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HomeEntrepreneurshipSuccess Stories of Women in African Entrepreneurship You Should Know About

Success Stories of Women in African Entrepreneurship You Should Know About


In the dynamic landscape of African entrepreneurship, women in African entrepreneurship are making remarkable strides, breaking barriers, and setting new standards of excellence. These trailblazers are not just building successful businesses; they are inspiring entire communities and driving economic growth across the continent. Here are some exceptional women whose entrepreneurial journeys are as inspiring as they are instructive.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu (Ethiopia)

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu grew up in the impoverished Zenabwork district of Addis Ababa. Determined to make a difference, she founded SoleRebels in 2004. Bethlehem combined traditional Ethiopian craftsmanship with eco-friendly practices to create a unique footwear brand.

Starting from a small workshop, she employed local artisans to produce shoes using recycled materials. Today, SoleRebels has become the first African consumer brand to open retail stores worldwide, including in the U.S., Japan, and Europe. Bethlehem’s story is a testament to how sustainable business practices can drive global success.

Tara Fela-Durotoye (Nigeria)

Tara Fela-Durotoye’s journey into the beauty industry began while she was still a law student. In 1998, she founded House of Tara International from her living room, offering bridal makeup services. Noticing a gap in the market, she launched Nigeria’s first makeup school and developed a line of beauty products tailored for African women.

House of Tara has since grown into a leading beauty brand with multiple stores across Nigeria and thousands of trained beauty professionals. Tara’s innovative approach and commitment to empowering women have made her a pioneer in the beauty industry.

Hajia Bola Shagaya (Nigeria)

Hajia Bola Shagaya

Hajia Bola Shagaya started her career at the Central Bank of Nigeria before venturing into entrepreneurship. In the early 1980s, she established a photographic laboratory, quickly becoming a major player in Nigeria’s photography industry.

She then expanded her interests into real estate, oil, banking, and communications, founding Bolmus Group International. Hajia Bola’s strategic investments and business acumen have made her one of Nigeria’s wealthiest women, contributing significantly to the country’s economy.

Rebecca Enonchong (Cameroon)

Rebecca Enonchong

Rebecca Enonchong’s entrepreneurial journey began in the United States, where she worked in the tech industry. In 1999, she founded AppsTech, a global provider of enterprise application solutions. Despite facing challenges in securing funding as a Black woman in tech, Rebecca’s perseverance paid off.

AppsTech gained a global client base, and she became a prominent advocate for technology and innovation in Africa. Rebecca also supports tech startups through initiatives like the African Business Angels Network (ABAN), making a significant impact on the tech ecosystem.

Swaady Martin (Côte d’Ivoire)

Swaady Martin

Swaady Martin, a former executive at General Electric, founded Yswara in 2012, a luxury tea brand celebrating African culture and heritage. Starting with a mission to create a premium product that reflected African traditions, Swaady overcame the challenges of entering the luxury market.

Yswara’s high-quality, ethically sourced teas gained international recognition, and Swaady’s commitment to sustainability and social impact has positioned Yswara as a leading African luxury brand.

Salma Okonkwo (Ghana)

Salma Okonkwo

Salma Okonkwo began her career in the oil and gas industry before founding UBI Group in 2007. Initially focusing on oil and gas distribution, she later pivoted to renewable energy, leading the construction of Ghana’s largest solar farm.

Salma’s vision and leadership have significantly contributed to Ghana’s energy landscape, demonstrating her ability to adapt and innovate in response to changing market dynamics.

Folorunsho Alakija (Nigeria)

Folorunsho Alakija

Folorunsho Alakija started her entrepreneurial journey in the fashion industry with her label, Supreme Stitches, in the 1980s. She later transitioned to the oil sector, securing an oil prospecting license for the OML 127 block. As the vice chair of Famfa Oil, her company partnered with Chevron, boosting its production capabilities.

Folorunsho’s diverse business ventures, including real estate and philanthropy, have made her one of Africa’s wealthiest women.

Adenike Ogunlesi (Nigeria)

Adenike Ogunlesi

Adenike Ogunlesi founded Ruff ‘n’ Tumble in 1996, inspired by her desire to provide high-quality, stylish children’s clothing. From selling garments out of her car trunk, she built Ruff ‘n’ Tumble into a leading children’s fashion brand in Nigeria.

Her focus on quality and innovation has resulted in a thriving business with multiple outlets across the country, exemplifying her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to excellence.

Esther Afua Ocloo (Ghana)

Esther Afua Ocloo

Esther Afua Ocloo began her entrepreneurial journey in the 1940s by making and selling marmalade and orange juice. Recognizing the need for financial support for women entrepreneurs, she co-founded Women’s World Banking in 1979.

This global network provides microfinance services to women, empowering countless women to start and grow their businesses. Esther’s pioneering work in microfinance has left a lasting legacy of economic empowerment and gender equality.

Patricia Poku-Diaby (Ghana)


Patricia Poku-Diaby started her career in her family’s transportation business before venturing into cocoa processing. She founded Plot Enterprise Ghana Limited, which processes cocoa and shea butter for export. Despite the competitive cocoa industry, Patricia’s business acumen has made Plot Enterprise a key player in Ghana’s agricultural sector. She is now one of the richest women in Ghana, promoting sustainable agricultural practices and contributing significantly to the economy.


These stories of resilience, innovation, and leadership exemplify the extraordinary impact of women in African entrepreneurship. They serve as powerful inspirations, proving that with determination and vision, it is possible to overcome challenges and achieve remarkable success.



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