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The Women who Lead the World

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The world’s most powerful woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has a lot on her mind these days: Mediterranean migrants, Russian sanctions, homegrown spying scandals, Eurozone stability and the Germanwings crash, to name a few pressing issues. One thing she surely isn’t thinking about — but we are — is that come next year’s U.S. elections, she could lose her title for the first time since 2010 to the one person with a credible and mathematical chance of “leading” the world.

Hillary Clinton has appeared on this FORBES ranking every year since it launched in 2004 as, in order, a senator, secretary of state and influential personality. In 2015, Clinton is No. 2, just a breath and a ballot away from the Most Powerful Woman crown.

This is FORBES’ definitive annual audit of the foremost heads of state, iconic entrepreneurs and CEOS, celebrity role models, billionaire activists, and pioneer philanthropists, all ranked by money, media momentum, spheres of influence and impact.

This year’s top 10: Merkel and Clinton followed by Melinda Gates, Janet Yellen, Mary Barra, Christine Lagarde, Dilma Rousseff, Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Wojcicki and Michelle Obama.

The most powerful women in politics, philanthropy, business and tech are Merkel, Gates, Barra and Sandberg, respectively. Our top ranking billionaire this year is Oprah Winfrey at No. 12, who has a personal net worth of $3 billion. Ana Patricia Botin, the newly installed chair of Banco Santander, is the top woman in finance at No. 18. Beyoncé Knowles leads in the entertainment field at No. 21, while Anna Wintour, Conde Nast artistic director, reigns over the media sector at No. 28.

The concept of power can be nebulous – especially when it comes to gender. As of January 2015, 10 women served as heads of state and 14 as heads of government. Women currently hold 23 (4.6%) of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies. Of a total 1,826 global billionaires, 197 are women – 11% of the total. Only 9% of executive officers in Silicon Valley are women.

That these wretched stats continue year after year is a serious and pressing issue. But there’s hardly a void of powerful women – and the numbers are growing. That is, if we enlarge our focus from only those who possess the greatest wealth or the heaviest corporate hammer to include the women whose influence and impact may be greater than the sum of their titles.

The headlines remind us whenever another woman gets the top job. Examples: GM’s Mary Barra, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, IMF head Christine Lagarde. But the fact that a great many of the women on this list are not the pointy head of the pyramid –such as Facebook’s Sandberg and Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, or Gwynne Shotwell, COO of SpaceX, and Apple’s Angela Ahrendts – doesn’t dim their enormous clout. They appear on this list because they illustrate a new math– it turns out you don’t need to be No. 1 to be a Most Powerful.

The 2015 power women list features eight heads of state (plus one monarch) who run nations with a combined GDP of $9.1 trillion with over 600 million citizens –including the newly elected Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz. The 24 corporate CEOs control nearly $1 trillion in annual revenues, and 18 of the women here founded their own companies or foundations, including our youngest self-made billionaire, Elizabeth Holmes, 31. Speaking of, this year’s class has 15 billionaires with cumulative net worth of nearly $75 billion. The total social media footprint (Twitter, YouTube) of all 100 Power Women is nearly 475 million followers and fans.

 

Newcomers: Nineteen are new to the list in 2015. Ana Patricia Botin, the new chair of Banco Santander, makes a strong showing at No. 18. Other names to know: Google CFO Ruth Porat, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, power pop star Taylor Swift, and top venture capitalist Jenny Lee of GGV Capital.

 

Hall of Fame: Seven women who appeared on the inaugural list in 2004 are still here today: Melinda Gates, Christine Lagarde, Hillary Clinton and Indra Nooyi. Also, of course, Oprah, Queen Elizabeth II, and Ho Ching.

 

She’s the first: Nearly half the women featured here are “female firsts”, such as GM’s Barra, the most world’s most powerful businesswoman, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen, the top global state banker. Drew Gilpin Faust is the first female president of Harvard, Folorunsho Alakija is the first self-made African billionaire, and Sara Blakely was the first female self-made billionaire to sign The Giving Pledge, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s bid to encourage the world’s richest to give at least half their wealth to charity. And then there’s Hillary Clinton. Her CV is chock full of firsts: The only first lady to become a U.S. senator turned secretary of state turned presidential candidate x 2. Now a 2016 candidate, bets are on that she may be the first woman elected to the Oval Office.

