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  1. Rivo Mhlari, 23, South Africa

Founder: Rikatec

Mhlari is a master of perseverance. When he first created an information management system using big data and artificial intelligence to solve problems for vehicles such as predicting and detecting vehicle breakdowns, he was rejected 11 times by the manufacturers and insurance companies he approached. The rejections were his greatest motivation.

“I realized we were rejected not because what we were doing was not novel or attractive; we were rejected because they thought what Rikatec wanted to do was impossible. We were simply ahead of our time,” says Mhlari.

He founded a marketing consultancy, where he hosted events and advised small business on strategy; made money and funded the development of Rikatec prototypes. He also made a noise about the difficulties of support and funding for tech startups. It earned him a R500,000 ($40,000) investment to commercially test the product in exchange for 5% equity in the business.

Today, Rikatec simultaneously provides a connection to the nearest help option within five minutes of breakdown detection. The company also provides predictive maintenance for fleets, monitors driving habits, wear and tear and uses big data and analytics to provide valuable information that can help reduce operational costs.

 

2. Olaoluwa Samuel-Biyi, 27, Nigeria

Co-founder: SureGifts,

Director: SureRemit

Samuel-Biyi has been at the forefront of some of the most innovative technology ventures in Africa, either as a critical employee, investor, or entrepreneur.

With the help of his co-founders, Adeoye Ojo and Babafemi Lawal, Samuel-Biyi launched SureGifts, a digital shopping voucher aggregator and retailer in 2014.

“We pioneered the concept of gift cards in Nigeria and partnered with the biggest brands on the continent such as Game, Spar, Samsung and Jumia to power their digital gift card programs,” he says.

Today, the company operates in Nigeria and Kenya with over 200 retail brands and utility service providers on their network. SureGifts vouchers are used by over 250 major companies across the world like Airtel, KPMG and Coca-Cola for their employee and customer rewards programs.

His company also developed a project called SureRemit, a non-cash remittance product that will leverage cryptocurrency to power remittances intended for non-cash use-cases like utility payments, groceries and medicine, leveraging the SureGifts merchant network and other global partners.

“Again, my team finally brought Africa into the Blockchain playing field by executing the most successful Initial Coin Offering (ICO) out of Africa yet, raising $7 million within two days from participants in 65 countries, including participation from the largest cryptocurrency fund in South Korea.”

The SureRemit cryptocurrency, $RMT, is currently on the market. They employ 30 people

Prior to SureGifts, he managed data-intensive projects in commercial planning, business intelligence, and financial analysis at Jumia in Nigeria. He is also a senior consultant at Venture Garden Group, advising on startup investing, business risk, strategy, and finance and supports early-stage African entrepreneurs as a Venture Partner at Greenhouse Capital.

 

3. Isaya Yunge, 28, Tanzania

Founder: SomaApps Technologies Company Limited

Yunge had a difficult childhood. His parents never married so he was born and raised an outcast. He was raised by his grandmother and spent his childhood herding goats, cows and chasing birds on rice plantations.

“Life was tough and hard because sometimes I had to miss school and spend the entire day on the farm, so I escaped to search for my parents, both of who  by then, had their separate families which made it difficult for me to be accepted by any of them,” he says.

Peaceful as he was, he says he was always rejected, whether by his step-mother or step-father. It made his upbringing unstable and unpredictable. He had to live from one foster family to another. He was forced to live by himself from the second year of secondary school. He worked after school to earn money for food and rent.

“In 2012, I was at my lowest point and life was hard as I struggled with basic needs, school fees and rent. I almost gave up on education because of the chaos around me. One thing that kept me going was the FORBES list. As a young boy, I would hear on the news from time to time about Africans making it on the FORBES list and I aspired to one day be on it.”

In 2014, he became curious about the tech industry, particularly the app business.

“I remember I started asking myself questions like ‘if I am using Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat for free how come these companies are wealthy and growing in terms of revenue and user base?’ So, my desperation to understand the industry sparked my interest to study the digital economy and the app business.

That year, he attended a talk about the fourth industrial revolution, the sharing economy and collaborative commons, by Jeremy Rifkin, an American economist. It was affirmation he would one day solve Africa’s problems through digital technology.

“I had to sleep in the office for six months eating bananas every day… It was during this time a girl I really liked dumped me because I sounded crazy talking about my startup,” says Yunge.

Today, SomaApps is a scholarship-matching app that lists and matches students with thousands of domestic and international scholarships. His aim is to accelerate the advent of mobile software technologies, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things in Tanzania. He employs 12 people.

“With SomaApps, the impact I am making is helping students from low-income families access fully-funded scholarships to attain quality education around the world. Within just two years, we’ve helped 550 students.”

Along his journey, he has collected a number of accolades. In 2006, he was elected to become the chairperson of the Junior Council of the United Republic of Tanzania, spoke at the G8 Summit at the age of 17, won the GSMA Mobile Money Africa Hackathon as best startup in Africa in 2017, won the prestigious Queens Young Leaders Award and won at the Start-up Turkey Award as one of the top three startups in the world.

 

4. Mahmood Oyewo, 26, Nigeria

Co-founder: RubiQube

From an early age, Oyewo participated in science fairs and always wanted to know how things worked. This inquisitiveness led him to start his first company, Mabtech Solutions, before university.

“I made radio transmitter circuits as a hobbyist and sold to friends who played pranks by broadcasting messages. I also wrote C++ applications and sold to secondary schools. These experiences really convinced me I could create an impact with my knowledge and also make a living out of it,” he says.

In 2009, Oyewo and his brother, Mukhtar, built a mobile airtime top-up solution.

“The solution was to be tied to Globacom’s airtime APIs. We presented this solution to a director then and of course because we were young lads, we were never taken seriously.”

They didn’t let that disappointment affect them. Instead, they registered an app development and management company called MobiQube.

In 2012, with the intention of collating innovative mobile applications in Africa and offering locally relevant apps to users based on their location, they built a location-based mobile app aggregator.

“This was in response to the complaint that many African apps get lost in the app stores which kept potential users from finding them. We unfortunately faced the same fate as we were trying to save other African apps from, the RubiQube mobile app itself got lost in the noise that characterizes the Google Play and Apple App stores,” says Oyewo.

In late 2015, they decided to pivot from a mobile application to the current video advertising service called RubiQube. It is an advertising technology company with focus on video and other super rich media, with a goal to acquire high-value users and drive customer engagement through its state-of-the-art advertising services.

Today, RubiQube Limited has worked with some of the top brands in Nigeria, which include Nestle, GSK, Visa, Zenith Bank, UBA and Coca-Cola.

 

5. Kevin Lubega, 28, Uganda

Founder: EzeeMoney

From as far back as his early teenage years, Lubega used every opportunity he had to work with and learn from his father.

“I have greatly benefitted from watching him come from very humble beginnings to grow various businesses from the ground into multinational organizations making a profound impact on Africans,” he says.

He was inspired to solve Africa’s problems through technology. To date, he has founded five companies in diverse industries, including e-commerce, real estate, financial services and oil and gas.

“Through these ventures, my goal has been to provide sustainable and lasting solutions to Uganda’s and Africa’s unique challenges.”

Incorporated in 2012, EzeeMoney is a fintech firm offering electronic money services to clients with or without a mobile phone or formal bank accounts wishing to receive and make multiple payments. They also offer to pay bills, do collections, and offer point of sale money transfers and other e-money services to banks, non-bank corporations, government and NGOs.

EzeeMoney operates in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. They directly employ 80 people and indirectly about 8,000.

 

6. Berno Potgieter & Thatoyaona Marumo, 28, South Africa

Founders: Domestly

Potgieter and Marumo met while studying at Stellenbosch University. They both had a dream of one day starting their own business. Passionate about the tech industry and empowering domestic workers to find better work opportunities, they founded Domestly, a technology platform that allows consumers to find and hire cleaning professionals.

“Initially, when we started, our operations were entirely and wholly bootstrapped. In December 2014, we started speaking to investors. At this stage, the business had done well in delivering lucrative numbers. By April 2015, we had four investors on board and have continued to successfully attract more investors since,” says Marumo.

In June 2017, they announced the business had secured its first round of institutional funding from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). They have a footprint in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban and have created about 1,500 jobs.

The company has received many awards including being in the top five startup companies in South Africa in 2015, winner of the MTN App of the year award and best consumer app of the year in 2016, e-commerce awards runnerup behind Takealot in 2016, Cape Town business awards’ finalist in 2016 and Africa’s most disruptive app award winner for 2016.

 

7. Leonida Mutuku, 29, Kenya

Founder: Intelipro

While working at iHub, one of the tech hubs in Kenya, Mutuku discovered data science and its potential to transform the way we do business in Africa.

“I was excited to see how data science and analytics change a business to better respond to users. When I decided to leave employment, it was pretty clear these kinds of technologies were still not widely in use here and I was keen to step up and fill this gap,” she says.

In 2015, she founded Intelipro, a company that develops cloud-based applications to help businesses make data work for them. They create advanced analytics solutions to help their clients build a deep knowledge about their business operations, their brand, their customers and their industry. Their clients include MTN, Bank of Africa Ghana and Revoltura.

 

8. Chris Kwekowe, 25, & Emerald Kwekowe, 21, Nigeria

Founders: Slatecube

Slatecube helps job seekers develop job-relevant skills, gain work experience, and land well-paying jobs through up-skilling courses and virtual internships.

“We aim to bridge the gap between qualification and employment which has, for so long, been a leading factor in the high unemployment rate of youth all over sub-Saharan Africa,” says Chris.

Since launching in 2014, the company has helped hundreds of graduates get into full-time employment, trained over 13,000 graduates in full-stack web development, design (graphics design and animations), and digital marketing across Nigeria and Ghana and have 7,000 active users taking  online programs.

“Ten percent of our beta testers have gone on to start their own businesses and also got access to funding ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.”

Slatecube won the Anzisha Prize in 2015, presented at the African Union during the e-Learning Africa Conference in 2016 and was invited by former US President Barack Obama to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in San Francisco.

 

9. Phiwa Nkambule, 26, Swaziland

Co-founder: Riovic

Nkambule discovered his love for tech in 2006 fixing computers with his uncle in a small township in Swaziland. He got his first experience of unlimited internet when he went to the University of Pretoria in South Africa 2011. He used it to teach himself web and app development.

In 2014, he moved to a quiet suburb in Pretoria where he founded his first technology company, Cybatar, in his garage. Here, he developed cloud computing and Internet of Things technology, an on-demand fuel delivery application, a social network and a tuition crowdfunding platform. Cybatar won Best Cloud Computing Startup Africa at the 2015 African Corporate Excellence Awards.

In 2015, Nkambule co-founded Riovic, an insurance technology company. The company provides a risk-sharing network where a group of associated or like-minded individuals pool their premiums together to insure against a risk. It connects those seeking insurance with investors who are willing to share the risk of a pay-out in exchange for returns in the form of premiums.

Riovic was named one of the 100 Best Fin-Tech Companies in Africa, was a nominee in the 2016 African Fin-Tech Awards and was part of the Top 26 Fin-Tech startups in South Africa according to Ventureburn. Riovic owns fintech platforms such as PolicyLedge, NeoMutual and Kr8iv Capital.

 

10. Sunkanmi Ola, 26, Nigeria

Founder: Syracuse Digital

Established in 2012, Syracuse Digital is a digital advertising and product development agency. They help businesses grow through digital engagement marketing. Syracuse counts Adidas, Tecno Mobile, Mitsubishi Motors and Infinix among its clients. The company has reached Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Cameroon and the UK.

Ola also initiated a globally focused startup, Hirefreehands, through Syracuse Digital. It has an African outlook, backed by a Seattle-based Blockchain venture firm. He turns over close to half a million dollars each year.

Ola’s hard work has earned him many awards. In 2014, he was a finalist for the Anzisha Awards for Successful African Entrepreneurs Under 21, he was the first Nigerian to be admitted into the Young Lions Planners Academy at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and is the youngest-ever candidate admitted into the global executive MBA program at Hult International Business School, London.

Syracuse Digital also won the Digital Marketing Agency of the Year award at the African Quality Achievement Awards in 2015 and has had multiple features in Lürzer’s Archive.

 

 11. Perseus Mlambo, 29, Zambia

Founder: Zazu Africa Limited

The idea for Zazu came when Mlambo was on a bus at 4AM. He met Dorica, an 80-year-old who was traveling to sell her fruit and vegetables.

“Before then, I had never thought about how food moves from the farm, to the shelf or market and eventually to my plate,” he says.

He wanted to make the process of selling easier for people like Dorica. Then he realized most of them didn’t have bank accounts. As such, the first part of problem-solving was to make sure they had simplified access to formal financial services.

He founded Zazu, a fintech company.

“Picture this, you download the Zazu app on your phone, and you sign up to get an account. You submit a selfie and your identification documents. Less than two minutes later, you have an account. In two days, Zazu delivers the card to your house/office/farm and you can start spending. You can finally sell things online or buy from Amazon. If you want, you can pay for electricity/TV/water/taxes via the Zazu app or buy airtime,” he says.

For each transaction, the Zazu app categorizes it and at the end of the month shows you how well you are managing your money eg., 36% spent on groceries, 10% alcohol or 30% rent. If you want, you can set a budget in the app and when you spend money, if needed, the app encourages you to save or slow down with your spending.

