By Brett Smith
Africa is an amazing continent full of natural resources and innovation. Today, some of Africa’s leading entrepreneurs from across this diverse land have turned those resources into massive empires. This wealth develops in Africa, and is often used to help African countries flourish.
African women business-owners, singers, actresses, and social media gurus have been and still are taking the world by storm. The names on this list are some of the richest women in Africa, and they all have learned a lot of lessons from accumulating their wealth. They are also major donors to charity.
Hard work and dedication paid off for these women immensely, and they have managed to build some of the most successful brand names and businesses in the world.
Company: The Rose of Sharon Group
Net Worth: $1.5 billion
Folorunsho Alakija is the richest woman in Africa thanks to her massive business holdings. She was born in Lagos State, Nigeria, and she still resides there currently. She is married with four children. Folorunsho is the director of the Rose of Sharon Group. She is also the executive vice chairwoman of Famfa Oil.
Her first job was as a secretary in 1975. She worked for Sijuade Ent. in Nigeria. She then took a job at the First National Bank of Chicago, which later became part of FCMB. She left the financial industry to establish Supreme Stitches, a tailoring company.
She made another career move into the oil industry, but she still kept up her fashion business. She started up a joint venture with Texaco, and she obtained a license for oil exploration.
Isabel Dos Santos
Company: Zon Multimedia
Net Worth: $2.8 billion
Isabel dos Santos is one of Africa’s most famous and well-known entrepreneurs. She was born in Luanda, Angola. She received her education from King’s College in London, and her net worth has soared into the billions. Her father was the President of Angola from 1979 to 2019. She was the first African woman to reach billionaire status.
She may have had a presidential father, but she is a businesswoman in her own right. She bought and invested in companies in Angola. She has management positions in these companies. The companies range from technology to cleaning to environmental work.
Her first job was as a project manager. She worked alongside her father to clean and disinfect Luanda. The project was known as Urbana 2000, and it helped kick start her business acumen.
Net Worth: $1 billion
Ngina Kenyatta, also known as Mama Ngina, was married to Jomo Kenyatta from 1951 until his death several decades later(she is his widow). She was originally born in Ngenda in the Kenya Colony in 1933.
Mama Ngina was Jomo’s fourth wife, and she was given as a “gift” from the Kikuyu to Kenyatta. The Kikuyu was Kenyatta’s ethnic group. Mama Ngina got her nickname as “Mother of a Nation” from this marriage. She had four children with Jomo.
She expanded her vast investments and holdings into business. She now owns plantations, hotels, ranches, and other properties. She made headlines when she converted to Roman Catholicism and began attending mass every Sunday with her children. She still resides in Kenya.
Haija Bola Shagaya
Company: Bolmus Group International
Net Worth: $630 million
Haija Shagaya is one of Nigeria’s most eminent fashionistas. She is also a business-woman with holdings and several board memberships. Her business industries mainly focus on real estate. She was born in Nigeria. Her mother was a seamstress and her father a public servant in Nigeria. She has her degree in economics from Armstrong College in the United States.
Shagaya’s first career was at the Central Bank of Nigeria, where she worked as an auditor. She then went into commercial sales doing import and export work, introducing Nigeria to Konica, a brand of photography products.
She has board memberships with Unity Bank. She is also a contributing member of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria, also known as FADAN, and she also has membership status in the Order of the Niger.
Company: Liberty Investors
Net Worth: $259.3 million
Wendy Appelbaum is the richest woman living in South Africa today. She was the director of Liberty Investors, Ltd. She has also worked in several other industries. She was the deputy chair of Connection Group Holdings Ltd. After such a long background in finance and business, she has become a philanthropist with her millions.
Appelbaum owns a profitable wine farm in South Africa. She is known for being close friends with famous feminist activist Gloria Steinem. Appelbaum has made it clear in interviews that her wealth does not define her.
Her recent philanthropic endeavors have included providing free annual breast exams ad checkups for female farmers. She has set up breast exam clinics near her home and throughout South Africa to help migrant farmers stay healthy.
Net Worth: $5 million
Tiwa Savage is a famous Nigerian pop star who was born in Ikeja. She attended the University of Kent’s Berklee College of Music. She was always interested in music, and she played the trombone in her high school band. Savage emerged onto the music scene in 2006.
