first female president ethiopia EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP/Getty Image

The Feminization of African Politics

Ethiopia and Rwanda are leading African governments' efforts to boost gender parity in politics, but other countries on the continent are not far behind. These countries' deliberate policies are essential not only for the sake of fairness, but also for ensuring Africa’s long-term prosperity.

BAMAKO/TORONTO – Last month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed a new cabinet; ten of the 20 positions went to women. One week later, the country’s parliament unanimously elected Sahle-Work Zewde to become Ethiopia’s first female president, and a week after that, lawmakers appointed Meaza Ashenafi to serve as the first female Supreme Court president.

Ethiopia is not alone. Rwandan President Paul Kagame installed a new gender-balanced cabinet last month. Rwanda already had the world’s highest percentage of women in a national parliament; now, the country will have even more female leaders.

While Ethiopia and Rwanda are at the forefront of Africa’s push for gender parity in politics, other African countries are not far behind. Six of the world’s 20 top countries in terms of the share of legislative seats held by women are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in two African countries toward the bottom of the global list – Nigeria and Mali – politicians are currently discussing ways to increase female representation.

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