“But more than the app, we also realized a lot of people do not use banks or financial service providers because very few people know what they do. So we approached the Financial Sector Deepening Zambia and together, developed five courses around finance. We uploaded these courses on our USSD platform and anytime that someone dials *619#, they get taught about income, loans, insurance, savings & digital financial services.”

In less than a month of introducing it, they taught over 2,000 courses in one district alone.

 

12. Kola Olajide, 26, Nigeria

Co-founder: Bridge Labs

Olajide co-founded Bridge Labs and has designed solutions in education, marketing, insurance and banking.

He has partnered with insurance companies to design technology that empowers brokers to have a stronger value proposition and offer more personalized products, worked with banks and credit unions to rethink credit scores by writing more inclusive algorithms driven by data and built learning platforms that enable teachers to make their content accessible outside the four walls of a classroom.

His wit and hard work have earned him many accolades, among them a Microsoft technology partnership, a R500,000 ($40,000) innovation prize at the annual SAB innovation awards and a United Nations recognition for best innovation in education to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

 

 13. Nneile Nkholise, 29, South Africa

Founder: iMed Tech

Nkholise was an entrepreneur since primary school. She first sold a pig to make money for her school fees and made more money either selling goods or doing hair.

“I still remember when I was around eight, some lady who owned a tuck-shop in our street asked us [kids from the street] to go and sell bananas for her because she had bought a lot and no one was buying them and so they were about to go off. I took more than anyone in our group and somehow all the other kids didn’t know how or where to sell. I just went street to street, knocked on every door selling,” she says.

In 2015, she had a dream to start a medical design, engineering and technology company. She entered and won the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award. At the time, she had nothing but a big dream and designs on paper.

“To have people believe in us at that moment is the greatest achievement because we had so many writings on the wall telling us we cannot make it and that we were creating products that can never fit into the South African market.”

She gambled her pension fund money from her previous job and added to the SAB prize money to start iMed Tech.

“Self-doubt is the greatest hardship I faced in my business. Self-doubt is the reason why in 2016 my business was close to failure, because the disease of self-doubt created symptoms of bankruptcy, poor business management, poor strategy development and execution.”

Nkholise stood strong and today, iMed Tech employs five people and primarily focuses on medical prosthetic and bio-implant design and manufacturing.

 

14. Bamai Namata, 26, Cameroon

Founder: Maibeta

Namata grew up in the small town of Mundemba on the Cameroon-Nigeria border. Here, he learned how to sell products and build a client base from his mother, a petty trader.

“I have always been fascinated by computers and electronics. Everyone else in my surroundings was encouraged to become either a teacher or join the armed forces but I always had a bigger vision and knew long-term thinking was the way to go,” he says.

After completing a degree in mass communication, he tried and failed to secure a loan from family and friends to start a business. The only other option was to work and save money. First, he worked as a plantation laborer for $28 dollars a month. He swapped this job with another at a local NGO, where he worked for three years and saved up enough money for his startup.

In 2015, he founded Maibeta.com a digital on-demand service platform connecting people to professional technicians for repairs, maintenance and construction jobs. The company makes over $150,000, employs nine people, has conducted 2,300+ transactions and impacted more than 9,000 people.

Namata also received a Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme award in 2016, Avance Media’s Cameroon’s most influential in business award in 2017 and was one of Cameroon News Agency’s entrepreneurs to watch out for list in 2017.

 

15. Riaz Moola, 26, South Africa

Founder: Hyperion Development

While studying computer science in South Africa, Moola noticed that over 80% of his classmates in first year failed due to a lack of foundational programming languages.

“I initially formed Hyperion as a university volunteering community for students studying at southern African universities, connecting top computer science students to mentor poorer performing students in programming via an online platform,” he says.

Hyperion then grew to be a code-review centric, mentor-led online course platform for coding education. The company sources and trains specialist online code reviewers, from the top 5% tech talent in Africa, allowing them to improve educational outcomes for students around the world.

“Hyperion has scaled human review of code at 50 times cheaper than its current cost in the global market by leveraging African talent. We integrate this review into mentor-led coding education programs around the world to lower the cost of effective software development education as a means to solve the tech skills gap globally,” he says.

He adds Hyperion is currently the largest provider of coding education in Africa and expanding into over 72 countries. It was recently recognized as one of the top five education technology startups in South Africa and won second prize in the TechCrunch Pitch-Off London 2017, won first in Facebook’s Africa Innovation Challenge award as the leading ed-tech startup in Africa, won three funding awards from Google, including a Google Computer Science For High School grant, and is supported by the South African government, City of London Co-Investment Fund, and University of Cambridge.

 

16. Leonard Stiegeler, 29, Nigeria

Co-founder: Zando, Jumia & Director: Ringier Africa AG

Stiegeler attributes his entry into business to his mother.

“When I was 16, she suggested I help out in a local fair trade retail shop in our small village in Southern Germany, where I was born,” he says.

Selling baskets, instruments and food from countries in Africa, he got interested to learn more about the continent. He visited Ghana at age 17 and before going to university, he lived in Uganda for a year, working with the German Development Cooperation on policy projects.

While at university at the London School of Economics and Political Science, he was asked to be part of the founding team of an e-commerce company in Cape Town. He agreed and in 2011 co-founded Zando, which then became one of the leading fashion e-commerce companies in South Africa.

He then moved to Nigeria, to co-found Jumia, now a leading general merchandise e-commerce company in Africa, outside of South Africa, employing 3,000 people.

Later, when Jumia started to be established in Nigeria, he was eager to explore more industries in the sector with an even wider impact generated by digital. He partnered with Ringier to launch digital media and marketplace companies on the continent. Ringier Africa operates the leading classifieds and media groups in sub-Saharan Africa. They have operations in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. The company has 700 direct employees across sub-Saharan Africa and 100 million+ user reach.

 

17. Kofi Genfi & Nii Osae Osae Dade, 24, Ghana

Founders: CYST Company Limited

This duo founded CYST, a software innovation company that specializes in artificial intelligence to create technology solutions in 2013. CYST has a research arm called CYST Research Institute, which focuses on artificial intelligence-based research and development such as natural language processing. In partnership with the telecommunications companies, CYST has access to over 15 million subscribers through its platforms. They count MTN Ghana, Vodafone Ghana, AirtelTigo Ghana, Unity Link and Data Protection Commission among their affiliates. It means over 15 million subscribers through its platforms.

CYST’s flagship product, Mazzuma, is a mobile money payment system that utilizes distributed secure infrastructure and cryptocurrency to enable seamless payments. The Mazzuma token, referred to as MAZ, is a key payment medium in the Mazzuma ecosystem. Transactions made on the Mazzuma platform are instantaneous.

 

18. Jaun Pienaar, 27, South Africa

Founder: Apex Media

Pienaar says he admires how his parents worked over 40 years for the same company but never saw himself working for anyone.

Music was his first love. He spent almost a year convincing his parents to let him drop out of high school to study music. He later graduated with majors in Guitar Performance and Theory and Production from the Campus of Performing Arts in association with the Academy of Contemporary Music in the UK. His parents loaned him money to convert their garage and adjoining room into a recording studio.

“I lined up a few musicians who would need demos and reels to come and record at my studio and wrote a few hip-hop tracks that would be used by a few well-known artistes and radio stations as part of their on-air identity,” he says.

Apex Multimedia was born, with his long-time friend Kyle Engelsman. In 2011, they rebranded the business to Apex Media with the vision of creating a world-class production facility for Africa and expanded the service offering to include design, website development, video production and photography, recruiting Devan Lowery to help build out the visual offering.

In 2014, Pienaar met Damon Boyd after a merger with Omnicom PR giant FleishmanHillard, where they were tasked with establishing ‘ContentWorks’ – a production hub for content in Africa for the FleishmanHillard network. A year later, the pair embarked on building a business together that focuses on delivering industry-changing, sustainable solutions for their clients through platforms, products and messaging, be it a Virtual Reality tour, a mobile app, content marketing, a corporate video or digital business process and policy improvement. Pienaar enjoys all things technical and loves when technology-driven solutions deliver long-lasting change and meaningful growth.

He was elected a World Economic Forum Global Shaper in 2017 and has a passion for the enablement and advancement of grassroots entrepreneurs, having played active roles in Tomorrow Entrepreneur, Suits & Sneakers, I am an Entrepreneur and Impello.

 

19. Timothy Adeyele, 29, Nigeria

Founder: Optiweb Communications

Adeyele grew up poor. His father was a painter and his mother a petty trader. Getting food to eat was hard and they lived in one bedroom. His parents struggled to pay public school fees of just under $1.50 per term.

“I was usually sent out of school for not paying my fees. For every time I was sent out, I will go to a cybercafé that was close to my school to learn how computers work. The idea of being able to operate a computer was fascinating to me and I was very curious,” he says.

These frequent visits caught the manager’s attention.

“He then decided to teach me operations, which seemed to be the only thing he could teach me then. I enjoyed every bit of my free lessons with Mr. Ayo who I fondly called Uncle AY.”

The more he learned, the more curious he got. He had a dream to start a tech company.

“A number of times, I got the opportunity to share my dreams with older people including my parents, I was always called lazy because they felt I was being unrealistic and wasn’t serious about life. They usually encouraged me to forget about the dream of owning a technology business and focus on getting a day-to-day job and at least earn to feed,” says Adeyele.

He wanted more out of life. After his secondary education, he got admitted into a leading ICT institution in northern Nigeria. He struggled to sponsor himself through the training and dropped out. He moved to Lagos and took up a job as a cement store sales attendant. He used the little earnings to research about the technology space, send proposals and attend business meetings.

“I faced challenges at the point of setting up my business. From struggling to get my startup capital, pitching my ideas to various companies only to be told ‘no’ discouraged me at some point. In fact, I was ready to give up but something in me kept telling me to push on.”

He did until he got a breakthrough with a Globacom partnership to found Glo Mobile School, an interactive educational SMS platform that inspires students to learn outside traditional classes.

It opened the door for the birth of Optiweb, a digital and mobile solutions company that specializes in mobile educational solutions, digital content, social media solutions, specialized CRBT, contest & gaming, mobile insurance solutions, among other services.

Optiweb has won many awards including Etisalat’s Most Innovative Service Provider of the Year, 2016, Africa’s Most Innovative Digital Mobile Service Provider of the Year award and the African Brand Leadership Merit award, 2017.

The company has operations in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and Ivory Coast.

Optiweb Communications also serves as the holding company to the many startups and foundations in Nigeria and abroad.

 

20. Maya Horgan Famodu, 27, Nigeria

Founder: Ingressive

Famodu founded Ingressive, a tech integration company that provides market entry services and tech research for corporates and investors.

“I launched Ingressive LLC to solve the funding pipeline, redirecting global focus and capital to the continent,” she says.

Famodu also founded Ingressive Capital, a multi-million dollar venture fund focused on early-stage African tech.

“We have worked with thousands of African tech-enabled youths. Our client list includes over 50 investors and technology companies. Our clients have gone on to fund more than 20 African startups. I have funded three high-growth African technology companies, and we’re continuing to invest now.”

Last year, several of their past clients and partners became investors in the fund, including Michael Seibel, CEO at Y Combinator; Jason Seats, Partner at Techstars; and Gbenga Oyebode, Founder of Aluko & Oyebode, among other top entrepreneurs and investors.

 

21. Abraham Omani Quaye, 28, Ghana

Founder: Farmart

After completing his undergraduate degree in agricultural sciences, he decided to go into farming. During his search for land, he came across farmers who complained about their produce going to waste because of low fresh sales.

“To avoid this, they’ll have to sell their produce off cheaply to the middlemen to avoid getting nothing out of their hard work. I also discovered in Ghana, farmers suffer over 30% post-harvest losses which is really unfortunate,” he says.

Quaye was motivated to not just be a farmer but a digital farmer and help other farmers have access to a ready market, reduce post-harvest losses and increase their return on investments. He founded Farmart, an online farmers’ market that links farmers to households and businesses. When an order is placed on their website, they source fresh produce from farmers and deliver to the client. They deliver produce and groceries in Accra, Tema and Kasoa.

“When we started the business, we didn’t have enough bikes to make deliveries which made us lose some deliveries and we quickly partnered with logistics firms who now support us when there’s a spike in orders. We also faced lots of challenges with lack of some produce and we decided to start Farmart.”

It has won recognition such as the 2017 Pitch AgriHack Africa winner by Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation.

 

22. Melvyn Lubega, 28, South Africa

Founder: GO1

Necessity kick-started Lubega’s entrepreneurial journey; he started his first business when he was a scholarship student in high school.

“The main school tuckshop was closed in the evenings and over the weekend, so I saw the opportunity to run a tuckshop out of the boarding house. Luckily my need for money was met and surpassed by my boarding mates’ desire for food and drinks, making the business a success,” he says.

The business grew to employ a number of his dorm mates. After finishing his undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT), he joined the Boston Consulting Group, a management consulting firm. He worked in 11 countries and in some of the big global companies in Africa.

“There was a range of problems we were brought in to solve for these clients. A number of these challenges could be traced back to the issue of companies not investing in their staff adequately.”

He noticed a similar pattern when he had started an investment business with friends while at UCT. Many of the smaller companies they worked with thought they were too small to care about training and development and the bigger companies did not leverage the best-in-class tools to invest in their staff.

After his time with the Boston Consulting Group, he went to the University of Oxford where he studied for a master’s in Educational Learning and Technology. Here, he met one of his co-founders, Andrew Barnes.

