Source: KFC Africa |

Africa’s ‘female firsts’ get a KFC shoutout on International Women’s Day

53 women who beat the odds feature on a list of role models to inspire others

Seeing what someone else has achieved, especially when they’ve faced the same challenges as you, can be really powerful inspiration

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 4, 2024/APO Group/ --

“While I may be the first, I don’t want to be the last.” This comment from Akhona Qengqe launches an inaugural list of female firsts across Africa as International Women’s Day 2024 is celebrated this week.

Each of the 53 achievers on KFC Africa’s list – one for each year the company has been in Africa – overcame educational, political, social and financial obstacles. And they often had to break through the proverbial glass ceiling to achieve something no woman in their country had done before.

They’re drawn from each of the 23 Sub-Saharan Africa countries where KFC has restaurants and include the likes of Esperança da Costa, Angola’s first woman vice president, and Sedia Sanogo, who will captain Côte d'Ivoire’s first female Olympic boxing team in Paris this year.

“It’s a remarkable list filled with evidence of hope and possibility,” says Akhona Qengqe, General Manager of KFC Africa. “Seeing what someone else has achieved, especially when they’ve faced the same challenges as you, can be really powerful inspiration.”

Qengqe grew up in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, where she was exposed to the many challenges most marginalised women face and made her own mark by becoming KFC Africa’s first black female General Manager. “More importantly, in a business where 60% of the 40,000-plus employees are women, I also look like the majority of our workforce,” she says. “Being able to fill this role and represent others is what gives this job real meaning and purpose for me.”

Qengqe says it all adds up to a thirst for empowerment, diversity and inclusion which she is certain KFC shares with its “female firsts” – a list the company plans to expand annually with the help of the public and its customers. “I’m a mother of four, I’m female, I’m African and I lead a huge organisation,” she says. “I’m an original, just like the 53 women we honour on this International Women’s Day. We look forward to seeing this list grow.”

The organisers of this year’s International Women’s Day, with the theme “Inspire Inclusion”, say that “when we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world. And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance and empowerment.”

That sentiment has driven Qengqe’s determination to make KFC the most inclusive quick service restaurant brand in Africa since she joined the company in 2015 as Development Director. Initiatives include KFC Add Hope, a women-led programme that serves more than 30 million free meals to tens of thousands of children every year. In 2021, she launched Women on the Move, which prepares women at KFC for future leadership positions.

Chief People and Transformation Officer Nolo Thobejane says the impact of the programme has been exponential, “and we’ve extended its reach even further through our Women on the Move Extended Network (WOM.XN), which brings together women across the globe, at all levels”. She adds: “Everyone needs to know that they belong and that they have a career here. Everyone needs to know that they have an opportunity and a shot to reach their potential in life.”

Thobejane is equally proud of the Streetwise Academy, which tackles youth unemployment in areas where KFC operates. “A high percentage of young people don’t have matric, so the academy – which is National Qualifications Framework-accredited – supports them in getting their matric and diplomas. Well over half our students are women.” The company also runs KFC Mini Cricket, the largest grassroots sports programme in South Africa which gives 120,000 girls and boys between the ages of three and 12 the opportunity to level the playing fields. And 60% of the 13,000 coaches are women.

The public is invited to nominate more “female firsts” for the next edition of this list across sectors and disciplines by emailing

Explore the list of 53 female firsts across Africa:

The list of 53 female firsts across Africa – downloadable pdf:

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of KFC Africa.

For media inquiries and to arrange interviews with Nolo Thobejane:
Sisanda Voko-Mabope
078 405 2834

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About KFC Africa: 
KFC has been in South Africa for over 53 years and has more than 1,300 stores across the continent. The first KFC restaurant in South Africa opened in 1971 in Orange Grove, Johannesburg. KFC is the leading quick-service restaurant brand in South Africa with just under a third of market share, according to Brand Image Tracker. KFC serves more than 20 million customers a month and we work hard to ensure that no matter which of our restaurants they walk into, they will get that distinctive KFC flavour and have a great experience. KFC’s Original Recipe® Chicken was first made by Colonel Harland Sanders in 1940 when he perfected his secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices at his restaurant in Kentucky. Today, KFC is the world’s most popular chicken restaurant, still preparing our chicken with the Colonel’s secret recipe to his exact standards. Every KFC restaurant follows the same global processes and procedures to ensure that our customers get great-tasting food, every time.