Africa

African magazines celebrate modern women

Front cover of pan-African magazine Femme Africaine next to its English language counterpart new African Woman Image copyright New African Woman
Image caption New African Woman is published in French (L) and English editions

What can African women's magazines tell us about women's aspirations?

While African leaders this week lined up to stress their commitment to female empowerment at the African Union (AU) summit, magazines aimed at African women have been putting out empowerment messages for some time.

Successful women are always profiled as role models. The magazines tackle serious topics such as migration and child brides but they are also full of glamour, recipes and relationship advice.

What's trending?

High-quality pan-African glossies portray the modern African woman as strong and proud of her heritage. New African Woman and its French edition Femme Africaine say they "offer intelligent, meaningful and inspirational features and news in areas that embrace and celebrate the African woman's diverse accomplishments and aspirations".

With 164,000 likes on Facebook, the English edition kept a running commentary on Angelina Jolie's speech about violence against women at the African Union summit in Johannesburg.

Image copyright Glam Africa Magazine
Image caption Glam Africa is published in the UK and also sells in Nigeria and Ghana

Like its competitors, AfroElle, Glam Africa and many others, the magazine mixes high-fashion glamour with features on powerful African women.

"Afro-Chic" and "Africa Rising" are commonly-used terms. The magazines, often printed in Europe, are as popular with the African diaspora as they are on the continent. Rich lists and power lists are popular but features also address tragedies like the Chibok girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria.

Crowded market

Here is a guide to five of Africa's leading women's magazines.

Senegal: ACTU'ELLE

Image copyright Actu'elle
Image caption The May edition of Senegal's Actu'elle magazine

Senegal's thriving magazine scene counts the high-quality Actu'elle magazine as one of its best. It is produced in Paris and last month carried a feature about the deaths of African migrants in the Mediterranean. "They take this long perilous journey in search of Eldorado, but it is disenchantment for most," the article says.

May's edition also profiles women's groups working to inspire other women in urban and rural areas. An article on abortion says 50% of illegal abortions are carried out by women who have been raped. It calls for harsher sentences for those found guilty of raping minors.

Ads for beauty products, shoes and handbags, resemble high-end Western magazines like Vogue. The style editor's advice on what to wear is that: "This summer will be white". (There are only two seasons in Senegal - the rainy season and the dry season).

There is also advice on how to gain weight. It says eat more, exercise and avoid getting stressed.

Some African women feel they are too skinny and want to gain weight. This is nothing to do with a different concept of beauty a previous generation of Africans used to have - that curvier women are more beautiful and healthier. Nowadays many urban African women, like their sisters elsewhere, want to be fit and slim.

Nigeria: GENEVIEVE

Image copyright Genevieve
Image caption Genevieve is a Nigerian title

In West Africa, gossip about Nigerian "Nollywood" celebrities is popular in magazines. There are magazines on women in finance, women's health as well as religious magazines.

In this crowded sector, Genevieve is one of the leading women's titles. It was launched in 2003 to inspire "wholesomeness in all women and the men in their lives". The latest edition discusses the "Becoming Financially Fearless" workshop the magazine hosted.

Djibouti: MARWO

Image copyright Marwo
Image caption Djibouti magazine Marwo

The Kenyan Hollywood actress Lupita Nyong'o is a hot favourite in African magazines. Djibouti's Marwo magazine profiled her in its April edition, before she became the face of the Lancome beauty range. The same edition had a special focus on the youth in Djibouti. Articles talked about the new generation of wealthy young heirs, how young people spend their leisure time and what dreams they have for the future.

Marwo is also distributed in Belgium and Canada and one interviewee told the magazine that the diaspora had a responsibility to contribute to the development of Africa. A young woman said she dreams of getting into politics "to help develop our young country".

An inspirational story tells of a successful entrepreneur who started off as a cleaner at the US embassy. The magazine said: "She embodies the new Djibouti that is modern and global."

South and East Africa: TRUE LOVE and MOVE!

Image copyright Move!
Image caption South African title Move!

South Africa's weekly Move! targets ordinary women but competes successfully with international titles like Cosmopolitan and Homes and Gardens. It is one of the highest-selling women's weeklies in the country. "We strive to educate and empower young black women while entertaining them at the same time," the magazine says.

Stories include scandals about local personalities, tips for successful living and religious advice. "I must get this copy," one reader said on Move!'s Facebook page in mid-June.

Image copyright True Love
Image caption True Love magazine publishes editions in East Africa (L) and South Africa

True Love, the iconic South African title, launched an East African edition in Nairobi in 2010, amid talk in Kenya that it was trying to promote South African lifestyles which may be beyond the means of many Kenyans. The edition has embraced a Kenyan outlook and has created a cosy relationship with readers.

It runs a book club where editors can meet readers who want to review books. It uses ordinary people rather than models on its covers and says it is "especially tailored to fit the dynamic lifestyles both contemporary career women and homemakers experience".

The June 2015 issue of True Love East Africa interviews famous TV couple Lulu Hassan and Rashid Abdalla. Their love story is told with intimate revelations about their relationship. It leaves women readers hoping to find similarly supportive men.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

More on this story