“WIA Meet With” Exclusive interview with Hafsat Abiola

“WIA Meet With” Exclusive interview with Hafsat Abiola

“WIA Meet With” Exclusive interview with Hafsat Abiola 2560 1707 communication@wia-initiative.com

Can you introduce yourself and your background?

I am a trained economist with degrees from Harvard and Tsinghua; a pro-democracy activist; and a women empowerment activist who lost both parents to my country’s (Nigeria) democracy struggle.

I am committed to harnessing the power of women and youths to transform society and this is reflected in my roles as the president of Women in Africa; the founder of KIND, a civil society organization that trains thousands of women and youths in service-oriented leadership; one of three leaders of Connected Women Leaders; one of 50 Councilors of the World Future Council; a Special Envoy to Africa for Women Political Leaders; a member of BMW Foundation’s Responsible Leaders Group; Vital Voices 100; and an alumna of the World Economic Forum’s Community of Young Global Leaders. I have also served my country as a member of the Ogun State cabinet in charge of the MDGs and trade and investment portfolios.


You support women and men leaders through your work. What are your next goals (short and long term)?

My major goal is to scale my impact. There is a need to reach and impact more African women if we are serious about transforming our continent. This is why in 2021, WIA committed to supporting at least 10,000 women by 2030. With our current partners, we will exceed this target within a year and are taking up more ambitious targets.

You are going to co-present, with Léocadie Ebakissé, Founder and CEO of Talents Awake, WIA’s new exclusive “Meet with” series of webinars aimed at meeting female role models and women of influence from the African continent. What kind of profiles will you highlight in this series?

I want to highlight enterprising and trailblazing African women, who are thriving despite the harsh economic and social climate. I also want to highlight champions of women’s economic empowerment who are committed to the development of the African continent.

Who have been your role models and what impact have they had on your career?

I look up to women like my mother who, armed with little more than her convictions, challenged the military dictatorship that ruled my country in the 90s. My mom was very much about the achievements that women can have and the need for women to actually set aside traditional expectations, and do more. She felt that we have the responsibility to go out into the world and make that world conducive for the children we’re rearing at home. I was in my 20s when she was killed. I try to continue along the lines that she so clearly articulated, to act in a manner that aligns with the values that she inculcated. These values and her wisdom have guided me on my path to this day.

I am also inspired by the millions of women who set up businesses across Africa. They managed to provide for their families and challenge the world of patriarchy that reminds them daily that they can’t do what they are already doing: make life possible against all odds.

I’m inspired by those that came before us who made our societies more humane. I continue to do the work I do because I want to contribute to improving the state of the world so that future generations will experience better than what we have.

You yourself are two influential women leaders on the African continent. What do you think are the main qualities of a good leader?

  • Integrity
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-mastery (Discipline)
  • Courage
  • Empathy
  • Open-mindedness
  • Patience


What message could you bring to African women who want to become the leaders of tomorrow?

I believe strongly that women’s equal engagement in the economy and governance systems at all levels will lead to a prosperous continent.

Africa’s women stand to gain the most from shaping the continent into a place that releases its enormous potential. So many women and girls are living on the margins of society, in the black and gray economies, in community associations, in peer lending groups. They are not integrated into the economy or the institutions of governance. It is high time they were. Indeed, we will go on talking about Africa’s potential until this army-in-waiting of change-makers take charge. African women can and must connect their businesses to the economy and anchor the state to their vibrant communities. They can give birth to an Africa that becomes the finest expression of how to develop a continent.

African women need to get out and start building the kinds of society they want to live in, the kinds of companies they want to work in, the kinds of countries they want to live in. Getting started on something, no matter how small ‘it’ is, will get us started on building the momentum that pulls in others, and ultimately changes our world.

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