From doctor turned fashion doyenne, a man of the cloth leading a mega church in Ghana, Africa’s richest woman who started her first business at age 24, and a First Gentleman who once participated in the Olympic Games – it’s no secret that Africa is filled with successful and inspirational individuals.
They come from various parts of the continent, span across sectors, with varied interests – from business, politics, fashion and philanthropy. Sometimes when such people meet and marry, the result is a Power Couple!
Africa.com considered couples from across the continent, married and or engaged to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication of this article. To qualify as a Power Couple, each individual must be powerful in their own right, with a source of power that is independent from their powerful spouse.
Africa.com presents Africa’s Top Power Couples, listed alphabetically.
1. Anna Getaneh and Admassu Tadesse; Ethiopia
If Admassu Tadesse said he was on cloud nine when he met Anna he would not be lying. He was, quite literally, as the two officially met on board a flight from New York to Ethiopia. They would later bump into each other at social events while in Ethiopia. “We discovered that we had some mutual friends, that our dads knew each other and that we had much in common by way of interests and global experience,” says Anna. And that experience is vast.
Anna has had a very successful career as an international supermodel gracing the cover of Vogue magazine and walking the runway in the world’s fashion capitals. She has leveraged her international star power to raise funds for the organization she founded, the Ethiopian Children’s Fund (ECF) in Addis Ababa. She not only successfully raises money for the Fund, she manages it in a very hands on way, having provided education and health care for over 700 students since its founding. And if being a wife, mother, and social entrepreneur is not enough, Anna also runs a notable fashion boutique in Johannesburg, South Africa. Admassu has been educated in the leading universities across the globe – the London School of Economics, Wits in South Africa, University of Western Ontario, Canada and Harvard Business School in the USA. The Ethiopian-born served as Executive Vice President of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) before his recent appointment as President and CEO of the Eastern and Southern Africa African Trade and Development (PTA) Bank.
They are loyal to their Ethiopian heritage, and global at the same time: their engagement party was held at an art gallery in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and their took place in Washington DC. Anna describes their wedding day as a “spirited celebration” – shared with family and friends from across the globe.
The recipe to their successful marriage?
“We don’t think there is a recipe, only necessary ingredients”, says Anna.
“First and foremost are shared values, interests and commitment.”
2. Funke Osibodu and Victor Osibodu; Nigeria
The “formally dressed police pipe band” that led them into the hall is what Funke Osibodu describes as the most memorable part of her wedding day that took place more than 3 decades ago. The couple met briefly when they were both students at the University of Ife, Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University) but only started dating once they both graduated after they were re-introduced by Funke’s colleagues.
Funke Osibodu is one of the country’s leading banking experts. An economics graduate, Funke has held managerial roles at MBC International Bank andEcobank Nigeria Plc. Most recently she served as the Chief Executive of Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. – one of the country’s largest financial institutions.
As an alumnus of Lagos Business School and Harvard Business School, Victor Gbolade Osibodu is chairman of Vigeo Holdings, a conglomerate that started in corporate communications and now extends across diverse industries ranging from real estate to maritime. The businessman was also honored with one of the highest national civilian awards in Nigeria, Member of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR), Married for nearly three decades, the couple ensures they stay the “best of friends” at all times.
“Quality time is waking up early every morning to talk about things
that are going on,” says Funke.
3. Isabel dos Santos and Sindika Dokolo; Angola
She is Angola’s first daughter and Africa’s richest woman. She was recently declared the continent’s first female billionaire., He is the son of a Congolese father and Danish mother with a penchant for African art.
As the eldest child of Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Isabel was only sixyears old when her father took office. Isabel started her own business at age 24 which was a night club on Luanda Island. It would become the first of a long list of business ventures she has led in sectors from telecommunications to retail, both in Angola and in Europe. Today, Isabel is also regarded as one of the most successful and influential businesswomen in Portugal.
