the board of several non-profits, including the National Retail Federation Foundation, the US Travel Association, the American Red Cross (NY Chapter), and the Zawadi Africa Educational Fund.


Natalie Kolbe, Partner, Actis (South Africa)
Natalie Photo

Having travelled extensively across growth markets, it’s their buzz as well as their unique challenges and opportunities that have always inspired Natalie. She began her career working for Investec Bank, where she was responsible for a team of investment consultants; she then moved to stockbrokers Thebe Securities. Driven by her desire to contribute to the evolution of growth economies, Natalie joined Actis in 2003. She is now responsible for Actis’ investments in Tracker, Sigma Pensions, and Coricraft and continues to work on new deals across Southern Africa. Natalie holds a BComm from the University of Witwatersrand, an MBA (Cum Laude) from Wits Business School, and is a CFA charter holder.


Catherine Mahugu, Founder, Soko (Kenya)
Catherine Profile Photo

Catherine Mahugu is a globally acclaimed entrepreneur. She is a software engineer by profession and changemaker by passion. Catherine is a certified human-centred design expert, a skill acquired at Stanford University.

Currently, she is the founder of Chiswara (www.chiswara.com), an agri-tech venture that offers an equitable coffee experience for coffee farmers and consumers. Chiswara’s online platform connects local coffee producers directly with global consumers. Partners committed to the company's growth and impact include Alibaba, UNCTAD, and IFC.

Catherine Mahugu is also the Founder of Soko (www.shopsoko.com). Soko is an ethical fashion brand and manufacturing platform that expands access to economic opportunity for artisans in emerging economies.

She has been featured by Forbes as a Top 30 Entrepreneur, Top 100 Female Founders by INC magazine, and Top 100 Women by BBC.  She has also been featured by CNN, CNBC, Vanity Fair, American Airlines in-flight magazine, and the World Bank.

Dr. Zoe Marks, Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Zoe Marks Profile Photo
Zoe Marks is a Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her research and teaching interests focus on the intersections of conflict and political violence; race, gender and inequality; peacebuilding; and African politics.

Her current book project examines the internal dynamics of rebellion in Sierra Leone to understand how and why rebel groups can sustain a viable threat to the state without widespread support. It draws on nearly a decade of fieldwork, several hundred interviews with former combatants and community members, and private archives from members of the Revolutionary United Front. Professor Marks is leading a separate project that examines how wartime experiences shape individual wellbeing and community reintegration after war. Using surveys and social network analysis in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the project compares peaceful and protracted conflict settings, respectively, to explain how mobilization for violence affects prospects for poverty alleviation and peace.

In addition to her research on peace and conflict, Professor Marks is committed to creating space for conversations about ethical research praxis and making academia more inclusive. She has convened workshops related to decolonizing the academy and with colleagues at the University of Cape Town edited a related special double issue of the journal Critical African Studies.

Dr. Marks holds a DPhil in Politics and MSc in African Studies from the University of Oxford, and a BA in Government and African American Studies from Georgetown University. Prior to joining the Kennedy School, she was a Chancellor’s Fellow and Lecturer (tenured) at the University of Edinburgh, where she directed the masters program in African Studies and was Director of the University's Global Development Academy. She has previously worked for UN and non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia, France, Sierra Leone, South Africa, the UK, and the US.



Vanessa Moungar, Director of Gender, Women and Civil Society, African Development Bank (Côte d'Ivoire)
Vanessa Profile Photo

Vanessa Moungar is Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society at the African Development Bank, where she leads the Bank’s action on gender equality, women’s empowerment, and civil society engagement. A citizen of Chad and France, she sits on French President Emmanuel Macron’s Presidential Council for Africa. 

As Senior Manager for Africa at the World Economic Forum between 2013 and 2017, she led large-scale public-private collaboration efforts, and engaged leaders of African governments, the private sector, and civil society in partnerships across multiple industries – from health and education to extractives, infrastructure, agriculture, and energy. She championed the Demographic Dividend agenda, leading a multi-stakeholder group of global experts, with the aim of accelerating investments for women and youth. 

