When a woman rises to the top rung of the traditionally all-male corporate ladder in Africa, it’s front-page news because women’s progress in business leadership on the continent continues to be achingly slow.
According to a groundbreaking 2015 study by the African Development Bank (AfDB) titled Where Are the Women? Inclusive Boardrooms in Africa’s Top-Listed Companies, in the 307 top African companies, women accounted for only 14% of total board membership. That translates to one woman out of every seven board members. And one-third of the boards have no women at all, adds the report.
Countries with the highest percentage of women board members are Kenya (19.8%), Ghana (17.7%), South Africa (17.4%), Botswana (16.9%) and Zambia (16.9%). Companies that have seated more than a small handful of women include the Kenya-based East African Breweries Limited (EABL) with a board that’s 45.5% women, followed by South Africa’s Impala Platinum Holdings Limited at 38.5% and Woolworths Holdings Limited at 30.8%.
On the downside, the country with the lowest percentage of women on boards is Côte d’Ivoire (5.1%), followed by Morocco (5.9%), Tunisia (7.9%) and Egypt (8.2%). Uganda hangs around the continent’s average of 12.7%, according to the report.
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, AfDB’s special envoy on gender, makes an economic and developmental case for more women on company boards. “Women serving on company boards sharpen the continent’s competitive edge and make inclusive growth a reality.”