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Full Steam Ahead

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Wind, solar and hydro energy have all been highlighted as sources of energy that help meet Africa’s growing power needs. Ghana’s Dela Wosornu is using garbage.

Decomposing organic material, known as biomass, releases gas that can be used to create energy in the form of biofuels. In Ghana, a country with a vast amount of degradable material, it is a viable option for alternative energy.

In Ghana, energy is costly and scarce; this hinders economic growth.

Biomass, such as wood and charcoal, is Ghana’s main energy source, supplying around 60% of the total energy used in the country. Biomass resources cover about 20.8 million hectares of land mass in Ghana. Most of this land is made up of crops and plants that can be converted into solid and liquid biofuels. Wosornu, a renewable energy entrepreneur, is taking advantage of this by transferring landfill gas to energy.

He is involved in the Oti Sanitary Landfill Gas-to-Energy Project, which eliminates the emission of harmful greenhouse gases as well as the spread of disease from the waste. The project reduces the reliance on producing power from fossil fuels by producing energy from the waste that would have otherwise been buried in the landfill.

The solution is quite innovative.

When organic material, such as food waste, is buried in the landfill, it is deprived of oxygen. In this condition, the organic material will decompose and turn into methane gas. The methane will slowly be released into the atmosphere, causing global warming. The project at the Oti landfill doesn’t let this happen. They cover the landfill with soil and drill holes into it. Pipes are then inserted and the gas is sucked out into a generator which makes heat and electricity.

“It’s really a matter of just bringing pipes to where the gas has collected and pumping it out through a vacuum process and then directing that gas to a generator,” says Wosornu.

According to Wosornu, the project is the first of its kind in Ghana. As cities grow and produce more waste, the environmental impact from open dumps becomes increasingly intolerable. The conversion of dumps to engineered landfills like the Oti project is essential.

“Our solution can be applied at any landfill that has received at least 400 tons a day of municipal solid waste and is in reasonably good shape. As there are many landfills in Africa and around the world that are not capturing gas, the future for landfill gas to energy projects is bright,” says Wosornu.

Landfill gas to energy projects have underperformed relative to projected gas and power output. Bearing this in mind, the projected output of the Oti project has been discounted by 70% so that its actual output will meet or exceed the projected output. The Renewable Energy Act in Ghana ensures that there are set prices for each class of renewable energy. It also offers an opportunity to redirect future investments into green energy.

The challenge for Wosornu, is finding reliable buyers for the project’s output. The high cost of doing business in Africa also makes the development costs of these projects higher than the rest of the world.

“There is no doubt that, if properly exploited, renewable energy resources in Africa can make a significant contribution to the continent’s energy supply. In particular, the potential of biofuels on the continent is huge. Within the context of the current financial crisis, stakeholders including policy makers, international partners and the UN should lead the debate on and collectively seek strategies for scaling up renewable energy use so as to increase access to energy and enhance energy security among the many potential benefits of these technologies,” says Kandeh Yumkella, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Wosornu is playing his part.

Cover Story

Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women

This is a first-of-its-kind Pan-African unranked compilation of the continent’s leading women, drawn from business, politics, media, science, sports and public life, who are challenging the status quo and creating a trail on terrain where there was none. They are reshaping history, closing inequalities and pioneering new avenues of wealth creation and in turn, lifting others with them.

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This is a first-of-its-kind Pan-African unranked compilation of the continent’s leading women, drawn from business, politics, media, science, sports and public life, who are challenging the status quo and creating a trail on terrain where there was none. They are reshaping history, closing inequalities and pioneering new avenues of wealth creation and in turn, lifting others with them.

To read the full feature, subscribe to Forbes Africa or download the issue here.