Between 2006 and 2013, she held various positions including Director of Sales and Marketing at Terrafina, an American company operating in the agri-business industry. She started her career at AV Consulting, France, which she co-founded in 2004 to support small and medium enterprises in Africa and the Middle East. She holds degrees from INSEEC Paris and Harvard University, and was a WEF Global Leadership Fellow (in partnerships with Columbia University, Wharton School of Business, China Europe International Business School, London Business School, and INSEAD). 

Her commitment has recently been recognized by the Margaret Prize Intrapeneur Afrique 2020 (Journées de la Femme Digitale), Choiseul 100 Africa 2018 (Institut Choiseul), and 100 Most Influential Africans 2017 (New African Magazine). 


Roshini Naidoo, Executive and General Manager, Discovery Limited (South Africa)
Roshini Profile Photo

Roshini Moodley Naidoo is an Executive at Discovery Health, leading risk management, provider contracting, and quality of care. 

Prior to joining Discovery, Roshini managed global, public-private partnerships for the leading development organization, Oxfam, involving poverty impact assessments that received recognition by the UN Global Compact. In her earlier tenure at First National Bank, Roshini was responsible for implementing the bank’s corporate sustainability strategy. Roshini is a medical doctor with clinical and operational expertise in mental health.

Roshini serves on the Board of Directors of Health Quality Assurance and the Africa Academy for Public Health. Roshini is an alumna Fellow of the Emerging Leaders Program of the University of Cape Town and Duke University. She has earned a Master in Public Health degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as a Harvard South Africa Fellow and a Master in Business Administration degree from the Harvard Business School where she was selected as a Leadership Fellow and graduated with second year honors. Roshini’s professional interests are healthcare quality improvement and women leadership. Roshini and her husband have two children.


Divine Ndhlukula, Founder & CEO, Securico (Zimbabwe)
Divine Profile Photo

Through hard work, determination and focus, Dr. Divine Simbi-Ndhlukula has built her company to become the most respected and sought-after player in the security industry in Zimbabwe and internationally. She is the founder and Managing Director of DDNS Security Operations (Pvt) Ltd, the holding company under which SECURICO SECURITY SERVICES fall. Through her leadership, SECURICO now employs over 4,000 people and has become a multiple award-winning organisation. Divine herself has been listed among the 100 Most Reputable Africans in 2020 by Reputation Poll International and was also named by Forbes magazine among the Most Influential Women in Africa.

Ndidi Nwuneli, Co-founder & Managing Partner, Sahel Consulting; Co-founder, AACE Foods; and Founder, Nourishing Africa (Nigeria)Ndidi Profile Photo

Mrs. Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli is the founder of LEAP Africa & Nourishing Africa and Co-founder of Sahel Consulting and AACE Foods. Through her work in the African private, public, and nonprofit sectors, she has led the design and execution of high-impact initiatives focused on policy, strategy, and ecosystem solutions.

Ndidi serves on the boards of the Rockefeller Foundation, AGRA, Nigerian Breweries Plc. (Heineken), Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. India, Fairfax Africa Holdings Canada, and the African Philanthropy Forum. She is the author of "Social Innovation in Africa: A Practical Guide for Scaling Impact" and "Food Entrepreneurs in Africa: Scaling Resilient Agriculture Businesses."

Ndidi holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree with honors from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She was a Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and an Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

Flora Mutahi, Founder & CEO, Melvin Marsh International (Kenya)
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Founder and CEO of Melvin Marsh International Ltd, Kenya’s largest flavored tea company, Flora has extensive local and international experience in strategic leadership, business development, market penetration, and marketing. She also has interests in real estate. Flora is passionate about business, youth, and entrepreneurs. While she was at the helm at Kenya Association of manufacturers, she spearheaded a new chapter for women in manufacturing (WIM) aimed at encouraging more women to join the industrial sector. She remains the Chairperson of WIM. She has also begun a mentorship program for young women in the manufacturing space under Melvin Marsh International Ltd. She holds an MBA from University of Cape Town (2008- 2010) and B.Sc. Finance and Accounts (UK) (1988-1991). She also holds an Executive Marketing Diploma from the Marketing Society of Kenya (2007), Board of Directors training (2014), Center for Corporate Governance (2007), the Practitioners Diploma in Executive coaching (2014), Mwongozo training for GOK (2017 and 2019), and is a certified Real Estate Agent in Kenya (2018). Flora sits on several boards. She has won many awards for her business.

