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Getting African Women into the Boardroom

In recent years, African women have made great strides in getting their voices heard in politics and government. It is time for businesses within the region and around the world to embrace this trend and bring more African women into their executive teams and their boardrooms.

EBENE, MAURITIUS – By 2050, one-quarter of the world’s population will be African, which means that one in eight people will be an African woman. Yet, within the continent, let alone internationally, Africa’s women lack the economic clout their numbers might suggest. That disconnect has severe adverse implications for Africa’s prospects. In fact, the only way to tap Africa’s full potential is by dramatically improving women’s representation in the workplace, including in senior executive roles.

The contribution women can make to Africa’s future should be obvious. Worldwide, consumer spending – which is growing three times faster in emerging markets than in developed economies – is largely controlled by women. This implies a powerful incentive for companies to bring more women into their decision-making processes.

Yet, even as the number of women sitting on the boards of global companies rises, progress is slow, and African women have been largely left out – with notable exceptions, such as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank managing director, who was appointed to the board of Twitter last year, undoubtedly because of the platform’s growing popularity in Africa. But Okonjo-Iweala is an outlier – few African women hold similarly influential positions at global corporations.

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