Women in tech: Technology takes a fourth turn as a category on the Power Women list. Out of 18 in total, seven tech women made the top 25 this year, including Sandberg, YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki, IBM’s Ginni Rometty, HP’s Meg Whitman and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

 

The rising tide of female entrepreneurs: A remarkable number of women are founders or owners of their own enterprises, not a few of whose eponymous companies are synonymous with high fashion. Consider Miuccia Prada, Tory Burch and Diane von Furstenberg. Other self-made self-starters include Winfrey, Alibaba’s cofounder Lucy Peng, billionaire founder-CEO Elizabeth Holmes, Chinese real estate tycoon Zhang Xin, and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, India’s first biotech entrepreneur.

 

Geographic diversity: More than half of the women (59) on the list are American, including immigrants such as von Furstenberg (Belgium), Ambassador Samantha Power (Ireland), Weili Dai (China), Donna Langley (UK), and Padmasree Warrior (India). Asia-Pacific citizens make the second strongest showing at 18. Latin America and the Middle East have four regionals on the list, and there are 12 Europeans and three Africans with a slot.

 

The new celebrity role models: Sure, they’re famous but they deserve special attention outside their day job. Oprah founded both Harpo Productions and The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Joining the efforts of the U.N. are Angelina Jolie, Shakira and Yao Chen, the Refugee Agency’s Goodwill Ambassador in China. Taylor Swift donated five figures to the New York City Department of Education from sales of “Welcome to New York”, and promises to continue to give as long as the song sells. Entertainers making a mint as entrepreneurs include Beyoncé and Sofia Vergara.

 

Notable drop-offs: The surge in newcomers means 19 women are off the list from last year, among them Margaret Hamburg, Amy Pascal, Maria as Gracas Silva Foster, Gail Kelly, Helene Gayle, Patricia Woertz and Joyce Banda, all out of their former jobs. Celebrities Lady Gaga and Gisele Bundchen are gone, having fallen in influence/impact below the 100 line. The same is true for Chua Sock Koong, Sun Yafang, Jennifer Li, Hu Shuli and Fatima Al Jaber.

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Enterprise And Traceable Tea From Tanzania

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Tahira Nizari; images supplied

How this Tanzanian entrepreneur’s tea startup is weathering the Covid-19 storm.

When Tahira Nizari started her social enterprise Kazi Yetu in Tanzania’s bustling city, Dar es Salaam, with her business partner and husband, Hendrik Buermann, almost two years ago, she didn’t anticipate the sheer scope of her big idea.

But she also didn’t expect that, because of an employee’s exposure to the coronavirus in April, she and her entire team would be quarantining for two weeks, stalling work in a year that she had projected growth for her company. With the pandemic’s onset, she lost most of her customer base in Tanzania, albeit temporarily, and was forced to come up with a game-plan and quickly pivot.

“It’s been an economic recession overnight, more or less,” says Nizari.

With family roots in Tanzania, and armed with formal degrees from Dubai and Canada, and experience in economic inclusion in the non-profit development sector, Nizari aimed to set a benchmark in the agribusiness sector in Tanzania through value-addition and by employing local women in her factory based in Dar es Salaam to produce “a traceable product” for the local and international market.

“Right now, tea is just exported in bulk completely (from Tanzania) and then all the jobs thereafter in that value chain are done abroad. So what we said was ‘let’s redistribute that job creation, let’s bring it back to Tanzania and let’s create a facility in which we can hire workers all locally and have a product that is 100% made in Tanzania’,” says Nizari. After extensive research in multiple target markets, both locally and abroad, building relationships with 250 Tanzanian farmers, setting up a factory exclusively employing local and previously-unemployed women, and many iterations of the seven blends of its flagship Tanzania Tea Collection using local flavors and spices, Kazi Yetu was ready to expand its scope in 2020.

