FOCUS: Complete List of Female African Presidents (Pictures)…

Who is the first female President in Africa?
How many female Presidents has Africa had so far?

This is one of many unknown great stories of African women. In fact, the narrative we hear often is negative, portraying African woman’s struggle and never the triumph.

This profile of African Women Heads of State aims at telling the other side of their story and most importantly inspiring today and tomorrow’s generations of African woman to be greater than those who came before then.

These are African Women Heads of State as of 2021:


1. Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan

The Vice President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, is set to be declared as the head of state following the death of the country’s president, John Magufuli on Wednesday.

2. Slyvie Kiningi, Acting President of Burundi  (February – October 1993)

The first female President in Africa was Slyvie Kiningi. She was the Prime Minister of Burundi from February 10, 1993 to October 7, 1994. During this period, she served as the acting President of the country from October 27, 1993 to February 5, 1994 when the incumbent President Melchior Ndadaye was shot together with 6 of his officials. After his death, Kiningi gathered 15 ministers to continue to govern the country. Thus, technically making her the first female president on the continent.

3. Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi, Acting President of South Africa (September 2005)

Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi also served temporarily as the acting President of South Africa when the President and his vice were out of the country for four days in September of 2005. She was also selected by the cabinet to serve as the constitutional and official head of state for an interim period of 14 hours on September 25, 2008. This was the period between the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki and the taking of office by the Kgalema Motlanthe.

4. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia (January 2006 – January 2018)

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first elected President who served two consecutive terms after winning the 2005 and 2011 Presidential elections. She had initially run for Presidential office in 1997 against Charles Taylor, but she lost. During her tenure she was also elected Chair of the Economic Community of West African States in June of 2016.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is popularly called “Africa Iron Lady”, became the first woman president in Africa in 2005.

Sirleaf who is a former international civil servant and finance minister, won a second term in 2011 and the Nobel Peace Prize the same year.

The first African woman president during her time in the office managed to maintain peace in Liberia, but her economic record was less strong and extreme poverty persists.

5. Rose Francine Rogombe, Interim President of Gabon (June 2009 – October 2009)

Rose Francine Rogombe served as interim President of Gabon from June 2009 to October 2009 after the death of President of Omar Bongo. As President of the Senate at that time, she automatically became the Head of State because she was constitutionally the first in line for presidential succession.

6. Agnes Monique Ohsan Bellepeau, Acting President of Mauritius (March – July 2012 and May – June 2015)

Agnes Monique Ohsan Bellepeau was the Acting President of Mauritius from March 31, 2012 – July 21, 2012. This was the transition period between the resignation of President Anerood Jugnauth to the inauguration of the new President Kailash Purryag. She served again as Acting President between the resignation of Purryag and the inauguration of the new President, Ameenah Gurib from May 29, 2015 – June 5, 2015.

7. Joyce Hilda Banda, President of Malawi (April 2012 – May 2014)

Joyce Hilda Banda served as President of Malawi from April 7, 2012 to May 31, 2014 following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. She was the country’s fourth President. She was also the country’s first female Vice President (May 2009 to April 2012). In 2014, Forbes named President Banda as the 40th most powerful woman in the world and the most powerful woman in Africa.

Banda departed from Malawi in 2014 after losing the presidential election and facing questioning over a corruption scandal known as “Cashgate”.

She later returned to Malawi after four years in exile.

8. Catherine Samba, Acting President of Central African Republic (January 2014 – March 2016)

Samba-Panza who is a legal practitioner was elected in 2014 as transition president when the country was in the grip of a civil war.

Catherine Samba Panza was the Acting Head of State of the Central African Republic from 2014 to 2016. She became interim President when rebel leader Michael Djotodia resigned from his self appointed Presidency. Before she took on this role, she was the mayor of  the capital city Bangui from 2013 to 2014. She held the post until 2016. She contested for presidency in 2020 but lost the electoral process to the incumbent.

Ceremonial Presidents:

9. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of Mauritius (June 2015 – March 2018)

In Mauritius the world-renowned biologist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was elected by the National Assembly in 2015, following the resignation of then President Kailash Purryag. She was unanimously elected President by the National Assembly. becoming the first woman to hold the largely ceremonial role in the archipelago.

Implicated in a financial scandal, she resigned in 2018.

10. Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia ( October 2018 – Present)

Sahle-Work Zewde, the diplomat, is the first elected female President of Ethiopia and currently the only female out of  the 54 Presidents in Africa. She took office on October 25, 2018 after being unanimously elected by members of the National Parliamentary Assembly. Prior to her election as President, she worked as Special Representative of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union.

These African women Heads of State stand on the shoulders of many female giants, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten, who came before them. These include for example, but not limited to the Dahomey Amazons of Benin, an all-female military regiment on whose shoulders stand many women serving in armed services and law enforcement.

The contribution of women to what Africa is today is unquestionable. However, the recovery from the disruptive and brutal colonization and slave trade has been very slow. Partially, African leaders mostly male who mismanaged, abused and continue to abuse their power since the end of colonization equally share the blame for disempowering African women whose contribution is unequivocally needed to build a more prosperous, just and peaceful Africa.

Written by Adwoa Ohemeng, edited by Ntama Bahati, Newsonspot.com.ng

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