NAME COUNTRYTITLE SECTOR
GRACA MACHELSOUTH AFRICAFOUNDER, GRACA MACHEL TRUSTSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
CLARE AKAMANZIRWANDACEO, RWANDA DEVELOPMENT BOARDSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT/GOVERNANCE
FOLORUNSO ALAKIJANIGERIAEXECUTIVE VICE CHAIR, FAMFA OILOIL SECTOR
JENNIFER RIRIAKENYAGROUP CEO, ECHO NETWORK AFRICA (ENA); FOUNDING MEMBER, KENYA WOMEN FINANCE TRUSTFINANCE
LOUISE MUSHIKIWABORWANDASECRETARY GENERAL, ORGANISATION INTERNATIONALE DE LA FRANCOPHONIE (OIF)
AYA CHEBBITUNISIABLOGGER AND AFRICA UNION YOUTH ENVOYMEDIA
ELSIE KANZA TANZANIAHEAD OF AFRICA AND MEMBER OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUMFINANCE
IBUKUN AWOSIKANIGERIAFOUNDER AND CEO, THE CHAIR CENTRE GROUPMANUFACTURING
DR JUDY DLAMINISOUTH AFRICAFOUNDER, MBEKANI GROUPSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
CHARLIZE THERONSOUTH AFRICAHOLLYWOOD ACTRESSENTERTAINMENT
CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIENIGERIAAUTHOR, PUBLIC SPEAKERPUBLISHING
PHUTI MAHANYELE-DABENGWASOUTH AFRICACEO, NASPERS SOUTH AFRICATECHNOLOGY
OBIAGELI ‘OBY’ EZEKWESILINIGERIASENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR, AFRICA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT POLICY INITIATIVE (AEDPI)SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
GLENDA GRAYSOUTH AFRICAPRESIDENT AND CEO, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL (SAMRC)HEALTHCARE
THULI MADONSELASOUTH AFRICALAW TRUST CHAIR, SOCIAL JUSTICE RESEARCH AT STELLENBOSCH UNIVERSITYLAW
WENDY LUHABESOUTH AFRICASOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR & CO-FOUNDER, WIPHOLDFINANCE
ANGÉLIQUE KIDJOBENINFOUR-TIME GRAMMY AWARD WINNERENTERTAINMENT
MANAL ROSTOMEGYPTFOUNDER, SURVIVING HIJAB AND FACE OF NIKE PRO HIJABHEALTH AND FITNESS
LYDIA NSEKERABURUNDIPRESIDENT, NATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (NOC) OF BURUNDI AND MEMBER OF FIFA COUNCILSPORT/GOVERNANCE
WINNIE BYANYIMAUGANDAEXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNAIDSSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALANIGERIACHAIR, BOARD OF THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR VACCINES AND IMMUNISATION (GAVI)HEALTHCARE
PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKASOUTH AFRICAEXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITED NATIONS (UN) WOMENSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
WARIS DIRIESOMALIAPRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, DESERT FLOWER FOUNDATIONSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAFLIBERIAFIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT OF LIBERIA, NOBEL PEACE LAUREATEGOVERNANCE
YVONNE CHAKA CHAKASOUTH AFRICAAWARD-WINNING MUSICIANENTERTAINMENT
SAHLE-WORK ZEWDEETHIOPIAPRESIDENT OF ETHIOPIAGOVERNANCE
MAMOKGETHI (KGETHI) PHAKENGSOUTH AFRICAVICE-CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN (UCT)EDUCATION
REBECCA ENONCHONGCAMEROONFOUNDER & CEO, APPSTECHTECHNOLOGY
BONANG MATHEBASOUTH AFRICAMEDIA PERSONALITY, ENTREPRENEURENTERTAINMENT
FATMA SAMOURASENEGALSECRETARY-GENERAL, FIFASPORT
IRENE CHARNLEYSOUTH AFRICAFOUNDER, SMILE COMMUNICATIONSTECHNOLOGY
UCHENNA ‘UCHE’ PEDRONIGERIAFOUNDER AND CEO, BELLANAIJAMEDIA
ILWAD ELMANSOMALIAFOUNDER, ELMAN PEACE CENTREACTIVISM
WENDY APPELBAUMSOUTH AFRICAFOUNDER AND CHAIRPERSON, DE MORGENZON WINE ESTATEENTREPRENEUR
OLAJUMOKE ADENOWONIGERIAFOUNDER, AD CONSULTINGADVERTISING
BETHLEHEM TILAHUN ALEMUETHIOPIAFOUNDER AND CEO, SOLEREBELS FOOTWEAR, GARDEN OF COFFEE, TEFFTASTICENTREPRENEUR
NKOSAZANA DLAMINI-ZUMASOUTH AFRICAMINISTER OF COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS, SOUTH AFRICAGOVERNANCE
WENDY ACKERMANSOUTH AFRICAEXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PICK ‘N PAYRETAIL
CASTER SEMENYASOUTH AFRICAOLYMPIC CHAMPIONSPORT
RAWYA MANSOUREGYPTFOUNDER AND CEO, RAMSCOAGRICULTURE
ARUNMA OTEHNIGERIAACADEMIC SCHOLAR, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD FORMER TREASURER AND VICE PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE AFRICA ADVISORY GROUP MEMBERFINANCE
FATOU BENSOUDAGAMBIAPROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC)LAW
HAJER SHARIEFLIBYAHUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATEACTIVISM
AMINA J. MOHAMMEDNIGERIADEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONSSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
PRECIOUS MOTSEPESOUTH AFRICAFOUNDER, AFRICAN FASHION INTERNATIONALFASHION
LUPITA NYONG’OKENYAOSCAR-WINNING ACTORENTERTAINMENT
VERA SONGWECAMEROONEXECUTIVE SECRETARY, UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICASOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
MAGDA WIERZYCKASOUTH AFRICAFOUNDER, SYGNIAFINANCE
TARA FELA-DUROTOYENIGERIAFOUNDER, HOUSE OF TARA INTERNATIONALBEAUTY
THERESA KACHINDAMOTOMALAWICHIEF OF DEDZA DISTRICTSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

-Mashokane Mahlo

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Billionaires

Africa’s Richest 2020: Steady State With Some Volatility On The Margins

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Like elsewhere in the world, fortunes in Africa can be volatile, thanks to changes like a new currency.


Africa’s billionaires are as a group richer than a year ago. Altogether, the continent’s 20 billionaires are worth a combined $73.4 billion, up from $68.7 billion a year ago.

For the ninth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is the richest person in Africa, worth an estimated $10.1 billion, down from $10.3 billion a year ago amid a slightly lower stock price for his Dangote Cement, his largest holding. The much-heralded oil refinery that Dangote is building in Nigeria is still at least a year away from completion.

Nassef Sawiris of Egypt is the new number two richest, worth $8 billion—up from $6.3 billion last year. Sawiris’ most valuable asset is a stake in shoemaker Adidas worth a recent $4 billion. The increase in Adidas’ share price alone added nearly $1.5 billion to his fortune since January 2019. He also owns a significant stake in fertilizer producer OCI N.V. In 2019, Sawiris and U.S. investor Wes Edens purchased the remaining stake they didn’t own in U.K. Premier League team Aston Villa Football Club.

Number three on the list is Nigeria’s Mike Adenuga, worth $7.7 billion. He owns mobile phone network GloMobile as well as oil producer Conoil and extensive real estate holdings.

One member of this elite group is worth 50% less than a year ago. Due primarily to the introduction of a new (weaker) currency in Zimbabwe, Strive Masiyiwa’s fortune fell to $1.1 billion from $2.3 billion in January 2019. Zimbabwe, which has battled with hyperinflation, had been using the U.S. dollar as its currency, but in 2019 it switched to its own currency, initially called the RTGS. When converted into U.S. dollars, the values of Masiyiwa’s stakes in Zimbabwe-listed mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and Cassava Smartech fell dramatically in dollar terms.

 Just two of the 20 billionaires are women: Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos; and Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria. Dos Santos’ fortune has declined to an estimated $2.2 billion, down $100 million from a year ago. In late December, an Angola court issued an order to freeze the assets that Isabel dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, own in Angola. Those include her stake in telecom firm Unitel and stakes in two Angolan banks; Forbes estimates those assets are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. A statement issued by Isabel dos Santos said the judgment contained “a number of untruths” and that she would fight the decision “by using all the instruments of Angolan and international law at my disposal.”

Country rankings are unchanged from a year ago: Egypt and South Africa are tied with five billionaires each, followed by Nigeria with four and Morocco with two. Forbes found one billionaire each from Algeria, Angola, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. That’s the same as last year but a better representation than nine years ago, when only four African nations were home to ten-figure fortunes.

METHODOLOGY

Our list tracks the wealth of African billionaires who reside in Africa or have their primary businesses there, thus excluding Sudanese-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, who is a U.K. citizen, and billionaire London resident Mohamed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian citizen. (Strive Masiyiwa, a citizen of Zimbabwe and a London resident, appears on the list due to his expansive telecom holdings in Africa; Isabel dos Santos, a citizen of Angola, has been living in Europe but retains assets in Angola—although they were recently frozen by a court in Angola.) We calculated net worths using stock prices and currency exchange rates from the close of business on Friday, January 10, 2020. To value privately held businesses, we couple estimates of revenues or profits with prevailing price-to-sales or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies. Some list members grow richer or poorer within weeks—or days—of our measurement date.

