Impedements of women for Leadership

The main impediments to African women ascending to top positions in both corporate and political in Africa 

By Madelein Mkunu 

Over 50 years of Africa’s political independence has witnessed a slow pace of African women ascension to top positions despite a long list of gender equality legal framework that have been adopted by the African Union (AU) and ratified by many African nations. Some of these frameworks include: At global level, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) of 1979, Beijing Declaration and Platform For Action (BPFA) of 1995, UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now the Sustainable Development Goals. At continent level The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Rights of Women in Africa of 2003, The African Union Gender Policy of 2009, The AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (2004) and now the Agenda 2063.  

Despite the fact that women constitute over 50% of the African population and present with huge potential to rule the world, they however remain underrepresented in the top leadership positions at corporate and political levels (Women Matter, Mckenzie, August 2016). I believe there are many factors that contribute significantly to this phenomenon, and I will highlight three (3): 

  1. The misconception about male and female leadership in the society 

Historically, when we talk about leadership, we see men. Until today, in the African society, it is still believed that men have the exclusive rights to lead. This patriarchal idea continue to influence the negatively the confidence of women to ascend to top leadership position. 

  1. Lack of awareness of leadership capabilities within women themselves 

Millions of women have been leading with No title without even them realizing that they are at hidden potential of African growth. With less than a living wage or income, women of Africa have been leading their families, educating their children, feeding them and ensuring their wellbeing until adulthood. Their efforts have been unsung and less recognised internally (family) and externally (public). As a result women have failed to understand their own leadership potential and their capabilities to lead outside of their families. And this has been passed on from generation to generation.  

  1. Slow pace of implementation of legal frameworks 

As much as many African governments have ratified most of the gender equality legal frameworks however its impact on the ground is less than expected for 2 main reasons: 

  • Lack of ownership of these instruments from the side of women. There could be many reasons for this attitude and one of them is that majority of women are not aware of their legal rights and do not have access to information. 
  • Ineffective and inefficient bureaucratic processes to implement of these instruments  

The Pull Her Down Syndrome (PHD) 

Pull Her Down Syndrome (PHD) have been in our media, research and many other writings for centuries. Some women agree it exists some do not agree. Some argue that in corporate, business and political environments, women are set against each other, generally by men, to ensure that no woman wins, only men. This is what is being said around the recent case with Hillary Clinton misfortune to lead the world after the recent USA elections due to very little women’s votes. In Africa, we have seen Joyce Banda of Malawi failing to secure second term despite women being the majority of population. So, are women responsible for their own failure to see more of them ascend to power? My honest answer is YES, to some extent.   


From my own observation, I would highlight 2 main reasons: 

  1. Lack of massive support of women: In the democratic environment we live in today, the support of women, via votes, comments, responses… is highly needed in order to ensure the ascension of other women to the top. The abstention of women (even without applying the PHD Syndrome) automatically reduces the chance to see a potential female candidate to reach the top.  
  1. Negative competition amongst women: Women tend to look at each other with a competition eye. Competition is not necessarily bad if it creates the desire in one to also aim to reach the top one day or to the one on top to wish to see others follow her footstep one day. But when competition implies “Exclusivity”, meaning this position is for “her” and “her alone”, ”no other woman is better”, “no other woman must get there or closer”, … that is when all is lost and highly ambitious women get discouraged to try again. So, to ensure that more women get to the top, there is an imperative need for women to acquire a new mind shift. To get this shift of mind will require education and time invested in making women to think collectively and not individually. 
  1. What do Africans need to do to promote or ensure more women ascend to top offices? Any examples? 

I only see one way out: Obtaining the buy in of Men to the gender mainstreaming approach 

There are many constraints that have kept women of Africa from reaching their full potential and contribute positively in the socio economic transformation of their respective nations despite numerous efforts. I believe that the women empowerment agenda will not happen in isolation, but need concerted efforts from government, corporate and civil society. Being the majority at decision-making platforms, MEN could be instrumental in supporting women reach the top positionsThis is what I call an “Inclusive approach to gender Mainstreaming”. 

June 27, 2020 / by / in
The Role of Women in the Planning and Design of Infrastructure in Africa

By Madelein Mkunu, President and CEO, Leading Women of Africa 


For centuries, Africa has been characterised by poor and inadequate infrastructure. Inadequate infrastructure in Africa is a major obstacle to the Continent’s economic growth, and that affects the living standards of its people. Efficient infrastructure development is necessary if Africa’s economy is to be integrated and the benefits of economic growth need to be expanded throughout the continent.  

