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Anouk Zijlma

Africa's First Ladies

By January 4, 2010

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africa first ladies chantal biya zumaSouth Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, is marrying his third wife today. It's his 5th wedding. His two current wives will be involved with the ceremony and attend along with various distinguished guests and dignitaries. Mr Zuma is a Zulu and polygamy has long been a cultural tradition. In fact, it's rumored that a 6th wedding will not be far off. I'm curious about how these first ladies decide to divide their official duties. I bet there are some other first ladies out there who wouldn't mind a break or two from attending events.

Like first ladies the world over, Africa's first ladies are a smart and motivated group of women. There are first ladies who work hard to improve the situation in their country -- others seem to spend a lot of time shopping for shoes in Europe. Sia Nyama Koroma, Sierra Leone's first lady, has a Masters degree in organic chemistry, is a mother of 5 children and works to reduce infant and maternal mortality. Senegal's first lady, Viviane Wade, is an elegant French woman who has spent 40 years working on health and woman's issues in Senegal. Mrs Ana Paula Dos Santos of Angola is a former fashion model and flight attendant, with a healthy interest in her country's diamond mines. Mrs. Penehupifo Pohamba of Namibia practiced as a midwife and registered nurse up until she became First Lady. Grace Mugabe of Zimbabwe is known as "the First Shopper"" and spends her country's meager fortunes on designer clothes, Hong Kong apartments and fancy shoes. She's also half her husband's age and that makes her an easy target. Just ask Chantal Biya, Cameroon's first lady.

I came across a photo of a group of African first ladies who got together in Los Angeles last year for a health summit. Their aims were admirable, but I have to say I found myself gawking at the unbelievable mane sported by Chantal Biya. She's quite famous for her hair and flamboyant style (she wore a giant pink and white hat with crosses all over it when she met the Pope.) She's also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Education and Social Inclusion and has a Facebook page.

More photos of Africa's First Ladies can be found on Sahara vibe's blog.

Cameroon's First Lady Chantal Biya in LA -- Getty Images

January 5, 2010 at 10:53 pm
(1) Karl-Heinz Feldmann says:

What a bloody shame that ZUMA is! How many children has he got and will be producing still? A liability to RSA. What a BIG difference Nelson (Madiba) Mandela and this Zuma clown. Great pity that Nelson Mandela is not ruling RSA anymore, what a Statesman he was and still is! May the Lord save his soul!

January 6, 2010 at 11:56 am
(2) Travel Africa says:

Just what Africa needs..

February 12, 2010 at 3:49 am
(3) Msholozi says:

In South Africa, “we follow a policy that says you must respect the cultures of others”.

“That’s my culture. It does not take anything from me, from my political beliefs and everything, including the belief on the equality of women.

“It’s my culture. And I’m sure there are cultures (that) do that kind of thing,” he said.

And he added: “The problem is that when people have their own culture … think that their culture is the only right one … the only one accepted by God.”

November 10, 2010 at 6:46 pm
(4) ZAer says:

@K-H Feldmann: Blah. What makes Mandela such a statesman? RSA is still dealing with the same issues. The majority are still on the outside looking in at the dominant minority. Ever hear of what happened after the Weimar Republic?

August 23, 2012 at 12:59 pm
(5) C'mon says:

Of course the White French First Lady is describe as elegant and helping her country-women gain equality. What a bunch of bull! She shops in Europe all the time and I am sorry but how does seeing a White French woman from the same bloodlines that has oppressed the African people help their country? Just because she shops in her native country while blonde does not make her any less greedy and shameful than the rest!

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