While other teenagers were collecting sport cards and video games, Sindika was collecting art. Born in Kinshasa, Congo, the businessman and art collector was raised in Belgium and France, where he later attended the private Catholic school, Lycée Saint Louis de Gonzague. He left France in his early twenties to join his father, Augustin Dokolo (who established the controversial Bank of Kinshasa) back in Congo. When his father passed, he took over the leadership of t the family business.
The couple married in 2003, in what was reported to have been the most lavish ceremony ever seen in Angola (or rather ‘ever unseen’ at least to the public, as the couple is known to be incredibly private about their personal life).
The extravagant affair reportedly cost at least $4 million – with delicacies allegedly flown in from France for their 1000+ guests.
4. President Joyce Banda and Richard Banda; Malawi
Sworn in as President of Malawi in 2012, Her Excellency Joyce Banda is Malawi’s first – and the continent’ssecond – female head of state, making her one of the most powerful women in Africa. Prior to taking the country’s top role, Banda was Vice President (also a first for Malawi), Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Minister of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services. Apart from her official roles, Banda also formed the National Association for Business Women (NABW) more than two decades ago – an organization dedicated to providing funds to female entrepreneurs.
We have heard the phrase “behind every great man is a great woman”. The same can be said in reverse, as President Banda was once quoted for saying that her husband “has been the driving force behind my success.” Malawi’s First Gentleman Richard Banda is a man of the law. Banda joined the Judicial Bar in 1966 and later served as Malawi’s first blackChief Justice for a decade. He held the same position in Swaziland, where he was outspoken against corruption within the country’s judiciary. Prior to that, he served Malawi in various roles including the country’s Director of Public Prosecution, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, as well as Judge of the High and Supreme Court of Malawi. A staunch supporter of sports development, Banda was once an active athlete having represented the country in high-jump in the Olympics. He also captained Malawi’s national soccer team.
5. Maria Ramos and Trevor Manuel; South Africa
She led the turnaround of South Africa’s rail transport industry during her tenure as Group Chief Executive of Transnet Limited; he spearheaded the country’s Finance Ministry for over a decade. Separately, they are both highly respected in their individual politics and business sectors, together, Maria Ramos and Trevor Manuel can quite easily be called South Africa’s Royal Finance Couple.
Maria Ramos’ impressive resume includes titles such as Director General of the National Treasury, Group Chief Executive of Transnet Limited and Chief Executive of one of South Africa’s largest banks, Absa Group. It was during her time at the National Treasury that the Portugal-born businesswoman came to know Trevor Manuel as they worked together. l. Though his childhood dream was to study law, the Capetonian got involved in politics during apartheid, which led to multiple political imprisonments. As part of the group known as ‘struggle heroes’, he rose up the ranks to become the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) head of Economic Planning. He was appointed as Minister of Trade and Industry by President Nelson Mandela, who later appointed him Minister of Finance. He is considered by many to have been the top ranking finance minister on the continent, and the individual credited with shepherding the South African economy through one of its best ever periods of economic growth and development. Maria and Trevor wed in December 2008 in an intimate ceremony on a wine farm in Franschhoek, South Africa.
6. Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe and Patrice Motsepe; South Africa
The Motsepes are South Africa’s richest black family with a net worth estimated at over
$2.5 billion by Forbes. Quite notably, they recently announced that they will follow the footsteps of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and donate half of their wealth to philanthropy efforts.
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe has many titles. A qualified medical doctor, she once worked as a general practitioner and opened up one of Johannesburg’s first women’s health clinics. She currently heads the Motsepe Family Foundation and sits on the board of numerous organizations. Often referred to as the “Queen of South African Fashion”, Precious has impeccable personal style, and is often in the front row of fashion shows across the continent as director of African Fashion International (AFI). The organization focuses on supporting and providing a platform for local fashion designers.
In 1989, Precious married Patrice. Born in Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg, Patrice Motsepe is now one of the richest men in Africa (Forbes lists him as the 4th richest person in South Africa, the 10th richest in Africa, and the 442nd richest in the world). The first black partner at law firm Bowman Gilfillan in 1994, Patrice later founded a mining company, African Rainbow Minerals. Patrice is fairly modest, though he did splurge on buying the local Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club in 2003.