She appeared on the UK’s The X Factor, and she made it to the final twenty-four, though she struggled with the limelight. She was cut before making it to the final twelve, never gave up on her music. She eventually managed to get a recording deal with Sony.
A few years later, she was signed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. She has since collaborated with American and African artists. She is involved in charity, particularly charities focusing on youth development in Africa.
Company: Pick N Pay Holdings Ltd.
Net Worth: $190.2 million
Wendy Ackerman is the director of the financial company Pick N Pay Holdings Ltd. She was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and she received her degree from the University of Cape Town and UNISA. She was a teacher for several years, teaching in Soweto. When she was a college student, she taught English for night school in South Africa.
Her husband, Raymond, bought Pick N Pay, and she joined him to help him in his business venture. Wendy was in charge of employee affairs, and she developed the corporation’s employee benefit plan and welfare plan
She became the director of Pick N Pay in 1981. She is also a philanthropist, starting the Educational Trust Fund that helps underprivileged students get to school. She is also a patron of the Jewish Women’s Union.
Company: Smile Telecoms
Net Worth: $150 million
Irene Charnley was born in South Africa in 1960. She was part of a trade union, and she is one of South Africa’s richest businesswomen. Her first business experience was union-related. She negotiated for the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa, a position she held for thirteen years.
She then took that experience and transferred to the telecom sector. She became the director of MTN Group. MTN Group is the largest telecom corporation in Africa, and she helped connect multiple African and Arab countries to MTN.
She was involved in making the company public for underprivileged African residents to buy shares, increasing their wealth. She now is the CEO of the telecom company Smile Telecom Holdings, Ltd., which operates in the Congo, Uganda, Nigeria, and other countries.
Net Worth: $100 million
Bridget Radebe is one of the first African female mine operators in the continent. She was born in South Africa, and her first job was as a miner. She managed shaft mining operations and projects in the 1980s. She producer materials in those projects that would go to larger operations in South Africa.
Radebe founded her own mining firm called Mmakau Mining This firm explores for and helps produce gold, chrome, and platinum minerals. Radebe also has leadership positions within the mining community. She is the President of the SAMDA, a mining development program in South Africa.
With her many years of experience in the mining industry (and business), Radebe is an outspoken critic of predatory, capitalistic mining schemes. She pursues projects seeking to change this status quo.
Company: Octodec Investments
Net Worth: $43.1 million
Sharon Wapnick was born in South Africa. She inherited her father’s businesses, Premium Properties and Octodec Investments, both of which are part of the Johannesburg SEC. These companies are financial in nature, operating in the loan industry. She is the current chairwoman of Octodec.
Additionally, she is part of a commercial law firm, TWB Attorneys, where she is the partner. She is among the top ten richest women in all of South Africa. Sharon also has holdings in several businesses, including Pick N Pay Stores Ltd. and Netcare, Ltd. Pick N Pay is a retail and food company, while Netcare is involved in healthcare.
She received her education from the University of the Witwatersrand, where she achieved both a bachelor’s degree and graduate degree before moving to take over her father’s company.
Net Worth: $4.2 million
Yemi Alade is a famous pop star from Nigeria. She is best known for “Johnny,” her hit single, and she first burst onto the music scene in 2009 after winning the Peak Talent Show. She was born in Abia State, Nigeria. She has been in the music industry since 2005, singing in smaller venues before getting her big start in 2009.
In 2005, she was part of a girl group, Noty Spice, but it wasn’t until she went solo that her talent really began to shine. She was part of the Effyzzie Music Group, and her first single was the song “Ghen Ghen Love.”
“Johnny” was her second single, and it was a hit not just in the UK, but in South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana and many other countries.
Net Worth: $1 million
Yvonne Orji is an actress with dual citizenship in both Nigeria and the United States. She was born in 1983 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She attended George Washington University in the United States, and she is both an actress and comedienne. She is known for her portrayal of the character Molly in the hit American series Insecure, which first aired on HBO in 2016.
Her parents originally thought she was going to become a doctor because she had pursued her MA in public health. However, she decided she wanted to pursue stand-up comedy as an undergrad after competing in a beauty pageant and performing stand-up for her talent.
