International Women’s Day (8 March 2023) was celebrated in style with the return of an in-person FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit which took place at SunBet Arena, Time Square in Pretoria, South Africa. Ministers, ambassadors, Grammy award winners, human rights activists, international sports stars, and the continent’s game changers took to the stage to share their insights around this year’s theme Women 3.0: The Icons and Ideas Shaping Africa.
Presented by McDonald’s, in association with The Macallan and Coca-Cola, supported by Lucara Diamonds Botswana, Access Bank, Avon, and The ROOM, in partnership with CNBC Africa and Jacaranda FM, the summit welcomed delegates from all corners of Africa, and the globe, for a full day of great networking opportunities, thought-provoking content, and a free flow of ideas, with more than 50 women sharing ground-breaking insights, concluding with the prestigious 2023 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Awards.
Renuka Methil, Managing Editor, FORBES AFRICA and FORBES WOMAN AFRICA, welcomed attendees on the day with some powerful words: “They’re all here, the artists, the entrepreneurs, the raconteurs, each with a moving story of grit, gumption, and gravitas… These are the icons here today representing a generation of female leaders advancing and changing our societies now, and in the future. They’re leading a paradigm shift, entering a new era of revolution, as the next step of development on the continent.
“Together, as this conclave of leading women – with the pandemic still lingering as a very bad memory in our immediate history, the war still raging in another part of the world, and climate dystopia at our doorstep – let us ignite historic shifts for a common future. Ideas can’t win if they’re not heard, and in this room today, we will hear them, we will back them, and we will live them with courage, conviction and curiosity.”
The summit welcomed Dr Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, who delivered a riveting opening address, highlighting the need to address female repression: “The Leading Women Summit creates a platform for women’s social, political, economic and cultural rights. It is important to recognise where there has been progress, because if you live on the basis that nothing has been achieved, you actually reduce the energy to strive. So, it’s always important to give recognition to advancements. Despite the positive sentiments, there exists in our country and worldwide, terrible levels of gender inequality and brutal repression of women and girls.”
This year’s In-the-Spotlight sessions inspired, with women of all ages and walks of life sharing their life journeys. Taking the title of this year’s youngest speaker was singer, equestrian, and aspiring model Singhita (15).
Joining her in the spotlight segment was Lehlogonolo Mashaba, the South African LGBTQI activist and first trans woman to participate in the national pageantry in 2021 and 2022; as well as the visionary twin sisters, Matlhogonolo and Masego Mphahlele, who discovered Digital X-ray Glasses to diagnose injuries quicker. Another powerful voice for the youth – and the planet – was Ayakha Melithafa (20), South African climate activist, Founder of the Ayakha Melithafa Foundation, and the youngest commissioner on the Presidential Climate Commission in South Africa.
This year’s summit also welcomed Grammy award-winning musicians, Wouter Kellerman and Nomcebo Zikode, fresh from receiving the award for their work on Bayethe. After a powerful talk about her journey from humble beginnings, and of never losing hope, Nomcebo moved the audience with a live performance of her global hit, Jerusalema.
South Africa’s biggest influencers in the entertainment industry were well represented on the day with comedian and media personality, Tumi Morake sharing her impactful message about honouring the women in one’s life. Tumi, the first African female stand-up comedian to have her own special on Netflix, commented:
“These strong women in our lives that support us are sent to you so you can be who you can be – how I got here is, I know the power of women.” Before ending with the powerful truth: “Africa is not the beginning, it’s where we are going.”
Women from all sectors also tackled hard-hitting topics through panel discussions, starting with the topic The Landscape of Modern Wealth: Investing in The Missing Middle. During this engagement, Edna Montse, Group Chief: Transformation & Sustainability Officer, African Bank explained that managing financiers play a crucial role in financial literacy and financial inclusion, by asking how they could be reaching out to all corners.
Under the topic Money Knows No Gender: The Hustle and Heart of the Emerging Entrepreneur, Vimbai Masiyiwa, Executive Director, Batoka Hospitality, Tanzania, shared her personal insights, saying: “If we’re going to exist in this space, our role in this industry is to transform the communities we exist in. So, for me, purpose-driven entrepreneurship is why I do what I do.”
The metaverse and blockchain; emerging entrepreneurs; the West African Renaissance; the mining, liquor, and beauty industries all formed part of this year’s panel topics addressed by leaders in the field. These included Amina J Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; Pan-African feminist and Tunisian diplomat, Aya Chebbi; Yvonne Themba, Chief People Officer at McDonald’s South Africa; and Patricia Obozuwa Vice President: Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Coca-Cola Africa.
Naseem Banu Lahri, MD of Lucara, Botswana – the first woman to serve in this capacity for a diamond mining company in Botswana, and the youngest female MD in mining in the world – joined the panel titled Never Mined? Gender Imbalance in the Mining & Energy Sectors. Changing perspectives for women breaking into the industry, she advised audiences not to consider it a ‘male-dominated’ industry, but rather a ‘male-populated’ industry that needs to make room for powerful women.
For more information, visit https://leadingwomensummit.co.za/. Alternatively, you can follow us on social media @LWSummit, #LWS2023.