Within the ever-evolving world of diverse industries, the resilience and diversity of African women shine brightly. These visionary women are at the forefront of global movements, spearheading initiatives, advocating for maternal care and actively dismantling gender inequality. They’re rewriting record books, and reminding the world that melanin magic isn’t just a hashtag — it is a living, dynamic force propelling change and innovation.
As we celebrate the impactful journey of these 20 African women in 2023, let their stories inspire a collective commitment to dismantling barriers, fostering equality, and championing a future where every industry is truly diverse, inclusive, and reflective of the richness of women’s potential. Here are 20 African Women who have rocked our world in 2023.
Asisat Oshoala — She is a Nigerian professional footballer who has gained recognition for her skill and accomplishments in the world of women’s football. She has represented Nigeria at various levels, including the youth teams and the senior national team, known as the Super Falcons. She has been a key player for the Nigerian national team, participating in several Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) tournaments and FIFA Women’s World Cups.
Her contributions to women’s football have been acknowledged through various awards. In 2023, she was a recipient of the CAF Women’s Player of the Year award, a recognition she has received multiple times.. She has not only excelled on the field but has also used her platform to advocate for the growth and development of women’s football in Africa. She serves as an inspiration to aspiring young footballers and is a symbol of success for women in sports.
Ayo Edebiri — She is a comedian, writer, producer and actress. She appeared on Comedy Central’s Up Next and co-hosts the podcast Iconography with Olivia Craighead. In 2023, Ayo was Emmy nominated for her work on FX’s The Bear and saw three films hit theaters: the raunchy high school comedy Bottoms, the gut-busting Sundance breakout mockumentary Theater Camp, and the Seth Rogen-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
Her simultaneous success in television and film in 2023 solidified her status as a rising star in the entertainment industry. Her Emmy nomination, podcast hosting, and diverse film roles collectively highlight her talent, versatility, and impact in shaping the landscape of comedy and entertainment. As a comedian, writer, producer, and actress, she continues to contribute significantly to the vibrant and ever-evolving world of entertainment.
Barbra Banda — She is a footballer and serves as a forward for Shanghai Shengli in China and leads the Zambia women’s national football team. As of July 2021, she held the record as Africa’s highest scorer in Olympic history. In 2020, she achieved a historic feat as the first female footballer in Olympic history to score consecutive hat tricks and also the first to score two hat tricks in a single tournament.
Additionally, she clinched the top scorer title in the Chinese Women’s Super League in 2020. In 2023, Barbra scored the 1,000th goal in Women’s World Cup history with her penalty kick in the 31st minute against Costa Rica.
Deniece Laurel Mauntey — She is the inaugural Executive Director of the President’s Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement in the United States. She played a pivotal role in crafting the Council’s policies. Laurent-Mantey began her career in the U.S. Department of State in 2008, providing U.S.-Africa policy recommendations to the Secretary of State. She held several roles, including Acting Deputy Director and Desk Officer in the Bureau of African Affairs, and served as a Special Assistant to Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Deniece has been recognized with Department of State awards, and in 2018, was named among the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD).
In September 2023, she became the First Executive Director of The United States’ Advisory Council on African Diaspora Engagement. The members of the council were announced by the Biden-Harris administration highlighting its aim to enhance Africa’s prosperity and strengthen the U.S.-Africa relationship.
Eva Nangalo — She is a midwife, teacher and advocate for changing childbirth in Uganda. Eva has spent the past 23 years working to make hospital deliveries more safe and common, aiming to reduce Uganda’s mortality rate which is double the global average.
She uses radio to address misconceptions in Uganda about healthcare, highlighting the risks of home births and promoting hospital deliveries due to the higher risks of fatal infection and bleeding. In 2023, she established a newborn clinic in Nakaseke, improving the safety of childbirth at the hospital and increasing the number of families served.
Hellen Obiri — She is a two-time Olympic medalist and seven-time world championships individual medalist who earlier this year won the Boston Marathon in her second-ever attempt at the distance. She also holds the Kenyan record in the 3,000 meters.
In her 2022 marathon debut in New York, Hellen finished sixth. In 2023, she won the women’s division of the New York Marathon. She also won the Boston Marathon, United Airlines NYC Half, Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, the Beach To Beacon 10K, and was the runner-up at the Mastercard New York Mini 10K.
