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Ten richest female Africans to watch

THERE was a time in Africa, years ago, when men controlled all the wealth. The male folk were the exclusive owners of land and property, and the women simply had to be content with the crumbs the men threw their way.

Report by Forbes.com
Not anymore! These days, an elite group of industrial, entrepreneurial African women control a significant portion of the continental wealth.


While no African woman can lay claim to billionaire status, there is an ever-increasing club of African women with eight-figure fortunes to boot. Some of them have built corporations from scratch; others inherited fortunes from successful parents.

Here are ten incredibly wealthy African women you need to know.
Wendy Appelbaum, South Africa.

Source: Insurance

Appelbaum is the only daughter of South African tycoon Donald Gordon. She previously served as a director at Liberty Investors, an insurance and real estate firm her father founded, and was one of the company’s largest individual shareholders. She went on to sell her shares and became cash rich.
Along with her husband, she purchased DeMorgenzon, a wine estate in Stellenbosch. She was also a co-founder and deputy chairwoman of Women’s Investment Portfolio Limited (Wiphold), an investment company entirely controlled by women. Wiphold has over US$150 million in assets.
Appelbaum has donated over US$23 million to fund the creation of the Gordon Institute of Business Science and the Donald Gordon Medical Centre. She is the chair of the South African Women’s Professional Golfers’ Association.

Mama Ngina Kenyatta, Kenya

Source: Land, banking and media
Mama Ngina Kenyatta is a widow of Kenya’s first president, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. New findings reveal that she (not her son, Uhuru Kenyatta) controls some of the largest privately-held land holdings in the country.
Between the 1960s and the 1970s, when he was president, Jomo Kenyatta acquired huge chunks of land at dirt cheap prices when the British colonial government and the World Bank funded a settlement transfer fund scheme which enabled government officials and privileged Kenyans to purchase land from the British. Mama Ngina controls some 500 000 acres of Kenyan land as the average price of US$1 000 per acre.

Mama Ngina and her family also own Brookside Dairies, Kenya’s largest dairy company, and stakes in Kenyan Television station K24, a timber production company and Commercial Bank of Africa.

Hajia Bola Shagaya, Nigeria

Source: Oil, banking, real estate, photography
One of Nigeria’s wealthiest businesswomen, Shagaya is the founder and CEO of Bolmus Group International — a diversified Nigerian conglomerate with 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 priciest neighbourhoods for which clients pay as much as US$180 000 per annum apiece as rent. She also serves on the board and has a significant minority stake in Unity Bank, a Nigerian commercial bank.
Shagaya is reputedly very close to Nigeria’s first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan and former Nigerian military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida.

Isabel dos Santos, Angola

Source: Investments
Isabel, a daughter of Angola’s president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is one of the continent’s wealthiest women.
At the age of 24, she leveraged her father’s position to corner lucrative state contracts such as the exclusive rights to cleaning and disinfecting Luanda and other cities. She earned her first millions from such contracts, then went on to establish herself as a savvy investor by gobbling up stakes in blue chips such as Portuguese media giant Zon Multimedia (she acquired a 10% stake in 2009 for US$180 million). She increased her shareholding this year, snatching up another 5% of the company to become the media company’s largest individual shareholder.
Isabel (39), also owns a 19,5% stake in Portuguese bank Banco Português de Investimento.
Folorunsho Alakija, Nigeria

Source: Oil
The 61-year-old Nigerian businesswoman is a co-founder and director of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company which owns a 50% stake in Oil Mining License (OML) 127, one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocs. Daily production of OML 127 currently stands at about 35 000 barrels per day (bpd), but it could potentially churn out as much as 200 000 bpd in the near future.

Bridgette Radebe, South Africa
Source: Mining
An elder sister to South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe, Radebe is the founder of Mmakau mining, a Johannesburg-based junior mining firm with key mining assets in coal, gold, uranium and platinum.


She got a start in the early 1990s managing shafts, producing and procuring for larger mining firms in South Africa. She is president of the South African Mining Development Association and is a co-founder of New Africa Mining Fund, a private equity firm committed to making investments in mining firms across sub-Saharan Africa. She is married to South Africa’s Justice Minister, Jeff Radebe.
Sharon Wapnick, South Africa
Her father, fabled businessman Alec Wapnick, founded Octodec Investments and Premium Properties, two property loan stock companies listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange. Sharon is one of the top five largest shareholders in each of these companies, and her shares are believed to be worth over US$40 million.
In October 2011, Wapnick became the non-executive chairwoman of Octodec, taking over from her father. She is also a partner at TWB Attorneys, a prominent commercial law firm based in Johannesburg.

Irene Charnley, South Africa
The one-time trade unionist made a name for herself as a negotiator for the National Union of Mineworkers in South Africa before taking up a plum job as an executive director at MTN, Africa’s largest mobile telecommunications firm.

She played a key role in facilitating the company’s rapid and successful expansion across Africa and negotiated for licenses in Nigeria and Iran. In return for her efforts, MTN’s board awarded her stock options worth US$150 million. She left MTN in 2007 and went on to found Smile Telecoms, which aims to provide mobile telecommunications to lower-income earners across Africa.

Pamela Golding, South Africa

Source: Real estate
In 1976, Golding founded the Pam Golding Property Group with no start-up capital and only one sales assistant. Today, Pam Golding is South Africa’s largest independent residential and commercial real estate agency.
The company has over 2 500 professionals across the globe and records about US$2 billion in annual turnover. Golding has retired from active management in the company, but still remains chairwoman.

Elisabeth Bradley, South Africa

In 1961 Bradley’s father, Albert Wessels, cornered the exclusive distributorship of Toyota in South Africa. The operation was subsequently called Toyota South Africa, and Wesco Investments, a holding company which Bradley (74) chairs, owned 58% of the company.

In 2008 she sold 25% of Wesco’s stake in the company to Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp for US$320 million. She reportedly pocketed US$150 million for herself. Bradley also serves as vice-chairwoman of Toyota South Africa Limited and serves on the board of AngloGold, Standard Bank group and Hilton Hotel.

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