By Fiona Wakelin 

Looking at the list of the richest women in Africa, what is striking is that acquiring billionaire status does not happen overnight. Everyone featured here has spent a lifetime investing in, and growing, their entrepreneurial empires. Silver hair and gold in the bank!



Topping the list of wealthy powerhouses in Africa is:
Folorunsho Alakija – a Nigerian billionaire


Fifty years ago Folorunsho started out in the fashion industry and today her business interests include real estate, oil and gas and printing. She is the owner of several groups of companies including Dayspring Property Development Company Limited, a real estate company which owns properties around the globe, as well as Rose of Sharon Prints and Promotions. Folorunsho is also Executive Director of FAMFA Oil, her family-owned oil production company.


Next is:
Ngina Kenyatta – the mother of current Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta


Nearing her ninth decade, Ngina Kenyatta is a billionaire with a portfolio which includes investments, banking, media and the dairy industry. “Mama Kenyatta” has a 24.91% share in the Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) – she also owns shares in Media Max, a media company that owns K24 TV, Kameme Radio, and The People newspaper.


Third place goes to:
Hajia Bola Shagaya who also hails from Nigeria


With a current net worth of almost a billion US, Hajia Bola started out as an auditor for the Central Bank of Nigeria and then her entrepreneurial verve kicked in! She started an empire by importing Konica photographic equipment for resale. Nearly 40 years later she is CEO of Bolmus Group International with interests in oil, real estate, banking, and photography. Hajia founded Practoil Limited, and in 2005 became its managing director. Today Practoil is one of the largest importer and distributors of base oil in Nigeria today.

4th and 5th places are held by South African powerhouses:

Wendy Appelbaum is the richest woman in South Africa and the 4th wealthiest on the continent


Wendy Appelbaum is the daughter of Liberty Group founder Donald Gordon and the owner and Chair of De Morgenzon Wine Estate. Previously, Wendy also served as the Deputy-Chairman of the Women’s Investment Portfolio Limited (Wiphold Limited), which is a renowned women’s investment holding company that is listed on JSE. Overall, Wendy is also a director of Sphere Holdings (Pty) Ltd, which is a black empowerment company addressing financial services in mining sectors. In 2015, she was awarded both the Forbes Woman Businesswoman of the Year, and the Forbes Africa Woman of the Year.


Wendy Ackerman –FMCG powerhouse


Wendy Ackerman is one of the founders and an Executive Director of Pick ‘n Pay Stores. Along with her husband Raymond Ackerman, Wendy has been a tremendous force in building up one of South Africa’s leading FMCG retailers, which, to date, consists of over 450 stores, with the inclusion of 121 supermarkets and 14 hypermarkets. The company extends its food and retail services across South Africa, southern Africa and even Australia, and has employed an estimated 49,000 people over the years. Wendy received an Inyathelo Award for her family’s philanthropic efforts in 2007.

A Cautionary Tale

For many years Isabel Dos Santos, daughter of Angolan President, José Eduardo dos Santos, topped the list as the richest woman in Africa. Currently in self-imposed exile in Dubai she is embroiled in legal battles while watching her empire implode.