Hilda Baci — She is a Nigerian chef, restaurateur and the former holder of the Guinness World Record for marathon cooking (Cook-athon) with 93 hours 11 minutes. She has contributed to both the culinary world and representing brands all over the world. In 2020, Hilda Baci embarked on her culinary journey, evolving from a novice chef to the creator of the renowned brand, My Food by Hilda. Through this platform, she not only exhibits her exceptional cooking prowess but also forges meaningful connections with her audience.
In addition to managing her thriving catering business, she passionately advocates for healthy eating. She actively engages in initiatives aimed at promoting healthier dietary habits among Nigerians, organizing cooking classes and workshops to impart the skills for preparing both nutritious and delectable meals. As a multifaceted individual, she stands not only as a celebrated Nigerian chef and restaurateur but also as a global ambassador, having once held the Guinness World Record for a marathon cooking session lasting 93 hours and 11 minutes earlier this year.
Julie Mehretu — She is a contemporary Ethiopian-American artist known for her large-scale abstract paintings. In 2023, Julie broke the record (twice!) for an African artwork at auction. Her “Walkers With the Dawn and Morning” (2008) sold for $10.7 million at Sotheby’s Now Evening Auction in New York – surpassing the previous record she set in October 2023.
The painting went for $9.5 million, with fees added, the final cost taking it to its record-breaking amount. This follows Julie’s recent success at Sotheby’s Hong Kong contemporary evening sale on October 5th, where her untitled 2001 diptych fetched $9.32 million (with fees), surpassing the previous record, held by South African artist Marlene Dumas in 2008.
Justina Omokhua — She is the Senior Vice President of Beyoncé‘s powerhouse film and production company, record label and management firm, Parkwood Entertainment, where she runs the day to day operations. Immediately after joining the company she dived right into the global monumental release of the Grammy-winning RENAISSANCE album. She leads a successful team at Parkwood including departments in creative, editorial, public relations and technology.
Her pivotal role in the Renaissance tour alongside Beyoncé, the highest-grossing tour in Beyoncé’s career, spanned from May 10, 2023, to October 1, 2023, highlights not only her ability to seamlessly integrate into significant projects but also her contribution to the company’s continued success on a global scale. Justina Omokhua’s role as Senior Vice President signifies her integral position in steering Parkwood Entertainment’s trajectory and reinforcing its status as a powerhouse in the entertainment industry.
Malado Kaba — She is a Guinean economist and the first female Minister of Economy and Finance of Guinea. She has worked on several development projects with the European Union and oversaw analysis of the European Commission’s partnership with South Africa related to macroeconomics and budgetary transparency.
In May 2023, Malado Kaba was appointed Director of the Gender, Women and Civil Society Department of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Nima Elbagir — She is CNN’s multi-award-winning Chief International Investigative Correspondent. Nima’s fearless reporting on human rights abuses across Africa have been directly and extensively referenced by lawmakers; the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the US-backed Saudi blockade in Yemen, the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Khartoum, the use of child labor in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and much more.
In 2023, Nima returned home to Sudan to investigate the war crimes that have occurred since Sudan’s powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces allegedly committed a massacre this summer, reviving a genocidal playbook the group and its leader used in the early 2000s.
Nelly Cheboi — She is the founder of TechLit Africa, an organization that teaches digital skills in rural primary schools, and the winner of the CNN Hero award. built a school in Kenya, called Zawadi Yetu, during her junior year of college. In 2018, she started to transport donated computers from the United States to Kenya.
TechLit Africa is headquartered in Kenya at Zawadi Yetu, where she teaches 4000 students aged 5–14 basic computer skills and redistributes recycled technology to enable the creation of computer labs in African schools. As of 2023, they have built 10 computer labs in rural Kenya and have plans for 100 more.
Nouhaila Benzina — She is a Moroccan footballer who plays as a defender for ASFAR and the Morocco women’s national team. In 2023, Nouhaila became the first player to wear a hijab at a World Cup during her team’s 1-0 victory against South Korea. She wore a white Islamic headscarf as she played the entire match in a vital victory that kept alive Morocco’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages on their World Cup debut.
This event marked a milestone not only for Nouhaila but also for inclusivity and representation in women’s football. Her presence on the field with a hijab broke barriers and challenged stereotypes, sending a powerful message about embracing diversity in the world of sports.
Ntokozo Mbambo — She is a South African gospel singer and songwriter who has made significant contributions to the music industry, particularly in the gospel genre. She has garnered recognition for her powerful and soul-stirring vocal performances, earning her a prominent place in the South African music scene.
