Meet the 18 Egyptians, 6 Moroccans and 1 Tunisian that made it onto 'most powerful Arab business women' list

25 Africans made it onto the ranking, and north Africa made a strong showing with a list of amazing women.

THE EGYPTIAN people’s uprising of 2011 and the subsequent political upheavals in Cairo, Egypt’s women bore the brunt of the violence. Hundreds of violent attacks against women were reported during these times, many of them sexual. 

Grassroots organisations said that this violence against women is a result the inequality women endure, and that steps needed to be taken to end their exclusion and marginalisation. 

Despite the odds against them, a recent Forbes list has shown that the women will not be kept down, and that Egyptian women continue to demonstrate their resilience and strength in the workplace. Of the 100 individuals on the “most powerful Arab business women” list there were 25 Africans, 16 of whom are Egyptian. 

The ranking was made in accordance with the size of company they work for, 2014 revenues, assets or employees, position, and sphere of impact. From chief engineers to bankers and bookshop owners, we take a look at the incredible African women who graced Forbes’ list:

Rank: 11


Country: Egypt

Title: Director, Engineering; Board Member

Company: Suez Canal Authority

Manal Abdel-Raouf Mehrem is chief engineer of the new Suez Canal that opened in July 2015. A game-changer for Egypt, the $8 billion project was largely funded through investment certificates in just six days. The canal’s officials say the construction of a second waterway will help generate revenues of $13.2 billion by 2023, up from $5.3 billion today.

Rank: 12


Country: Egypt

Title: Founding Partner

Company: Zulficar & Partners

A corporate lawyer, Mona Zulficar has worked on almost all of Egypt’s biggest mergers and acquisitions transactions, including the sale of Orascom Construction’s cement business to Lafarge for $13 billion in 2007. Two years later she formed her law firm where she continues to represent some of the biggest corporate names in Egypt. In addition, Zulficar is an advocate for human and women’s rights, and is a former member of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee and the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt. 

Rank: 20


Country: Egypt

Title: CEO

Company: Commercial Bank of Kuwait

Elham Mahfouz joined Commercial Bank of Kuwait as a Unit Head of Financial Institutions and Syndications, and has been with them for the past 16 years. In November 2014, she was appointed the bank’s CEO. The bank had assets worth $13.9 billion at the end of last year. 

Rank: 21


Country: Egypt

Title: Senior Executive VP

Company: Egypt Kuwait Holding

Egypt Kuwait Holding Company is an investment company that currently has $2.2 billion in assets. The company currently has investments in 18 companies across Egypt, Kuwait and South Sudan primarily in the hydrocarbons sector. 

Rank: 27


Country: Egypt

Title: CFO

Company: Vodafone Egypt

Marwa El-Ayouty has 18 years of finance experience, 15 of which were spent with Vodafone. Vodafone Egypt is the biggest mobile firm operator in the country with over 40 million subscribers and turnover exceeding $1.8 billion. 

Rank: 29


Country: Egypt

Title: Chief operating officer 

Company: HSBC Bank Egypt

Prior to being appointed COO of HSBC Egypt, Hania Sadek was heading the audit department of all the branches in the country. She introduced new methodologies such as continuous auditing and themed reviews of end-to-end processes. Her current role focuses on implementation and adherence of local and international regulatory standards, while managing multiple functions such as IT, risk management and project management. 

Rank: 30


Country: Morocco

Title: CEO

Company: Diana Holding

Rita Zniber became CEO of Diana Holding, a $3 billion (annual sales) agro-industrial conglomerate, in April 2014. Founded in 1956, the group has diversified businesses that work in agriculture, wine-making, bottling of water and soft drinks, trading and distribution. This June, the group became majority shareholder of Belvédère spirits. She also established the Rita Zniber Foundation in 1992 which is a non-profit organsation that helps orphans find a home. Today the foundation has two centres that provide a home to 350 children until their adoption.

Rank: 32


Country: Egypt

Title: CEO

Company: Raya Data Centre

Reem Asaad has 15 years of experience in the information technology and financial service sectors. She previously managed her own IT consulting firm in the US and is also a member of numerous associations, including the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, the British Egyptian Business Association, and a founding member of the Egyptian Investor Relations Association. 

Rank: 42


Country: Morocco

Title: CEO

Company: Wafasalaf

Laila Mamou became CEO of Wafasalaf in July 2004. She’s been with the company since 1992 and was the director of sales and marketing before she took on the role of CEO. One of the biggest consumer finance companies in Morocco, Wafasalaf generated revenues of $104 million last year.

Rank: 46


Country: Morocco

Title: Chair and CEO

Company: Aksal

Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch founded Aksal Group, which has the exclusive license to sell brands such as Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, and Banana Republic. Aksal owns 50% stake in Morocco Mall, the largest shopping mall in Africa, which cost $240 million to build. 

Rank: 47


Country: Egypt

Title: CEO and Managing Director

Company: Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank-Egypt

A veteran banker, Nevine Loufty heads the Egyptian branch of the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), which has $2.5 billion in assets. Prior to her role at ADIB, Loufty was Chief Operating Officer, Managing Director and Business Senior Credit Officer at Citigroup’s EMEA Commercial Bank in London. 

Rank: 48


Country: Tunisia

Title: CEO

Company: Societe d’Articles Hygieniques

In 1994 Jalila Mezni founded the Société d’Articles Hygiéniques Group, a personal care company, in Tunisia with her husband Mounir EL Jayez. The company, of which Mezni owns 67.02 %, manufactures feminine care products and other hygiene products like toilet paper and baby diapers. It has subsidiaries in Morocco, Algeria and Libya.  