– Written by Kerry A. Dolan

Africa’s Billionaires List

  1. Aliko Dangote

Net worth: $10.1 billion

Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar

Age: 62

Country: Nigeria

Residence: Lagos

Education: Al-Azhar University, Bachelor of Arts/Science

Dangote, Africa’s richest man, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer. He owns nearly 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company. Dangote Cement produces 45.6 million metric tons annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa. Dangote also owns stakes in publicly-traded salt, sugar and flour manufacturing companies. Dangote Refinery has been under construction for three years and is expected to be one of the world’s largest oil refineries once complete. 

Did You Know?

Dangote’s grandfather was a successful trader of rice and oats in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city.

Dangote told Forbes that when he was young, he bought sweets, gave them to others to sell, and he kept the profits.

2. Nassef Sawiris

Net worth: $8 billion

Origin of wealth: Construction, chemicals

Age: 58

Country:  Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: University of Chicago

Nassef Sawiris is a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family. His brother Naguib is also a billionaire. Sawiris split Orascom Construction Industries into two entities in 2015: OCI and Orascom Construction. He runs OCI, one of the world’s largest nitrogen fertilizer producers, with plants in Texas and Iowa; it trades on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange. Orascom Construction, an engineering and building firm, trades on the Cairo exchange and Nasdaq Dubai. His holdings include stakes in cement giant Lafarge Holcim and Adidas; he sits on the supervisory board of Adidas.

Did You Know?

A University of Chicago graduate, he donated $24.1 million to the school in 2019 to aid Egyptian students and fund an executive education program.

Nassef Sawiris teamed up with Fortress Investment Group’s Wes Edens to purchase a majority stake in Aston Villa Football Club.

3. Mike Adenuga

Net worth: $7.7 billion

Origin of wealth: Telecom, oil

Age: 66

Country: Nigeria

Residence: Lagos

Education: Pace University, Master of Business

Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest man, built his fortune in telecom and oil production. His mobile phone network, Globacom, is the third largest operator in Nigeria, with 43 million subscribers. His oil exploration outfit, Conoil Producing, operates six oil blocks in the Niger Delta. Adenuga got an MBA at Pace University in New York, supporting himself as a student by working as a taxi driver. He made his first million at age 26 selling lace and distributing soft drinks.

4. Nicky Oppenheimer

& family

Net worth: $7.7 billion

Origin of wealth: Diamonds

Age: 74

Country: South Africa

Residence: Johannesburg

Education: Oxford University Christ Church, Master of Arts/Science

Oppenheimer, heir to his family’s fortune, sold his 40% stake in diamond firm DeBeers to mining group Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash in 2012. He was the third generation of his family to run DeBeers, and took the company private in 2001. For 85 years until 2012, the Oppenheimer family occupied a controlling spot in the world’s diamond trade. In 2014, Oppenheimer started Fireblade Aviation in Johannesburg, which operates chartered flights with its fleet of three planes and two helicopters. He owns at least 720 square miles of conservation land across South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Did You Know?

Oppenheimer owns Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, the largest private game reserve in South Africa.

Oppenheimer is a sports fan and plays squash, golf and cricket. Notepads in his office read: “Things I must do before cricket”.

5.Johann Rupert & family

Net worth: $6.5 billion

Origin of wealth: Luxury goods

Age: 69

Country: South Africa

Residence: Cape Town

Rupert is chairman of Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financiere Richemont. The company is best known for the brands Cartier and Montblanc. It was formed in 1998 through a spinoff of assets owned by Rembrandt Group Limited (now Remgro Limited), which his father Anton formed in the 1940s. He owns a 7% stake in diversified investment firm Remgro, which he chairs, as well as 25% of Reinet, an investment holding co. based in Luxembourg. In recent years, Rupert has been a vocal opponent of plans to allow fracking in the Karoo, a region of South Africa where he owns land.

Did You Know?

He also owns part of the Saracens English rugby team and Anthonij Rupert Wines, named after his deceased brother.

Rupert says his biggest regret was not buying half of Gucci when he had the opportunity to do so for just $175 million.

6.Issad Rebrab & family

Net worth: $4.4 billion

Origin of wealth: Food

Age: 76

Country: Algeria

Residence: Algiers

Issad Rebrab is the founder and CEO of Cevital, Algeria’s biggest privately-held company. Cevital owns one of the largest sugar refineries in the world, with the capacity to produce 2 million tons a year. Cevital owns European companies, including French home appliances maker Groupe Brandt, an Italian steel mill and a German water purification company. After serving eight months in jail on charges of corruption, Rebrab was released on January 1, 2020. He denies any wrongdoing.

Did You Know?

Rebrab is the son of militants who fought for Algeria’s independence from France.

Cevital helped finance a biopic on Algerian resistance hero Larbi Ben M’hidi, who was executed by the French in 1957.

7.Mohamed Mansour

Net worth: $3.3 billion

Origin of wealth: Diversified

Age: 71

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration

Mansour oversees family conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (D.1976) in 1952 and has 60,000 employees. Mansour established General Motors dealerships in Egypt in 1975, later becoming one of GM’s biggest distributors worldwide. Mansour Group also has exclusive distribution rights for Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and seven other African countries. He served as Egypt’s Minister of Transportation from 2006 to 2009 under the Hosni Mubarak regime. His brothers Yasseen and Youssef, who share ownership in the family group, are also billionaires; his son Loutfy heads private equity arm Man Capital.

8.Abdulsamad Rabiu

Net worth: $3.1 billion

Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar

Age: 59

Country: Nigeria

Rabiu is the founder of BUA Group, a Nigerian conglomerate active in cement production, sugar refining and real estate. In early January 2020, Rabiu merged his privately-owned Obu Cement company with listed firm Cement Co. of Northern Nigeria, which he controlled. The combined firm, called BUA Cement Plc, trades on the Nigerian stock exchange; Rabiu owns 98.5% of it. Rabiu, the son of a businessman, inherited land from his father. He set up his own business in 1988 importing iron, steel and chemicals.

9.Naguib Sawiris

Net worth: $3 billion

Origin of wealth: Telecom

Age: 65

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Master of Science; Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Bachelor of Arts/Science

Naguib Sawiris is a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family. His brother Nassef is also a billionaire. He built a fortune in telecom, selling Orascom Telecom in 2011 to Russian telecom firm VimpelCom (now Veon) in a multibillion-dollar transaction. He’s chairman of Orascom TMT Investments, which has stakes in a major asset manager in Egypt and an Italian internet company, among others. Family holding La Mancha has stakes in Evolution Mining, Endeavour Mining and Golden Star Resources, which operate gold mines in Africa and Australia. Sawiris is a majority owner in Euronews. He’s also developed a luxury resort called Silversands in Grenada.