“Andrew had already been building websites for a number of years and he had actually built a web design business. He had been in the learning space as well, which is how we ended up in the same program at Oxford,” says Lubega.

Together, they founded GO1, a training solution that brings together training content which is accessed through an easy-to-use online platform. Today, the company is recognized as a world leader in employee compliance, professional development and on-boarding training. It is backed by investment from the likes of Y Combinator, the University of Oxford and leading venture capitalists.

The company employs over 157 people, was listed in the global Disrupt100 as one of the most disruptive companies in the world and was listed in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth over three years.

 

23. Huston Malande, 28, Kenya

Founder: Skyline Design

Malande is a smart man. He was ranked as one of the top 24 students out of about 400,000 that sat for his high school final exams in 2007. He then took a two-year gap before going to university. During that time, he interned as a computer repair assistant when he got an opportunity to fix a send/receive email problem for a bank manager.

“That may be a small problem, but, for a bank manager, it was actually pretty crippling and costly back in 2008. Within 15 minutes or so, I had found out where the problem lay and fixed it… He took out his cheque book and wrote me a cheque of 15,000 shillings,” he says.

Malande says he walked out of there in a daze. He had made 15,000 shillings in 15 minutes. That’s when it dawned on him people value having their problems solved, and they care little about who does it.

He started looking for problems around him to solve and make money. He saw a demand for blank CDs so people could store information. He bought packs at about 10 shillings each, made a poster advert detailing he could “burn” documents on a CD at 20 shillings. Within a week, he had sold the entire pack.

“Sadly, I was asked by the owners to stop selling the CDs, so I quit. They of course went ahead to offer the service… in fact, a few years later, about half the space of the cyber café was converted into an accessories section.”

That year, Malande taught himself web programming and design, registered Skyline Design, got his first two clients before the end of the year, and ended up incorporating the business into a limited company.

Skyline Design Ltd is a youth-led design firm focused on designing bespoke websites and brands for corporate clients since 2008. Currently, it has six permanent employees and 12 consultants with active contracts. He and his partners have also formed a group of companies, four subsidiaries were registered and are operational and six more being set up this year. They turn over hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

 

24. Cukia Kimani, 26, & Ben Myres, 25, South Africa

Founders: Nyamakop Games

Since forming Nyamakop in 2015, Kimani and Myres have built their studio into one of the most promising emerging startups in African game development. Their debut game, Semblance, has been exhibited all over the world at consumer shows such as E3, PAX East, Gamescom and EGX in addition to more than a dozen intimate arts festivals such as Slamdance Film Festival, South by South West (SXSW), A MAZE and Out of Index. They have also participated in prestigious residencies such as the Stugan retreat and ‘Train Jam’.

During this time, Semblance received coverage in large outlets, both gaming and mainstream. Rolling Stone labelled it “addictive”, while The Guardian ascribes it as “cute”.

Commercially, the duo and their company are poised for success, having run the studio as a lean startup using their own money, they found early investment in late 2016. By end 2017, Nyamakop had signed a multi-million rand publishing deal with renowned videogames publisher, Good Shepherd Entertainment and courted a rare access to Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch.  The game would be the first African developed IP to release on a Nintendo platform ever.

Kimani holds degrees in computer science, maths, and digital art and was the winner of the inaugural A MAZE. / Johannesburg award in 2015. Also a Wits graduate, Myres co-curated Africade, the first gallery exhibition to focus solely on African video games. In 2015, Myres was named one of Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 to watch.

 

25. Ink Eze, 28, Nigeria

Founder: Aso Ebi Bella

Ink Eze is the founder of Aso Ebi Bella, an online community connecting traditional fashion enthusiasts with SMEs in the fashion, beauty and wedding industry primarily in Nigeria with growing interests across Africa and beyond.

“The #AsoEbiBella journey started with a hashtag I created in 2013 while I was an employee of BellaNaija.com where I convinced my employer to launch a then bi-weekly, now weekly AsoEbiBella feature on their site as it garnered millions of website views, it became my side hustle,” she says.

This fashion tech startup has over 17 million organic weekly impressions, over 1.5 million followers across social media, while their platform, AsoEbiBella.com, has garnered over 600,000 page views in the last 11 months. The company has delivered campaigns and collaborated with Nigerian and international brands including Orijin, Renaissance (now Radisson Blu) Hotels and Unilever’s Sunlight detergent.

 

26. June Syowia, 23, Kenya

Founder: Beiless Group

Syowia loves innovating. She co-founded a social venture in the slum area where she grew up immediately after finishing high school in 2013. It propelled her to discover the power of the internet in enabling small organizations and businesses to scale up through online sales and visibility. So, while in her second year at university, she attended a Google digital training class that sparked her interest in technology and digital advertising. After the training, she bought a laptop and pitched her marketing services for free to friends.

“One of them who owned a car bazaar agreed and I did such a remarkable job he referred me to his friends,” she says.

In 2015, she founded Beiless, a company that provides creative advertising and technology solutions for businesses. Services include online media campaigns, social media management, strategic online communication, digital advertising and content creation. They count Kikapu Online, Masaku 7s and Tennis Kenya among clients.

Last year, she won the Global Student Entrepreneur Award in Kenya, was named one of 100 Brightest Young Minds in Africa by BYM Africa 2017, was named one of 100 Most Influential Young Kenyans in 2016, and received the founder of the year award nomination by The Founder Kenya in 2016.

 

27. Obinna Okwodu, 27, Nigeria

Founder: Fibre

Processed with VSCO with j6 preset

Growing up, Okwodu spent a lot of weekends at building sites with his civil engineer father. He developed a love for real estate, went off to study at MIT where he was one of the co-founders of Exposure Robotics Academy, a six-week summer robotics training camp that teaches secondary school kids how to program robots.

“We raised $100,000 worth of sponsorship from various companies for this and ran this program for three years up until my graduation in 2014.”

After graduation, he worked with the real estate team at Morgan Stanley in New York before returning home to Nigeria. He spent nine months looking for problems to solve, particularly where housing and technology were involved.

“I found that the issue for most of middle class Nigerians was not solely one of availability of homes but that there was a big problem in terms of accessibility. It was very difficult to find homes to live in and it was also very tough to cough up two years’ worth of rent upfront,” he says.

He realized this made it difficult for landlords to make consistent cash flow from their assets. In 2016, he founded Fibre, a real estate booking startup that allows middle-income tenants to rent homes and pay monthly. The company employs 11 people, have raised $630,000 in funding and have booked over a million dollars in tenant revenue.

 

28. Abdellah Mallek, 28, Algeria

Co-founder: Sylabs

When Mallek was at university, he launched two startups, a student mentoring platform and an e-tourism platform, which failed. He didn’t let failure deter him. A little over two years ago, he founded Sylabs, a startup accelerator in the heart of Algiers, the capital of Algeria.

“This is a tech hub founded to foster the entrepreneurial spirit among Algerians, by proposing a bunch of services like trainings, working space, a very large corporate network, mentoring, acceleration and many more. In two years, we supported 21 small businesses and startups to launch or grow their business. Ten of them were established in Sylabs and they created 39 full-time jobs in two years,” he says.

The company has five permanent staff and Sylabs can reach up to 15 employees for big projects.

 

29. Yasmine El Baggari, 25, Morocco

Founder: Voyaj

El Baggari is passionate about connecting people and bridging cultures.

“After traveling around the world to 50 countries and every American state, welcomed in over 150+ homes, I was inspired to bring my experiences to the world through entrepreneurship,” she says.

She launched Voyaj, an online platform that connects people from around the globe for one-on-one meaningful exchanges to foster global understanding. Similar to Airbnb, with Vojaj, you can travel as a guest and welcome others as a host.

For the past four years, her reach has included work with the World Bank, research at Harvard University, and the US State Department as a Youth Moroccan Ambassador to the United States. She has spoken at international conferences, including the World Economic Forum, the Middle East Studies Association, and Obama’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

El Baggari has also received the Royal Air Maroc Award from the African Studies Association, Hampshire College’s $60,000 Award for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and two Ingenuity Awards.

 

30. Simba Mubvuma, 26, Zimbabwe

Co-founder: Lexware Inc

Mubvuma co-founded Lexware Inc., a tech company based in Zimbabwe growing as a leader in innovative technological solutions for the legal profession in Africa. The idea of the company began in 2014, when he and a university friend created a program called Lex Mobile, which allowed law students to access court judgments and legislation from smart phones without the need for the internet.

“This ensured that in a time where broadband coverage was limited and expensive, students could still access key legal resources from their phones,” he says.

Today, Lexware focuses on increasing efficiency in legal systems, placing its clients as market leaders in the various countries in which it operates. Over the past two years, the company has worked with over 50 young freelance developers, creating opportunities for them to utilize their skills in software development. They have done business with many prestigious law firms around the continent.

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30 under 30

Forbes Africa #30Under30 list: Business, Technology, Creatives and Sport

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THE FORBES AFRICA 30 UNDER 30 LIST IS THE most-anticipated list of game-changers on the continent and this year, we bring you 120 of Africa’s brightest achievers under the age of 30 and for the first time, four categories featuring 30 in each: Business, Technology, Creatives and Sport.

From elevator manufacturing, solar energy design, to under-30s conquering the Alps and selling out the Apollo Theatre,  this year’s list demonstrates how enterprising and extraordinary the African youth is.

This list celebrates these pioneers who are building brands, creating jobs, and innovating, leading, transforming and contributing to new industries, in turn, changing the continent. 

“The future belongs to Africa and the future belongs to its youth,” says Jason Pau, Chief of Staff for International to billionaire Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba. He says the journey for young entrepreneurs, especially in Africa, is not always easy. Many startups fall by the wayside due to a lack of resources. In South Africa, it is estimated that the small enterprise failure rate is at almost 80% within the first three years.

Chances at success are very slim, yet Africans continue to see opportunity where many do not. The select few celebrated in this list represent those individuals who continue to persevere against the odds. It also serves as a reminder that it is possible.

“People don’t really give enough time or spend enough time in providing the right environment for entrepreneurs to grow,” Pau tells FORBES AFRICA.

So if entrepreneurship is the answer, ensuring that an environment is conducive for business sustainability is imperative.

Together with our audit partner for this list, SNG Grant Thornton, the senior editorial team worked night and day scrutinizing each candidate. For entrepreneurs, we delved into how profitable their businesses were and if they showed signs of potential growth and sustainability.

However, not only does the list look at the financial impact of each candidate, but also their reputation, resilience and ability to be role models to other young Africans.

For FORBES AFRICA, this meant endless background checks, fact-checks, emails, phone calls and research, sifting through over 1,000 nominations that poured in over the last few months. Lastly, the one factor that also played a role in the determination of the candidates was their online presence. Followers are a valuable new currency, and today’s achievers have found a way to leverage off them. This year, when FORBES named Kylie Jenner the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, it observed that her business was built mainly because of her social media and fan following. Many on our list have also been able to build on this in their own way. The creatives and sport stars lead in this regard.

This year, Sport is the newest category, opening up the list to the game-changers who are also Africa’s next generation of leaders. They have won awards, broken records, made social investments and pushed the boundaries by challenging the status quo on policies in sports. However, some of the challenges they still face include lack of resources, a gender pay gap, and an immense pool of untapped talent not yet given a chance to be in the limelight.

But no matter where they are from, these 120 list-makers share one common goal, and that is to build a better Africa.

Being an under-30 myself, I am proud to have curated the FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 class of 2019. At the time of going to press, all facts on the following pages were verified to be correct.

The list is in no particular order:


This year marks the fifth milestone annual FORBES AFRICA 30 under 30 list, and we have introduced a new category of game-changers. Together, they are 120 in total across four sectors: business, technology, creatives and sport. Meet the class of 2019, a stellar collection of entrepreneurs and innovators rewriting rules and taking bold new risks to take Africa to the future.

#30Under30: Business Category 2019
#30Under30: Creatives Category 2019
#30Under30: Technology Category 2019
#30Under30: Sport Category 2019
  • Words: Karen Mwendera    
  • Edited by: Unathi Shologu
  •  Assistant: Garreth Mtuwa  
  • Creative direction by: Lucy Nkosi  
  • Lead photography by: Motlabana Monnakgotla
  • Co-photography by: Gypseenia Lion   

Judges of the 30 Under 30 class of 2019

The category experts whose role it was to survey all finalists of the 2019 30 Under 30 list, rank them and provide commentary on each candidate:

  • Business: Anthea Gardner, Founder and Managing Partner at Cartesian Capital
  • Technology: Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor and Principal at University of Johannesburg; he also deputises President Cyril Ramaphosa on the South African Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
  • Creatives: Yasmin Furmie, creative and business partner of fashion brand SiSi The Collection, South Africa
  • Sport: Nick Said, the Africa sports correspondent for Thomson Reuters
  • Audit partner: SNG Grant Thornton

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30 under 30

#30Under30: Sport Category 2019

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This year marks the fifth milestone annual FORBES AFRICA 30 under 30 list, and we have introduced a new category of game-changers. Together, they are 120 in total across four sectors: business, technology, creatives and sport. Meet the class of 2019, a stellar collection of entrepreneurs and innovators rewriting rules and taking bold new risks to take Africa to the future.


The list is in no particular order:

Clarence Munyai, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

1. Clarence Munyai, 21, South Africa

Track and Field Athlete

Clarence Munyai is right on track to becoming one of the world’s greatest athletes as he shatters more records.

Munyai is the third-fastest all-time junior in the 100 meters-race.

