Aisha Ahmad - The Anticipation of a New Age for African Financial Affairs
by West Africa Contributor
With women in South Africa finding their voices about their struggles with domestic abuse, women in Zimbabwe standing up against the army and police forces for the violent abuse of women, and women in the north of Nigeria exposing men with a record of violent behaviour towards women in their communities via the #ArewaMeToo movement – it is clear that we have entered a season where bold women are claiming their space.
So when news started doing the rounds that Aisha Ahmad had allegedly been shortlisted amongst a list of 8 candidates to take over the role of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, I was ready to snatch my wig and wave it around in the air in support for her! Should this appointment go through, she would be the first female African Central Bank Governor in history. The symbolism of this is both exciting and mind-blowing. Most Africans are raised in homes where the banker, or the person who controls the money in the house is the father or husband. And so for Africa’s most populous country, which is also one of the continent’s biggest economies to have the shots about its vault of wealth being called by a woman, would be nothing short of a modern day revolution. The symbolism of men in Nigeria making peace with gender having nothing to do with the capacity to efficiently and responsibly run the finances of the huge family that is a nation is deeply powerful.
The collective wokeness of this era even resonates with the manner in which people responded to the way some platforms broke the news of this rumour, with the Nigerian financial platform Nairametrics coming under fire on Twitter for a headline that read “Female Banker Leads Eight Nominees for Emefiele’s Job”, with the obvious contention being that the platform could have used her name.
Nigeria boasts of strong women at the helm of some of the country’s most prominent financial institutions; Ibukun Awosika as the Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, Osaretin Demuren as the Chairman of GT Bank, and Mosun Belo- Olusoga as the Chairman of Access Bank. – so its safe to say there are some lessons we all need to learn from Nigerian women about redefining these traditional “Boys’ Clubs”. However, this also begs the question, is our optimism misplaced for thinking another woman being appointed at the helm will cause a whole revolution? Not at all, and here is why.
First of all, we have to acknowledge that banking is one of the most rapidly transforming sectors globally in terms of balanced representation because merit is rewarded first before anything else – as they say, numbers don’t lie, so it is fairly easy to gauge who deserves to be at the top of the class. What is unique about the Central Bank however is that it is a balance between merit and the approval of lawmakers (the nomination is made by the President, and has to be passed through Senate before anyone can be confirmed for this top job). So unlike commercial banking appointments, this one has to tick all the right boxes in Nigeria’s majority male and multi-cultured Senate. A yes from this crowd is a big win.
Beyond this, there are some things about Ms Aisha Ahmad that should give us joyful butterflies at the thought of being led by her. First of those things is that Aisha Ahmad is an extremely vocal advocate for gender balance in its many dynamic forms.
She holds a role on the Executive Council of one of Nigeria’s most prominent non profit organizations for women, WIMBIZ. WIMBIZ is a platform focused on addressing issues affecting the interests of women professionals in business, with particular attention to promoting leadership development and building capacities to engender growth. This is a woman who is ready to pay her vast experience forward, and let more of us in! How can we not stan?
She is also know for her effort in pushing for paternity leave as in her words, “For as long as juggling a career and making those hard but necessary choices remain the pure remit of the woman, we will always make work-life balance purely a feminine issue. This is one reason why the practice of enforcing paternity leave for instance, is becoming institutionalized in the global workplace – both men & women should be given the opportunity to make these sacrifices for their careers to even out the playing field.”
A time such as this needs women like this in visible positions, because their stories will shift mindsets and redefine both cultural and societal norms. This is a toast to the very real possibility of Africa’s first female Central Bank Governor!