- Thuso Mbedu, 26, South Africa
This Wits graduate raised South Africa’s flag high when nominated in the ‘Best Performance by an Actress’ category at the 2017 International Emmy Awards, for her role as Winnie on Mzansi Magic’s TV drama, Is’thunzi. She made her on-screen debut in 2014 in the Mzansi Magic drama series, Saints and Sinners.
In 2014, she had a small recurring role in yet another Mzansi Magic soap Isibaya, before landing her a high-profile role as journalism student and wild child Kitso on local soap Scandal! Mbedu has also starred as Ipeleng in the international TV series MTV Shuga.
Under the mentorship of Amanda Lane, one of South Africa’s greatest writers and directors, she is currently working on developing a feature film funded by the KZN Film Commission.
“Furthermore, I am editing the script of a series I wrote called iDRIVE. iDRIVE, a crime action series set in the digital space. It is fast-paced and thought-provoking and I was fortunate to film the pilot in April with money I received from my role as Ipeleng in MTV Shuga.”
She has also made her first international debut on the Danish TV series Liberty. It seems there is no stopping her.
2. Maria Borges, 25, Angola
This Angolan beauty was the first-ever model to walk the Victoria’s Secret annual show in her Afro. Borges was born during Angola’s civil war. At age 11, her mother died. She was raised by her sister only five years her senior. Borges started modelling for a living. She took part in the ‘Elite Model Look Angola’ competition in 2010 and grabbed the attention of a local model scout who placed her in an overseas agency. With dreams of following in the footsteps of her idol, Naomi Campbell, it wasn’t long before she started making waves on the streets of New York. She booked 17 shows in her first New York Fashion Week season and became a Givenchy exclusive in her second season. She has also walked the runway for Tom Ford, Balmain, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Oscar de la Renta and Ralph Lauren. In 2016, she became a global ambassador for L’Oréal.
3. Herieth Paul, 22, Tanzania
Paul was discovered at an open call at Angie’s AMTI, a model agency in Canada. She signed with Women Management New York in 2010 and was on the runway to success from there. She has appeared in Vogue Italia, where she was a cover star, i-D, Wonderland and Teen Vogue. She was one of three models in the Tom Ford Fall/Winter 2013 campaign, photographed by the designer himself. She also walked the coveted Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show not once but twice, and has joined the likes of supermodels Gigi Hadid and Jourdan Dunn as the face of Maybelline.
4. Eddy Kamuanga Illunga, 26, DRC
Kamuanga Illunga’s work is thought-provoking and tells stories about the Congolese nation’s past, present and future. He explores shifts in the economic, political and social identity of the DRC since colonialization.
Besides Africa, the contemporary artist has exhibited his works in galleries across the world, including the Saatchi Gallery in London, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles. His work is also included in several important collections. Business mogul Charles Saatchi resold one of Kamuanga Illunga’s paintings for $93,000. His paintings cost an average of $45,000 each.
5. Cassper Nyovest, 27, South Africa
Cassper Nyovest, born Refiloe Maele Phoolo, loved performing before huge crowds while in primary school, where he fought to be on every play and show. Inspired by his late brother, Khotso Motebang Phoolo, who was also a rapper, Nyovest signed a record deal with Impact Sounds at just 17 years old. He produced hits like Gusheshe, Malome and Mama I Made It. He has shared the stage with international artists Kid Cudi, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Wizkid and Wiz Khalifa.
The rapper also started his own record label, Family Tree, the same year he released his debut album, Tsholofelo. His string of awards include the 2015 MTV African Music Awards Winner: Best African Hip Hop Act, 2015 African Music Awards Winner: Best Sothern Africa Male Artist & Best African Hip Hop Award.
On October 31, 2015, Nyovest made history by becoming the -first African artiste to sell out Ticketpro Dome, a venue in Johannesburg. He is a 2018 nominee for the BET Best International Act Award.
6. Stacey Gillian Abe, 27, Uganda
Multi-disciplinary contemporary artist
Abe describes herself as “reserved”. Her work highlights the strengths and fragility of the female mind. It attempts to critique stereotypical depictions of her as a black woman.
“My passion started from the need to express myself more, I am not an introvert but a bit reserved,” she says.
She found it easier to express her thoughts, document her experiences and put down her imagination through art. It all started with painting and drawing in high school in 2008.
