10 Phenomenal Women Changing the Status Quo of Governance in Africa

This #International Women’s Day, we celebrate 10 phenomenal African women who are rewriting the rules of governance! We shine the spotlight on these remarkable African women who are breaking barriers and shaping the future of governance on the continent. 

From policymaking to public service, their dedication and leadership are making a real difference in their communities and beyond. Here are some of the incredible women who are inspiring inclusion and showing everyone what leadership looks like in 2024: 

Mrs Jeanine Munyeshuli – Rwandan economist and government official 

She is the Minister of State in charge of Public Investment and Resource Mobilization. Jeanine holds a master’s degree in Econometrics from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. 

Munyeshuli previously worked as Chief Strategist at the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), Chief Operations Officer at SouthBridge Rwanda (SBR), Quant Strategist at Banque Pictet & Cie SA and Portfolio Manager at Unigestion in Geneva, Switzerland. 


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – Africa’s first democratically elected woman president, Liberia 

She is a Liberian politician and a history-making figure, who became the first elected female head of state in Africa. 

Sirleaf served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018, leading the nation through a period of reconstruction after a brutal civil war. She has strongly advocated for women’s rights, economic development, and peacebuilding. 


Ireti Heebah Kingibe – Senator for the FCT (Federal Capital Territory) 

A trailblazing Nigerian civil engineer and politician, she currently holds a senior partnership position at Kelnic Associates, Abuja. Her impressive career path began with roles as a Quality Control Engineer at Bradley Precast Concrete Inc. and the Minnesota Department of Transportation Design unit. 

Senator Kingibe represents the FCT under the Labour Party banner. Previously, she contested for Senate seats under both the APC (All Progressives Congress) and PDP (People’s Democratic Party). She is known for her commitment to infrastructure development, having pledged her senatorial salary to a fund tackling rural infrastructure deficits within the capital. In August 2023, she was appointed Chair of the Senate Committee on Women’s Affairs. 


Joyce Hilda Banda – Malawian politician and the nation’s 4th President 

Serving from 2012 to 2014, Banda’s career reflects a dedication to education and women’s rights. Her political journey includes positions as Minister of Foreign Affairs (2006–2009) and Vice-President (2009–2012). Following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, she ascended to the presidency in 2012. In 2011, she founded the People’s Party. 

Banda’s presidency was marked by a focus on social development and economic improvements. Before entering politics, she served as an educator and grassroots activist. 


Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila – Prime Minister of Namibia  

This Namibian politician has a distinguished academic background, with an Honorary Doctorate in Public Finance and an MSc in Financial Economics. Before becoming the first female Prime Minister in Namibia, she was the Minister of Finance from 2003 to 2015. As a member of the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), Kuugongelwa-Amadhila served as a member of the National Assembly of Namibia since 1995.  

Her career has been dedicated to public service and economic development. Her leadership as Prime Minister has focused on economic stability and social progress. 


Idiat Oluranti Adebule – Senator for Lagos West  

The prominent Nigerian politician became a Senator in 2023. Previously, she held the office of the 15th Deputy Governor of Lagos State (2015–2019). 

Adebule’s career path began in education. She served as a Junior Lecturer at Michael Otedola College of Primary Education before transitioning to the Lagos State University Department of Curricular Activities. Her dedication to education extended to policy creation. 


Donatille Mukabalisa – Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies 

After a career with the UN and as a law lecturer, this Rwandan lawyer and politician entered politics in 2000. Driven by a desire to rebuild Rwanda after the genocide, she made her way into the Parliament in 2003, and rose to Speaker in 2013 despite her party holding few seats. 


Maite Emily Nkoana-Mashabane – Prominent South African politician 

She has held various influential cabinet positions throughout her career. Nkoana-Mashabane championed social justice as Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. She addressed rural development concerns as Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform and played a key role in international relations as Minister of International Relations and Cooperation. 

During the 1980s, she was an active member of the United Democratic Front and served in various structures of the Mass Democratic Movement and the African National Congress’ (ANC) underground structures. 

Nkoana-Mashabane’s dedication to public service extends beyond ministerial roles, as evidenced by her membership in the African National Congress (ANC) and her prior activism with the United Democratic Front (UDF) during the 1980s. 


Ipalibo Gogo Banigo – Senator for Rivers West Senatorial District 

This Nigerian medical doctor and politician became a senator in 2023. Prior to this role, she served as the first female deputy governor of Rivers State from 2015 to 2023. She is a vocal advocate for healthcare and public service efficiency.  

Her extensive experience in the Rivers State Ministry of Health, where she held positions as Director of Public Health Services and Permanent Secretary, reflects her dedication to public health initiatives. Banigo’s academic achievements, including a stellar performance on her West African School Certificate and a prestigious award for student poetry, hint at her intellectual prowess from a young age. 


Sarah Achieng Opendi – Ugandan accountant and politician 

Opendi has carved a distinguished career in public service. Her journey has been marked by progressive ministerial appointments.  From 2016 – 2019, she championed healthcare initiatives as the State Minister of Health for General Duties.   

Prior to that, she tackled challenges in primary healthcare as the Minister of State for Primary Healthcare. Opendi’s commitment to public service extends beyond healthcare, as evidenced by her earlier role as the state minister for Lands.  Her dedication to her nation is further underscored by her prior work as an Inspectorate Officer in the office of the Inspector General of the Government, where she actively fought against corruption. 


Let’s celebrate these phenomenal women and all they achieve and represent in Africa governance.