The awards were developed by Mastercard in partnership with Entrepreneur Middle East to recognize and further empower women-owned and run SMEs across the Middle East and Africa.
Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President of Market Development, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa at Mastercard, said: “The passion that women SME owners display is unmatched, they raise the bar higher every day. The Mastercard Women SME Leaders Awards recognize and celebrate these inspiring women entrepreneurs, highlighting the individuals and enterprises that are shaping the future of this dynamic region. The judges were overwhelmed at the quantity and quality of entries and have been inspired by the amazing stories of dedication, creativity and innovation. We pass our admiration and congratulate the winners as well as everyone who was nominated for these awards.”
Celebrating and showcasing individuals and enterprises shaping economies, value chains and the digital economy, winners from Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania were:
- In Nigeria, Oluwadamilola Soyombo was named The Techie for her role as the Founder & CEO of the children’s online learning community, Skooqs, while Abimbola Ogundere was named The Educator as the CEO of the Learning As | Teach Foundation, which created the British international school, Kids Court School.
- Two Tanzanian women entrepreneurs took awards – the Founder of Pugu Hills Eco-Tourism, Sairis Lucia Bugeraha, was named Professional Services Leader, alongside the Journalist from the Thompson Reuters Foundation, Menna Farouk, who was named The Media Leader
- In Egypt, Gehad Hamdy, Founder & MD of the feminist initiative to support victims of violence, Speak UP, took two awards – The Change Maker and The Humanitarian. Fellow Egyptian and Founder of the multidisciplinary arts and culture company Nadine Abdelghafar was named The Artist
- Kenya was represented by winners Carole Kinoti, the social fashion entrepreneur who was named The Retailer, alongside the Principal Consultant and Founder of the wealth management firm Zoel Capital, who was named The Executive
There were winners from Bahrain, Lebanon and the UAE as follows:
- Wafa Alobaidat – the Founder and CEO of Bahrain-based women’s professional development company, Playbook, was named The Leader of Tomorrow
- Lebanon’s Jennifer Mansour, who Founded the children’s food company, Little Melly, was named Momtrepreneur of the Year
Majority of the winners were from the UAE. They are as follows:
- The Designer: Maz (Mariam) Hakim, the Founder of fashion house ESPAND
- The Logistician: Siddhi Joshi, CEO of Emovers
- The F&B Leader: Erika Doyle, Founder & MD of the alcohol-free drinks company, Drink Dry
- The Real Estate Leader: Helen Chen, Co-Founder and CEO of home search company, Nomad Homes
- The Health Custodian: Sophie Smith, Founder & CEO of women’s health company, Nabta Health
- The Hotelier: Judit Toth, General Manager of the Ink Hotel
- The Investor: Maryam Fouladirad, CEO of technology startup funding platform, Fundii
- The Fashion and Beauty Leader: Salama Mohamed, Founder of the cosmetics company, Peacefull
- The Visionary: Jennifer Sault, Founder & MD of the preloved clothing company, Thrift for Good
- Home-based Business of the Year: Maz (Mariam) Hakim, Founder of the sustainable clothing company, ESPAND by Maz
The Women SME Leaders Awards 2022 is the first initiative of its kind to recognize and showcase women-owned and run SMEs in the Middle East and Africa, with a turnover of less than US$13.6 million (AED50 million) and employing between six to 50 people.
Entry to the award’s 22 categories – which included The Designer, The Logistician, The Retailer, The Educator and The Investor – was open to all female individuals or businesses who have their offices or offer their services in the Middle East and Africa. Other award categories included The F&B Leader, The Educator, The Real Estate Leader, The Health Custodian, the Executive, The Leader of Tomorrow, and The Visionary, in addition to others.
The Women SME Leaders Awards 2022 judging committee included Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development, EEMEA for Mastercard; Mona Zulficar, Chairperson of EFG Hermes Holding; Nejoud Al Mulaik, Director of Fintech Saudi and Tamara Pupic, Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.
The awards stemmed from the inaugural Mastercard SME Confidence Index conducted in 2021, which revealed that 81% of women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa have a digital presence for their businesses, compared to 68% of their male counterparts. In terms of the digital footprint of these women entrepreneurs, social media (71%) leads the way, followed by a company website (57%).
These findings were aligned with Mastercard’s global commitment to connect 25 million women entrepreneurs to the digital economy by 2025 as part of its goal to build a more sustainable and inclusive world. The index further suggested that growing confidence levels in digital as a business imperative is tied to a deeper understanding and wider recognition among SMEs of the advantages that result from a growing digital economy.