Ntokozo is not only known for her musical talents but also for her commitment to philanthropy and community engagement. Her work extends beyond the stage as she uses her platform to address social issues and contribute to various charitable causes. In 2023, she emerged as one of the biggest winners at the SA Music Awards. She walked away with three major awards. She won the female of the year, best album of the year and contemporary faith album of the year.
Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda — She is a distinguished Gabonese politician who has been at the helm as the Vice President of the nation since January 2023, marking a historic milestone as the first woman to assume this esteemed position. Her ascendancy to the role of Vice President follows a groundbreaking term as the first female Prime Minister of Gabon, a position she held with distinction from July 2020 until January 2023.
Her journey in Gabonese politics is characterized by a series of groundbreaking achievements. As the first female Prime Minister, she demonstrated exemplary leadership and commitment to public service. Her tenure was marked by a dedication to advancing the nation’s socio-economic goals and fostering diplomatic relations on the international stage.
Temilade Openiyi (Tems) — She is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and music producer. Tems rose to prominence in the Nigerian music scene with her distinctive blend of alternative R&B, soul, and Afrobeat influences. She has been recognized beyond the borders of Nigeria, gaining attention on the international music scene. Her unique sound and ability to convey emotions through her music have earned her a growing fan base.
Beyond her musical contributions, she symbolizes a fresh wave of Nigerian artists actively elevating Afrobeat and African music worldwide. In 2023, she clinched the Best Collaboration at the BET Awards, secured the title for Most Outstanding Original Sound at the Black Reel Awards, and received her first Grammy Awards triumph this year.
Thuso Mbedu — She is a talented South African actress known for her exceptional performances in various international movies and television series. . She shot to the limelight through her breakthrough role as Winnie in the South African television series “Is’Thunzi.” Her compelling portrayal of the character dealing with societal issues earned her critical acclaim and laid the foundation for her successful career.
She further gained widespread global recognition for her role in the critically acclaimed Hollywood Blockbuster “The Woman King,” starring alongside the magnificent Viola Davis. Her portrayal of the lead character, “Nawi” earned her praise from both audiences and critics. In 2023, she received a nomination for Most Outstanding Supporting Actress for her role in “The Woman King” and was honored with the Most Outstanding Breakthrough Actress award at the Black Reel Awards.
Tyla Laura Seethal — She is a South African singer. Born and raised in Johannesburg, she signed to Epic Records in 2021 after the domestic success of her debut single “Getting Late” featuring Kooldrink. Her ascent to global recognition came with the release of her 2023 single, “Water,” propelling her into international stardom.
The track achieved top-ten status in numerous countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Remarkably, “Water” marked a historic milestone as the first song by a South African soloist to penetrate the US Billboard Hot 100 in 55 years. As of December 11, 2023, the song boasts an impressive 234 million streams on Spotify. Her achievements extend to prestigious award nominations, with recognition from the Grammy Awards, Soul Train Music Awards, and two South African Music Awards in 2023.
Yvette Teteh — She is a successful agribusiness entrepreneur and the CEO of Yvava Farms. In 2023, she became the first person to swim across the Volta River, spanning a distance of approximately 450 kilometers, from Buipe to Ada. This remarkable journey, which took her 40 days to complete, is equivalent to traveling from Accra to Kumasi.
Her swim was driven by her determination to raise awareness about the escalating water pollution issues plaguing Ghana. Throughout her journey, Yvette collected water and air samples on a daily basis, following the same protocols as the team from The Or Foundation, who were conducting similar research in Accra to raise awareness about textile pollution.
Zandile Ndhlovu — She is a Freediving Instructor and is the visionary behind The Black Mermaid Foundation, an organization dedicated to fostering diverse representation in the world of ocean exploration. Zandile’s mission revolves around orchestrating initial encounters that introduce young individuals to the wonders of the ocean. Beyond her role as a freediver, she actively engages in ocean conservation, serves as a diversity and inclusion specialist, and is a compelling speaker and storyteller.
In 2023, she advocated for increased diversity and inclusivity in ocean-related endeavors and she continues to challenge incomplete narratives by reshaping perceptions and ensuring that individuals from all backgrounds feel welcomed and represented in marine environments. Zandile is not only a freediving instructor but a catalyst for change, driven by her passion for unlocking human potential.