Reversing Negative Trend in “women and leadership in Africa”, Focus of Rome Conference

Three African career women, Ivorian Olga Kouassi, Cameroonian Esther Tallah, and Ivorian Karine Kouassi expected to present papers on "Women in leadership: An overview from Sub-Saharan Africa" at Università della Santa Croce on November 16, 2019
Credit: Harambee Africa International

Ways of reversing trends demonstrating that women in Sub-Saharan Africa seem to be lagging behind in the exercise of their leadership in the various spheres of life including their presence in politics, economic, and even scholarship spheres will be the focus of the Saturday, November 16 presentations at the University of Holy Cross (P. Università della Santa Croce) in Rome under the auspices of Harambee Africa International, the association’s Vice President, Manuel Sanchez told ACI Africa.

Convened under the theme, “Women in leadership: An overview from Sub-Saharan Africa,” the Saturday morning conference will see three African career women, Ivorian Olga Kouassi, Cameroonian Esther Tallah, and Ivorian Karine Kouassi making presentations based on studies conducted in various African countries and founded on a review of literature, which Harambee Africa International sponsored.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, women constitute 70% of the agricultural workforce, contributing to the production of 90% of food and produce 61.9% of equity assets in addition to exercising a prominent role in the family,” the African women will be demonstrating during the Saturday morning conference in Rome.

The three African career women are expected to show that despite positive statistics highlighted, an overview of the reality in Africa seems to illustrate that “women are back in the exercise of their leadership in the political, economic and scientific.”

Their respective papers will set to provide the reasons behind the lagging behind of women in leadership, solutions to this challenge, including an update of the latest statistics with regard to women and leadership on the African continent.

Olga Kouassi, an agricultural engineer and General Director of an Ivory Coast-based auditing firm will present a paper titled “leadership of African women.”

Based on her studies of various African situations, Ms. Kouassi will be arguing that a woman has her specific natural qualities to exercise leadership that is necessary in society.

While a woman’s exercise of leadership has always been known to exist at the level of the family, Ms. Kouassi will be telling participants, the reality of women empowerment has seen some women serve at higher decision-making levels, sometimes demonstrating more success than their male counterparts.

She will guide the participants to deliberate on the challenge such successful women have, that is, the ability to reconcile their family and professional life within the African context.

Set to present a paper titled “The African woman in leadership and management: The role of education,” Cameroonian-born Ms. Tallah will lead participants in a reflection on the impact of education on women in Africa within the context of leadership and management.

While some women have risen to high positions of recognition in Africa, for instance “President Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia … the African women are still in the minority when it comes to leadership and management roles,” Ms. Tallah will argue supported by examples from Africa.

In her findings, she will demonstrate, “even when educated at the same level women and men do not have the same opportunities,” among other challenges of the African woman.

She will be seeking to underline, as a possible solution to the challenges she will outline, education that begins at the family.

“The husband and wife shall fully play the role of the first educators of their children supporting each other and working in unison for the good of each member of the family,” Ms. Tallah will submit.

Karine Kouassi who is a senior consultant at the Abidjan-based Technopolis Group is set to take stock of the place of women in leadership globally but especially in Africa and based on this, present the value of making women’s leadership a priority in an effort to overcome the challenge of inequalities in Africa. Her paper is titled “Let’s make women’s leadership a priority for tomorrow’s Africa.”

Established in 2002 on the occasion of the canonization of the founder of Opus Dei, Josemaria Escrivá and headquartered in Rome, Harambee Africa International is an international association that seeks, in a twofold plan of action, “to contribute to enhancing the potential of the different realities of Sub-Saharan Africa.”  

The Rome-based organization has the action plan of strengthening “the capacity of local human resources, supporting African entities in the implementation of projects in the field of basic education, vocational training, academia and business.”

The entity also takes initiatives that “deepen knowledge about Africa in order to overcome stereotypes and contribute to a culture of coexistence and complementarity.”

Coined from the Swahili word “Harambee” with the meaning of “working together to achieve something else,” the association has realized projects in various African countries, among them, Kenya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Uganda, DR Congo, Cameroon and South Africa.

In these African countries, the association conducts private fundraising and supports institutions at the grassroots in view of imparting skills as well as offering “people the tools to take responsibility for themselves, the ability to make decisions and plan their future.”

In Europe, the Rome-based entity has committees in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Poland and the United States; and disseminates information depicting “the most authentic African reality” especially in Italy.

The aim of Harambee Africa International, reads a statement the association’s Vice president, Manuel Sanchez shared with ACI Africa, “is to promote in-depth discussions on development in Africa, contributing to the spread of correct information on the continent and with the ambition to try new ways of expressing the culture of human development, the ambition to go beyond the current models.”


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]