“We were following our business plan… but we were really cautious and risk-averse (in 2018 and 2019). And then, we said, ‘you know what, when 2020 hits, it’s going to be growth’.”

Nizari was planning on reaching up to 4,000 farmers, buy machinery from China, grow the local B2B customer base, permanently employ all the women at the factory and begin to export on a larger scale after the launch of Kazi Yetu’s online store.

But when the coronavirus hit the local and international markets, things started looking very bleak, especially since Kazi Yetu is currently fully self-funded.

 Not only did it lose almost all of its monthly income, but the farmers stopped meeting in groups for the training, so the supply chain was disrupted.

“In Europe, people are all sitting at home. They’re looking for products to build their immunity – tea is a great solution.”

The factory also had to introduce safety protocols for employees at work and at home, as well as reduce the number of people working at any given time in order to adhere to social distancing.

An employee’s father also died of the coronavirus, which forced Nizari to ask everyone involved with Kazi Yetu to quarantine at home for 14 days.

“So what we said was, ‘look, we don’t want to risk their safety, but we also don’t want to risk their economic well-being’. So we just paid all of them their full-time salary,” says Nizari.

“Generally, our operational costs have been really hard to cover right now… but it’s okay, because it made us pivot.”

It inspired Nizari to expedite Kazi Yetu’s plans to export, kickstart the online store sooner than anticipated and build up stock to send to Germany, rather than just focus on the Tanzanian market, which is temporarily quite small. Exporting has been an issue, given limited shipping at the moment, but the European market proved to be a pleasant surprise for Nizari.

“In Europe, people are all sitting at home. They’re looking for products to build their immunity – tea is a great solution,” she says.

Slowly, the factory is moving back to normal operations and Nizari is trying her best to ensure a steady income for the employees. Kazi Yetu is also now available on local delivery applications in Tanzania, so people can order tea to their doorsteps.

Looking ahead, Nizari hopes to scale up exporting through the online store and retailers, whether in Europe, or also in markets like South Africa where products from sub-Saharan Africa are popular, and North America where innovative African products are in demand.

“We want our product to be competing with products made in Europe, and for example, Sri Lankan tea, Indian tea and Chinese tea. We want Tanzanian products to be well-regarded,” she adds.

Since the teas are traceable, which is a unique selling point, Kazi Yetu is also working on an app that uses blockchain to allow customers to access data on the tea they purchase, from the farm level, all the way to their cups. This way, they will know first-hand the impact the product has.

In addition, Nizari is working on a farm-hub model to build Kazi Yetu’s supply chain by helping them produce better raw products through a no-interest investment that can be paid back with their final product over time.

“The whole ‘economy versus safety’ debate… it’s something we have to think about moving forward… You can’t just operate as a business that makes money, you have to think about… the well-being of your workplace, the well-being of everyone in your supply chain… And I think this is where social enterprises really come in,” Nizari adds.

And a hot cup of locally-produced tea can certainly help take forward any such deliberations.

By Inaara Gangji

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Farmer Forays: ‘Creating A New Line Of Business’

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Shola Ladoja; image supplied

Nigerian agripreneur Shola Ladoja, the founder of Simply Green, says the pandemic-induced lockdown brought with it logistic adversity, but also more local sales.  

With the marauding coronavirus disrupting lives and businesses in Nigeria, the financial stability of a majority of the country’s 200 million inhabitants has been severely affected.

The significant toll it has taken on economic activities has forced many small and medium enterprises to reimagine new ways of staying afloat. Covid-19 is also set to radically aggravate food insecurity in Africa. In spite of Nigeria’s dependence on oil, agriculture remains an important cornerstone for its economy, providing employment for millions especially in the informal sector.

The threat of starvation is so present that in a public address in May, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, urged Nigerian farmers to produce enough for the country to eat, saying that the country has “no money to import” food.

But every cloud has a silver lining. The food shortage has presented some agripreneurs in Nigeria with serendipitous opportunities.

