In 1968, Chairman Mao might have proclaimed that women hold up half the sky, but it remains a sad fact that the majority of top African and Chinese politicians are still men. This is also the case for CEOs of state-owned and other large Chinese and African businesses. No woman has been president of any African country since Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stepped down last year, and in a recent study by the World Economic Forum (WEF), China was ranked 77th out of 144 countries in terms of female political representation, and 86th for economic participation and opportunity. Only eight sub-Saharan African countries featured overall in the top 50 of the same index. When I attended the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2015, which has been running since 2000 and tends to be a very government-led affair, only two women were prominent – the head of the African Union Commission at the time Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Kenya’s then Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed.
But I am now noticing an interesting new phenomenon: Women from all over the world seem to be aiming to shape China-Africa relations.