Did You Know?

Sawiris helped found The Free Egyptians, a liberal political party, at the onset of Egypt’s uprisings in 2011. 

In 2015, he offered to buy a Greek or Italian island to house Syrian refugees, but Greece and Italy turned him down.

10.Patrice Motsepe

Net worth: $2.6 billion

Origin of wealth: Mining

Age: 57

Country: South Africa

Residence: Johannesburg

Motsepe, the founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, became a billionaire in 2008 – the first black African on the Forbes list. In 2016, he launched a new private equity firm, African Rainbow Capital, focused on investing in Africa. Motsepe also has a stake in Sanlam, a listed financial services firm, and is the president and owner of the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club. He became the first black partner at law firm Bowman Gilfillan in Johannesburg, and then started a contracting business doing mine scut work. In 1994, he bought low-producing gold mine shafts and later turned them profitable.

11. Koos Bekker

Net worth: $2.5 billion

Origin of wealth: Media, investments

Age: 67

Country: South Africa

Residence: Cape Town

Education: Columbia Business School, Master of Business Administration; University of Witwatersrand, LLB

Bekker is revered for transforming South African newspaper publisher Naspers into an ecommerce investor and cable TV powerhouse. He led Naspers to invest in Chinese Internet and media firm Tencent in 2001 – by far the most profitable of the bets he made on companies elsewhere. In 2019, Naspers put some assets into two publicly-traded companies, entertainment firm MultiChoice Group and Prosus, which contains the Tencent stake. It sold a 2% stake in Tencent in March 2018, its first time reducing its holding, but stated at the time it would not sell again for three years. Bekker, who retired as the CEO of Naspers in March 2014, returned as chairman in April 2015.

Did You Know?

His Babylonstoren estate, nearly 600 acres in South Africa’s Western Cape region, features architecture dating back to 1690, a farm, orchard and vineyard and more.

Over the summer of 2015, he sold more than 70% of his Naspers shares.

12.Yasseen Mansour

Net worth: $2.3 billion

Origin of wealth:  Diversified

Age: 58

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: George Washington University,

Bachelor of Arts/Science

Mansour is a shareholder in family-owned conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (d.1976) in 1952. Mansour Group is the exclusive distributor of GM vehicles and Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and several other countries. His brothers Mohamed and Youssef are also billionaires and part owners of Mansour Group. He’s chairman of Palm Hills Developments, one of Egypt’s biggest real estate developers.

Did You Know?

Mansour Group is the sole franchisee of McDonald’s in Egypt, as well as the distributor of Gauloises cigarettes.

13.Isabel dos Santos

Net worth: $2.2 billion

Origin of wealth: Investments

Age: 46

Country: Angola

Education: King’s College London, Bachelor of Arts/Science

Dos Santos is the oldest daughter of Angola’s longtime former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who stepped down in fall 2017. Her father made her head of Sonangol, Angola’s state oil firm, in June 2016, but Angola’s new president removed her from that role in November 2017. Forbes research found that while Isabel’s father was president, she ended up with stakes in Angolan companies including banks and a telecom firm. She owns shares of Portuguese companies, including telecom and cable TV firm Nos SGPS. A spokesperson for Isabel told Forbes that she “is an independent business woman and a private investor representing solely her own interests.” In December 2019, an Angolan court issued an order freezing her stakes in Angolan companies, part of a suit about funds she owes to the state oil firm.

Did You Know?

Isabel dos Santos is nicknamed “the princess” in Angola.

Santos’ mother, Tatiana Kukanova, met her father while he was a student in Azerbaijan. The couple later divorced.

14.Youssef Mansour

Net worth: $1.9 billion

Origin of wealth: Diversified

Age: 74

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration; North Carolina State University, Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Mansour is chairman of family-owned conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (d.1976) in 1952. Mansour Group is the exclusive distributor of GM vehicles and Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and several other countries. He oversees the consumer goods division, which includes supermarket chain Metro, and sole distribution rights for L’Oreal in Egypt. Younger brothers Mohamed and Yasseen are also billionaires and part owners of Mansour Group.

Did You Know?

Former Egypt President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized his father’s original cotton trading business.

Mansour is a founding member of the American Egyptian Chamber of Commerce.

15. Aziz Akhannouch

& family

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Origin of wealth: Petroleum, diversified

Age: 59

Country: Morocco

Residence: Casablanca

Education: Universite de Sherbrooke, Master of Business Administration

Aziz Akhannouch is the majority owner of Akwa Group, a multibillion-dollar conglomerate founded by his father and a partner, Ahmed Wakrim, in 1932. It has interests in petroleum, gas and chemicals through publicly-traded Afriquia Gaz and Maghreb Oxygene. Akhannouch is Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the president of a royalist political party.

Did You Know?

His wife Salwa Idrissi runs her own company, which has franchises for Gap, Gucci and Ralph Lauren in Morocco.

16.Mohammed Dewji

Net worth: $1.6 billion

Origin of wealth:  Diversified

Age: 44

Country: Tanzania

Residence: Dar es Salaam

Mohammed Dewji is the CEO of MeTL, a Tanzanian conglomerate founded by his father in the 1970s. MeTL is active in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in eastern, southern and central Africa. MeTL operates in at least six African countries and has ambitions to expand to several more. Dewji, Tanzania’s only billionaire, signed the Giving Pledge in 2016, promising to donate at least half his fortune to philanthropic causes. Dewji was reportedly kidnapped at gunpoint in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in October 2018 and released after nine days.

Did You Know?

Dewji retired from Tanzania’s parliament in early 2015 after completing two terms.

Dewji, who is known as Mo (short for Mohammed), launched Mo Cola several years ago to compete with Coca Cola.

17.Othman Benjelloun

& family

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Origin of wealth: Banking, insurance

Age: 87

Country: Morocco

Residence: Casablanca

Education: Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, Diploma

Benjelloun is CEO of BMCE Bank of Africa, which has a presence in more than 20 African countries. His father was a shareholder in RMA Watanya, a Moroccan insurance company; Benjelloun built it into a leading insurer. Through his holding company FinanceCom, he has a stake in the Moroccan arm of French telecom firm Orange. He inaugurated in 2014 a $500 million plan to build the 55-story Mohammed VI Tower in Rabat. It will be one of the tallest buildings in Africa. FinanceCom is part of a project to develop a multibillion-dollar tech city in Tangiers that is expected to host 200 Chinese companies.