He currently holds the South African record of 19.69 in the 200 meters right under Usain Bolt who holds the record for 19:19.

Munyai also holds the Junior World Record of the 300 meters.

“I have been blessed with a talent to run fast and become a professional athlete, and am thankful every day for the opportunity to pursue my dreams and make a better life for myself and my family,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

He made his mark in the 200 meters World Junior ranking in 2017 and 13th in the 200 meters world senior ranking the same year.

Last year, he smashed the 200 meters record in a time of 19.69 seconds, making him the 10th fastest in the world ever, as he knocked off Wayde van Niekerk’s mark of 19.84.

Munyai is one of the youngest South African Olympians of all time and has always remained modest on and off the track.

Kim Collins, 2003 world champion in the 100 meters, once told Munyai to ‘always stay humble’ as he was.

Despite his global achievements, he says there is no better feeling than wearing the country’s green and gold colors.

“My immediate plans are to win gold at the World Championships in Doha later this year, and then, of course, focus on Tokyo 2020. Apart from that, I know there is life after athletics and so am looking into various business opportunities,” he says.

Jean Sseninde, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

2.Jean Sseninde, 26, Uganda

Footballer and CEO

Jean Sseninde is one to watch on and off the pitch.

When she was eight years old, she began playing football with her brother in her home in Kasangati village in Uganda. That experience got the ball rolling.

She currently plays for the Ugandan national team.

Internationally, she plays for Queens Park Rangers W.F.C in the FA Women’s National League South in England, making her the first Ugandan female to sign with the team. Sseninde also previously played for the AFC Phoenix Women’s Football Club and the Charlton Athletic Women’s Football Club.

Although she enjoys an international career in football, her biggest highlight remains playing for her national team.

In 2016, the Uganda women’s National football team qualified to play in the semi-finals of the Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) Women Championships against Burundi.

“The only goal that was scored was from my assist,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

Sseninde is the founder and CEO of the Sseninde Women’s Development Cup and the founder of the Jean Sseninde Foundation, which sponsors the annual Jean Sseninde Women Football Development Tournament, aimed at discovering and mentoring female soccer talent in Uganda.

Sseninde is also the first African and sole female player from the continent to join the Common Goal initiative an organization whose members pledge to give away at least 1% of their annual salary to charity.

Last year, she scooped an award for her philanthropic work at the Best Of Africa Awards event at the Rosewood in London.

Mohamed Salah, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

3. Mohamed Salah, 27, Egypt

Footballer

On June 1, 2019, the world watched as Liverpool made history, beating Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League final as Egyptian-born Mohamed Salah led the team to victory.

Salah scored the first goal of the match and in the end, the team had a 2-0 victory. Dressed in the team’s shirt, red as his blood, and with curly locks, Salah raised the trophy with pride in celebration while immersed in a sea of red on the pitch.

He was this year’s only footballer on the list of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential that called him “one of the best football players in the world”.

The iconic figure started his professional career nine years ago playing for the Egyptian Premier League.

Thereafter, his career went international when he played for Basel, a team in Switzerland and then Chelsea.

In 2017, he then signed with Liverpool at a club-record fee of £36.9 million ($46.6 million).

He has since won numerous awards and accolades such as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year. His next goal is to conquer the next season of the Premier League.

He is currently sponsored by Adidas and has appeared on Adidas commercials alongside David Beckham, Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba, and singer Pharrell Williams.

With a total of 148 goals scored in his professional clubs’ career, Salah is a name that will definitely go down in history books. He is one of the highest-earning sport stars in the world.

Wayde van Niekerk, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

4. Wayde van Niekerk, 26, South Africa

Track and Field Athlete

The man currently holding the world and Olympic record in the 400 metres was born in a small town in Kraaifontein, in Cape Town.

As a child, Wayde van Niekerk dreamed of being the fastest man in the world and he is evidence that dreams do, in fact, come true. The world took notice of him when he won gold at the World Championships in 2016.

Since then, he has shown no signs of slowing down.

He came first in the 2016 Olympic Games in the 400 meters in Rio de Janeiro, and again in the 2017 World Championships in London.

However, due to a knee injury, Van Niekerk was unable to participate in any games last year and he is still on his road to recovery.

After the long and painful wait, he returns to the track and is set to compete in the IAAF World Championships in Doha in September, alongside many other world stars. Usain Bolt, world record holder in the 100 metres and now Van Niekerk’s good friend, told FORBES AFRICA, when he visited South Africa this year, about what advice he gave the South African athlete.

“I always tell Wayde, ‘it is good to be fast and to be great, but if you want to build your brand you have to show your personality’. People will want you to be a part of their brand’,” Bolt said.

After news that he had temporarily withdrawn from athletics due to his injury, he showed love to his fans by tweeting that he was determined to race again. Many look forward to his return this month and, perhaps, more records to be broken.

“The race itself is a blank experience, I only remember the end. All stresses disappear right there. It’s about me giving my everything and leaving it all there on the track,” he told FORBES AFRICA after his 2016 win.

Chad le Clos, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

5. Chad le Clos, 27, South Africa

Swimmer

“Seas the day”, are words multiple Olympic medallist Chad le Clos lives by.

His claim to fame is being an Olympic, World and Commonwealth Games swimming champion.

He is also the record holder in the 50-meter and 100-meter butterfly.

Born in Durban, South Africa, Le Clos began swimming competitively from the age of 10.

By the time he was 20, he beat his hero, Michael Phelps, by 0.05 seconds at the London 2012 Summer Olympics in the men’s 200 meters butterfly, and the world stood still.

Phelps had held that record and the arrival of a young South African caused a huge splash.

History was made and Le Clos continues to do so today.

On top of the many accolades, last year, he was named FINA Male Swimmer of the Year 2018.

He is currently doing plenty of swimming drills in preparation for Tokyo 2020.

The proud South African swimmer goes to show that where there’s a will, there’s a wave.

Genzebe Dibaba, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

6. Genzebe Dibaba, 28, Ethiopia

Track and Field Athlete

Genzebe Dibaba is a woman always gunning for gold.

With 10 gold medals already to her name, she continues to run the distance and surpass many alongside her. She currently holds five world records; for the indoor and outdoor 1,500 meters, the indoor 300 meters, the indoor 500 meters and the indoor mile.

This makes her one of the best female track mile runners in history. The last two gold medals she won for Ethiopia were at the 2018 World Indoor Championships in Birmingham for the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters.

The 28-year-old’s talents, however, run in the family. She has three siblings who are also gold and silver medal athlete winners.

The Ethiopian world record holder continues to run for her life as she remains unbeaten in the 1,500 meters since the European Championships in Berlin in 2015.

Since then, she has received a number of accolades, including the Laureus Sportswoman of the Year in 2015, and IAAF Athlete of the Year 2015.

Jacob Kiplimo, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

7. Jacob Kiplimo, 18, Uganda

Track and field athlete

Jacob Kiplimo can run for miles. At only 18, Kiplimo is a World Cross Country silver medallist.

He grew up in Bukwo on Mount Elgon in Uganda.

Making his debut internationally, he did what many 15-year-olds could only dream of.

He won the 10,000 meters bronze medal at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championships.

His achievements put him in the running to be selected as part of Uganda’s Olympic team, making him one of the country’s youngest Olympians.

In 2017, he came first at the World Cross Country Championships in the junior men’s race.

Even when playing among the seniors, Kiplimo is still a top athlete.

This year, he was second at the World Cross Country Championships in Denmark.

According to the IAAF, he currently ranks fourth in the world for the men’s 10,000 meters.

As he continues to make a run for the top spot, he shows no signs of letting the dust settle.

Watch this space for more.

Sara Ahmed, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

8. Sara Ahmed, 21, Egypt

Weightlifter

Sara Ahmed is living proof that women can do absolutely anything and be great at it.

At only 21, she is the first Egyptian woman to receive an Olympic weightlifting medal.

Once, she had to miss her high school exams to compete at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Through the sacrifice, she has a great support system lifting her every step of the way.

Ahmed’s passion for weightlifting comes from her father and older brother who were national competitors in weightlifting.

Among some of her accolades are nine international gold medals, including two golds won at the 2012 Junior African Championships and Youth African Championships.

Her most recent gold medal was last year at the World Junior Championships for 71kg.

Luvo Manyonga, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

9. Luvo Manyonga, 28, South Africa

Track and Field Athlete

Luvo Manyonga did not grow up with much but he had plenty to look forward to. When he started doing long jump in school, he fell in love with it instantly.

“Ever since, I wanted to break the world record,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

And in 2017, he did just that, becoming the world champion as well as holding the first place in the world rankings.

The same year, he won South African Sportsperson of the Year and South African Sports Star of the Year. His goals this year are to defend the world championship title in Doha, break the nine-meter barrier and defend the Diamond League title.

“There is always life after sport and I am looking at various business opportunities because I know that it’s so important for an athlete to plan for post-career while still competing,” he says.

Giana Lofty, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

10. Giana Lofty, 24, Egypt

Martial Arts practitioner

Giana Lofty started practising karate when she was only six years old.

Now, she practises it internationally, representing her country.

Lofty is the current world title-holder and the 2014 continental title-holder, making the 24-year-old a certified two-time champion.

She won gold last year at the 2018 African Karate Championships in Kigali.

This year, she won silver at the Karate1 Premier League in Rabat, Morocco.

In an interview with Olympic Channel, she said, “I encourage girls to start practising karate or any martial arts for self-defence”.

She is one of over 1.5 million Egyptians doing so and one of the very few women dominating it. “Girls are not allowed to practise any kind of sport, not only karate. So, sometimes they say that what I’m doing is something useless which is against our beliefs. But I don’t think that, so I don’t care what they say,” she said.

It was a milestone for Lofty when in 2013, women were allowed to fight wearing a hijab, allowing her to do what she loves while still staying true to who she is.

Beatrice Chepkoech, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

11. Beatrice Chepkoech, 24, Kenya

Track and Field Athlete

She’s fast, tall and currently holds the world record for the 3,000 meters steeplechase, and her name is Beatrice Chepkoech.

After clocking a running time of 8:44.32 in 2018, the Kenyan became the first woman to break 8:50 and 8:45.

Her career started in 2014 as a road runner. She later switched to track and field in 2015, making that one of the best decisions she ever made.

Among some of the medals she bagged are the two gold medals she received last year; one at the 2018 Ostrava IAAF Continental Cup and the other at the 2018 Asaba Nigeria African Championships.

She is ahead of the pack and shows no signs of looking back.

Patricia Apolot, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

12. Patricia Apolot, 28, Uganda

Kickboxer

Patricia Apolot is not one to mess with. She once punched a fraudster and he landed in a drain.

With agility, grace and the heart of a lioness, Apolot’s fighting spirit has seen her winning world titles and putting Uganda on the map through kickboxing. Also known as the ‘Black Pearl’, Apolot started her career in 2014.

She grew up in Ngora, Uganda; her family was barely able to afford three meals a day or give her clothes to wear.

Enduring a disadvantaged life, there was only one thing on her mind as a child, to be ‘the world’s best’ and that’s exactly who she’s become, in her chosen field.

She is currently the reigning Ugandan female kickboxing champion and holds the International Kickboxing Federation title for lightweight.

She earned her title after beating Ivana Mirkov of Serbia in Dunaújváros, Hungary, in 2015.

This made her the first female Ugandan kickboxer to win this title.

She still holds the title and has been defending it for three years now, making her undoubtedly the queen of kickboxing.

Apolot shares her skills and talent training youngsters in kickboxing in her hometown in Uganda.

“I want to believe that a world or a sport without boundaries is a country or a sport well-spoken,” she says.

Caster Semenya, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

13. Caster Semenya, 28, South Africa

Track and field athlete

Caster Semenya is the name of the 800 meters queen dominating headlines in the sporting world.

She has won over 15 international gold medals and the South African golden girl has no intentions of stopping any time soon.

In a recent controversy (where the IAAF wants female athletes with high testosterone levels to take testosterone blockers), the Swiss Supreme Court denied the IAAF’s request to immediately reimpose the regulation on Semenya.

This means Semenya is free to compete without restriction in the female category until the IAAF and Athletics South Africa make submissions to the Supreme Court on her request that the IAAF regulations be suspended throughout the entire appeal process.

But Semenya is not moved and she continues to hold her head high. To many, she remains a champion winning on and off the field.

In an interview with FORBES WOMAN AFRICA late last year, she said: “I like to be myself, I am true to myself. I just like myself the way I am and I don’t want anything to change in me.

“When I walk onto that track, I perform. So, when I perform, I expect people to recognize my work but not just because I am me, but for the work that I do.”

Semenya has plans to continue racing, winning more golds and flying the South African flag high.

“I don’t see myself stepping down; until I’m 40, that’s when I’ll be satisfied,” she said. Some of her accolades include awards at the South African Sport Awards; the People’s Choice Sports Star of the Year, Sports Woman Of The Year, and the Sports Star Of The Year.

She was also nominated for the 2018 Female World Athlete of the Year at the IAAF Athletics Awards.

You cannot put a price tag on an athlete like Semenya. She describes herself as just being  “priceless”.

Emmanuel Korir, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

14. Emmanuel Korir, 24, Kenya

Track and Field Athlete

As the sixth ranked fastest athlete in the men’s 800 meters, of all time, Emmanuel Korir keeps flying Kenya’s flag high.

According to the IAAF, last year, he won all but one of his races.