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in infrastructure development and policy reform in developing economies.  

The apparent interest emanates principally from the growing realisation that human and physical infrastructure is a critical element for economic growth and poverty reduction.  

African women’s fundamental contributions in their households, food production systems and national economies are increasingly acknowledged, within Africa and by the international community. This is due, in no small part, to African women’s own efforts to organise, articulate their concerns and make their voices heard. In recent times, more women have been involved in the mainstreaming economies of their respective countries, despite skills and financial limitations.  

The presence of multiple women’s construction, engineering, and IT companies proudly led by women themselves prove that women of Africa are capable of playing a positive role in the process of contributing effectively in the development of Africa. 

Awakening of Africa’s infrastructure development 

Recently the African Development Bank has report the Africa’s quest for greater connectivity and improved intra-regional trade after the continent’s leaders agreed to increase public spending on infrastructure and set in motion a programme to create a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017. The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), a multi-billion dollar initiative that will run through 2040, has been endorsed by the African leaders early this year. 

According to report, they resolved to increase public financing of infrastructure, implement major power projects such as hydroelectricity, oil refinery and gas pipelines, accelerate the construction of missing links and modernization of railways, and increase the capacity of ports.  


The million dollar question women are asking themselves is to know if they will be integrated in such programme and how will they access reliable information? Again, women interests, views and full participation in the designing and planning of infrastructure development must be taken seriously by African governments. The presence of multiple women’s construction, engineering, and IT companies proudly led by women themselves prove that women of Africa are capable of playing a positive role on the development of the Continent. 

Reaching the Millennium Development Goals through women 

There an over growing confirmations that integrating women into the mainstream economy will contribute in achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. Furthermore, involving women in the mainstream infrastructure projects mainly in the rural communities where women are playing a crucial role will make a positive impact on the empowerment of women and development of Africa. 

Over the past few years, many recommendations have been planned for women empowerment, but there has been a lack of implementation. If all the existing commitments towards Africa are fully implemented, there should be no reason not to achieve the Millennium Goals in Africa, so the focus must now be on translating commitments into progress on the ground.  

Step forward  

The issue of women empowerment has gained the attention of the world for the past 3 decades. International Institutions to our African Governments as well as private sector have all agreed of the importance women economic empowerment. Policy frameworks and regulations have been formulated.  

Integrating gender perspectives into infrastructure development plans can make a positive impact on the empowerment of women.  

June 27, 2020 / by / in
Women Investing in African Infrastructure

Confident of Africa’s growth opportunities, women are strategically positioning themselves to take advantage of numerous trade and investment opportunities in Africa.

South Africa, has seen a group of successful women investors convened to discuss their participation in a mega development project in South Africa, led by LWA Corporate Investment (LWA-CI), an investment firm that aims to increase the number of women who are involved in investment, international trade and other services on the continent. “Women are excited about playing an active role in the implementation of sustainable infrastructure development in Africa and are determined to maximize on every investment opportunity that is presented to them through our network”, said Mrs Mkunu, reacting to the overwhelming interest shown by potential women investors.

LWA Corporate Investment (LWA-CI) is open to women investors across Africa and Diaspora. The firm aims to ensure that women emerge as successful leaders in industries and sectors, historically under represented by women.
LWA-CI is open to women investors across Africa and Diaspora. For more information how join as an investor, .

June 27, 2020 / by / in
Leading Women of Africa (LWA), a platform promoting African regional integration

As we celebrate women’s month, LWA calls on women to continue to be Change Agents on the continent. The Africa of tomorrow will be a continent where the continuous impactful role of women will be fully acknowledged. But it will start with today’s women having a dream of a better Africa for the next generation.

A proudly South African organization, LWA was founded in 2008 by Madelein Mkunu as a Pan-African platform that not only creates linkages for women but also supports the inclusion of women in the mainstream economy on the continent. In short our vision is to see more women getting a sizable piece of the African economic pie. We do it through facilitating access to economic opportunities by women. From Cape to Cairo, LWA has built a network of women who making significant impact in the socio-economic transformation of the continent.

The second focus of LWA is promoting leadership for women. We believe women embody great leadership that can transform families, communities or a country. The celebrations around the country this month is the proof of what women can do when they are united and determined! And we need to continue to strive to see that leadership shining.
The network is open to women from all background, color, culture and creed. To join the network, please visit .

November 24, 2014 / by / in
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