Did You Know?

He co-owns Ranch Adarouch, one of the biggest cattle breeders in Africa.

Benjelloun and his wife received the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award for building schools in rural Morocco in 2016.

18.Michiel Le Roux

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Origin of wealth: Banking

Age: 70

Country: South Africa

Residence: Stellenbosch

Le Roux of South Africa founded Capitec Bank in 2001 and owns about an 11% stake. The bank, which trades on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, targets South Africa’s emerging middle class. He served as chairman of the board of Capitec from 2007 to 2016 and has continued on as a board member. Le Roux previously ran Boland Bank, a small regional bank in Cape Town’s hinterland.

Did You Know?

The bank has more than 800 branches and over 13,000 employees.

Fellow South African Jannie Mouton’s PSG Group owns a 30% stake in Capitec Bank.

19.Strive Masiyiwa

Net worth: $1.1 billion

Origin of wealth: Telecom

Age: 58

Country: Zimbabwe

Residence: London

Education: University of Wales, Bachelor of Engineering

Masiyiwa overcame protracted government opposition to launch mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in his country of birth in 1998. He owns just over 50% of the publicly-traded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, which is one part of his larger Econet Group. Masiyiwa also owns just over half of private company Liquid Telecom, which provides fiber optic and satellite services to telecom firms across Africa. His other assets include stakes in mobile phone networks in Burundi and Lesotho, and investments in fintech and power distribution firms in Africa. He and his wife Tsitsi founded the Higherlife Foundation, which supports orphaned and poor children in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi and Lesotho.

Did You Know?            

After studying at university in Britain, Masiyiwa worked at ZPTC, Zimbabwe’s phone company.

He left ZPTC to start an engineering services firm, then sold it and founded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, but had to battle the government in court for years

20.Folorunso Alakija

Net worth: $1 billion

Origin of wealth: Oil

Age: 69

Country: Nigeria

Residence: Lagos

Folorunso Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset. Famfa Oil’s partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Alakija’s first company was a fashion label whose customers included the wife of former Nigerian president Ibrahim Babangida. The Nigerian government awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license in 1993, which was later converted to an oil mining lease. The Agbami field has been operating since 2008; Famfa Oil says it will likely operate through 2024.


What It’s Like Meeting Africa’s Richest Man

 FORBES AFRICA journalist Peace Hyde says she first interviewed Aliko Dangote in Nigeria about three years ago for the popular FORBES AFRICA show, My Worst Day With Peace Hyde, airing on CNBC Africa, and has since had the privilege of meeting and speaking with him several times at both official and private functions.

“Dangote is someone who is extremely focused and driven with a bullish passion for Africa. For him, the goal is to dream as big and as grandiose as you can when it comes to the future of Africa because he believes, we have the human capital and resources to transform our continent. Everything is possible in his mind. His approach to business is testament to this fact.”

The largest employer in Africa’s most populous economy, he is also seen as a stabilizing force within the economies of several countries across the African continent. His story, however, has not been without failure.

“Dangote has had his fair share of ups and downs. But his advice to young entrepreneurs is having the ability to delay gratification and work hard through tough times so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor at a later date,” says Hyde.

Through the Dangote Foundation, which has the objective of reducing the number of lives lost to malnutrition and disease as well as combating Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children, thousands of children have been saved from the brink of death.

Dangote is also known as a man of few words. “I have seen him spend an entire afternoon answering questions about his business to a room of MBA graduates and proceeding to take pictures with everyone before leaving.

“You will not find any of the obvious trappings of wealth like flashy cars or a big entourage with him and he takes the time to speak to anyone who approaches him at a function,” adds Hyde.

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Cover Story

African Of The Year

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The President of the African Development Bank believes passionately that poverty has no place in Africa. Restless about creating opportunities for the continent and promoting food security through agricultural innovation, this is a man on a mission.


Immaculate in his trademark bow tie and bespoke suit, Dr Akinwumi Adesina sits down at a shady outdoor table as a welcome breeze stirs the hot Johannesburg afternoon, and wind-chimes tinkle in the air. This, after an hour under the harsh studio lights for the cover shoot for this article, where he charmed the FORBES AFRICA team with his ready smile and ease in front of the camera.

In four years at the helm of the African Development Bank (AfDB), he has seen many achievements that would leave most people agape at their scope – 16 million people connected to electricity, 70 million received access to agricultural technologies for food security, nine million gained access to finance, 55 million now have access to improved transport, and 31 million have been given access to improved water and sanitation.

And yet, it is not enough.

“We have to go bigger than that,” he says, “I believe Africa needs to move forward, but faster than it has.”

A greater rate of development is made possible by the biggest capital increase in the bank’s 55-year history. At the end of October 2019, AfDB’s 80 shareholder countries approved a $115 billion capital increase, an increase of 125%, from $93 billion to $208 billion. 

READ MORE: Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo   

This capital increase was two years in the making. Two years of hard work and intensive discussions. “And I just feel that there’s wind behind our sails. I feel relieved, I feel happy. Happy not only for myself, but happy for Africa and happy for the bank,” he says.

“We are going to deploy a lot of these resources to accelerate what we have been doing. You know we have a High Five strategy for the continent, which is to light up and power Africa, to feed Africa, to industrialize Africa, to integrate Africa, and to improve the quality of life of the people of Africa.

“So I see a very different Africa in the next couple of years coming,” he continues. “I think you will see huge, huge impact for the bank and of course finally, we’ll be able to help attract a lot more investments to the continent because the private sector is the engine of growth. I see the bank being able to take greater risks on behalf of the private sector in Africa. I am very confident in the future of Africa. Extremely confident.

“Africa’s opportunities for investment are literally limitless. All we have to do is to make sure that we continue to improve the business and investment environment.” In November, less than a week after this interview, African and international investors put their money behind Adesina’s dream for a transformed, economically-vibrant Africa.

On the conclusion of the second Africa Investment Forum (AIF), held in the Gauteng province of South Africa, 56 boardroom deals valued at $67.6 billion resulted in secured investor interest of $40.1 billion in 52 deals. That’s a 44% increase in deals tabled in comparison to 2018’s 61 tabled transactions valued at $46.9 billion and 49 deals worth $38.7 billion in secured investment interest. All of this in less than 72 hours.

“Those nations that have wealth are the ones that export value-added products. The ones that are poor are the ones that export raw materials and I think Africa is done exporting rae materials. Africa cannot be used to poverty; it needs wealth.

