Just two African women showed up on Forbes’ list of 50 richest Africans for 2015, so Destiny Connect went searching for wealthy African women who may have slipped under the radar.
When it comes to big money, men still call the shots in Africa – just like in the rest of the world, Forbes says.
These 10 African women can lay claim to fortunes of $32 million or more. Some use their wealth and influence to create jobs or raise the standard of living for low-income Africans.
Of Africa’s 10 richest women listed here, 5 are black.
Sources: Destinyconnect, Businesstech, Forbes
How she got rich: Auto industry and investments
Net Worth: $32 million
Elisabeth Bradley’s father, Albert Wessels, brought Toyota to South Africa in 1961. In 2008, Wesco Investments, a South African holding company which she controls, sold off its 25-percent stake in Toyota South-Africa to Toyota Motor Corp Japan for $320 million. She walked away with at least $150 million. Bradley has served on the boards of blue chip companies such as Standard Bank Group, Hilton Hotel and Roseback Inn.
How she got rich: Investments and real estate
Net Worth: $43 million
Wapnik made her fortune in investments and real estate. She is an attorney, and also chairwoman and director of Premium Properties Ltd. In addition, she chairs and directs Octodex Investments Limited. She is the daughter of billionaire Alec Wapnick, founder of City Property in 1938.
How she got rich: Mining
Net Worth: $68.5 million
Bridgette Radebe is the founder, chairwoman and CEO of Mmakau Mining, and considered a hero as an entrepreneur who defied legislation to build her own successful mining group. She is an economic activist, an agent of transformation and a pioneer of change who played a key role in changing exclusionary mining law in South Africa and who pioneered the empowerment mining models in Africa and internationally.
She was born into an entrepreneurial family during apartheid when black people and women were not allowed to mine or own mining rights. She entered the mining industry anyway as the first black mining entrepreneur.
Today Mmakau Mining has equity in platinum mines, coal, chrome, gold and Shaft Sinkers, a company that specialises in shaft sinking, mining construction and development world-wide.
Mmakau’s prime focus is on investment in sustainable mining.
Forbes named her one of the 20 Most Powerful Women in Africa.
How she got rich: Politics
Net Worth: $110 million
Known popularly known as “Mama Ngina,” she is the widow of the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta and the mother of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
She married Jomo in 1951, becoming his fourth wife when she was 18 and Jomo was 57.
In the 1970s, she and other high-level government officials were allegedly involved in an ivory-smuggling ring transporting tusks out of the country in the state private airliner.
She has been recognised as an African icon for her role in Kenya’s pre-independence struggle, serving a jail term for her opposition to British colonialism.
After her release from jail, she became a farmer planting maize, beans and potatoes on her farm and selling them at market.
After independence when Jomo became president of Kenya, Mama Ngina was referred to as the mother of the nation. She became the most popular woman in the country.
How she got rich: Telecoms
Net Worth: $150 million
Irene Charnley is considered a social entrepreneur and respected telecoms visionary who was instrumental in transforming MTN into one of the most respected telecommunications operators. She served as executive director of MTN from August 2001 to June 2006.
She’s founder and CEO of Smile Telecoms Holdings Ltd, and has served as chairwoman and executive director of M-Cell.
Charnley was influential in obtaining one of three cellular licenses in Nigeria and has been a director of Metropolitan Life since 2001.
She was awarded Business Woman of the year in 2000 and nominated one of the top 50 businesswomen outside the U.S. by Fortune Magazine.
She advised former South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel on policy issues.
How she got rich: Retail
Net Worth: $190 million
Wendy Ackerman is a founders and executive Director of Pick n Pay Stores. She and husband Raymond Ackerman helped build one of South Africa’s top retailers in food, clothing and general merchandise. The company operates throughout Southern Africa and Australia and employs around 49,000 people.
Wendy worked to make Pick n Pay a socially responsible retailer. In the 1970s, the Ackerman family established their first philanthropic venture, the Ackerman Family Educational Trust. Today, much of Wendy’s energy is devoted to working for the underprivileged.
Born in Cape Town, Wendy attended the University of Cape Town, followed by Wits and UNISA. In the early 1960s, she taught at the English Academy in Soweto and got involved in teaching English at night school. She was introduced to business when she joined Raymond at Pick n Pay. Her job was employee liaison and employee benefits.
How she got rich: Wine, Investments
Net Worth: $260 million
Wendy Appelbaum is the only daughter of South African tycoon Donald Gordon, who founded Liberty Investors, an insurance and real estate firm.
Wendy worked there as a director and was one of the company’s largest individual shareholders.
When she sold her shares, she and her husband bought DeMorgenzon, a wine estate in Stellenbosch. She was co-founded Women’s Investment Portfolio Limited (Wiphold), an investment company controlled by women with over $150 million in assets.
Appelbaum is one of Africa’s most active philanthropists and has donated over $23 million to fund the creation of the Gordon Institute of Business Science and the Donald Gordon Medical Centre. She is chairwoman of the South African Women’s Professional Golfers’ Association.
How she got rich: Oil, Banking, Real Estate, Photography
Net Worth: $600 million
Credited with rising from humble beginnings to become a self-made millionaire businesswoman, Shagaya is founder and CEO of Bolmus Group International.
This diversified Nigerian conglomerate has interests in oil, real estate, banking, communications and photography. The real estate development arm of her group builds and owns dozens of luxurious residential properties in some of Nigeria’s most expensive neighborhoods where customers pay as much as $180,000 a year in rent.
Shagaya also serves on the board of Unity Bank, a Nigerian commercial bank, where owns a significant minority stake. Shagaya has aligned herself to key military and political figures in Nigeria. She was reputed to be close to former Nigerian military president Ibrahim Babangida and former Nigerian first lady Patience Jonathan.
How she got rich: Oil
Net Worth: $1.7 billion
Once a fashion student in London, Alakija returned to her native Nigeria to found her own tailoring company, Supreme Stitches. One of her clients is former first lady Maryam Babandiga, an alliance that helped her get approved by the Ministry of Energy for an oil prospecting license in 1993. Relationships like this led to her ownership of Famfa Oil, which produces about 200,000 barrels a day.
Sources: AFKInsider, Forbes
How she got rich: Oil, banking, diamonds, media
Net Worth: $3.4 billion
Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, the first known female billionaire and richest woman on the African continent. Her father has been president for more than 33 years. While she is sometimes credited with being an astute businesswoman, her father aided her in amassing her billions, according to Forbes. They achieved this in less than a decade.
With investments in a wide array of sectors, dos Santos has long been a controversial figure. Her wealth is far beyond the imagination of most Angolans, where people live on an average of less than $2 per day.
At 24 she had a partnership in a popular Luanda bar named Miami Beach. Isabel owned a $500-million (70-percent) stake in the Portuguese Zon Multimedia, which controls all media in Angola. With her husband, Sindiki Dokolo, they acquired 72.5-percent ownership of Swiss jeweler de Grisogono, adding to their monopoly in the Angola diamond trade — the fourth-largest in the world.