He holds the record for the fastest outdoor time of the year, winning at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London last year.

He clocked 1:42.05, making it the world’s fastest 800 meters performance since 2012.

He was nominated for the Male Athlete of the Year award in 2018 by the IAAF and won two gold medals at the African Championships, as well as the Continental Cup.

His current world ranking, according to the IAAF, is first place in the 800 meters.

He plans to set records at the World Championships in Doha this year.

“I can’t go and sleep even after the season ends. I have to work harder to be ready for Doha. It is a title that I long for in between now and then,” Korir told Capital Sports last year. He is also signed to Nike.

Faith Kipyegon, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

15. Faith Kipyegon, 25, Kenya

Track and field athlete

It is said that when Faith Kipyegon was a baby, she completely skipped the crawling stage and went straight to walking. She certainly has not stopped since.

Speaking to NTV Kenya, Mzee Kipyegon revealed that his daughter was extraordinary growing up.

As an adult, she is one of Kenya’s long-distance trailblazers.

Her last international race saw her winning gold and beating one of the world’s best, Caster Semenya, at the World Championships in London in 2017.

She recently returned to the track from maternity leave making her first return to action in two years, and is currently training for the next big race at the 2020 Olympics.

Kipyegon also won gold at the 2016 Summer Olympics and gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

She has stood on pedestals with the world’s best, and will continue to stand tall.

Francine Niyonsaba, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

16. Francine Niyonsaba, 26, Burundi

Track and Field athlete

Francine Niyonsaba made history in 2016 when she won Burundi’s first Olympic medal in 10 years.

She won a silver medal, finishing second in the 800 meters Rio de Janeiro Olympics race.

She came second to her rival on the track and friend off the track, Caster Semenya.

Since then, she has gained speed at earning the gold medals at the 800 meters at the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland, and last year, at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.

For Niyonsaba, running had always been in her blood.

When speaking to FORBES AFRICA last year, she said that the challenge women face in Burundi is that they feel they can’t achieve anything elsewhere in the world.

“In Burundi, in our culture, women believe they cannot do something special in the world, but it is just a mentality,” she said. “A woman can do everything!”

This year, Niyonsaba revealed that she would be affected by the IAAF ruling on Semenya.

In an interview with Olympic Channel, she openly discussed her hyperandrogenism and the difficulties she has faced in becoming a top-level athlete.

“For sure, I didn’t choose to be born like this, what am I?…I love myself, I will still be Francine. I will not change,” she told them.

The 26-year-old is passionate about inspiring other women in sport and putting Africa on the map.

She ranks third in the Women’s 800m in the IAAF world rankings.

Kagiso Rabada, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

17. Kagiso Rabada, 24, South Africa

Cricketer

Kagiso Rabada’s bowling style is nothing short of a visual treat as he has been known to make many seasoned cricketers feel rather googly as his balls approach them.

Last year, he became the youngest bowler to take 150 test wickets, and Wisden named him the Best Young Player In The World.

His rise to fame in the cricket world was as fast as the balls he delivers.

He had his biggest year in 2016 as he went home with six awards at Cricket South Africa’s annual dinner, including the prize for Cricketer of the Year.

He currently is a fast bowler for the Highveld Lions, a South African cricket team, as well as the national team, the Proteas.

Off the field, Rabada, known as KG, is humble and grounded.

The cricket star founded an initiative called Inspire and Ignite under his foundation, the Kagiso Rabada Foundation. It was reported that early this year he sponsored 2,500 youth under the age of 25 with sports equipment to advance their talent and skills.

It’s best not to take your eyes off him.

Ruhan van Rooyen, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

18. Ruhan van Rooyen, 24, South Africa

Paralympic track and Field Athlete

Ruhan van Rooyen was born with cerebral palsy in his lower left arm and foot.

But that has not stopped him from representing his country internationally in track and field.

Van Rooyen is a Paralympics athlete from the Western Cape in South Africa specializing in the 100 meters and 200 meters T37.

He made his debut in 2013 when he was named Junior Athlete of the Year by the South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled.

One of his biggest achievements was being selected to compete at the 2017 World Championships in London, England.

He ranked sixth in the World Championships at the 200 meters T37 and 100 meters T37, while locally, he ranked second in both events.

Next on his agenda is to compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

When he isn’t on the track, he doubles up as a YouTuber, enjoys cycling and is also pursuing a career as a chartered accountant.

His coach said in one of his YouTube videos that “Ruhan is a very dedicated athlete”.

“I really believe Ruhan has what it takes to, not only be top three in the world, but to be the best in his events which is the 100 and 200 meter sprints,” he said.

Sadio Mane, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

19. Sadio Mane, 27, Senegal

Footballer

Sadio Mané comes from Bambali, a village in Senegal where boys play street football until sunset with red earth clinging on to their clothes.

Now, Mané currently captains the Senegal National Team and is a winger for Premier League club Liverpool.

He started his career at a Senegalese football academy, then made his international debut for Metz, a French football team in 2012. He played for FC Red Bull Salzburg and Southampton before moving on to Liverpool in 2016 for a fee of £34 million ($43 million), making him the most expensive African player in history, at that time.

Last year, he scored a hat-trick for the club and overtook fellow countryman Demba Ba’s record of 43, to become the highest-scoring Senegalese in Premier League history.

Since then, he has become one of the top performers in the team.

He was joint recipient of the Premier League Golden Boot with 22 goals, and was part of the Liverpool team that won the 2019 UEFA Champions League Final.

With his impressive record in the Premier League, the Senegalese won Premier League Player of the Month in August 2017 and March 2019. He was also awarded the Premier League Golden Boot 2018 and 2019. On the continent, he has represented the Senegal national team at the 2012 Olympics, 2015 and 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Speaking to BBC, Fodé Boucar Dahaba, the President of the Regional League, says that whenever Mané returns home, he remains humble and dressed in shorts like everyone else in the village.

Sabrina Simader, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

20. Sabrina Simader, 21, Kenya

Alpine skier

Sabrina Wanjiku Simader was born in Kilifi, a small town on the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya, unaware that one day she would be conquering winter slopes in the alpine ski world.

Today, the 21-year-old Kenyan is a world-renowned ski racer.

But she is as humble as her early days on the mountain slopes.

She learned to ski in Hansberg, a small mountain in Austria. “Even as a little girl, I was fascinated by the white sparkling snow and the wonderful feeling of riding down the slopes,” she says. With some encouragement from her step-dad, a passionate skier at one time, she decided to pursue skiing. Her biggest achievement was when she became a triple Styrian champion in the Super G, giant slalom, combination and second in the Slalom in 2012.

“He was always proud of me and took a lot of time to train and support me in all races. Unfortunately, in June 2012, he died too early. For my mum and I, things became very difficult,” she says.

Her ski coach Christian Reif, coach of the Kenya National Ski Team, took on the ropes to groom her in the winter sport.

“Sabrina is for Kenya and for the whole world an inspiration, as a real Kenyan not from an alpine nation. And she shows that nothing is impossible, and you can reach anything with intensive work, effort and discipline,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Simader represented Kenya at the Winter Youth Olympics in 2016 in Lillehammer, Norway.

She was nominated for the Sports Woman of the Year and the Youth of the Year awards in the African Women in Europe organization 2017.

She plans to conquer the Winter Olympic Games in 2022 in China and the Alpine Ski World Championships in Italy in 2021, making her the second Kenyan after Philip Boit to represent the East African nation at the Winter Games.

She founded the Kenya Ski Association to groom other young Kenyans in the sport.

Gerson Domingos, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

21. Gerson Domingos,23, Angola

Basketballer

Gerson Domingos is one of the youngest players in the Angolan national basketball team and he plays a very important position, point guard.

He was named Most Valuable Player at The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Africa U18 Championship 2014, and he is part of the new generation of Angola’s young talent.

He made his debut for the senior team in 2016 at the Belgrade FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2016. He wears Angola on his heart and hopes to go down in their history books.

In an interview with FIBA, he said: “I have always dreamed of playing against the best teams in the world, and if I am healthy, I will do everything to keep the Angolan flag flying high. We have a history of playing at big basketball events and I hope to be part of Angola’s successful history.”

Angola is ranked in the top 50 national teams according to FIBA world rankings.

Siya Kolisi, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

22. Siya Kolisi, 28, South Africa

Rugby player

Siya Kolisi stands as a dream fulfilled for the South African nation when he became the first-ever black captain of the Springboks.

It was exactly a year ago when he first captained South Africa’s national rugby team, the Springboks, on home turf against England while donning the number 6 jersey, the number famously worn by Nelson Mandela at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

It was a step in the right direction, echoing Mandela’s vision which sought to unite a racially divided South Africa through rugby that year.

“Sport has the power to change the world… It has the power to inspire,” he said to the thousands.

Twenty-four years later, Kolisi has inspired many as well.

“I’ve learned that no matter where you come from, or what your background is, you can aspire to be whatever you want to be,” he said in an Instagram post.

Weighing 102kg, just shy of the average rugby player’s weight estimated to be 105.1kg, he carries the hopes of many on his shoulders.

He also captains the Stormers, a team which is part of the South African Rugby Union, and is based in the Western Cape province.

Despite his knee injury preventing him from playing, many hope for his return this month in a shortened Rugby Championship against Australia at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

This year, Kolisi was nominated for a prestigious Laureus Sports Award under the category of Sporting Moment of the Year for his role in ‘uniting the rainbow nation’.

Thembi Kgatlana, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

23. Thembi Kgatlana, 23, South Africa

Footballer

The dusty grounds of Mohlakeng, a township west of Johannesburg, is where Thembi Kgatlana honed her talents.

Yet, on some of the world’s greenest international pitches is where she won her awards.

Whenever she gets the ball, she displays sophisticated athleticism, making it difficult to take your eyes off her as she leverages speed, agility and impressive dribbling skills to get the ball behind the net.

Kgatlana is a product of South Africa’s Banyana Banyana women’s football team, and she also plays for the Beijing BG Phoenix FC in the Chinese Women’s Super League.

She also previously played for Houston Dash in Texas, US.

When speaking to FORBES WOMAN AFRICA late last year, she said her goal had always been to play abroad and make a living out of her passion.

“It’s a dream I have been working towards for the whole of my life, since I started playing as an eight-year-old, working my way through the junior national teams, then to the senior national team. It’s been a long and hard road, but I’m here now,” Kgatlana said. After representing South Africa at the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations, she was named Player of the Tournament and was the highest goal scorer.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

24. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 29, Gabon

Footballer

If there’s one person who loves the biggest blockbuster movie of 2018, Black Panther, it is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. After scoring two goals for Arsenal against Rennes earlier this year, the footballer celebrated by wearing a Black Panther mask and did the signature pose with his two arms crossed over his chest

It was a true ‘Wakanda Forever’ moment.

When interviewed after the match by BT Sport, he said: “I needed a mask [which would] represent me so it’s Black Panther and in Gabon, we call the national team the panthers of Gabon, so it represents me.”

Loved by many back home, Aubameyang is a superhero in his own right. He has previously won African Footballer of the Year, Top Scorer and the French League Cup.

This year, he received the Golden Boot.

 The 29-year-old Gabonese professional footballer plays for the Arsenal in the Premier League and is the captain of the Gabon national team.

It seems the apple has not fallen far from the tree as, Aubameyang’s father, Pierre-François Aubameyang “Yaya”, is a retired Gabonese international and national footballer.

Aphiwe Dyantyi, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

25. Aphiwe Dyantyi, 24, South Africa

Rugby player

Last year, Aphiwe Dyantyi won the Breakthrough Player Year Award at the World Rugby Awards for his outstanding performance on the field.

An emotional Dyantyi accepted his award in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

“It’s been a blessing. I have been truly blessed in so many ways and the people that I have had around me, people that have helped me in the last few years have truly been amazing,” he said as part of his acceptance speech.

Dyantyi has been described as a natural-born player and his skills on the field can attest to that.

Coming from humble beginnings, he was born in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

He plays for the South African national team, the Springboks.

He also plays for the Lions in Super Rugby, the Golden Lions in the Currie Cup and the Golden Lions XV in the Rugby Challenge.

He started his career in rugby while he was studying at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

There, he played for the UJ senior team in the Varsity Cup before moving to play in the provincial championships.

Dyantyi not only strives to make a difference for his country but also for those around him.

Percy Tau, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

26. Percy Tau, 25, South Africa

Footballer

He plays for the Union SG and Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion, and the South African national team, Bafana Bafana.

His football career started in 2013 when he played for Mamelodi Sundowns in the Premier Soccer League.

Since then, he has kicked it up a notch and has been climbing the football ladder. He made his debut with English Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion last year, signing a four-year contract.

However, Tau experienced issues obtaining a UK work permit and was loaned out to join Union SG, a Belgium football club.

The loan was a blessing in disguise for Tau as he went on to score four goals for the team in six appearances, helping the club reach the semi-finals.

He then won the Player of the Season award and was in the league’s team of the season.

Last year, he was one of South Africa’s goal scorers as the nation recorded its largest-ever victory with a 6-0 win over Seychelles in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

He won Premier Soccer League’s Player of the Season for 2017 to 2018.

But what makes this Mpumalanga-born South African one of the most talked-about footballers in the country?

When speaking to local publication Sport24, Tau expressed his love for football no matter where he plays.

“I think everyone is happy when they’re playing football, so, yeah… football is football. Regardless of where you play, if you focus on the football, then everything else becomes easier,” he said.