Smiling broadly, the President of AfDB commented at the session, Unveiling the Boardroom Deals: “Transactions, transactions, transactions. Deals, deals, deals!”

Africa’s sun has been rising steadily. Today, six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa. Rwanda is growing at 7.7%, Ethiopia at 7.4%, Ghana at 7.2%, and Mauritania and Cote d’Ivoire at almost 7%.

“So the economies of Africa are doing very well and what’s even more amazing is that 37 countries are growing at three to five percent or above. Today, as we speak, 20 African countries are growing at above five percent globally. And that is amazing. You cannot ignore Africa,” Adesina elaborates.

While foreign direct investment (FDI) for the rest of the world grew at -13%, and the FDI for developed countries grew at -23%, FDI in Africa grew by roughly 11%, from $41 billion to $46 billion in 2018.

Says Adesina: “So that tells you how fast Africa is growing. And more exciting for me is the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement which now opens up Africa with a market of $3.3 trillion.

“Take, for example, the moment we start supporting people to invest across borders and you make it easier for people to travel, guess what? Investment will begin to expand. If I want to take, for example, between 2013 and last year, and even this year, the intra-Africa investment, that is African investors investing in other African countries, rose to $108 billion total. And you look at that and ask yourself what are the countries where most of those investments are coming from; almost 40% of that is from South Africa into other countries. The other countries are Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Kenya.”

Adesina advises to look beyond trading in the same things through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): “So as opposed to sending raw materials that dominate Africa’s exports to Europe or to America, or to China, if we start trading among ourselves, we should not be trading in raw materials, we should be trading in high value-added products.

“And so, we at the African Development Bank will support the development and the emergence of original, globally competitive value chains, whether it is agriculture, whether it is the pharmaceutical industry, whether it is in other areas of ICT where Africa can be competitive and so at the end of the day, it is about added value to everything that Africa has, because as I always say, the secret of the wealth of nations is very clear.

“Those nations that have wealth are the ones that export value-added products. The ones that are poor are the ones that export raw materials and I think Africa is done exporting raw materials. Africa cannot be used to poverty; it needs wealth,” Adesina says.

In order to take advantage of the collective market of $3.3 trillion the AfCFTA is opening up, it is important to invest in basic enabling conditions.

“First and foremost, you have to co-ordinate, so the African Development Bank has provided almost $5 million to the African Union Commission to establish the Secretariat – the African Continental Free Trade Secretariat in Ghana and we’re delighted that it’s in Ghana. Second, is that we invested heavily in infrastructure to enable that, so whether it is transnational highways, whether it is digital infrastructure, financial inclusion, we’re investing in integrating  our capital markets all across Africa so you can actually mobilize domestic savings in that.”

READ MORE: Africa’s Mr Development

Part of the requirements is to ensure that people can move more easily across borders without it taking too much time.

“We are very excited at how many countries have made it easier for Africans to invest in other African countries. For example, today, as an African, you can go into African countries; [for] 25% of them, you won’t even need a visa; 21% of them you can get visas on arrival. And the rest of them, you will need a visa. So, we still have quite a big way to go, but a lot of progress is being made,” Adesina says.

Also part of enabling conditions is infrastructure.

“Nations progress to the extent of their investment in infrastructure. Whether it is roads, ports, rail, airports or digital infrastructure. It’s like trying to walk as a person and not having a backbone. That’s what infrastructure really is and that’s why the African Development Bank is investing heavily on infrastructure – for countries, but also for regional infrastructure.”

There are 16 landlocked countries in Africa that need interconnectors to gain access to a port. In the southern African region, the AfDB has invested heavily in the Nacala Port Corridor, which opens up opportunities for Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and even South Africa to access Mozambique’s Nacala Port. 

Another investment has been over $360 million to double the capacity of the Walvis Bay Port in Namibia so that it can serve other countries.

Adesina continues: “We are investing right now in energy transport infrastructure, for example, I just came in from Zambia this morning, talking to President Edgar Lungu. And we’re investing in the interconnected power that will link Zambia to Zimbabwe to Botswana and Namibia.

“In West Africa, we just completed in January this year, a landmark historic investment linking Senegal and Gambia through the Senegambia Bridge. They never had a bridge connecting them. They were just neighbors.”


Akinwumi Adesina was adjudged ‘African of the Year’ at the 2019 All Africa Business Leaders Awards held in association with CNBC Africa


The AfDB is also working on a rail project that will link Tanzania to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.

Looking at the infrastructure financing gap, Adesina describes it as “a lot”.

“Africa today has an infrastructure financing gap of anything between $68 billion to $108 billion a year. But I’m not scared of that. It’s whether you look at it as a cup half empty or half full; $68 billion to $108 billion a year means there is a business opportunity of $68 billion to $108 billion. And that’s why the Africa Investment Forum is critical for that.”

While governments have an important role to play in funding the infrastructure gap, the private sector’s contribution is crucial through Public Private Partnerships.

Adesina also believes that Africa should mobilize more domestic savings to invest in infrastructure. “If you look at Africa today, the institutional investors like the pension funds, the sovereign wealth funds, and insurance pool of funds we have is about $1.8 trillion. But all of that is being invested outside Africa in money-market instruments that are earning a negative real rate of return today.

“So you tell me, what sense does it make if I have a sovereign wealth fund that has become the fund of another sovereign, except for money? You invest in money market instruments when you have no power, you have no water, you have no roads, you have no rail. That’s not a smart investment. Or a pension fund of an African country invested in money market instruments outside. Let’s even assume that you make money from that. What are you going to do? You’re going to turn around and offer annuity payments that will give people regular income for the rest of their retirement life, right?

“Well, I’m sorry, it means they will be returning to their communities, to their cities without good water, without good health services, without good transport, without good energy. No. That will be miserable retirement. And so what I want to see is Africa’s pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other institutional investors investing their money to help to close that $68 billion to $108 billion investment gap.”

He remembers his mother telling him as a child, that if you go down to a market, and you do not promote your own product, who will stop at your stall to buy your wares?

“So charity must begin at home. I want Africa’s institutional investors investing in Africa, in roads, in rail, and we as a bank are there to support them to reduce the risk of their investments in Africa. I want an Africa that is able to attract capital, to close this gap. I’m not afraid of the difference in the financing gap. I think we can close it.”

Crucial in improving the lives of millions of Africans is the acceleration of Africa’s agricultural transformation.

Agriculture has been an important part of Adesina’s life.

He grew up as the son of a farm laborer. His family was “desperately poor”.

