An interview with Nunu Ntshingila, futur Director for Facebook in Africa

12c509eWhen she begins her career in the advertising industry at the end of the 1980s in South Africa, Nunu Ntshingila discovers a universe she describes as being “very white and very masculine”. Let us take another look at an Africa fully involved in a digital (r)evolution, through the eyes of a woman promoting afro-responsibility on the continent.

An activist in women access to leadership

« After staying in the US for my studies, I came back to South Africa to work at Nike’s in communication. When I came back in the advertising sector, South Africa had democratized itself. I particularly remember debates on the role of women in the development of the post-apartheid country. It was reassuring to know we were involved in these types of discussions”, says Nunu Ntshingila who, at almost 50, is about to leave the world of advertising and to take the lead of Facebook in Africa. In 2011, Nunu Ntshingila joined the Executive Committee of Ogilvy & Mather, becoming the only representative of the African continent to serve on the committee, amongst thirty executives.

« The access of women to executive positions is a determining factor, especially in the creative industry, as they are required to speak up to be represented with respect ». Representation, explains Nunu Ntshingila, also takes into account the race issue, an issue which, according to her, is not about to disappear easily in South Africa. She believes that the distribution of wealth would be a good solution to remedy the racial tensions that still divide the country: “We must ensure that diversity can take root in our environment. All the capital currently belongs to the white minority, we must ensure that this capital belongs to the majority.”

A stronger advertisement market, thanks to the new technologies

In 2015, the advertisement market’s growth in Africa is estimated at 8%, against 5% in the rest of the world. On this topic, Nunu Ntshingila confirms: “It is true that the market evolves a great deal. But I insist on the fact that we should guide this evolution ourselves. When we talk about Africa in motion, it is important that Africans first appropriate this idea. I am sceptical when this message comes from outside the continent. We need to make Africa grow, as Africans. Today, people here want to live in better conditions. This is why the diaspora realises the potential of the continent and goes back to Africa.”

Asked about the impact of digital, she admits that she does not believe in a negative aspect of this revolution for the advertisement market. “The press was a pillar of our strategies, and we really feel in South Africa, a concentration of the advertisement market towards digital. We need to adapt to new technologies”

New technologies, such as the mobile

According to a study published at the beginning of the year by Frost & Sullivan on mobile usage trends in Subsaharan Africa, mobile penetration rate should attain 79% in 2020. “Mobile has allowed a leap forward regarding the way we communicate with consumers. Technology has allowed to reduce the gap between urban and rural areas. It is also a powerful tool to hear the voices of the poorest. It has even transformed the way we communicate between countries. Here, it is time for erasing the boundaries”, affirms the woman who has participated to the development of the international group on advertisement in 14 African countries.

Despite the optimistic perspective she has on the current state of the African advertisement market, Nunu Ntshingila remains lucid on the long road ahead. There are disparities, especially between Maghreb, Egypt and South Africa, and the rest of Sub-saharan Africa. A report from the Alliance For Affordable Internet shows that French-speaking African countries are particularly affected by the high costs of high speed internet. “In Africa, what will determine the evolution of advertisement will be the cost of high speed internet”, she declares. This cost is one among the many obstacles that the future director of Facebook will face when developing the social network on the African network, from the month of September.

Translated by M.C.

What financial contribution do African Women make to the development of the continent?

Woman, African: These are two words that equal an ominous social and economic heritage in relation to cultural representations, sociological realities and discriminatory practices that we see in the work and capital market. However, a growing number of studies reveal that gender equality is one of the pillars of economic development in Africa. [1]

In the study, Women in Africa published in 2013, the OECD estimated that women constituted 70% of the agricultural work force in Africa and are involved in the production of 90% of foodstuffs. In addition, it was found that African women produce 61.9% of the economic goods. This number exceeded the average percentage reported in all the regions that make up the OECD. This activity, mainly independent, informal and agricultural has given rise to segmentation in the African labour market and a high under-representation of women in the workforce and the agricultural sector (8.5% across the continent). This revelation is even more important than the expansion of the tertiary sector of the African economy (the rise of the digital/ICT, telecoms and financial sectors), as the latter can lead to a biased technical progress to the detriment of women who are not part of the human capital. [2]  .