Quinton de Kock, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

27. Quinton de Kock, 26, South Africa

Cricketer

This Johannesburg-born 26-year-old is a wicketkeeper and batsman known for his fearless striking and handy glove work.

Early in his career, he has been compared to some of the greats in cricket like Adam Gilchrist and Mark Boucher.

Cricket experts have considered him to be one of the most promising young wicketkeepers of this decade.

He plays for the South African national team, the Proteas, a local team called the Titans and internationally, for the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.

He made his debut for the national T20 team against New Zealand in 2012, scoring 28 off 23 balls while chasing.

Since then, he has been making quite an impression in the sport.

He was named Cricketer of the Year at Cricket South Africa’s 2017 Annual Awards.

One of his other milestones is being the fastest South African to reach 1,000 ODI runs.

Alex Iwobi, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

28. Alex Iwobi, 23, Nigeria

Footballer

If your uncle is award-winning Nigerian professional footballer, Jay-Jay Okocha, it is possible those good genes would place you at the top tier of the football ladder.

Alex Iwobi is blessed to live up to his uncle’s legacy.

Iwobi has been described as smooth and dangerous with the ball.

At only 23, he is skilled on the pitch and shows promise as he is one of Africa’s rising football stars.

Iwobi currently plays for Premier League club Arsenal and the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles.

He was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and left his home country at the age of four.

He joined Arsenal in 2004, however, started playing with the senior team in 2015.

In that same year, he started playing for Nigeria, making his debut at the 2016 Summer Olympics when he was selected for their 35-man provisional squad.

The following year, he scored for Nigeria in a 1-0 win over Zambia.

This secured the Super Eagles a spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Speaking to BBC Sport earlier this year, he said he was proud to be related to Okocha.

“I can never get tired of people comparing us. I see my uncle as an idol, someone I have always looked up to as a footballer,” he said.

 “I still have a long way to go, maybe one day, I can be on his level or greater.”

Akani Simbine, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

29. Akani Simbine, 25, South Africa

Track and Field Athlete

Akani Simbine was born a winner.

Born in Kempton Park, South Africa, Simbine has lifted the coveted crown as the country’s fastest man.

He broke the South African record in the 100 meters with a time of 9.89 seconds in 2016, which became one of his personal bests. He further sped on to win more accolades.

His current world ranking position, according to the IAAF, is sixth on the men’s 100 meters.

Among the 10 international medals he has, five of them are gold.

Simbine has been nothing short of consistent; he remains one of South Africa’s best track and field champions. He currently has deals with Mercedes-Benz and Adidas.

Margaret Nyairera Wambui, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

30. Margaret Nyairera Wambui, 23, Kenya

Track and Field Athlete

Margaret Wambui won her first international gold medal when she was only 19, at the World Junior Championships in the US.

She went from running in a small town in Nyeri County, Kenya, to some of the world’s largest arenas.

Today, she has over four more international accolades, including a bronze medal from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

By then, she had her signature celebration style ready, placing one hand on the hip and the other in the air with a triumphant beaming smile.

Last year, she earned herself a second spot at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, receiving the silver medal, after Caster Semenya.

Like Semenya, Wambui has also been faced with questions regarding her testosterone levels.

However, according to reports, she has not been forced to undergo tests for hyperandrogenism.

Her current world ranking, according to the IAAF, in the Women’s 800 meters is 15.

At only 23, Wambui has achieved only what some of her peers dream of.

Imagine what the next seven years have in store for her. A gold medal for Kenya is closer than we think.   

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30 under 30

#30Under30: Creatives Category 2019

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This year marks the fifth milestone annual FORBES AFRICA 30 under 30 list, and we have introduced a new category of game-changers. Together, they are 120 in total across four sectors: business, technology, creatives and sport. Meet the class of 2019, a stellar collection of entrepreneurs and innovators rewriting rules and taking bold new risks to take Africa to the future.


The list is in no particular order:

Karabo Poppy Moletsane, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

1. Karabo Poppy Moletsane, 27, South Africa

Creative Illustrator, Street Artist and Graphic Designer

Not only is Karabo Poppy Moletsane an artist aiming for the skies, but you can see some of her work from there too.

In the Zoo Lake public park in Johannesburg, two basketball courts are adorned with her creativity.

From a bird’s eye-view, you can see one in blue with a crocodile on it and another in turquoise with a cheetah on it.

Together with another local artist, they designed the courts in collaboration with Nike.

Moletsane is also responsible for tagging the famous landmark in Soweto,  the Soweto Towers, which can be seen miles away and has become a source of kasi (township) pride.

Moletsane’s goal has been to put black female illustrators on the map.

In 2015, she turned her passion for art into a business and founded Mother Tongue-Creative House which is now trading under her own name, Karabo Poppy.

“This was a five-year journey that started with me only having one month of work experience, living with family and friends, and chartering my own course without scripts for success,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

She has won three Loerie Awards over the course of her career, and her work has been recognized as part of a Grammy-nominated music video Makeba, by French singer and artist, Jain.

Poppy was also the first black female artist to paint the Art Wall in the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in California.

For international woman’s day in March 2018, she was also the artist behind the sequential Google doodle.

Her contribution to the world has been contemporary African aesthetics and she continues to do so.

Rophnan Nuri, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

2. Rophnan Nuri, 29, Ethiopia

Electronic Dance Music Artist

At the age of 10, Rophnan Nuri released his first mixtape, singing and playing the drums with his classmates, and he has not stopped moving to his own beat since.

He self-funded his career with the money he made as a club DJ and over the years, he learned the technical side of music and produced his own distinct sound.

“I was always fascinated by the fusion of different instruments and voices, and created a unique niche for myself by amalgamating traditional Ethiopian sounds from the past with futurist electronic music,” he says.

Nuri’s talent also saw him being one of the three African DJs chosen by South African DJ, Black Coffee, to perform in Ibiza Spain in 2017.

In 2018, he received awards in three categories at the 2018 Leza Awards in Ethiopia.

In the same year, he featured on a song titled Get To Work by Major Lazer, a popular American electronic dance music trio.

Despite his global impact, Nuri says he will always stay true to his Ethiopian roots, one of the reasons why he is most loved by his fellow Ethiopians.

“Getting recognition and support in my home country is unparalleled. My ability to engineer traditional instruments and merge them with popular sounds has earned me incredible support in the form of sold-out performances,” he says,

He continues to share his love for music through the Ethiopian DJ Association, nurturing up-and-coming talent.

Henry Amponsah, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

3. Henry Amponsah, 27, Ghana

Designer, Founder and CEO: 101 Clothing

Henry Amponsah knew he was going to be a designer from a young age.

“I remember when I told my mum I wanted to be a designer in the future, she angrily said, ‘what will be the use of gaining education only to be sitting in a container sewing clothes for chicken change?’ That got me laughing out loud and I said to myself ‘I will prove this lady wrong in the future’,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

And Amponsah did just that.

While in high school, he and four friends had a photoshoot with outfits that cost $150 and they posted the photos on social media.

“The collection went viral and clients started talking to me,” Amponsah says.

The recognition pushed him to officially start his business, 101 Clothing, in 2014, and the rest was a stitch in time.

Today, Amponsah has dressed Samira Bawumia, the wife of Ghana’s Vice President. He also runs a foundation that helps with basic school equipment and workshops.

To date, he has received over 10 local and international awards and featured in many magazines including British Vogue magazine.

In the end, Amponsah managed to fulfil his dream and that of his mom’s; he built his fashion house and his now gunning for a PhD.

Austin Malema, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

4. Austin Malema, 28, South Africa

Photographer and CEO: Pixel Kollective

While some opt to invest in shares or property, Austin Malema opted to invest in memories and everything clicked into place.

Instead of celebrating his 21st birthday with a party, he used the money to buy his first camera, which cost R18,000 ($1,200).

He began shooting at events, which led to more bookings and he realized that the lens gave him  greater access to musicians, actors and prominent people.

Since then, Malema has photographed for many brands globally and for events such as the South African Music Awards, the South African Film and Television Awards and the Global Citizen Festival.

His work has also led to him photographing popular musicians such as Drake, Joey BadA$$, AKA, Casper Nyovest, Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

In 2018, when FORBES AFRICA 2018 30 Under 30 alumni, Thuso Mbedu, was nominated for an International Emmy, he was her official photographer in New York.

Apart from his exposure, Malema has turned his passion for photography into a business.

Last year, he founded his first company, Pixel Kollective, with his two partners, Kelly Leuuw and Sivuyile Matsiliza.

“My biggest dream is for the company to represent young black photographers around South Africa,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Harmony Katulondi, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

5. Harmony Katulondi, 29, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Presenter, Model, Actor and Voice Over Artist

Harmony Katulondi is a jack of all trades, and definitely a name to remember.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo-born presenter first fell in love with acting and presenting when he moved to South Africa as a toddler.

“I remember going over lines with my parents and stepping into new worlds every time I got on to the stage. I loved the smiles, joy and awe it brought into people’s eyes when they saw me,” he says.

However, when he was in university, it was nothing close to that feeling.

One day, while studying, a friend told him of a casting gig where they needed tall people.

He applied and it turned out to be  African Fashion International.

“I got there, walked, and they loved it, but I needed an agent. They told me to go upstairs and I signed with my current agency and so the casting life began. Commercial here, fashion week and catalogues there. That lead to TV shows, stints on Generations: The Legacy, and Skeem Saam,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

However, there was one goal he aimed to achieve; being a Top Billing presenter. Katulondi auditioned for the Top Billing presenter search three times and didn’t make it.

Disappointed, this prompted him to start his own company in 2016, Harmony Katulondi Pty Ltd, a creative consultancy company.

Two years later, the presenter search came around again but Katulondi was not eager until his friends pushed him to.

In the end, Katulondi got the part. His talent saw him doing voice-overs for the Black Panther movie campaign. He is also the founder of a non-profit called Just Love to help those in need by doing outreaches such as feeding schemes, fundraising, skills development and environmental clean-ups.

Kapasa Musonda, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

6. Kapasa Musonda, 29, Zambia

Fashion Designer

In 2011, Kapasa Musonda returned to a non-existent fashion industry in her home country, Zambia, after living in the US for six years.

She had just obtained her Associate of Arts Advanced Study degree with a Magna Cum Laude, but had nowhere to use it.

“I had no choice but to open my own design business if I was to survive and make a living at what I knew best,” she says.

This birthed her business and fashion house, Mangishi Doll, that same year.

It is a Zambian ‘Afro-Eclectic’ clothing brand inspired by bold prints and an artistic expression of design and style.

Along the way, Musonda has made enough money to hire two permanent tailors and train five women in advanced fashion design.

In 2017, her garments were retailing at a boutique in Los Angeles and that caught the eyes of many US celebrities.

Among them was iconic actor Angela Bassett, who wore her garments to the American Black Film Festival Honours in Hollywood.

“We were elated and honored and after Angela Bassett wore our piece, we had the biggest growth spurt we had ever experienced,” she says.

It was not long before the BET Awards 2018 invited her for an exclusive fashion event where she presented a 24-piece collection.

From a three-year-old armed with a sewing machine, to taking on the world with couture and elegance, Musonda continues to put African print on the map.

Richard Akuson, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

7. Richard Akuson, 26, Nigeria

Founder and Editor: A Nasty Boy

Richard Akuson’s activism for LGBTQ+ and challenging gender norms resulted in him being named one of the 40 most powerful people in Nigeria under the age of 40 in the 2017 YNaijaPower List.

He founded A Nasty Boy, a magazine that is a fashion platform celebrating alternative and creative ideas, forms of expression and lifestyles, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community.

It was named one of Vogue’s ‘What to Read This Fall’ in 2017.

“That’s pretty radical, given the political climate and culture there,” Vogue said. Akuson is a lawyer by profession, but dove into this creative activism after experiencing a brutal homophobic attack.

He sought asylum in the US and grew his platform into a global brand.

A Nasty Boy has since created a safe space to have meaningful conversations for people persecuted for being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

But Akuson plans to take it a step further. “Through collaborations with American institutions, I’d like to focus my time as a licensed American lawyer on pro-LGBTQ+ rights policy advocacy in Africa,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

He is currently writing a memoir about his journey to the US and co-producing as well as co-directing a documentary series about the lived experiences of African asylum-seekers in the US.

Menzi Mcunu, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

8. Menzi Mcunu, 22, South Africa

Founder: Afrocentric Gentlemvn

Menzi Mcunu is one of South Africa’s best-dressed young men, and he gets paid for it.

His notable look is a well-tailored suit, tie, top hat and a swag oozing elegance and grace.

Not bad for a 22-year-old.

He has graced the covers of, not one, but two magazines and his biggest highlight was being part of GQ South Africa’s Best Dressed Men for 2017.

Internationally, he has attended Milan Fashion Week in 2018 and has been featured on Vogue Italia, GQ Russia and GQ Australia.

It all started when he visited Mumbai, India, in 2013.

He was inspired by the Indian culture and its attention to detail in fashion.

As a result, he founded Afrocentric Gentlemvn, an African lifestyle brand that merges European aesthetics and African elegance with suit measurement and creative consultancy services.

“I knew nothing about the technical side or production side of selling garments but I wanted to depict suits differently. I didn’t want them to just be suits like the ones I saw at many retailers but I wanted them to represent a lifestyle,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Mcunu plans to grow his platform, Afrocentric Gentlemvn, globally.