Shola Ladoja is the founder of Simply Green, which is a farm-to-table company specializing in vegetables, fruits, juices, spices and herbs. The border lockdown has meant that many of the retail and supermarket chains can no longer import foreign produce into the country.

But this hurdle created a new opportunity for Ladoja.

“[Previously], I tried to get my juices into local stores in Nigeria but they all turned me down and most of them wanted to buy imported juices. The lockdown meant that they had to buy a local brand like mine because they could not get them from abroad anymore. We are now able to sell a lot more during this time than previous years,” says Ladoja.

On the logistics side, however, Ladoja has also felt the pinch of the pandemic like most business that require consistent movement of goods and services. The lockdown scenario prevented his workers from coming in and as a result, the company’s daily delivery of juices, has come to an abrupt stop.  

Ladoja has had to start thinking outside the box to make ends meet.

“We have come up with a fruit and vegetable box, which we sell directly on our website to our customers. So, they can now buy lettuce, kale and carrots, which we have never done before. So, this period has forced us to think about how we can expand the business and this time we actually created a new line of business, which was not in the plans for this year,” says Ladoja.

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), even before the Covid-19 crisis, farmers had not been able to satisfy the demands of Nigeria’s population.

“I feel like the government should give out grants and loans and support for small businesses so that they don’t crash. I have friends who have complained they are going to shut down their businesses because they haven’t been paid for two months. A lot of people cannot sell their produce in Lagos because the markets are closed which is going to affect a lot of farmers at this time,” says Ladoja.

Nigeria used to import over a million tonnes of rice from Thailand annually. That number has been significantly reduced with the implementation of high import taxes. This has led to an abnormal increase in food prices in Nigeria since the onset of the coronavirus with the UN estimating the number of people facing acute food security stands to rise to 265 million globally in 2020 as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic.

Nigeria has substantially increased domestic rice production in the pandemic but is still a long way from reaching the levels needed for the country to sufficiently feed itself. Coupled with the decline in global oil prices, it is safe to say the adverse economic impact of Covid-19 on Africa’s most populous country is going to be felt for a long time to come.

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All For Grooming Future Leaders

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Katlego Thwane has had to dip into his own savings, with the Covid-19 crisis, to fund his noble cause, teaching the underprivileged in a South African township.

He is in his twenties, yet turning around the destiny of underprivileged young people around him.

Katlego Thwane, a 28-year-old born and bred in South Africa’s lively township of Soweto, is an educator and founder of the Atlegang Bana Foundation here that caters to primary school learners who struggle to keep up at school and need additional help.

“Our foundation also provides for needy learners from underprivileged backgrounds. One of my biggest campaigns at the foundation every year is to give confidence and motivation to learners for the year ahead,” says Thwane.

He has bagged numerous awards and accolades for his work, as a 2017 Young Community Shaper, 2018 Lead SA hero and featuring on live television show Big Up on SABC Mzansi in 2018.

Growing up, he was a “naughty boy”, as he describes himself, but says many are now astonished at the serious, ambitious young man he has become.

“Teaching has always been a passion of mine. I love seeing change, transformation and grooming leaders, and value their education while being innovative in taking our country forward.”

Thwane has recently established a clothing brand, BANA, under the Atlegang Bana Foundation. He is also currently handing out food parcels to the needy in his community, in partnership with Hollywoodbets.

“The virus has affected us immensely with many parents losing their jobs or taking salary cuts, we are not receiving the financial support as before. This has led to me [dipping] into my own personal pocket and [using it] to buy tutors data for teaching virtually,” says Thwane.

Most schools continue operating online because learners haven’t as yet returned to school, however, this has come with its share of setbacks.

Makosha Masedi, a parent of a Grade 4 learner, says her challenges come with network issues and understanding the tasks given to the child.

“Some of the programs that the work is loaded on to is not friendly for all devices, so submitting and retrieving becomes a problem, as also understanding some of the work,” rues Masedi.

But Thwane powers on, hoping for a better tomorrow, for himself and his country.

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