Redifining Leadership in Africa

Heading a team of people in the UK, France, Kenya and Senegal, Mariéme is the President of SpotOne Global Solutions Group.

Mariéme was born in Senegal, studied in France, and gained her MBA in Corporate Technology and Business Development at Surrey University, UK. Mariéme has worked with Citibank, JP Morgan, LTSB and for technology companies including Primavera INC (now part of Oracle).

Spot One Global specialises in helping technology companies in Africa, Europe and America to develop their business, enter new markets, find partners in new territories and win new profitable business.

“Unlike most business development and telemarketing companies, we focus on technology markets. This gives us the vital knowledge to really accelerate your growth and take you into new territories.”

“This is our mantra – we use the right skills to achieve the right results by targeting the right people with the right messages.”

AFRICAN WOMEN ARE REDEFINING LEADERSHIP IN AFRICA

Contrary to what some might believe, women in Africa have played a prominent role in the continent’s history for centuries; take Queen Nzinga M’Bandi of N’Dongo, who ruled what is now Angola as far back as 1623.

Just like countries in the more developed world, the continent of Africa has always relied on the leadership of strong women at all levels in society and the empowerment and development of the female population for its economic growth. Today, without effective female leadership in Africa and a social and economic framework in which all women have the opportunity to fulfill their true potential, achieving real equality and sustainable development will be impossible.

The status of women in many African countries is now improving. We are in a period of flux and experimentation where opportunities for African women are beginning to increase as governments see the advantages of creating ways for women to contribute their skills and talents to nation-building in all areas of life.

After centuries in which most of Africa has been dominated by the rule of men, women from all walks of life across the continent are now raising their voices and finding new ways to be heard. Women leaders are making a difference in their communities, working together, mentoring and bringing real change to businesses, to the agricultural and retail sectors, to politics and to management. In Africa, women are not only driving the economy — working on construction sites, in factories and as truck and taxi drivers — they are also filling the ranks of government. Take Rwanda for example, where 56% of MPs are women, and Mozambique, where almost 40% of the parliament is composed of women. This is cause for celebration.

African governments need to shed old habits and start accepting women in positions of genuine responsibility and power that were previously the preserve of men. As more women gain access to high-level positions in Africa, we would hope to see not only less war and corruption, but also better governance. There needs to be more openness to exploring innovative ideas from women, encouraging social entrepreneurship and educating women in information and communication technologies.

Getting women into key positions is critical in Africa because women in public office – although there are obviously exceptions – tend to be more sensitive to the needs of female citizens. There needs to be more recognition of African women’s ability to make constructive contributions to government. Although occupying top government posts does not necessarily translate in to influence, it can help to shore up ordinary people’s trust in their governments.

There are exciting developments afoot in education, where an ever-growing number of women are studying information and communication technologies, thereby gaining high-level credentials so they too can be part of building the modern economies their countries need to move forward. This is incredibly rewarding to witness. During my recent visits to Africa, I have seen real change taking place, fueled by passion, determination and enthusiasm.

The lives of many 21st century African women are already undergoing radical transformation. Their thirst for progress is encouraging them to redefine standards in cities, towns and villages. They are beginning to demand that their voices be heard. We need to seize and build on the growing acceptance in Africa of the idea that women can become successful leaders. History has demonstrated that African women are literally born to lead: from a young age they run communities, look after their families and raise children in very difficult and unbalanced circumstances. For example in Rwanda, where despair might be considered an understandable reflex after the horrors of the genocide, African women are rising to the challenge, helping to build civil society, creating schools, non-governmental organizations, working in community support and health projects. Elsewhere too, women are negotiating for peace in war-torn nations, changing or promoting the abandonment of harmful religious customs and rituals, and demanding a seat at the table as governments attempt to develop viable institutions. They are making themselves heard.

In order for Africa to sustain the momentum that is seeing more and more women explore their potential and take leadership positions, we must focus on improving women’s economic prospects and ensuring that girls have the right to basic education, which is essential in the long-term fight to eliminate problems like HIV-AIDS and poverty. Without such efforts, women will continue to remain victims of rape, polygamy, and physical violence and continue to suffer from the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Africa’s development and future stability is inextricably linked to the growing empowerment of the continent’s women, and we need to help them – by using social media for example – to align themselves with other women around the world. We must not forget however, that in some parts of Africa women are voiceless due to poverty, social and cultural situations, poor access to education and a general lack of opportunity. Most of these women live in rural areas of Africa, where they look after 80% of the agricultural land. In these areas, agriculture – and child rearing of course – is their core expertise. Without pressuring law-makers to unblock resources from national funds and put in place the necessary means and policies to support these and other African women, their voices will not be heard.

But although much progress still needs to be made, Africa is already full of women leaders. At the grass-roots, women in small villages across the continent are honing their entrepreneurial skills and helping their communities by buying and selling goods, while a new generation of young Africans are emerging who are studying law, accounting, business and communications technology. Others are even entering politics and challenging the status quo. Higher-profile examples are the Zambian author Dambisa Moyo (Dead Aid), the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Angelique Kidjo, the Grammy-award winning singer from Benin who has recently spoken out against violence against women in Africa.

Across the board therefore, but more often than not out of the media spotlight, a growing number of African women are steadily becoming more visible in the day-to-day running of African affairs at all levels in society. Often deprived of the possibilities offered to their peers in the rest of the world, these women need our encouragement and support to ensure that they have the resources and the experience to use their power to affect meaningful change. The ball is rolling; we must make sure the momentum is not lost.

Africa’s well-being and future prosperity depend on it.

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