The market barriers that women experience are in different forms and have been analyzed through the morality, cultural and fundamental rights lens. However, it is important to recognize that beyond these unquestionable and legitimate factors, Africa has no economic interest in using the skills of this group that occupies more than half of its population in the secondary and tertiary sectors. The failure of the market and institutions can help to explain the displacement of women in the secondary and tertiary sectors.


This article aims to give an overview of the institutional context of economic activities of women in Africa. We will take a look at the measures taken to improve these activities and then the limits of these public policies. Then we will analyze the prospects for development.


Firstly, qualified or not, African women contribute to the growth of the continent despite many structural impediments

Many studies have shown that international trade has a negative but low impact on employment. This negative impact is usually found in activities with a less qualified workforce. In Africa, the latter is made up of mainly women. For example, according to l’INSEE, in 2011, industrial trade between France and developing countries led to a deficit of 330 000 jobs. Without urgent investment in the low-skilled female work force, African nations will run the risk of increasing the rate of unemployment, while the volume of investments in high growth sectors increases. The displacement of low-skilled women from the formal market does not however translate into total inactivity but results in the strengthening of the informal market which is accompanied sometimes by long-tem success. For example « Nana Benz », a group of Togolese women, who made a fortune from the sale of wax prints on the informal market during the colonial times up until the 2000s.[3]

On the other hand, the barriers for skilled female workers are mainly institutional and legal. The Family Code that is being implemented in many African nations generates harmful distortions in the market, in that, it limits the equitable transfer of inheritance between female and male descendants during the sharing of estates and restricts women’s access to bank credit. Also, the unfairness of land ownership rights constitutes an obstacle to women entrepreneurship. It drives a lot of them out of the different markets. The imperfection of the labour market and the low access to capital creates an asymmetry between women and structures which demand the use of a workforce in order to fix meager nominal wages. To combat this, microfinance enterprises started to provide credit to vulnerable populations and those far from the banking sector. This is shown in the study carried out by the researcher, Annelise Sery in Micro-credit: Empowering Ivoirian Women


Secondly, we must restructure the institutional framework of the economic activities of African women

Conscious of the dangers that the displacement of women constitute, many African states have opened the grounds for a debate on gender equality. On the 14th of May, 2010, the Senegalese National Assembly adopted a law on the equality of men and women. This was done in a country where women make up 52% of the population. This new law should lead to an amendment of the Family Code. Also, in Morocco, where the 2011 constitution opposes any discrimination on the grounds of gender, one its towns, Marrakech, hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in November 2014. The aim of this program was to promote the regional and local economic activities of women. 

However, even though this country is a key growth driver in Africa, women participation in the economy fell from 30% in 1999 to 25% in 2012[4. Article 19 of the 2011 Moroccan constitution did not particularly address the economic inequalities but brought the debate on gender equality to the limelight. This was institutionalized by the creation of the High Authority on gender equality.

Ultimately, micro financing should be properly developed, so that a proto-industrialization can occur, which can allow mothers to work from home. This will lead to an inclusion of the African banking system in a virtuous cycle, which will profit shareholders and vulnerable populations such as women. International banking and financial organizations also have a role to play in the increased participation of women in the African economy as they are transnational and are not subject to religious or local factors that limit the rights of women in different African countries


As such, initiatives such as that of the African Development Bank’s ‘‘Prize for Women Innovators’’ created in October 2010 should not just be a slogan but must give way to proactive and specific action to encourage female entrepreneurship. For now, low-skilled women are the pillars of agricultural production in Africa. Nevertheless, growth prospects and the expansion of the tertiary sector of individual African economies is giving rise to an urgent need to remove the entry barriers into the secondary and tertiary labour market for women to gain access. On the other hand, a proactive policy should be implemented to restructure the Family Code all around the continent.


Finally, initiatives by international organizations that aim to promote women entrepreneurship will allow Africa to groom its women leaders and increase gender equality in government circles.

Translated by Onyinyechi Ananaba

[1] Cf Women in Africa publié par le Centre du Developpement de l’OCDE.

[2] Katz et Murphy, 1992 Changes in relative wadges, 1963 -1987 : supply and demand factors

[3]  Amselle, 2001.

[4]Word Bank Poverty, adjustment and growth, Royaume du Maroc 2013.