Adenike Ogunlesi, Founder & CEO, Ruff n’Tumble (Nigeria)
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Adenike Ogunlesi, Nigeria’s foremost fashion entrepreneur with over 35 years in the fashion and retail business, founded Gatimo Limited, the parent company of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble and Gatimo Apparel Manufacturing. She is the Creative Director of Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, Nigeria’s premier and premium children’s clothing brand.

To support its retail operations, and to prove that Nigeria is capable of international standards, she created Gatimo Apparel Manufacturing, a state of the art garment manufacturing facility with a capacity to contract manufacture high quality garments and accessories with a skilled staff strength of almost 300 people. Over the years, Ruff ‘n’ Tumble has shared happiness to over a million children and thousands of families.

A story of resilience, a passionate international speaker, coach, mentor, and an advocate for a more equitable society, encouraging women to own their greatness by birthing and believing in the truest expression of themselves while being financially independent, and a strong advocate for financial independence, Adenike founded the Betti-Okuboyejo Foundation which empowers young individuals with skills in garment making and entrepreneurship. She also founded the ‘I Share Cuz I Care’ Foundation by Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, a community which promotes sharing and caring among children and young people.

She’s a Non-Executive Director at Lafarge Holcim Plc and the founding member and first president of the Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW), a network of more than 250 women at the Nigeria Employer’s Consultative Association (NECA). She is also an advisory board member and mentor at WISCAR (Women in Successful Careers), a structured mentoring programme for young women, and the Coordinator of The Marriage & Family Life Unit at the Catholic Church of the Presentation.

Aisha Pandor, Co-founder & CEO, SweepSouth (South Africa)
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Aisha R. Pandor is co-founder and CEO of SweepSouth, Africa’s first online platform for booking, managing, and paying for home cleaning. Aisha is one of few black female tech startup CEOs and has led SweepSouth to become a fast-growing, international startup. Venture-backed, SweepSouth was the first South African startup to be accepted into the 500 Startups accelerator based in Silicon Valley. Aisha completed her PhD in Human Genetics at the University of Cape Town. While writing her thesis, she also completed a Postgraduate Business Administration course. Following her studies, she worked as a management consultant. Since launching SweepSouth with her co-founder and husband Alen Ribic, they have connected over 20,000 previously unemployed/underemployed domestic workers to work. SweepSouth is an advocate for financial and digital inclusivity for women and launched partnerships resulting in free life and disability insurance for platform workers as well as free access to support for victims of abuse and violence.


Kate Quartey-Papafio, Founder & CEO, Reroy Cables Limited (Ghana)
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Kate Quartey–Papafio is a pioneering industrialist who founded Reroy Group Ltd to distribute high quality electrical cables in Ghana. Today, Reroy Cables is an iconic brand name in Ghana’s manufacturing sector producing and distributing power cables, conductors, electrical power distribution systems, and providing strategic contract services to the electricity sector. The business is also now linked to electricity distribution and transmission. Over the last two decades, Kate has led the Reroy brand to become synonymous with values of excellence, integrity, and continuous improvement. 


Lorna Scott, Founder, Inverroche (South Africa)
Lorna Profile Photo
Lorna is known as the doyen of South African gins. She believes that authentic and inspirational brands have the power to change the world and that women will be the changemakers. After studying Drama at the University of Pretoria she joined SAA as an air hostess, then moved to Scotland as Marketing and later Operations Director for the Compass group. Upon her return she worked in LED and was a deputy mayor for the ANC. To develop sustainable economic opportunities, Lorna enrolled as an executive student at the Sustainability Institute at Stellenbosch University. Her discovery of a place where every human alive today may call home and how this environment shaped human culture was the inspiration behind her brand. Inverroche is available in 16 countries, 70% of the staff are women, and aims to achieve a 100% local goal within five years.

