Africa’s growing prominence on the world stage is undeniable. Nowhere is that more evident than in the lives of African women and women of African descent, who are trailblazing and making waves in various industries throughout the world.
Each year, we gather together to celebrate the achievements of Pan-African trailblazers from near and far. This year, we wanted to highlight the efforts that young women are making in their various sectors. Often times, the world prefers negative stereotypes of African women or to ignore them all together. To combat this, F2FA will be debuting its women’s forum during the Pan-African Weekend from July 13th to 16th in New York City, USA.
To us, African women are known for their strength, resilience and their inner and outer beauty. They overcome personal and community struggles to achieve great feats and make their communities, and the world, a better place. More and more African women are being recognized for their achievements and F2FA wants to help highlight some of the women really worth watching.
Picking just 12 influential young pan-African women to watch is no easy task but these women really stand out for the contributions they have made in their various fields. This list consists of a diverse range of amazing women in fashion, law, medicine, education, business and more. If there was one thing they all had in common it would be that they are multi-talented individuals juggling multiple hats and positions.
It was hard to pin down their titles and even harder to narrow down their accomplishments. These women are brains and beauty. They are well educated and trailblazing in their various industries. To top it off, none of them are leaving others behind. They are involved in philanthropic work and volunteer in their communities and globally. We hope you enjoy reading about them as much as we enjoyed writing about them.
Dr. Wendy Osefo, Nigerian
Professor, Commentator, Founder, the 1954 Equity Project
Dr. Wendy Osefo, 32, has over a decade of experience in education, social justice and politics. Her commentary and work is often sought after by podcasts, radio shows and national cable news networks such as Fox News, ABC and One America News. Dr. Osefo was the first black woman to receive a PhD in Public Affairs at Rutgers University, where her dissertation focused on engaging low income parents in schools. She is the founder and CEO of the 1954 Equity Project, which “provides tools, mentorship, and resources for underrepresented minorities to thrive in higher education.” Dr. Osefo is currently a visiting assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Education. She recently received the 2017 Outstanding Graduate Award from her Alma Mater, John Hopkins University.
Yodit Tewolde, Eritrean
Legal Analyst, Attorney
Yodit Tewolde, 34, is a criminal defense attorney at her very own firm: The Law Office of Yodit Tewolde PLLC. She has worked as a prosecutor in both the adult and juvenile systems at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. She was born in Sudan where her parents were refugees from the Eritrean/Ethiopian war. Her family then moved to the U.S. where she subsequently attended Texas A&M for undergrad and Southern University, an HBCU, for law school. Yodit Tewolde has appeared on major news networks such as CNN, News One Now and Fox as a legal analyst and commentator. She enjoys serving her community through mentoring. In 2016, she was on the National Bar Association’s list for “40 Under 40 Nation’s Best Advocates.”
Flaviana Matata, Tanzanian
Model, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur
Flaviana Matata, 29, won the very first Miss Universe Tanzania in 2007 and went on to represent her country and earn 6th place a the Miss Universe pageant later that year. She was the first contestant to ever compete from Tanzania and she did so with a completely shaved head. In 2011, she won the Model of the Year award from Arise Magazine at the Lagos Fashion Week. As a sought-after model, Flaviana Matata has also appeared on the runway for brands such as Tory Burch, Alexander McQueen and Mustafa Hassanali. In 2011, she launched the Flaviana Matata Foundation to empower and educate orphaned girls in Tanzania. In addition, she is the founder of Lavy Products, a nail polish that is stocked in 41 stores and 29 salons across 5 African countries and the U.S.
Nekpen Osuan, Nigerian
Strategist & PMP; Co-Founder, Women Werk
Nekpan Osuan is the Vice President of the Wealth Management Office of Business Management Teaming and Strategic Partnerships at Morgan Stanley. An experienced project manager and analytics professional, she has done IT and product management work for President Obama’s re-election campaign and for the City of New York. Nekpen Osuan sits on various local boards and is a 2017 Fellow at the Council of Urban Professionals. Along with Demi Ajayi, she founded WomenWerk, an organization that empowers and celebrates women and provides a platform for men and women to discuss and overcome gender bias.
Dr. Estelle Kone, Burkinabe
VP of Modeling, Goldman Sachs
Estelle Kone holds a PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where her research focused on stochastic processes, optimization and data fusion. Soon after, she joined Goldman Sachs & Co. as an associate and was quickly promoted to Vice President at the Market Risk Management and Analysis (MRMA) department. Growing up in Burkina Faso, many people told her not to choose the Science and Technology field because “it was too hard for girls.” Choosing to follow her dreams instead, she still applied and got admitted into the only program in the country that offered a combination of Science (Math, Physics) with Technology. She still finds herself a minority in the STEM field even in the US and France, where received a Masters in Engineering degree. Estelle Kone is engaged in fostering STEM education, in particular for girls and actively participates in outreach activities.
Amy Sall, Senegalese-American
Social Journalist, Model
Amy Sall, 27, holds a master’s degree in Human Rights Studies from Columbia University where she focused on the right to development and youth empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa. She is a part-time lecturer at The New School in New York City where she teaches courses such as The African gaze and Third Cinema & Counter Narratives. Amy Sall is also a well-known model and has worked with brands such as J. Crew, Armani Beauty and Kenzo. She has also been featured in Vogue, Kinfolk and Elle South Africa. She will soon launch SUNU: Journal of African Affairs, Critical Thought + Aesthetics.
Constance Iloh, PhD, Nigerian
Constance Iloh, 30, is currently the first Black tenure tracked professor at the University of California – Irvine’s School of Education. She first headlined in national discourse when she appeared on Forbes’ 2016 30 Under 30 list, one of the very few academics and scholars to have ever been placed on the illustrious list. Professor Iloh’s research on “college access, opportunity, educational stratification, and the privatization of post-secondary education” has been widely published and cited or featured by multiple spaces, including the Harvard Law Review, Politico, Black Girl Nerds, and the National Public Radio (NPR).
Ellen Osei, Ghanaian
Occupational Therapist, Entrepreneur
An occupational therapist and doctoral candidate at Columbia University, Ellen Osei, 30, is passionate about supporting individuals in “obtaining optimal quality of life in their daily activities.” She is the CEO and founder of The Class Network, “a mentorship and management network supporting individuals in pursuit of their passion and purpose.” In 2011, Ellen Osei co-founded Raising H.O.P.E.- Hopeful Orphans Pursuing Excellence, an organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life and supporting dreams of orphans and children with special needs throughout the African Diaspora.
Nefertite Nguvu, African-American
Film Maker and Founder, Hollywood Africans
Arenowned filmmaker, Nefertite Nguvu is the founder of Hollywood Africans, a full service production company that delivers expressive visual storytelling for various clients. She has written, produced and directed two short films and also directed a 10 part web series for CoverGirl featuring Queen Latifah. She has recently completed a feature film, “In the Morning,” which is set in New York and charts the inevitable change/decline of love. The film won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at its debut at the Urban Film Festival and has been screened at various film festivals across the U.S. and Europe , winning awards along the way. Nefertite Nuguvu’s film will soon be coming to theaters and VOD.
Mimmy Yeboah, Ghanaian
Aself-taught designer, Mimmy Yeboah , 25, started sewing clothes for others in 2012. By 2013, she was making enough that she could quit her job and visit Ghana. From there, she has focused on her passion to create statement pieces that bring confidence to the women who wear it. She is a sought after designer during the busy prom season with an assortment of custom orders and statement pieces. She has since launched her brand’s website and plans to move to Ghana to expand her business and begin large scale manufacturing.