Rank: 52


Country: Egypt

Title: CEO

Company: Pyramedia

Nashwa Al Ruwaini made her debut on Qatari radio before moving on to television as a presenter on Qatar TV. In 1998, she launched media company Pyramedia that encompasses TV and film production, events, PR, marketing and advertising. The company, which has offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Cairo, London, Riyadh and New York, is known for producing the Arab version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Ruwaini even had her own talk show “Nashwa”, which aired on Dubai TV in 2006. 

Rank: 55


Country: Egypt

Title: CEO

Company: Integrated Diagnostics Holdings

Hend El Sherbini became Group CEO of market diagnostic group Integrated Diagnostics Holdings (IDH) in 2012. IDH is a laboratory diagnostics provider that includes services such as genetics testing and radiology. It has 90 branches in the Middle East, and went public in May 2015. El Sherbini is also a professor of clinical pathology at Cairo University, from where she did her PhD in Immunology. She is currently on the board of the American Society of Clinical Pathology (Egypt). 

Rank: 61


Country: Morocco

Title: CEO

Company: Global Nexus

Hynd Bouhia currently oversees Global Nexus, a private equity fund that invests in clean energy infrastructure in Morocco, using her experience at the World Bank where she worked as a senior financial officer in the Capital Markets group. 

During her eight-year tenure at World Bank, she worked on raising debt for developing countries and environmental policies in emerging economies. In 2004, she was chosen by then Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou to become his economic advisor, where she helped procure a $700 million grant from the US to aid private enterprises in Morocco. 

Rank: 63


Country: Morocco

Title: CEO and Board Member

Company: Les Eaux Minerales d’Oulmes; Holmarcom Group

Miriem Bensalah Chaqroun is a board member of family-owned holding company Holmarcom Group, and CEO of its subsidiary, water-bottling company Les Eaux Minerales d’Oulmes, which generated $139 million in revenue last year. Bensalah Chaqroun was elected president of the National Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises (CGEM), an association representing businesses in the private sector.

Rank: 70


Country: Egypt

Title: Chair

Company: HitekNOFAL

Sahar Sallab has over 30 years of experience in the banking sector. She joined HitekNOFAL, a family-owned telecommunications company in Egypt, after working for Citibank and Commercial International Bank in the past. HitekNOFAL recently diversified into fiber optics launching the HitekNOFAL Fibre Optic Academy, a first-of-its-kind in the Middle East. 

Rank: 75


Country: Egypt

Title: VP, Sales & Marketing, Board member

Company: Oriental Weavers Co.

Yasmine Khamis helps run Oriental Weavers, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of carpets and rugs that was founded by her father Mohamed Farid Khamis in 1979. Oriental Weavers Company had assets worth $441 million as of last year. Its clients include Target, Costco, and Ikea. 

Rank: 75


Country: Egypt

Title: VP, Corporate Finance; Board member

Company: Oriental Weavers Co

Also a board member alongside her sister Yasmine Khamis, Farida Khamis has experience in investor relations as Deputy Chairperson for Financing. She has trained with Citibank and EFG Hermes and is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), a global peer network for chief executives. She holds a BBA from the American University in Cairo.

Rank: 87


Country: Egypt

Title: Chair

Company: Rachid Mashreq Group

Chairperson of fast-moving consumer goods company Rachid Mashreq Group, Hosna is also on the Board of Trustees at the American University in Cairo and co-founder of the “I, the Egyptian” Foundation that tackles and resolves the problems of street children. 

Rank: 89


Country: Morocco

Title: Associate Vice President

Company: Safari Group

Saida Lamrani runs the Safari Group, a holding company that has substantial or controlling stakes in several blue-chip Moroccan companies including commercial bank, Credit Morocco (where she is Chair of the Supervisory Board), textile manufacturer Mafaco, Tractor distributor Comicom, metallurgy giant Socodam-Davum, chemical company Scim Chemical and SMEIA, a distributor of BMW and Land Rover vehicles in Morocco. She is also a member of the board at the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity, established by King Mohammed VI in 1999, that is aimed at battling poverty.

Rank: 90


Country: Egypt

Title: Group Corporate Treasury Director

Company:Ezz Steel

Hala Bassiouni has 28 years of experience in corporate banking that spans corporate finance, retail banking, risk, restructure and recovery. She joined Ezz Steel in January 2015, after 11 years as the Managing Director of Egyptian Housing Finance Company. In her current role, she directly supervises and works individually with the treasurers of each of the five group’s companies. The group’s current turnover exceeds $2.6 billion. 

Rank: 93


Country: Egypt

Title: Executive Vice Chair

Company: Piraeus Bank

Nayera Amin was appointed Executive Vice Chair of Piraeus Bank—which has assets worth $1.12 billion—in 2013 with a mandate to restructure the bank, poise it for growth and revert it back to profitability. She was promoted from the position of CEO and Managing Director, which she held from 2009. Before joining Piraeus, she spent 31 years at Citibank.

Rank: 98


Country: Egypt

Title: Co-founder

Company: Diwan Bookstore

Co-founder of Diwan Bookstore, Hind Wassef and her sister Nadia transformed Diwan into a regional brand with more than 10 stores in Cairo and Alexandria. Diwan promotes Arab and international writers, artists and musicians by hosting workshops and lectures, and showcasing their work through events and screenings.

Rank: 98


Country: Egypt

Title: Co-founder

Company: Diwan Bookstore

Nadia Wassef co-founded Diwan Bookstore—the first modern bookstore in Egypt to sell Western and Eastern literatures, films, musical genres in Arabic and English—with sister Hind in 2002. 


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