African countries hardly elect women to become presidents during elections, but in recent years some women are changing the trend. So far the continent has had nine women assuming the role of presidents in their countries, some for brief period while others served for couple of years.
On Friday March 19, Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as the sixth president of Tanzania, joining the league of eight others who did same in the past. But before her ascendency to power early there have been other women who have rose to the highest office in their countries.
Here are the African women who have become presidents in their countries:
Kinigi was a Burundian politician who served as Prime Minister of Burundi from 10 July 1993 to 7 February 1994.
She also served as acting President from 27 October 1993 to 5 February 1994, the first and to date only woman to hold these positions in Burundi.
Sylvie Kinigi became acting president following the killing of Melchior Ndadaye who was the first democratically elected president of Burundi.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Sirleaf was a Liberian politician who served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. Sirleaf was the first elected female head of state in Africa.
She won the 2005 presidential election and took office on 16 January 2006. She was re-elected in 2011.
Sirleaf was the first woman in Africa elected as president of her country and also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, in recognition of her efforts to bring women into the peacekeeping process. She has received numerous other awards for her leadership.
In June 2016, Sirleaf was elected as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States, making her the first woman to hold the position since it was created.
Rose Francine Rogombé
Rogombé was a Gabonese politician who was Acting President of Gabon from June 2009 to October 2009, following the death of long-time President Omar Bongo.
She constitutionally succeeded Bongo due to her role as President of the Senate, a post to which she was elected in February 2009.
She was a lawyer by profession and a member of the Gabonese Democratic Party (PDG).
Rogombé was the first female head of state of Gabon. After her interim presidency, she returned to her post as President of the Senate.
Agnès Monique Ohsan Bellepeau is a Mauritian politician and was Vice President of Mauritius from November 2010 to April 2016.
She was acting President of Mauritius from 31 March 2012 to 21 July 2012 when Sir Anerood Jugnauth resigned up to the inauguration of Kailash Purryag to the office.
Ohsan-Bellepeau was again acting President from 29 May 2015 to 5 June 2015 when Kailash Purryag resigned up to the inauguration of Ameenah Gurib to the office.
Joyce Hilda Banda is a Malawian politician who was the President of Malawi from 7 April 2012 to 31 May 2014. Banda took office as President following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.
She was Malawi’s fourth president and its first female president and second female head of state after Elizabeth II.
Banda was the second woman to become president on the African continent. Before becoming president, she served as the country’s first female vice-president. She is the founder and leader of the People’s Party, created in 2011.
Catherine Samba-Panza is a Central African lawyer and politician who served as interim President of the Central African Republic from 2014 to 2016.
She was the first woman to hold the post of head of state in that country, as well as the eighth woman in Africa to do so.
Prior to becoming head of state, she was Mayor of Bangui from 2013 to 2014. She is a non-partisan politician.
Dr. Bibi Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim is a Mauritian politician and biodiversity scientist who served as the 6th President of Mauritius from 2015 to 2018.
In December 2014, she was selected to be the presidential candidate of the Alliance Lepep.
Gurib-Fakim is the first woman elected as president of the country and is the third woman to have served as Head of State following Queen Elizabeth II and Monique Ohsan Bellepeau, who acted as President in 2012 following the resignation of President Anerood Jugnauth, and again in 2015 following the resignation of President Kailash Purryag.
Sahle-Work Zewde is an Ethiopian politician and the current President of Ethiopia, being the first woman to hold the office.
A career diplomat, she was elected president unanimously by members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly on 25 October 2018.
Samia Suluhu Hassan
Samia Suluhu Hassan is a Tanzanian politician who has become the sixth president of Tanzania since 19 March 2021, having taken office after the death of the previous president, John Magufuli.
She becomes the country’s first female president and also the first female president in East Africa.
She was previously serving as vice president to John Magufili between 2015 and 2021.