After finishing grad school, she relocated to New York City in 2011. She has since appeared in numerous American television series and films.
Net Worth: $350,000 (estimated)
She may not have a ton of film credits to her name (yet), actress Benu Mabhena made a very massive dent on Hollywood starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the Oscar-nominated film Blood Diamond. The performance was nothing short of mesmerizing.
Though Mabhena’s parents (and a few of her siblings) were born in Zimbabwe, she herself was born in London after the family managed to relocate. A young Mabhena began experimenting with acting at an early age, originally through theatre and even writing.
She moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Landing in the right place at the right time, she arrived in the city just in time to audition for Blood Diamond. She still lives in Los Angeles and acts to this day.
Net Worth: $5 million
Sophie Okonedo is an actress of Nigerian descent. Her father was employed by the government of Nigeria. Sophie received her acting education from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She has worked in television and film. One of her first projects was Doctor Who. She provided the voice for Alison Cheney, the good Doctor’s companion.
She also played Jenny in Clocking Off, and she had roles in Stormbreaker, Oliver Twist, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and more. Her performance in Hotel Rwanda, however, scored her an Academy Award nomination.
Okonedo also received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath. She also appeared in the film The Secret Life of Bees as a woman struggling with depression.
Net Worth: $4 million
Danai Gurira is an actress of Rhodesian descent. Her parents relocated from Rhodesia during the conflicts that occurred there. Her parents both worked in the academic sector; her mom was a librarian and her father a chemistry professor. Danai started out in theatre before moving to television and film as her preferred venues.
She wrote her own plays, including “The Continuum,” for which she received an Obie Award, among others. She started acting on film in 2007. She appeared in The Visitor, as well as Ghost Town, My Soul to Take, 3 Backyards, and more. She also had a Law & Order appearance.
But by far her most famous role is that of Okoye in the hit Marvel movie Black Panther, a role she reprised in the latest Avengers films. Thanks to that, Gurira remains a world-renowned star.
Net Worth: $3 million
Carmen Ejogo is of Nigerian descent, though she was born in London. She has been part of the music and movie industry for years. She has appeared in British TV and film shows. She first got into the business in 1993 when she was a teenager hosting the morning show, Saturday Disney.
She made her film debut in 2000, when she appeared in Love’s Labour’s Lost. From there, she had roles in the feature films Away We Go, Alex Cross, The Purge, Alien: Covenant and more. She is currently part of the Fantastic Beastsseries, as well as a season of True Detective.
Ejogo was active in the music industry in the ‘90s and has several collaborations with other artists. She was briefly married to the rapper Tricky in 1998.
Net Worth: $18 million
Liya Kebede was born in Ethiopia, and she spent her childhood there. She became a model after she was attending the school Lycee Guebre-Mariam and a film producer spotted her. He introduced her to a modeling agent from France, and her career took off. She worked in both Paris and New York City as a model.
She got her first big modeling break when she walked for Tom Ford at his Gucci fashion show in 2000. She has been on Vogue covers and worked for many different fashion labels. She is signed to DNA Model Management, though she was previously signed to IMG and VIVA.
She is also an activist. She started her own foundation, the Liya Kebede Foundation, which focuses on maternal and child health.
Net Worth: $4 million
Chipo Chung was born in Tanzania, but she holds citizenship from both Zimbabwe and China. Her name is actually of Zimbabwean origin, as “Chipo” is the word for “gift” in Shona. She was displaced as a child and was born into a refugee camp in Tanzania. She then relocated to Mozambique with others escaping the Rhodesian War.
She received her education from London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She performed in theater first, appearing in “Talking to Terrorists,” “Fallujah” and more. She was also in “Phedre” and “Epidavros,” two classical plays.
She has had television appearances in Doctor Who, Camelot, The Last Enemyand more. Her recent work has been the role of the Queen in “Dido, Queen of Carthage.”
Company: Denver & Delilah Films
Net Worth: $130 million
Charlize Theron is a world-famous South African actress who has received massive acclaim (and awards) for her acting. She started her own film company, Denver & Delilah Films. Born in Benoni, Theron now resides in Los Angeles. She has both South Africa and American citizenship. She has received countless awards, including an Oscar for her chilling performance in the movie Monster.