He has also been interested in the development of African luxury and African fashion on the continent.

Trevor Stuurman, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

9. Trevor Stuurman, 26, South Africa

Photographer and Creative Director

CNN describes Trevor Stuurman as a cultural force, and indeed he has illustrated that.

Living up to these titles, he has had the opportunity to document former US President, Barack Obama, The Carters (Beyoncé and Jay Z) as well his mentor and someone he considers a sister, Naomi Campbell.

He was born and raised in the diamond city of Kimberley in South Africa’s Northern Cape.

After studying film, he was drawn to a different medium of visual arts – photography.

As a result, he became a self-taught photographer; in fact, one of South Africa’s most sought-after photographers.

“The more I leave home, the more I realize the power and currency that home has. And I think that it makes me a better story-teller because I am able to find pieces of home wherever I go and then create tangible products,” he says.

This essence of belonging inspired him to host his first solo exhibition titled Home, a love letter to the Himba women of Namibia, at the HAZARD Gallery in Johannesburg.

He has received recognition such as being on GQ South Africa’s Most Connected and Most Influential Man list 2018, Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans 2015, and Destiny Magazine’s Power of 40 List. Stuurman is also a contributor to British Vogue.

He plans to have his work live in museums and art galleries around the world and ultimately, to cultivate a space for more young story-tellers on the continent to share their lived African experiences through their own lenses.

Burna Boy, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

10. Burna Boy, 28, Nigeria

Musician

Early this year, Burna Boy took his Nigerian music fire to the US and ended up selling out the iconic Apollo Theatre in New York City where previous African legends like Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba and Black Coffee were once hosted.

He was also one of the major artists to perform this year at Coachella, one of the world’s biggest music and arts festival.

Born Damini Ogulu, he is undoubtedly one of the hottest African recording artists right now and a name to remember.

The Afro-fusion singer and songwriter rose to fame after his lead single Like to Party was released in 2012.

Since then, he has moved to his own beat, releasing hit after hit each year.

Some of the world’s favorites include Dangote, Ye, On the Low, Soke, and Hallelujah, each reaching over three million views on YouTube.

Of the many accolades, he has won Best Album of the Year, Best Pop Artist of the Year at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards in 2015, and recently received four awards at the Soundcity MVP Awards Festival.

His third studio album Outside was hailed by Pulse Nigeria and Nigerian Entertainment Today as the best Nigerian album of 2018.

Kim Jayde, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

11. Kim Jayde, 28, Zimbabwe

TV Presenter, Model and MC

It’s not every day that one gets to meet the world’s biggest names such as Charlize Theron, Naomi Campbell, Major Lazer, Ciara, Paris Hilton, Tyler Perry and Trevor Noah.

But Harare-born Kim Jayde has.

Since she moved to South Africa, she has been landing major gigs, making her undoubtedly one of Zimbabwe’s ‘it girls’ at the moment.

You may have seen her on your screens on MTV Base Africa as a presenter, but she has also worked with brands like Revlon, Coca-Cola, Ackermans, Accessorize (London) and more.

“My story of being discovered by MTV Africa on Instagram and then going on to become the face of the channel is proof that anything is possible, with hard work, dedication and passion,” she says.

Among the many awards was the Media Personality of The Year at the 2018 Zimbabwe Achievers Awards.

She was also listed as one of the 40 Under 30 class of Emerging Zimbabwe Leaders by Gumiguru and not to mention took home her first international award for Woman in Media at the fifth annual Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards.

However, when the cameras aren’t rolling, Jayde still uses her degree in social work contributing to the Home of Hope For Girls; something she has always been passionate about.

Petite Noir member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

12. Petite Noir, 28, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Singer, Songwriter and Producer

From the African soil to some of the world’s greatest stages, Petite Noir embodies a modern African renaissance through his music and art.

He once opened for American Grammy award-winning singer Solange Knowles while she was on her 2013 US tour and performed at the South by Southwest festival in Texas.

In the 70s, an Angolan woman and Congolese man fell in love.

But due to the political instability in both countries, they fled to Belgium in search of  a new start.

That new start birthed Yannick Ilunga, now popularly known as Petite Noir.

In 1993 they then moved to Cape Town where his love for music was awakened.

“I really started to fall in love with music at the age of 15. It was something that I automatically felt drawn to, so much so that I immersed myself in various music projects as much as I could,” Noir tells FORBES AFRICA.

In 2012, he released his first single Till We Ghosts, which caught the eye of a music manager in the UK and wasting no time, Noir moved there.

The next year was his big break.

He signed a £80,000 ($103,305) deal and embarked on his first world tour, which spanned Africa, the UK, Europe and America.

“I toured with Solange and Foals [British rock band]; I played at festivals with line-ups that included the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Angélique Kidjo and many more,” he says.

Since then, his career has been nothing short of greatness.

Together with his wife, Rochelle ‘RhaRha’ Nembhard, he has been working on a charity called the Noirwave foundation.

Noir is currently working on his own festival called ‘No Borders’, a celebration of the journey of immigrants through art and music.

Among some of his accolades is the South African Music Award 2016 for Best Alternative Album for La Vie Est Belle/Life is Beautiful.

The same year, he also received recognition for the album artwork and the video Best exhibited in the African art gallery at Harvard University.

With Solange inviting him to play in the US and American musician Mos Def being one of his advisors, Petite Noir is a name to remember and a wave to catch on to.

Aisha Baker, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

13. Aisha Baker, 29, South Africa

Businesswoman, Influencer and Style Icon

There are a few names that have become synonymous with South Africa’s authority in the digital beauty industry and Aisha Baker is one of them.

Baker founded BakedOnline in 2009 when the blogging trend was fledgling in South Africa.

“I loved fashion, since I was introduced to Vogue Pattern books by my seamstress grandmother; I also loved literature and writing. It was a natural progression for me,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

At the age of 20, she began monetizing it.

“I had accidentally formed a media company without knowing. Having one employee at the time, my photographer Tegan Smith, who worked only for petrol money and great images,” she says.

For one year, Baker worked a nine-to-five job at an embroidery factory to fund her business and would shoot content for her blog on weekends.

It was a stressful time.

“I got admitted to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack. Turns out it was an ulcer caused by stress,” she says.

Ten years later, her brand has since stayed relevant and picked up some awards along the way.

She graced the cover of the 2018 influencer issue of Cosmopolitan South Africa.

She has worked with brands such as Estée Lauder, Mercedes-Benz, Cotton, Mac, Woolworths and Microsoft to name a few.

Most recently, she was awarded the E! Africa Social Media Award at their Pop of Culture awards.

Karun, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

14. Karun, 24, Kenya

Musician

You might know Karun from the pop trio Kenyan group Camp Mulla, nominated for a BET Award in the US in 2012.

But this alternative R&B pop artist is now taking on the world solo and is one of Kenya’s rising new wave artists.

Born Karungari Mungai, she started her music career at 14 and went on to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in the US.

Since then, she has had the opportunity to perform at live festivals and shows across the globe such as the SXSW 2015 (Austin TX) as part of the collective Cosmic Homies.

Karun also performed at the Madaraka Festival (Seattle), Blankets & Wine in Kenya and most recently, the Africa Nouveau Festival, Kenya’s most forward-thinking electric three-day music festival.

She has been covered by publications such as The Fader and OkayAfrica and local Kenyan publications such as The Daily Nation.

The young artist is currently working on a full-length project, and is in the process of planning a pan-African and northern hemisphere tour.

“The goal is to be the biggest female R&B act out of Africa. Watch this space,” she tells us.

Gilmore Moyo, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

15. Gilmore Moyo, 29, Zimbabwe

Creative Director, Fashion Facilitator, Former TV & Radio Host and Founder: Paper Bag Africa

Gilmore Moyo was named one of the 100 Most influential Zimbabweans Under 40 for 2018, alongside politician Nelson Chamisa and Minister of Sports, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry.

Moyo is known for his contribution to the Zimbabwean media and art scene.

He hosted and produced a radio show on Cliff Central, and also Thatha Wena, a conversational pan-African TV show.

Apart from his on-air talent, he also founded Paper Bag Africa, a content creation, public relations and management company.

His biggest highlight in the business was attaining a contract to manage the European Union Film Festival 2018 and 2019, which ran over five days and showcased 10 films.

“Being an entrepreneur in Zimbabwe is the most difficult thing one has to go through. Funding is not available for you to grow your business and opportunities to attain money aren’t easily visible,” he reflects.

Despite the challenges, he is optimistic about the future.

“Our ultimate goal is to become the ‘go to’ establishment for authentic African content,” he says.

Boitumelo ‘Boity’ Thulo, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

16. Boitumelo ‘Boity’ Thulo, 29, South Africa

TV Host, Entrepreneur and Musician

Boitumelo ‘Boity’ Thulo wanted to pursue a career in criminology and psychology, but instead, has become one of the most recognized stars in South Africa’s entertainment industry.

To think that her career started almost 10 years ago when she was cast in a lead role in an advert for an international restaurant chain, Thulo has since dabbled in various parts of the entertainment industry including TV hosting, acting, and music.

“There are so many highlights and standout moments in my career. But the one that always gives me goosebumps is my lead role on the Fergusons’ Rockville [in 2013]. That role is what paved the way to ‘Boity’ becoming a household name. I will forever be grateful to Connie and Shona Ferguson for believing in and trusting me with such a big role,” she says.

Today, she also wears the entrepreneurial hat after founding Boity Toning Support, a weight loss supplement.

Last year, Thulo recorded her debut single Wuz Dat featuring Nasty C, also a former FORBES AFRICA 30 under 30 list-maker.

The song was nominated for best collaboration at the SA Hip Hop awards.

Thulo stays right on script as she further pursues acting, music, as well as developing more health products and nutritional supplements. 

Hermann Kamte, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

17. Hermann Kamte, 27, Cameroon

Architect, Founder and CEO: Hermann Kamte & Associates

At 26, Hermann Kamte delivered a keynote speech alongside Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, during the Africa 2018 Forum at Sharm el Sheikh, in Egypt.

He was invited to speak about the future of African cities from the perspective of a creative architect.

This has been one of his biggest highlights to date and this is the only beginning.

Kamte is an award-winning Cameroonian architect with flair.

He founded Hermann Kamte & Associates, an architectural firm that provides design, landscape, education, research and development services.

One of his most notable works is the ‘Lagos’ Wooden Tower’ that won him the American Architecture Award as well as the World Architecture Festival and Awards’ inaugural WAFX Prize in 2017, known as the world’s most forward-looking concept.

“I think the desire to be an entrepreneur was very important alongside the fear to fail,” he says.

“Being able to offer a useful service to the community is the first thing that drives my passion for architecture. I have to be a model for younger generations; I want to create a safe and secure environment for people, with sustainable projects,” he adds.

Kamte is well on his way to building a better tomorrow.

Helen Chukwu, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

 18. Helen Chukwu, 25, Nigeria

Fashion Designer, Founder and CEO: Helen Couture

Helen Chukwu is cut from a different cloth and it is no surprise that her designs have featured on Vogue Arabia.   

She started dressing up dolls as a child, and now dresses up brides for a living.

At the age of 18, she became the founder and CEO of her design house, Helen Couture, which currently has operations in Nigeria, London and Dubai.

One of her memorable highlights was a private showcase in London and having her dress worn by Katie Cleary, America’s Next Top Model Cycle 1 contestant, at the 2013 Oscar Party. She is currently in the process of stocking her products in two stores each in the US, France and Italy.

She and her team have started drawing up plans to raise capital and build a 10,000 garment-production-per-day garment manufacturing factory in Nigeria by 2021.

Luis Munana, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

19. Luis Munana, 27, Namibia Creative Director, Model, TV

Host and Founder: Voigush Africa

You might remember his face from the ninth season of the reality television series Big Brother Africa, in 2014.

Since then, Luis Munana has been able to use his reality TV star status to good use.

Munana is a creative director of a children’s TV show he founded in 2017 called Waka Waka Moo.

The original animated cartoon and puppet program became one of the first in Namibia.

“I was baby-sitting my niece and nephew and I saw them recite every single word from cartoons created in the western world. So, I decided to create Namibia’s own cartoon and puppet show translated in all 11 Namibian languages. So, Waka Waka Moo was created,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

The animations educate children about Namibia’s history, culture and heritage.

He has managed to expand Waka Waka Moo from being on TV to a tour reaching 44 rural primary schools in the country. 

As for the hosting side of his career, Munana founded Voigush Africa, a lifestyle, fashion and entertainment TV show in 2014 inspired by the South African entertainment market.

“While studying in South Africa, I would go to auditions to shows like V Entertainment, Top Billing and MTV Base Africa but they would always tell me I am not South African. So, I came home and created my own show,” he says.

Voigush has since covered music, lifestyle and fashion events across Africa which Munana produces, directs, scripts and edits himself.

As a jack of all trades, Munana proves that one can be talented both on and off screen.

Upile Chisala, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

20. Upile Chisala, 24, Malawi

Author and Poet

Upile Chisala started writing at the age of four.

By the time she started primary school, there were piles of paper with little stories scattered around her house, in Zomba, Malawi, which was already chock-a-block with books. 

But it took her years to embrace her talent.

After moving to the US, she studied sociology and graduated in 2015 but struggled to find a steady job.

She turned to poetry for comfort and self-published her first book at the age of 21.

It was her first collection of poetry called Soft Magic.

She continued her studies and enrolled for an MSc in African studies at the University of Oxford.

