Nora Bannerman, 3 other African female business leaders list among 20 in IFC Publication

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Four women from Sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, are among 20 female business leaders profiled in a publication by IFC—a member of the World Bank Group—for their professional success, despite facing formidable challenges.

The publication, Trailblazers–Portraits of Female Business Leadership in Emerging and Frontier Markets, highlights the personal and professional journeys of female business leaders from emerging and frontier markets that include Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. These women, through their leadership, have helped create new markets and add business value for their organizations, giving a boost to their communities and national economies.

  • Ghana’s Nora Bannerman turned a lifelong passion—fashion design—into a thriving enterprise. Bannerman now employs 120 workers to produce high-end garments for international retailers.
  • Kenya’s Wambui Mbesa grew up in a children’s home but made education a priority and now is the CEO of INTRASOFT International East Africa.
  • South Africa’s Soula Proxenos fought against racial injustice and gender bias from an early age—today she is a professional board director, guiding companies toward more equitable practices.
  • Uganda’s Anne Kabagambe credits her family for helping her overcome personal challenges; now she works as Executive Director of the World Bank Group, representing the interests of 22 African nations.

A recent IFC study of women on company boards in Ghana found that more gender-diverse boards tend to demonstrate higher performance—reflected by returns on assets and growth in sales. Yet, nearly one quarter of Ghanaian companies have no women on their boards. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, women hold an average of 14 percent of board positions, while globally women hold only 15 percent of board seats and 4 percent of CEO and board chair positions.
“These women are relatable role models who, by their example, will motivate other professional women to push for more, and encourage male colleagues to champion greater diversity,” said Her Excellency, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, First Lady of Ghana, who delivered the keynote address at the launch event.

In addition to the four women from Sub-Saharan Africa, the list includes female business leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, China, Egypt, India, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Myanmar, Panama, Turkey, Vietnam, and Yemen. They represent a range of industry experience, from information technology to shipping, from healthcare to development finance.

“By their examples, these trailblazers show that investing in business leadership for women is good business, that gender diversity at the top yields dividends for companies, communities, and economies,” said Ronke-Amoni Ogunsulire, IFC Country Manager for the Ghana sub-region. “That’s why IFC works to narrow gender gaps in business leadership—part of our strategy for inclusive and sustainable private sector growth.”

The publication, from IFC’s Women on Boards and in Business Leadership program, is part of IFC’s multi-faceted gender strategy, which includes building a pipeline of qualified women leaders in the regions where IFC operates. The goal is to accelerate the pace at which women in emerging and frontier markets join boards and assume C-suite positions.

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