Dr. Vera Songwe, United Nations Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa
Vera Profile Photo

Dr. Vera Songwe took up her role as the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on August 3, 2017, at the level of Under Secretary-General.

She brings to ECA and the position of Executive Secretary a long-standing track record of providing policy advice on development and a wealth of experience in delivering development results for Africa as well as a demonstrated strong and clear strategic vision for the continent.

Prior to joining the ECA, she was Regional Director of the International Finance Corporation, covering West and Central Africa. In addition, she continues to serve as a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative. She is also a member of the African Union institutional reform team under the direction of the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, and a board member of the African Leadership Network and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Previously, she was Country Director for the World Bank, covering Cape Verde, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal. She was also Adviser to the Managing Director of the World Bank for Africa, Europe and Central and South Asia and a lead Country Sector Coordinator for the organization. She had earlier served as the World Bank’s Senior Economist in the Philippines.

Prior to joining the World Bank, she was a Visiting Researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota and at the University of Southern California.

She holds a PhD in Mathematical Economics from the Center for Operations Research and Econometrics and a Master of Arts in Law and Economics and a Diplôme d’études approfondies in Economic Science and Politics from the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Michigan and is a graduate of Our Lady of Lourdes College in Cameroon. Ms. Songwe has published widely on development and economic issues.





Hakeem and Myma Belo-Osagie
Since 2015, the Center for African Studies has hosted the annual Hakeem and Myma Belo-Osagie Distinguished Lecture on African Business and Entrepreneurship in Africa endowed by Hakeem and Myma Belo-Osagie. Hakeem and Myma are strong supporters of the Center for African Studies and sit on the Center's Africa Advisory Board. This year's lecture will be the keynote lecture on October 2, 2020.

Lionesses of Africa
Lionesses of Africa creates impact by growing the next generation of women entrepreneurs across Africa. By supporting women to achieve their start-up dreams, we empower them to generate economic prosperity, to improve their communities, and to become game-changers Africa needs to solve pressing socio-economic problems.

London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG)
London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) is a global financial markets infrastructure business. Its diversified global business focuses on Information Services, Risk and Balance Sheet Management and Capital Formation. The Group supports global financial stability and sustainable economic growth by enabling businesses and economies to fund innovation, manage risk and create jobs.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)
Established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations (UN) in 1958 as one of the UN's five regional commissions, ECA's mandate is to promote the economic and social development of its member States, foster intra-regional integration, and promote international cooperation for Africa's development. UNECA plays a dual role as a regional arm of the UN and as a key component of the African institutional landscape, ECA is well positioned to make unique contributions to address the Continent’s development challenges.

Empower Africa
Empower Africa was founded out of a vital need to create significant international awareness and impact during a unique window of opportunity to uplift Sierra Leone. Their business network enables established and emerging businesses to connect, partner, and create long term value with Africa-based projects. Empower Africa liaises with government, major corporations, and investors to deliver deal flow and research across our network. Empower Africa believes that business, trade, and investment, will enhance the quality of life in Africa and the human capital potential.

Standard Bank
Standard Bank is Africa’s largest banking group by assets, offering a range of banking and related financial services in 20 African countries and 5 global financial centres. Standard Bank drives sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Africa, aiming to make life better for fellow Africans by doing the right business, the right way. In addition to growing the representation of women in leadership positions we believe that gender equity is a fundamental human right, and we have committed to help create a gender-equal world. We have collaborated with UNECA and MiDA Advisors to launch the African Women Impact Fund (AWIF), an innovative impact fund that will provide capital and expertise to women fund managers across Africa. The fund, the first of its kind, aims to empower women fund managers, who in turn will invest in high-impact businesses and projects across the continent, thus driving entrepreneurship and growth in Africa. In 2011 we became a signatory of the UN Women Empowerment Principles, and in 2018 we joined forces with the UN Women HeForShe movement. Part of that commitment is to a UN Women social initiative which increases productivity and access to market of women through climate-smart agriculture projects in Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.