“From that, I grew fond of art as a form of expression. I made a decision to continue with it at university in 2010. A huge part of my practice now revolves around highlighting complex situations as autobiographical documentations of past and continuous experiences. I like creating room for dialogue…”
In her multi-layered glass art, video and performance installations, she has examined the unconscious thought processes to question, highlight and raise awareness on behaviour and character that influence and make up an individual.
Abe has shown her works for various exhibitions including at Institut Français de Kinshasa, Circle Art Agency in Nairobi and the Johannesburg Art Gallery.
7. Yemi Alade, 29, Nigeria
Alade’s songs will make you want to dance. She sings in English, French, Swahili, Portuguese and Pidgin English connecting to most parts of the world. Her song Johnny has been viewed over 89 million times on YouTube, competing with international artistes. She has won numerous awards, among them two MTV Africa Awards. She travels the world performing and telling African stories through song.
8. Falz, 27, Nigeria
Although he got his big break with the song Mary Me, Folarin Falana, known as Falz started music when he was still in school. He released his debut album, Wazup Guy: The Album in May 2014, His second album Stories That Touch came in 2015, while his third solo album 27: The Album was released in October 2017. Mary Me earned him a nomination in the ‘Best Collaboration of the Year’ category at the 2015 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. In 2016, he accepted the International Viewers’ Choice Award from BET. He has appeared in a number of movies and series. He is also the founder of Bahd Guys Records.
9. Orapeleng Modutle, 29, South Africa
Fashion designer, Founder, Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue
This fashion designer is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable names in South Africa. He showed creativity from a young age. His mother and grandmother used to do needle work and he joined them as a hobby. He followed his passion and studied Fashion Design at Tshwane University of Technology.
“I then interned for various fashion houses during my years of study and Stoned Cherie was one of them. Nkhensani Nkosi provided me with a lot of business knowledge and skills when it comes to fashion and after that I was amped to start my own,” he says.
He founded and established Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue which has gradually grown into a budding fashion empire based in Brooklyn, Pretoria. He has dressed such names as Bonang Matheba, Thando Thabethe, Minnie Dlamini, Pearl Modiadie and Nigerian media darling Toke Makinwa.
10. Nomzamo Mbatha, 27, South Africa
Mbatha went from a talent search competition to being arguably the fastest-growing brand and celebrity in South Africa. She is a television actress on shows like Isibaya and Umlilo; a film actress on Tell Me Sweet Something, The Jakes Are Missing, All About Love and A Hotel Called Memory. In 2015, she joined the likes of Kerry Washington and Jennifer Garner as the face of Neutrogena. Her career continued to grow and she caught the eye of PUMA South Africa who signed her on as an ambassador alongside Usain Bolt and Rihanna. In July 2017, L’Oreal South Africa signed her as their ambassador for their haircare range. She is also an ambassador for AUDI South Africa and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She is adored by her fans as a style icon.
11. Kwesta, 29, South Africa
Kwesta is one of the biggest names in African hip hop. He burst on to the music scene with the release of his debut single Shap Fede when he signed to Buttabing Entertainment an independent record label founded by Skwatta Kamp. Since then, he has released a quintuple platinum hit single Ngud’, which is one of only two hip hop singles to have summited the South African radio airplay chart and appeared on Sway In The Morning, topping the Top 5 Freestyles of 2017. He is an advocate for South African music, an intellectual property activist lending his voice to the fight to protect music copyright in the digital age, a record label owner, hit-maker and a lyricist who holds the crown as not only the most-awarded rap artiste, but also, male artiste in the history of the South African Music Awards. He created history with his double-platinum 2016 double-album, DaKAR II (The Second Coming), setting the record for the most Platinum singles in a South African album. Kwesta was named MTV Africa’s Hottest MC of 2017, Best Selling Artist at the 6th Annual SA Hip Hop Awards and received the Song of The Year Award for his Ngiyaz’fela Ngawe.
12. Davido, 25, Nigeria
David Adeleke, popularly known as Davido, has scaled heights in just six years. His first single in 2011 planted him firmly in the music business and Dami Duro, recorded in the same year, was the crown jewel for his acclaimed 2012 debut studio album, Omo Baba Olowo. It made him a household name.
“It was people like [Nigerian music veterans] P-Square and D’Banj who made me believe that all this was possible,” he said in an interview with FORBES AFRICA last year.
