Considered “change makers” by Lionesses of Africa, an organization supporting and showcasing the talents of female business owners, these nine entrepreneurs are dedicated to positively influencing the lives of African citizens.
The founder of MitiMeth, Achenyo Idachaba rids Nigerian waterways of hyacinth plants, a weed that plagues more than 20 states and disrupts ecosystems. Through MitiMeth, the plants, as well as other “agro-waste” and “non-timber” resources, are harvested by artisans to handcraft functional home products.
The items, which include tissue holders, ottomans, dinnerware, baskets, and vases, are then sold. In addition to creating more job opportunities in Africa, her company ensures present and future generations can enjoy undisturbed local waterways.
Sue Barnes established Subz, a company that supplies washable sanitary pads and undergarments to girls and young women throughout South Africa. She started the venture following a request to donate her products to females in an underserved area. Since founding Subz and patenting the idea, she has made it possible for girls to continue their education during menstruation, rather than missing up to three months of schooling each year.
Her product, which consists of panties with clips that make it easy to switch out sanitary pads, lasts five years and is given free of charge to recipients. Sue Barnes also uses her product to disburse valuable information on the female reproductive organs.
A recipient of the Anita Borg Change Agent Award, Judith Owigar was more recently named an International Focus Fellow. In an effort to grow women’s presence in the technology sector, she founded Akirachix in Kenya. The non-profit organization offers outreach programs as well as kid camps and community-building platforms that encourage more female participation in tech-related professions.
Additionally, Judith Owigar’s organization hosts training programs for women in Nairobi. Targeting those from underserved areas, the course admits 30 participants annually and educates women about programming, design, and entrepreneurship. Mentorship and internships are included.
Owner of Drakkar Ltd, Lydia Hakizimana focuses on increasing literacy rates in the country of Rwanda. She founded the company in 2006 and works to establish libraries in health care and educational institutions that provide free books to children. Lydia Hakizimana’s non-profit partners with textbook distributor Pearson to supply books at the nursery, primary, secondary, and higher education levels.
Additionally, the company sells school laboratory equipment to support science programs. Among services offered through Drakkar Ltd are teacher trainings and Drakkar Creativity Boost, an initiative that utilizes creative exercises and games to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Sidai Africa founder Christie Peacock leveraged her expertise in agriculture and livestock research and development into a service that helps Kenyan pastoralists and farmers maximize the care of their animals. This allows them to have a stable form of income and feed their families. Her company forms Sidai centers throughout Kenya.
The centers, a franchise, are staffed by livestock technicians, veterinarians, and other professionals in the agricultural sector to educate farmers about raising animals and to provide farmers with products to support their animals’ health. Christie Peacock has a goal of introducing additional products and services, which will consist of diagnostic tests, livestock insurance, vaccines, and feeds, in the future.
Juanita van der Merwe
In 2011, Juanita van der Merwe registered Little Green Number as a business. The marketing arm of Waste2Wow, the company promotes recycling billboards made of PVC and non-degradable material into fashionable and functional products. Juanita van der Merwe’s goal is to eliminate waste to preserve the planet’s health, all while creating jobs and reducing poverty among black women. With a goal of becoming a profitable commercial brand, Juanita van der Merwe and her team look to sell funky purses and bags worldwide as a registered exporter.
With history dating back to 1992, Shonaquip is led by Shona McDonald. Ms. McDonald is the first woman to establish and head a wheelchair business in Africa. Winner of the Cape Chamber of Commerce Exporter of the Year Award, she helps people with disabilities gain mobility through the use of wheelchairs and posture management systems. As a result, their quality of life is improved.
To ensure her products products meet the needs of users, she provides professional assessments, fittings, customizations, outreach clinics, and technical support and maintenance. Additionally, Shona McDonald established The Uhambo Foundation to provide a place to connect with support groups and obtain valuable resources that empower families and children living with disabilities.
Dr. Victoria Kisyombe
Recognized by the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, Dr. Victoria Kisyombe makes it possible for entrepreneurs, specifically female widows and girl business owners, to launch ventures throughout Tanzania. Through Sero Lease and Finance Ltd (SELFINA), a company she founded in 2002, she leverages micro-leasing to help others acquire land and assets, thus improving borrowers’ creditworthiness.
She supports lessees with the leasing of livestock, catering equipment, bicycles, and sewing machines, among other tangible items. Further, qualified lessees may obtain financial leases and be eligible for a sales and leaseback program, which allows a recurring customer to sell items back to SELFINA and lease them again over time. As of 2016, Dr. Victoria Kisyombe has positively influenced the livelihoods of more than 440,000 people, of whom nearly half no longer live in poverty.
Along with her colleague and co-founder Bernice Dapaah, Winnifred Selby created Afrocentric Bamboo. The company offers a form of affordable and reliable transportation that can withstand the rough and high terrains of Ghana. Ms. Selby designed the bamboo bikes as a single structure to give strength and stability to her product. Priced at $100, the bikes give owners a viable solution for traveling to work, help create jobs, and reduce harmful emissions entering the earth’s atmosphere.