According to Africa Cradle these are the most powerful married couples in Africa.
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 Cradle 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.
10. Uhuru and Margaret Kenyatta
She is rarely seen in the public limelight but the humble soft spoken Kenyan first lady Margaret Wanjiru Kenyatta is not new to the cameras.
Born to former Director Of State Controlled Kenya Railways Corporation Njuguna Gakuo, Margaret went to the prestigious St. Andrews School in Molo, she met her husband Uhuru Kenyatta, who is her best friend in Mombasa and later on tied the knot at Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi in 1989.
According to her friends, she is a noble and simple woman who loves keeping her life normal despite the fact that she is married to the son of the first President of Kenya who is now the President. On a normal day, Margaret would be seen enjoying a cup of coffee at social places in Nairobi.
In April 2014 Kenya’s first lady was in London, but she is not here for a state visit. Instead, Margaret Kenyatta was part of a marathon. Mrs Kenyatta was running to raise money for her ”Beyond Zero” charity, which aims to tackle the problem of maternal and infant death rates in Kenya.
Kenya is amongst the 10 most dangerous countries for pregnant women. Between 6000 and 8000 women die every year during childbirth; the current maternal mortality rate is 488 deaths per 100,000 live births. Kenya has made little progress in reducing this to achieve the commitment set in the Millennium Development Goals of 147 deaths per 100,000.
The First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, has emerged as a true champion in this cause. Her drive and resolve has put the spotlight on Kenya’s efforts to reverse this tragic trend. In January 2014 she spearheaded the Beyond Zero Campaign to raise awareness about the link between good health and a strong nation, specifically demonstrating the importance of maternal, newborn and children’s health. As part of the campaign, she ran both a half and full marathon to galvanize support and mobilize resources. And her clarion call, “no woman should die giving life” has resonated across the country and globally, now even transformed by a Kenyan band into a theme song, titled, It has to be Now
For this innovative work, Mrs. Kenyatta was voted by the United Nations (UN) in Kenya as the UN person of the year in 2014, a well-deserved recognition for which I congratulate her. It is remarkable that she has used her position as the First Lady of Kenya to tackle a critical human development issue and has demonstrated extraordinary initiative, integrity and courage to save the lives of women and children.
9. Dr. Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa
The Masiyiwas spend several millions of dollars every year from their personal resources in addition to financial support from Econet Wireless to support these philanthropic endeavors. Tsitsi politely declined to disclose how much it spends annually on these scholarships.
“So we were broke. In trying to understand what was going on around me, I began to do an intensive soul searching. Then I prayed to God and made a deal with him. I told God that if he granted us the license to operate the mobile phone company in Zimbabwe- and he made us successful, then I will help support as many poor people as possible for as long as I lived,” Tsitsi Masiyiwa recalls.
Tsitsi Masiyiwa, a deeply religious woman, took a step of faith along with her husband. “We went ahead and registered Capernaum Trust, a charity that we decided would give scholarships to needy children. It was an unpractical thing to do at the time, especially considering the fact that we had nothing. But as a Christian, you do unreasonable things,” she enthuses.
The Capernaum Trust is generously endowed and it invests its resources in an assortment of sophisticated financial instruments and property.
“I gathered as many orphans as I could find from all over Zimbabwe and I threw a party for them,” Tsitsi says.
Tsitsi regularly held party-like events in her home for orphans in which the children always ate to their fill. Many times, she visited the children in their orphanages, offering them food and personal mentorship. It was an exhilarating experience for her, but she felt it was not enough.
“I spent time with these children and I came to love them. I wanted to keep doing more for them, but I realized that it was not just enough to keep giving them fish. I had to teach them how to fish. I wanted them to grow up and fend for themselves and become successful people. I wanted them educated,” she says.
The Capernaum Trust traditionally provided only scholarships, uniforms, food packs and stipends, Tsitsi says they now also provide career guidance and medical assistance to its beneficiaries. It is a holistic intervention. Today, the Capernaum Trust pays the school fees of over 40,000 students, whom Tsitsi calls “History Makers,” across the Primary, High school and Tertiary levels. Of that number, close to 3,000 of them are University students with some of them studying in the United States, South Africa and Australia, where the fees are usually much more expensive that in Africa.
8. 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.”
7. 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.”
6. 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 and Ecobank 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. 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.
2. 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.
1. 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.