“And it was through the generosity of somebody who took my dad out of the farm, that my father was able to get an education at an older age. So, without that, you won’t be talking to me today. I would probably be lost in the village selling something by the side of the road. And so when it then came down to what I was going to do, I was very good at school, and my father told me that education is the leveler; if we make the children of poor people stand at the same pedestal as those of rich people.”

His father had a choice of three study paths mapped for the young Adesina: medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine. Three times his father filled in the application forms, three times the answer came back – Adesina’s grades fell just short of acceptance in medical school. But agriculture was recommended.

“I wore my bow ties all the time, and some people never even thought I was a minister of agriculture.

“And the third time, my father said, ‘God must really want you to do agriculture’. And so, that was how I got into agriculture,” he relates.

When he completed a PhD in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University in the United States (US), he wrote to his father, signing the letter as “Doctor”.

“And so from that time, he always called me ‘doctor’. Now, he has gone, bless his soul, he’s passed away. But when our first son was graduating in the United States from medical school, my dad was 92, so I took him to the United States to witness the event. He was there. And so, we were taking photographs and my father said ‘doctor!’, so I turned, I said, ‘yes, dad’. He said, ‘no, I don’t mean you, I mean the REAL doctor’. So I told my father, ‘even the real doctors will tell you, take your medication three times a day, only after food’. Which means agriculture is more important than medicine,” says Adesina, with laughter that is warm and infectious. “So we used to have fun with it!”

Being awarded the Rockefeller Foundation Social Science Post-Doctoral Fellowship in 1988, launched his international career in agricultural development.

Dr Raj Shah, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, writes in the foreword to Adesina’s authorized biography, Against All Odds: “I have learned a tremendous amount from Akin over the years, but what I think of most is his ability to speak to rural farmers, heads of state, philanthropists and investors with the same genuine, thoughtful and respectful consideration. His ability to be open, honest, and clear with everyone he meets is key to his impact and success as a leader.”

Between 2011 and 2015, Adesina was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

During this time, he fought corruption and introduced revolutionary changes in the agriculture sector. This led to increased agricultural production, a drop in food imports and declining rates of poverty.

Asked about those years, he replies: “Well, you know, I come from a perspective as a minister, that Nigeria’s biggest comparative advantage was not oil and gas, because oil and gas was not something that was going to create a lot of jobs. And I knew that agriculture was what we had huge comparative advantage in. So what I decided to do was to do a lot of work to first change the perception of the sector.

“I wore my bow ties all the time, and some people never even thought I was a minister of agriculture, you know, ‘what kind of minister of agriculture these days is wearing bow ties’, and I said ‘because you think agriculture is for poor people’. You know, guess what? The biggest and richest people in the world in Europe and the United States are farmers. They’re in agriculture.

“So I did a lot of work to change the perception so that people would recognize that agriculture is cool, it’s sexy, it’s a money-making business.”

By his side during his time as Minister of Agriculture, was Grace Oluyemisi, his wife of 35 years and the “rock of the family”.

“I can tell you, I wouldn’t be where I am today without Grace. We are not only best friends, but we are also intellectual partners. When I was minister in Nigeria, I would debate policies with Grace at home,” Adesina says. She had qualified to do a PhD at the same time he did, but opted to dedicate her time to raising a family. The couple have two sons, both of who work in the US.

The elder is the medical doctor Rotimi, whose wife Alexandra will soon qualify as a medical doctor, and the younger is Segun, who is married to Emily and is the father of Adesina’s first granddaughter, Noemi, born in January 2019. 

While raising the family, Grace also studied Economics at the University of London, and was awarded first a Bachelor’s in Economics – with the best result in England and Wales – and then a Master’s degree in Financial Management.

“So we have a lot of debates and I used to tell my colleagues, ministers in Nigeria at the time, that by the time I brought any policy document to the Federal Executive Council, it has passed ‘the Grace test’. If it can pass the Grace test, it can pass anybody’s test. That’s how rigorous she is. Even now at the bank, it’s the same. She debates with me a lot,” Adesina says.

READ MORE: Deals, Dollars and Developments On The African Continent

As agriculture minister, he introduced farmers to modern, digital technology on mobile phones. This “helped to end 40 years of corruption in the seed and fertilizer sector in Nigeria”.

“We gave farmers subsidies via their mobile phones, they’d go to the private sector, and buy the inputs of the traders in their villages, there was no middle man; cut them all off. And we reached 15 million farmers in about four years, which was just incredible.”

That was the Electronic Wallet System, or e-wallet system, which is now being used in many African countries, and as far as Afghanistan.

“I’m very proud of that work,” he says.

“But the other thing that we did was to get the private sector to come into the agriculture sector. Over a four-year period, we succeeded in attracting about $5.6 billion of private sector investments into agriculture, from investing in rice to investing in cotton production or sugar production, or fertilizer manufacturing. I am most proud of that because we managed to really change everything in the agriculture sector, made it a real dynamic sector. And so I was pretty happy and felt it was a great honor to be asked to serve and I think I worked all the time, I didn’t have any life.”

This statement could of course not be left floating in the air.

I had to ask him how he managed to keep up with the blistering pace he sets himself.

“I think it’s my moral compass. This is not a job for me. This is a mission. I believe passionately that poverty has no basis in Africa and I believe we must do everything we can to create opportunities very quickly and I am very restless when it comes to creating opportunities for the continent. So that keeps me going.”

He reminisces about how his father sent him to a village school to complete his high school studies. The young Adesina was not impressed. But his father sat him down and explained, saying: “I sent you to a village school because I wanted you to see even more of the reality of poverty, because you never know what God might make you in life. If God ever makes you anybody important in life, you will know exactly what to do. So it is that passion, that drive, that commitment, that motivates me.

“I am relentless in looking for solutions and I don’t think life is about me, it’s about God provided you an opportunity to be an instrument to change the lives of hundreds of millions of people. And nothing is more important than that,” he explains.

This mission also drives him to not only give of his time, but his own money to assist young people to build their careers. Together with his wife, Grace, he established the World Hunger Fighters Foundation.

He explains: “One of our goals is to develop a new generation of young people that will be global leaders in fighting global hunger and malnutrition, but by doing that through agriculture as a business because I really believe in that. You know I have never seen anybody who wants to be poor. People are poor because they lack opportunities.”

The Foundation is funded by prizes awarded to Adesina, starting with a total cash amount of $1.1 million in the kitty.

