What a year it has been! Since its launch in March,Ventures Woman has shared stories of inspiring women making headway in Africa’s dynamic economic environment. Despite significant economic and political upheavals in many African countries, these women, and many more unnamed, have striven  pushed and broken down barriers to succeed in many industries, particularly male-dominated industries. These pioneers have gained national and international recognition for their work and found ways to give back to their local communities, inspiring younger African women to follow in their footsteps. Looking back over the year, Ventures Africa presents  seven of Africa’s most innovative business women for the year 2012.

Divine Ndhlukuka

Founder and Managing Director of Zimbabwe’s first ISO certified Security Company SECURICO Divine Ndhlukula is a pioneer in the securities industry. Securico currently leads the industry in providing customised security services and electronic solutions. Divine has taken the company from a small cottage business to a $13 million business with over 3,400 employees, 900 of whom are women. She received the prestigious Legatum Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship in recognition of her outstanding work.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is the founder and Managing Director of soleRebels (Bostex PLC) here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The company began as a means of creating hope for impoverished Ethiopian communities. By harnessing local artisan skills and products to produce high-quality shoes that can be exported to a global market, soleRebels has created jobs and a ready market for Ethiopia’s natural resources. The young entrepreneur is gradually turning soleRebels into a globally recognised brand.

Rapelang Rabana

Rapelang Rabana has been listed on Oprah’s 2012 ‘O’ Power List, mentioned by CNN and is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, all before the age of 30. Rapelang is a founding partner of Yeigo Communications, a company that provides mobile VoIP solutions for clients. Seeking to address the issue of cost of communication in a time when costs ran high for the average user, they developed of some of the earliest mobile phone VoIP applications.

Siza Mzimela

The first woman to be appointed to the Board of Directors of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 67 years, Mzimela has left her mark on the continent’s aviation industry. She is the first CEO of South African Airways and previously held the position of CEO of South African Express Airways. She is a board member of SA Tourism and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Mzimela was named a finalist in South Africa’s Nedbank Businesswoman of the Year Award 2002.

Tabitha Karanja

Tabitha Mukami Muigai-Karanja is the Founder and CEO of Keroche Breweries, the first Kenyan-owned beer manufacturer. In a field traditionally dominated by powerful multinational companies and men, Karanja broke into the industry after 87 years, becoming the country’s first home-grown beer manufacturer. After facing severe, sometimes life-threatening competition, government opposition and inadequate financial support, Keroche Industries now owns 20 percent of Kenya’s beer market and has set its sights on tackling the soft drink industry following a round of capital investment.

Folorunsho Alakija 

Mrs Alakija was recently named the richest woman in the world, even above Oprah Winfrey. 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.  A fashion pioneer in her day, Alakija is also a dedicated philanthropist: she founded and funds the Rose Of Sharon Foundation, a Christian charity which provides support to widows and orphans across Nigeria.

Bridgette Radebe

Winner of the International Businessperson of the Year Award from the Global Foundation for Democracy and first black woman to own a mining company, Bridgette Radebe is the President of South African Mining Development Association. She started out working in mines and went on to successfully found Mmakau Mining, a mining firm with assets in gold, platinum, coal, chrome and uranium. She skilfully navigated racial and gender prejudice to achieve great success. – VENTURES AFRICA

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