She revisited her writing and published a book called Nectar in 2017.

This brought the opportunity to travel and do readings, but it was when she traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, that her talent was reaffirmed.

“The room was filled with over 200 people who didn’t mind that there were no seats left for them. They were happy to stand and listen to me read from both books,” she says.

Next, she received an email from two Folio Literary Management agents in New York City.

In no time, Chisala signed a three-book deal with Andrews McMeel Publishing worth ‘hundreds of thousands US dollars’.

Since then, she founded Khala Series, a monthly mentorship program for writers in Johannesburg.

All profits from this series are donated.

“Khala is my way of giving back to the community,” she says.

Joseph Awuah-Darko, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

21. Joseph Awuah-Darko, 22, Ghana

Contemporary Artist

In a dump site in Ghana near its capital Accra, Joseph Awuah-Darko stands holding a laptop in one hand and a face mask in another, like something out of an apocalypse movie.

He is dressed in orange overalls and there is e-waste as far as the eye can see; and the burning of the contents creates arid smoke in the background. 

Darko is a contemporary artist, art collector and dealer and co-founder of the NGO, Agbogblo.Shine Initiative. The organization, which started in 2017, encourages people working at the dump to turn waste into high-end furniture.

His aim was to highlight the importance of the, “circular economy in the face of electronic waste degradation”.

While enrolled at Ashesi University in Ghana, he began educating himself about the obscure art market.

His first major sale was a 3D-printed Ife Head he sold privately to a buyer for $11,000 in 2017. Since then, more clients kept coming, trading the value of trash wish cash and this resulted in him becoming the Managing Director of Africa Modern Art Fund at the young age of 22.

He presented a solo exhibition at Gallery1957; making him the youngest African contemporary artist to do so.

Prior to his contemporary art collector days, Darko was a musician under the alias ‘Okuntakinte’.

Darko is well on his way to getting a piece of the estimated $60 billion global contemporary art industry.

Joe ‘Human’ Nawaya, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

22. Joe ‘Human’ Nawaya, 25, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Graphic designer and Co-founder: Creative Mind Space

Joe ‘Human’ Nawaya was once enrolled for a degree in design at Pearson Institute in South Africa.

However, due to lack of finances, he had to drop out.

“At this point, I concluded that my life had stopped, I wasn’t going to be able to be anybody or make something of myself,” he tells FORBES AFRICA. However, this is not the design of his life as he was named Fast Company SA’s Top 20 Under 25 thanks to his passion and determination to pursue his first love, graphics and design.

His creative journey started when he was a child.

When his parents bought him a computer, the first application he used was paint.

Taking his passion to another level, he co-founded Creative Mind Space, together with his business partner Elliot Sithole.

It is an agency that focuses on creating content, designs, strategies, animation, and websites for brands.

Nawaya has been featured by Destiny Man as part of their Bold and Distinguished edition, positioning him as one of the most creative content creators in South Africa. Additionally, Nawaya went on to become a lifestyle ambassador for Bespoken Man, a gentleman grooming brand focused on lifestyle and experience.

While there, he worked with brands like Jameson Irish Whiskey, MINI Cooper and Savanna Dry.

Nawaya currently co-hosts #TheThreadedExchange with Siya Beyile, a former FORBES AFRICA 30 UNDER 30 list-maker, on CliffCentral.

He has also recently launched a podcast called Pioneers vs Pretenders on Lutcha, a digital podcasting company, which hosts a variety of podcasts online.

Thando Thabethe, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

23. Thando Thabethe, 29, South Africa

Actress, TV Presenter, and Radio DJ

Thando Thabethe is a jack of all trades.

She’s a prominent name in South Africa’s entertainment industry and has come to take it all.

Her acting career rose to prominence in early 2014 after her role on the South African soapie, Generations: The Legacy.

Her radio career dates back to the early days of 2008, having presented on the radio station of the University of Johannesburg.

But today, both her radio and acting careers have blossomed.

She currently has her own weekday radio show called The Thabooty Drive.

As for her acting, she moved from the small screen to the big screen, starring in the 2016 film Mrs Right Guy, the 2018 film Housekeepers and most recently, the lead role in 2019’s box office hit Love Lives Here.

This year, she was nominated for best TV host and best talk show for Thando Bares All, which aired on TLC, and she walked away with the award for Best Talk show.

 “Focus on your own focus. I think when you follow your heart and you follow your own passion, everything else follows and those that need recognize and follow it will,” she tells us.

Some of her achievements include being nominated for a SAFTA as the Best TV Presenter and for the Liberty Radio Awards as Best Drive Time presenter and for Best Drive Time Show.

Rich Fumani Mnisi, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

24. Rich Fumani Mnisi, 27, South Africa

Fashion Designer

When Beyoncé Knowles-Carter came to South Africa for the Global Citizen Festival in December, she was spotted wearing items of clothing by local designer Rich Mnisi.

She was adorned in the custom RICH MNISI Rhundzu blouse and crocodile half-pleat skirt.

“Growing up, all I have always wanted to do was to design clothes that reflect my own energy and the love of coloring outside the lines. I have dreamed of my favorite icons wearing my clothes like any kid dreams of meeting their icons. Protect your dreams with all you have because they have the power to define your destiny,” he said in an Instagram post after celebrating the iconic musician wearing his clothes.

In the short amount of time that Mnisi has been in the fashion industry, he has turned heads in South Africa’s fashion industry and internationally, featuring in publications like Vogue Italia, GQ, Financial Times, Marie Claire, ELLE and Vogue Russia.

Mnisi is a graduate of LISOF (Leaders in the Science of Fashion) and was awarded the Africa Fashion International Young Designer of the Year 2014.

He also owns a furniture brand consisting of a chaise and a stool titled Nwa-Mulamula, after his late great-grandmother.

He is also the designer of the red Coca-Cola outfit worn by Karabo Poppy on the cover of the 2019 FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list.

Kevin Njue, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

25. Kevin Njue 27, Kenya

Producer, Director, Writer and CEO: Rocque Pictures

At university, Kevin Njue and his partner used his student loan of $200 to direct and produce a short film that he had written in hostel. The film, Sticking Ribbons, was released in 2013 and Njue went on to win the award for Best East African Talent at the 2014 Zanzibar International Film Festival.

Njue used the monetary reward of $1,000 to invest in his next short film, Intellectual Scum, which went on to screen in 15 film festivals globally.

“I was proud to thought-provoke the audience on the unequal racial relationships in Africa’s cultural and political landscape,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

After gaining experience creating short films, Njue decided it was time to make bigger ones, a full-length feature film.

This ultimately led to him founding a business in 2016, Rocque Pictures.

With only enough money just to register the business, he knocked on doors while pitching his first feature film, 18 HOURS.

Of the $45,000 dollars needed, he managed to raise $13,000 from a university professor and an entrepreneur. In the end, the film was finished and launched in November 2017. It sold out at a cinema premiere in Nairobi.

In 2018, the film won the Best Overall Movie in Africa, Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, making history as the first Kenyan film to be nominated and win in the history of the awards.

 “As the CEO of Rocque Pictures, the goal is to set up a state-of-the-art film studio with a sound stage, backlot, a film park and an underwater film stage in Nairobi by 2030,” he says.

Sho Madjozi, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

26. Sho Madjozi, 27, South Africa

Musician

Sho Majozi won the hearts of South Africans in the early days of 2017 and seemingly, everything she touches burst into a euphoric cornucopia of color in celebration her African heritage. 

She introduced herself to the world as a Tsonga rapper with hits like Gqi, Huku, Kona, Wakanda Forever, and recently Idhom, bringing the XiTsonga language into the mainstream.

“I can’t believe people tried to tell us we weren’t dope for so long, now they see…” she says.

She is an artist for the people and whenever she performs, her energy is infectious.

She has played at festivals such as Afropunk, opened for artists like Travis Scott and Jidenna, and not to mention one of her highlight performances at the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa late last year.

The rising star was born Maya Wegerif in the small village of Shirley, deep in the province of the Limpopo province of South Africa.

After living in Tanzania, Senegal, and the US, Madjozi is fluent in Kiswahili, French and almost every South African language, making her pretty much a true global citizen.

Apart for her talented vocals, she also has a sense of style to match.

Her inspiration comes from the traditional Tsonga culture.

She has also teamed up with local designers to bring her first line of merchandise to fans, awakening her entrepreneurial spirit.

Her goal is to bring her culture to the world, which she continues to do so, staying true to her roots.

She was nominated for a BET Awards for Best New International Act, and recently bagged the Newcomer Of The Year and female artist of the year at the South African Music Awards.

Sarah Owusu, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

27. Sarah Owusu, 28, Ghana

Artist and Painter

It all started in the summer of 2012 when living in London, and Sarah Owusu was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy which left the left side of her face paralyzed.

“During this very dark period of my life, I wouldn’t leave my house except for my hospital appointments, and a few weeks into my diagnosis, I got a sudden urge to paint although I hadn’t created anything for years,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

After gaining the courage to paint, she went to a cheap pound store and bought two blank canvases, cheap paint and brushes.

Owusu’s passion for art grew as she noticed the lack of black female artists in the industry.

One of the biggest highlights for the self-taught artist was last year when she was invited to present two of her paintings of the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, at the Africa Business Summit in London Business School.

“My future plans are to have my artwork exhibited across the African continent, starting from my place of origin, Ghana,” she says.

Abisola Akintunde, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

28. Abisola Akintunde, 28, Nigeria

Founder and Creative Director: MakeupbyAshabee and Beelashes

They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but for Abisola Akntunde, beauty is also in the brush stroke and makeup palette.

For three weeks, she worked for a dental clinic before deciding to venture into makeup full-time.

In 2012, she worked with M-Net Africa Magic doing make-up on a TV set while trying to set up her two businesses, Makeupbyashabee and Beelashes.

Soon enough, she started receiving bookings outside of her job at M-Net and had to quit and focus full-time on her entrepreneurial journey.

“It was a very bold and scary step because I was afraid I was going to leave a steady income for something not certain but like they say, ‘don’t be afraid’,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

Akintunde took the bold step, bought her own car and set up her own studio and the rest has been a transformation for the better.

Since inception, MakeupbyAshabee has made up over 200 brides across Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, South Africa and Kenya.

While with Beelashes, she says she sells over 5,000 units of beauty lashes per quarter.

Akintunde has hired a staff of 20 and has trained over 50 interns between 2017 and now.

As part of her philanthropic efforts, she has partnered with the Archbishop Vining Anglican Church in Lagos to train young women in the art of makeup.

She has also partnered with AfribeautyHub to empower young women in Ibadan in Oyo State, Nigeria, on makeup.

“The next goal at MakeupbyAshabee is to learn permanent makeup, the art of micro-blading and ombré brows,” she says.

By doing this, she plans to bring something new to the table as micro-blading is an eyebrow embroidery procedure categorized under permanent makeup lasting for up to two years.

Yaa Bonsu, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Mombo Subira

29. Yaa Bonsu, 28, Kenya

Fashion stylist and Creative

In 2017, Yaa Bonsu met international model Naomi Campbell who told her to believe in herself, and then signed a copy of her Vogue magazine.

Bonsu took her advice and has been climbing the international ladder in fashion since.

“I remember flipping through Vogue magazines when I was 15 years old and being engrossed in this glossy world. After I watched the film, The Devil Wears Prada, I knew the fashion world belonged to me,” she says.

Today, she spends her days with runway models, designers and in the thick of fashion shoots for some of those glossy magazines.

In 2016, she relocated to Dubai where her career in the fashion industry took off.

She connected with industry powerhouses such as Naomi Campbell, Zeynab El-Helw and Shashi Menon.

She has had the opportunity to style an advertorial for the luxury brand Fendi, SS19, in April 2019.

The same year, she produced a fashion editorial for Revolution magazine that featured high-end jewelry – Dior, de GRISOGONO, Bvlgari and Piaget, an achievement she says she is most proud of.

She has set her goals on becoming an internationally-renowned fashion powerhouse joining the leagues of icons Victoria Beckham, Edward Enninful and Vanessa Kingori.

Paola Audrey Ndengue, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied

30. Paola Audrey Ndengue, 29, Cote d’Ivoire

Host and Producer and Co-founder: FASHIZBLACK

Paola Audrey Ndengue is an entrepreneur and a creative with a higher calling.

Her mission has been to promote the French-speaking African creative scene to the world.

While studying in France, she became a fashion blogger and has since gained 10 years’ experience in digital media.

She is currently the co-founder and creative director of FASHIZBLACK, a magazine focused on black and African fashion, designers, beauty and lifestyle.

And her most recent venture is PANNELLE & Co, a PR creative marketing and content agency in 2013.

She has worked with several international clients and artists such as Kiff No Beat (Côte d’Ivoire), Stanley Enow (Cameroon), Boddhi Satva (Central African Republic) and Canabasse (Senegal).

Both businesses she is involved in led to her being recognized as a finalist at the CNBC Africa All Africa Business Leaders Awards for the Young Business Leader of The Year in West Africa 2014.

Her growth since has been phenomenal and she has featured in numerous publications including Teen Vogue, CNN Africa and Forbes Afrique.

She is currently working on Maybelline’s first pan-African campaign, including several celebrities and influencers from Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria.

She was recently appointed the marketing manager of the first MTV Shuga Côte d’Ivoire, an international show educating young viewers about HIV/AIDS, an opportunity that will enlarge Ndengue’s reach.

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