She has also received a Silver Bear Award from the Berlin Film Festival, and a Golden Globe. She first shot to international recognition after starring opposite Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate. She then appeared in Mighty Joe Young and The Cider House Rules.
In Monster, she played Aileen Wuornos, an alleged serial killer who claims she acted in self-defense. The movie was fictional, but had its basis in a real-life story.
Net Worth: $8 million
World-famous actress Lupita Nyong’o has both Kenyan and Mexican citizenship. The starlet has made headlines internationally as of late, and she is one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood. She has acted on film and onstage, receiving critical acclaim for her work.
She started her career in 2008 when she performed in the short film called East River. Prior to that, she had worked as a production assistant on feature films. She then moved from America to Kenya to star in Shuga, a hit Kenyan television show.
She scored her first major Hollywood role in 12 Years a Slave, a historical drama that went on to win the Academy Award for best picture. Nyong’o herself won an Oscar for her supporting role in the film. She recently starred in the horror hit Us, directed by Jordan Peele.
Company: Keroche Industries
Net Worth: $14 million
Tabitha Karanja is a Kenyan businesswoman and industrialist who has been in the business industry since 1997. She was born in Naivasha, Kenya, and she is the CEO of Keroche Breweries. She is married to Joseph Karanja, her husband and business partner. The two began making wine in 1997. The fortified blend was affordable and became popular quickly.
The government taxed wine heavily in 2007, and Karana was priced out of the Kenyan wine market. But Karanja wasn’t faze;. she started making gin drinks and vodka, and then began brewing beer.
Beer helped the Keroche brand take off. Production increased in 2013 as its popularity soared. Karanja and her husband went from 60K bottles per day to 600K bottles per day. They just bought a new plant for $55.5 million.
Company: Kimani & Michuki Advocates
Net Worth: $50 million
Jane Michuki is a Kenyan businesswoman who attended the University of Nairobi, Kenya School or Law and the University of Warwick. She received her degree in law and legal practice, and is a lawyer, investor and business magnate. She is the partner at Kimani & Michuki Advocates. She has been in business since 1997.
Her law firm handles business clients, with major names such as Equity Group Holdings Ltd. Equity has more than nine million customers, and it is Africa’s largest bank holding company. Michuki also holds the distinction of being the largest female stockholder on the NSE.
Her net worth is upwards of $50 million from these stock holdings, many of which are with public companies. She owns 9.5% of the British-American Investments Company.
Company: Wananchi Online
Net Worth: $100 million
Njeri Rionge is a Kenyan businesswoman who was described by Forbes as being a “serial entrepreneur.” She founded Wananchi Online, which provides internet services throughout East Africa. She has also founded other companies, many of which have made millions quickly. Wananchi Online is arguably one of her biggest successes.
She has also founded Business Lounge. Business Lounge is a Kenyan startup holding. It helps grow and incubate new businesses to make them as successful as possible. She also founded Ignite Lifestyle, which is a healthcare consultant firm.
Rionge started Insite, which is another online business. Insite is a digital marketing company that helps Kenyan businesses. Rionge splits her time between Kenya and Toronto, both of which house her businesses. She is able to run her companies from anywhere in the world.
Net Worth: $5 million
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu was born in Ethiopia, and she obtained her degree from Unity University. She is a major advocate for the prosperity of Africa as well, often discussing her desire to change the discourse about Africa from one of poverty and despair to the prosperity and business success that exists there.
Alemu has her degree in accounting, graduating from college in 2004. She founded soleRebels. soleRebels is a footwear company that is among the fastest-growing shoe companies on the African continent. She started the company to help bring jobs to her local community.
She wanted to provide the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa with jobs, but she wanted the work to be sustainable and ecologically non-harmful. The company grew quickly. She was nominated as a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.
Net Worth: $809 million
Divine Ndhlukula was born in Gutu, Zimbabwe. She is the owner of a security company. She received her education from Midlands State University, and she has an MBA from Women’s University in Africa, where she has also a Ph.D. in Business. She first worked for telecom companies, starting with Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp.