He has many accolades including two MTV Africa Music Awards and the BET Award for ‘Best African Act’. He has also worked with MTN, Guinness, Unilever and has millions of views on YouTube. Davido has collaborated with Young Thug, Future, Trey Songz and Rae Sremmurd, and has toured the world. He is a 2018 BET Award nominee.
13. Safia Elhillo, 27, Sudan
Elhillo is the author of The January Children, a collection of poems.
“The January Children are the generation born in Sudan under British occupation, where children were assigned birth years by height, all given the birth date January 1,” she writes in her dedication.
In addition, Elhillo received a special mention for the 2016 Pushcart Prize, and is recipient of the 2015 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, and the 2016 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The Conversation, and Crescendo Literary and The Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Incubator.
Her work has been translated into Arabic, Japanese, Estonian, Portuguese, and Greek, and has been commissioned by Under Armour and the Bavarian State Ballet.
14. Joyce Jacob, 28, Nigeria
Founder: Joyce Jacob Beauty
A renowned celebrity makeup artist with an eye for striking detail, she launched Joyce Jacob Beauty in 2009. She has worked on the sets of many local and international music videos, magazine photoshoots and TV commercials.
“The vision behind my brand is to empower women of all ages, of all backgrounds and race to feel beautiful at all times through the power of beauty and makeup. Part of that vision is to have a premium line all women can use and create a truly authentic African beauty brand,” she says.
Some of her notable clientele includes former British first lady Cherie Blair, African billionaire Folorunso Alakija, Angela Simmons, Alek Wek, Angelique Kidjo and Wizkid, among other notable names.
15. Shekhinah, 23, South Africa
After singing and performing for many years throughout her childhood and early teens, you may have first seen this face on Idols South Africa Season 7 where she made the Top 32. After being eliminated from the competition, she re-entered the competition the following season. This time, the teen landed in the Top 6. At just 17 years old, she made a mark.
In 2016, she had two number one hit singles under her belt – namely Back to the Beach, featuring Kyle Deutsch (also a former Idols’ contestant) and Let You Know. Back to the Beach was a chart-topper and won ‘Best Pop & Alternative’ at the MTV Africa Music Awards in 2016. Showcasing her song writing skills, she also featured on Your Eyes with Black Coffee, Breathing with Jesse Clegg, On It with DJ Sliqe.
In September, she released Rose Gold, a gold certifies album infused with the realities of twenty-something anxieties and vulnerabilities.
Shekhinah, born Shekhinah Thandi Donnell, recently completed a Music Performance degree at the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance.
16. Adebayo Oke-Lawal, 28, Nigeria
Fashion designer, Founder of Orange Culture
Oke-Lawal has been designing clothes since the age of 10. He founded Orange Culture in 2011 after working with several Nigerian designers to turn his unique vision of fashion into reality.
“The label is more than a clothing line, it is a ‘movement’ that offers universal silhouettes with an African touch to a creative class of men, translating into a heady mixture of Nigerian inspired print fabrics, colour and contemporary urban street wear,” he says.
He has also worked as a fashion editor for Wow Magazine, has styled numerous celebrities such as Kate Henshaw, Rita Dominic, Munachi Abii, Lala Akindoju, Ice Prince and has done editorial work for magazines like Vogue Italia and Nataal. The label has collaborated with numerous brands such as Huawei, Dennis Osadebe, Rokus London and Maxivive.
He also launched a social responsibility project called painting your dreams were he inspires young people to believe in themselves.
He has partnered with Nigerian artiste Davido designing a limited edition collection sold exclusively at Selfridges. Among many accolades, the label was selected in 2015 by Louis Vuitton and Moet Hennessey for their first-ever LVMH prize as one of the 20 finalists selected from over 1,221 brands all over the world in Paris. Last year, he showed for the first time on the runways at London Fashion Week. The brand is currently stocked in Lagos, Paris, London, New York, Hollywood and Kenya and has plans to stock in many more stores.
17. Wizkid, 27, Nigeria
Wizkid is arguably currently running the world of Africa music. The Nigerian singer and songwriter is spreading the Afrobeat sound to the world. He co-wrote and co-produced One Dance, Drake’s Hot 100-topping hit, has signed a multi-album worldwide deal with Sony Music International and is a Pepsi ambassador. WizKid, born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, made his mark with Holla At Your Boy in 2010 and has since won many awards, among them the BET Award for Best International Act Africa in 2012 and MTV Europe Music Award for Best Worldwide Act. His rise to fame started with singing in church at the age of 11 before collaborating with M.I in the award-winning Fast Money Fast Cars in 2009. He now hangs out with Akon and Chris Brown and has worked with Rihanna, French Montana, Trey Songz, Tinie Tempah and Wale.
