Many women have had high profiles in the political life of Burundi and Rwanda. Burundi has 35 percent and Rwanda has 57 percent of its parliamentary places taken by women, and figures such as Agathe Uwilingiyimana, Agathe Habyarimana, Louise Mushikiwabo, Sylvie Kinigi, and Antoinette Batumubwira have occupied senior leadership positions (including before the wars of the 1990s). The prominence is unusual by international standards.
Political position can be related to the choices of relatively few people. Participation in business is a much larger phenomenon, reflecting the choices of far more people in supply and demand of labour. The table shows the percentages of companies with at least one female owner in selected African countries. There were 24 countries surveyed, including Rwanda and Burundi.
1 Zimbabwe 58%
2 Ghana 49%
3 Zambia 42%
4 Rwanda 41%
7 Burundi 33%
22 Guinea Bissau 19%
23 Mauritania 16%
24 Sierra Leone 10%
Source: World Bank Enterprise Surveys
Rwanda is near the top of the list, and Burundi is not far behind.
I'm not sure why women have such a prominent position in Burundian and Rwandan business, and public life generally. Some of the broadest influences on their society - early German colonisation, Catholic majority religion, later UK and US affiliation (in the case of Rwanda) - would seem to suggest less female representation. So I'm puzzled.