She worked there for several years before moving on to Old Mutual, where she was an accounting officer. She then became part of Intermarket, servicing as a marketing executive for that insurance company. Divine decided to move from the executive role into the ownership role.
She founded SECURICO, a security company that was high-quality and well-paid. She wanted to revolutionize the industry and provide motivated employees who would protect businesses and buildings across the country.
Net Worth: $2 million
Omawumi Megbele, who goes by her stage name Omawumi, was born in Delta State, Nigeria. She first came on the music scene in 2007 when she was a contestant on the singing competition Idols West Africa. She was known for having a soulful voice and a strong personality, and she won second-place.
She was able to rise to prominence with her music career from there. She sings in the pop, afro-pop, soul, and R&B genres. She has performed on stage with many famous acts, including Sasha, 9ice, Carl Thomas, and more.
She is also a songwriter and actress. She recently got married in 2018 to Toyin Yusuf. She was previously an employee at a law firm that her family owned.
Net Worth: $1.5 million
Nneka is one of the best-known singers of Nigeria, and she has performed internationally with many famous artists. She has been on the music scene since 2003. She was born in Warr, and she got attention for her work with DJ Farhot, a hip hop producer from Hamburg, Germany.
She started getting some recognition when she was the smash hit opening act for reggae superstar Sean Paul. She got a lot of attention for her energetic performance, and she recorded her debut album, called Victim of Truth.
She released an EP while working on Victim of Truth, called The Uncomfortable Truth. It received critical acclaim, and she toured with Patrice Williams in Europe, traveling to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany.
Net Worth: $450,000
Nikki Laoye is from Lagos, and she is a singer who has been in the industry since 2005. She is signed to Wahala Media Entertainment. She is also a dancer and songwriter, and she has acted on occasion. She is well-known for her energetic, captivating performances onstage, and she has been recognized for her music through several awards.
Her top singles include “Never Felt This Way Before,” “1-2-3,” and “Only You.” Her musical range is pretty varied. She has sang urban music, hip hop, Gospel, and soul. She was given the Best Vocal Performance Headies Award several years ago, as well as an AFRIMA honor.
She is also dedicated to humanitarianism, working with NCFRMI, which helps displaced peoples and refugees. She was named one of Nigeria’s “Voices of Refugees” in 2013.
Net Worth: $1.39 million
Ini Edo is one of of the richest female celebrities in Nigeria, and she has appeared in over a hundred movies as an actress. She started her film career back in 2000, and she was later a judge in 2013 for the Miss Black Africa Pageant in the UK. She also does much humanitarian work.
The United Nations appointed her as a Youth Envoy to the UN Habitat Commission in 2011. Edo attended the Universities of Uyo and Calabar, as well as the National Open University in Nigeria. She first acted in Thick Madam.
She received for her Thick Madam follow-up in a film called World Apart. That 2004 movie skyrocketed her career, and she became one of the highest-paid actresses in the entire continent.
Net Worth: $1.53 million
Patience Ozokwor is one of Nigeria’s highest-paid film actresses. Her nickname is “Mama G.” She is also a musician and fashion designer as well. She became famous back in 1999, and she has kept a well-known profile since then. She won an Oscar from the 10th African Oscar Awards.
She was born in Enugu in the village of Amaobo. She began acting when she was younger in primary school plays. She attended Enugu University, getting her degree in fine arts. She first got recognition from her soap opera career, where she was in a radio drama called Someone Cares.
She married at age nineteen, and today she is a mother of eight (including five adopted children). She impressively manages to balance a large family alongside her successful entertainment career.
Net Worth: $1.65 million
Mercy Johnson is a Nigerian actress who was born in Lagos. She has been in the movie industry since 2004, and she is best-known for her work in films like Baby Oku, Dumebi, Weeping Soul, and 30 Days in Atlanta, among other famous hits.
She started acting when she was young, auditioning for her first movie, The Maid, when she finished secondary school. She got the part, and the movie went on to launch her career. She then was able to snag roles in popular movies like War in the Palace, Hustlers, and more.
She has won awards, winning Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress and the 2009 AMAs and AMVCAs, respectively. She has primarily acted in comedies and dramas.