18. Koleka Putuma, 25, South Africa
Putuma grabbed the world’s attention with her poem Water, a thought-provoking piece of writing and challenging performance on issues of race and religion. She’s a poet, director, playwright and author. Her bestselling book, Collective Amnesia, is powerful, intersectional text that tackles race, sexuality, class, politics, and poetry. Author Lawrence Schimel described it as the most exciting book he read last year. Collective Amnesia has been prescribed at tertiary level and made part of the curriculum. Her poems demand justice, insist on visibility and offer healing. Her plays include UHM and Mbuzeni, Ekhaya and Scoop, the latter are theater productions for young audiences under the age of seven. Her work has traveled around the world, with her poetry winning prizes such as the 2014 National Poetry Slam Championship and the 2016 PEN South Africa Student Writing Prize.
18. Nasty C, 21, South Africa
Nsikayesizwe David Ngcobo, better known by his stage name Nasty C, has been rapping since he was nine years old, influenced by his brother who was a producer at the time. His single, Juice Back, and the ensuing remix featuring Davido and Cassper Nyovest, made him a household name.
In 2016, Nasty C delivered his debut album, Bad Hair, and gave it away for free. The critically-acclaimed award-winning commercial re-release, Bad Hair Extensions, featured four new tracks, including a collaboration with US rap artist, French Montana.
Last year, he won the Record of The Year award at the South African Music Awards and in 2015, accepted the South African Hip Hop Award for ‘Best Freshman’.
Currently, the 21-year-old rap luminary, who recently inked a deal with Universal Music Group, is putting the finishing touches on his sophomore album due later this year.
20. Beverly Naya, 29, Nigeria
Naya is an award-winning actress and budding entrepreneur. She studied script-writing and film-making at the University of Roehampton in the UK before relocating to Nigeria to join the Nigerian film industry.
She has acted in a number of well-received movies including When Love Happens, Before 30, Something Wicked, Catch.er, In Sickness and Health and The Wedding Party 1 and 2. She has also done theater in London and Nigeria, among them Stoning Mary and Crave (Psychosis 4:48). Naya is a brand influencer and has won many awards for her craft. Early 2018, she produced her first project under her company Be Naya LTD, a documentary titled Skin which focuses on colourism and empowering people to love themselves as they are.
21. Simphiwe Ndzube, 27, South Africa
Ndzube has always had a love for art. In the early stages of his career, he told stories inspired by the struggles faced by township residents, specifically in Masiphumelele where he grew up.
“I’ve always been involved as a creative growing up, taking formal and informal art classes, dancing, and then later going to art school. Art School gave me the confidence and a bigger perspective of the art world and that’s how I went in, often times blindly,” he says.
His work has earned him many accolades including the Tollman Award for Visual Arts in 2015 and a Michaelis Prize at the Michaelis School of Fine Art.
His recent work has evolved beyond the socio and political context of South Africa to include influences from books such as Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore and Zakes Mda’s Ways of Dying. Now based in Los Angeles, he has secured his next solo show in Shanghai.
22. Rina Chunga-Kutama, 29, South Africa
Chunga-Kutama is a designer of note. The founder of the African brand, Rich Factory, her journey into the big world of fashion started as a means to make extra money to pay her university fees. Today, the Zambian-born, Botswana-raised and South African-based designer has dressed many celebrities such as South African musician Zahara and actresses Terry Pheto and Nomzamo Mbatha.
23. Kemiyondo Coutinho, 28, Uganda
Playwright, Actress, Filmmaker, Entrepreneur
Coutinho is a woman of many talents.
“As an African woman, the narratives I was fed all upheld a stereotypical, singular story or view of what it means to be both African and a woman,” she says.
It inspired her first piece of work at age 17.
“My first piece of writing at the age of 17, took those ideas apart and dismantled them giving voice to the women whose concerns were not being heard. Since then, I have written more plays, more films and started a performance platform all with the aim of deconstructing the societal structures put in place to silence my narrative,” she says.
One of her works was writing, directing and acting in a short film that deals with Ugandans’ attitude towards women wearing mini-skirts. She is also the founder of Kemistry Klass, an arts organization aimed at using arts to create change. Here, she teaches, acts, directs, writes and produces projects that all aim at vocalising silenced voices.