7. Rosa Whitaker and Archbishop Duncan Williams; Ghana
It should be no surprise that Rosa Whitaker and Archbishop Duncan Williams met in church, as they both view their careers as callings from God, rather than work. It was a Sunday, in Ghana, in 2003. Rosa had recently launched her company, The Whitaker Group (TWG), and was in West Africa to visit one of her clients, the Ghanaian government. Though African American, Rosa Whitaker earned her place on the list of “African Power Couples” because of her tireless work for, and on, the continent. She has extensive knowledge of Africa trade and investment and is credited as being the architect of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the US government’s first comprehensive Africa trade policy. Through the trade deal she worked out between the US and Africa, Africa has exported nearly $70 billion in products to the US, which in turn has created jobs for tens of thousands of Africans across the continent, and provided for lasting impact on countless African families and communities.
Recently named one of the 100 Most Influential Africans, Ghanaian Archbishop Duncan Williams is head of the Christian Action Faith Ministries based in Accra, Ghana with over 300 affiliate churches across North America, Europe and Africa. Often called “Papa”, the charismatic leader is also Chancellor of Dominion University College in Ghana, which he helped establish. With the Bishop based in Ghana, and Rosa based in Washington, the two often travel together to create “us” time. Rosa says that in lieu of long vacations, they “often take short breaks consisting of spas and restful retreats around the world on the margins of our work”.
The couple opted for “a small, quiet and intimate wedding” at their home in Maryland, inviting only close family and friends.
The love lesson they preach? “We have committed our marriage to a purpose greater than ourselves—and that’s the secret.
Of course, we love each other deeply and are the very best of friends. We also respect, honor and love the purposeful work we each perform.”
8. Yousriya Loza Sawiris and Onsi Sawiris; Egypt
Onsi is the patriarchal head of the Sawiri family, often referred to as “Egypt’s Rockefellers”. Founder of the Orascom Group, Onsi is said to have a net worth of $2.17billion. That puts him at number 11 of Forbes’ Richest in Africa list, flanked by all three his sons. Though officially retired, the 83-year old still keeps a close eye on the empire as he remains a major shareholder. Each of his sons now heads a different division within the group, which range from telecoms to luxury hotels.
The billionaire businessman was 23-years old when he married Yousirya. He described what happened after a friend introduced him to her: “I saw Yousriya, I liked her, I told my father, he agreed, and I asked for her hand in marriage. It was as simple as that.”
A Harvard University alumna, Yousriya is a qualified accountant who set up a private audit firm in the early 80s. She served as a member of the Egyptian parliament for five years, and has won numerous awards for her leadership role in her community,including the Global Women’s Leadership Award in 2006. Yousriya is currently the Secretary-General of the Sawiris Foundation, as well as founding president of the Association for the Protection of the Environment – a group set up to improve the livelihood of garbage collectors – and the Egyptian Association for Street Children.
Honorary Power Couple: Graça Machel and President Nelson Mandela; South Africa / Mozambique
On July 18, 1998, President Nelson Mandela celebrated more than his 80th birthday. He married his third wife, Graça Machel, who on that day became the only woman in the world to have married two state presidents. Her first husband, Mozambique president Samora Machel was killed in a plane crash more than a decade earlier.
Graça and Mandela’s wedding ceremony was an intimate event, witnessed only by close family and a handful of friends. In Mandela: The Authorized Biography, Anthony Sampson shares a description of that day:
“They were married in the new house in Houghton, South Africa; Mandela in a gold-patterned open shirt, Graça wearing a long white dress with wide puffed sleeves, Elizabethan-style…”
The wedding reception, on the other hand, was a big event with over 2,000 guests who flew in from all corners of the globe. Nelson Mandela officially retired from public life in 2004, and died nearly a decade later at the age of 95. Graça Machel remains an active advocate and humanitarian. Mozambique’s former (and first) Education and Culture Minister, Machel is now a member of the distinguished group of global leaders called “The Elders”, and continues to be an advocate for children’s and women’s rights.