Just recently, she was selected as one of the recipients of Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Filmmaking fellowship for her script on immigration in America. As a result through Hart’s Network, LOL Network, her film GREEN will be produced and available on his app.
She has held roles in music video production, filmmaking, event production and event curation.
24. Sarkodie, 29, Ghana
Born Michael Owusu Addo, Sarkodie, started out as an underground rapper, which helped him meet with Duncan Williams, who helped launch his career.
He has been named one of the hottest hip hop MCs in Africa by both MTV and The Guardian. Sarkodie is a big advocate of Azonto, a dance style born out of Ghanaian traditional dance. In 2009, he released his debut album and first single, Baby, featuring Mugeez of R2Bees.
In 2012, his album Rapperholic earned him his first BET nomination. In 2013, he launched his clothing line Sark by Yas. He has also launched his record label, Sarkcess Music. In 2014, his single Mewu sold almost 4,000 copies on the first day of its release in Accra.
25. Mapeseka Koetle-Nyokong, 29, South Africa
You may recognize this face as Dintle on e.tv’s Scandal!. The award-winning actress fell in love with performing arts at an early age. She started performing on-stage plays at 13 years old. After studying acting, she bagged a leading role in Second Chances; she also appeared in several national commercials for products like ABSA, Joko, Vodacom and Suzuki. In 2012, she landed a role in a stage play called Show Off. This bubbly 29-year-old creative is also an entrepreneur. She recently opened a Gorge Grab n Go Café franchise at the Sandton Gautrain station in Johannesburg.
26. Sonia Irabor, 28, Nigeria
Writer, Filmmaker, Actress
After spending time as a writer and PR guru, Sonia Irabor enrolled at the prestigious Drama Studio London where she trained for two years. Since then, she has appeared in a number of classical plays such as her critically-acclaimed work as Helen of Troy in Trojan Women, and the Tanya Ronder play, Table, where she played three characters in the two-hour production. She is also a screen and stage writer most recently known for her work as a co-writer on the hit Red TV series, Inspector K, now in its second season. She is currently working on her debut feature film under her newly-founded production company, Sonic Boom Media.
27. Tony Gum, 22, South Africa
This multi-talented creative is a must-watch. Dubbed Cape Town’s “coolest girl” by Vogue, she won the prestigious 2017 Miami Beach Pulse Prize for her Ode to She photographic exhibition. She got an opportunity to display this work at the Pulse Art Fair in Miami. Represented by the Christopher Moller Gallery in South Africa, Gum’s work is colorful and vibrant. Her famous black Coca-Cola series, and her thought-provoking self-portraits have earned her a place on the world stage with exhibitions as far as New York.
28. ANATII, 25, South Africa
Producer, Writer, Director, Artiste
Anathi Mnyango, popularly known by his stage name, ANATII, is one of the most sought-after South African music producers. He is an Afro-Neo Soul artiste who has worked with the likes of DJ Khaled, Erykah Badu, Omarion, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, AKA and other local and international artistes. His hard work has earned him multiple national and continental nominations and awards. He is a multi-platinum producer, has charted on iTunes/Apple Music in over 23 countries, and was GQ South Africa’s Best Dressed Men in 2017. ANATII is also an ambassador for the PUMA South Africa RUN THE STREETS CAMPAIGN, ambassador for Courvoisier Lumiere and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
29. Sasha Pieterse, 22, South Africa
One of the biggest actresses to come out of South Africa, you may know her from her role as ‘Alison DiLaurentis’ on the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars. She is set to return in the show’s spinoff, Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists next year. Pieterse is also a musician. She released four country singles in 2013. This South African star is currently in the US version of Dancing With The Stars.
30. Tania Omotayo, 26, Nigeria
Omotayo is creative director of a fast-growing fashion brand, Ziva Lagos. With a dedicated in-house design team, her collections are on trend.
“Ziva Lagos is dedicated to boosting the Nigerian trade and labor market. Hence all fabrics are locally sourced and the clothes designed and produced in Nigeria.”
The brand is becoming the go-to for the creative industry, being featured in music videos, magazines and even a movie. Since its inception in December 2016, it has had a number of successful pop-up sales. In June 2017, Ziva opened its first store in the heart of Lekki Phase and launched a second store early this year.