“In 2017, I was very honored and greatly humbled to have been awarded the World Food Prize, known as the ‘Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture’. And when I won that award, I was given the prize in Des Moines, Iowa, in the United States. And it comes with a cash prize of $250,000. And as I took to the stage to be given the award, I told them I was not going to take the money for myself. I told them I was going to devote the entire $250,000 to supporting young people in food and agriculture, because I really believe we need more dynamic, entrepreneurial young people in agriculture. So I devoted the whole thing to them.”

This year, in Seoul, South Korea, Adesina was awarded the global Sunhak Peace Prize for his achievements in promoting food security in Africa through agricultural innovation. It came with a cash prize of $500,000, which also went straight into the Foundation.

The Foundation offers a one-year fellowship program. Within the first two weeks of advertising the fellowship, 1,300 applications were received. Ten Borlaug Adesina Fellows were chosen. This was named after Adesina’s mentor, the late 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the prize for his contributions to the ‘green revolution’ and its impact on food production.

In October, the Adesinas took the 10 Borlaug Adesina Fellows to the World Food Prize in Iowa – a global event. “They had never seen anything like that in their life and it was a great exposure for them,” he says. Within 24 hours, they were snapped up by global companies and international agriculture research centers. “It’s going to provide them a world of opportunities that they never dreamed about.

“So really it’s no longer about me. It’s not about you, what you have. If I have a billion dollars today, I would do exactly the same thing. Because I really believe that the future is not just for the youth, the present is for them. We have got to start investing in them. I am very passionate about investing in young people and that’s why, of late, I’ve been speaking a lot about the creation of new banks just for young people in Africa.

“Because today you have about 640 million young people on the continent, but there are no financial institutions dedicated for them. They have great ideas, but there’s no money. They walk into current banks and when they see them, they see problems. They don’t see hope, they don’t see opportunities. They’re crushed. And that’s the whole asset of a continent. So that’s why I have called for the creation of what is called the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks.”

These banks will be banks for young people, run by young people. Run professionally, the banks will provide grants for the youth to develop their businesses.

“They will invest in the eco-system to which the businesses of young people are connected so that they can succeed,” Adesina explains. “They will be able to provide debt financing for bankable businesses of young people at an affordable rate, and then as their businesses grow over time, this Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank will take equity in the businesses of the young people as they grow.

“So, it is a step to helping them to grow, and you’re helping them throughout their business cycle. I really think that when you take a look at the world today, we talk about GDP (Gross Domestic Product). I can have a high GDP as a country, just from oil, just from gas, it does not mean that my young people are contributing to that GDP.

“And so what I want to see in Africa is what I call sometimes Y-GDP, which is the contribution of young people to the GDP of economies. And that can only come through entrepreneurship and innovation,” he continues.

“To be able to have innovation and entrepreneurship, we have to believe in the youth, we have to put our capital at risk for the youth, because if we don’t, all of us are going to be at risk.”

Adesina has been talking to a number of countries about these banks. “I believe that the African Development Bank will be there to help provide some financing to get these banks off the ground. If you look in the past, when micro-enterprises could not get access to financing from the traditional banks, Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel prize, developed the micro-finance institutions.”

The Nobel Peace Prize 2006 was awarded jointly to Yunus and Grameen Bank “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below”.

Adesina does not believe in youth empowerment. But he does believe in the youth. “In my experience, the people who say they’re empowering the youth are the ones who are empowering themselves. The youth don’t need hand-outs, they need investment. Africa’s challenges require Africa’s solutions. And Africa’s biggest assets being our young people, they can’t be roaming the streets. They can’t be dying over the Mediterranean, which I’m very ashamed when I see that. Or they cannot be loitering in the Sahara Desert just trying to make a living,” he explains.

“As nations, we should invest in the young people because as the world’s population gets older, Africa will have the youngest population in the world. The number of young people in Africa in the labor market by 2050 will be close to a billion people. Now, what are they going to do if they don’t have jobs and what are they going to do if they have not created jobs? So we can’t wait for that, that’s why I want us to create the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks that will provide them the capital, the finance, the confidence they need to turn their ideas into great businesses.”  

There has to be a focus on agriculture as the size of the African food and agriculture sector is going to rise to over $1 trillion by 2030.

“That means that the future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will not be coming from the oil and gas sector, they’ll be coming from the agriculture sector. But I want African countries to be looking at agriculture as a business, not as a way of life. Nobody smokes gas. Nobody drinks oil, but everybody eats food. So food is critical and that is what Africa has a comparative advantage in.

“Think about it; 65% of all the arable land left to feed almost nine billion people in the world by 2050 is not in China, it’s not in Europe, it’s not in Latin America. It’s in Africa. So what Africa does with agriculture is going to determine the future of food in the world. And so we at the African Development Bank are investing right now, over a ten-year period, $25 billion in the agricultural sector to help them to make it a thriving business.”


‘HE IS MR AFRICA!’

“Dr Adesina is a great people’s person. The unique thing about him is that he is a visionary; he makes things happen and sees them before they happen. He also knows how to bring people together. Everybody loves him. I think he should run for the President of Nigeria in the future. He is Mr Africa!” – Masai Ujiri, President, Toronto Raptors

“I find Dr Akinwumi Adesina energetic, evangelical and sincere. He has raised his role to different levels, where, rather than him trying to convince leaders of the world and corporate business leaders to come to Africa, they are actually chasing him.” – Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Director, Financial Services, Africa Finance Corporation

“Dr Adesina has shown good leadership creating the [Africa Investment Forum] platform. He truly is a leader.” – Benedict Oramah, President, Afreximbank

”Dr Adesina is, in my view, the definition of a credible, visionary and courageous leader. He has his sights clearly set on a future Africa that along with global partners, continues to invest in the development of its talent, industry and infrastructure, ensuring sustainable livelihood for its citizens. A prosperous continent that processes its primary produce, trades within itself and the world at large. He is a giant, a role model.” – Ronnie Ntuli, head, Thelo DB


Among the examples Adesina cites is the $600 million for Ghana’s Cocoa Board, for them to buy, store, warehouse and process cocoa.

“We’re going to be doing the same for Cote d’Ivoire. Why? Because Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon account for about seventy-five percent of all the global supply of cocoa beans, and Africa accounts for only two percent of a $120 billion annual chocolate market. You don’t make chocolates from sand, you make it from cocoa beans. So we supply the cocoa beans and we get nothing out of it, so that’s no brain surgery in making chocolate.”

Another example is the $800 million dedicated to support young people in technology and agriculture as a business.

“If we don’t get younger people to get excited about agriculture and to see agriculture as being cool, I believe agriculture is cool, they will not go into agriculture as a business, and who is going to feed us?”

Then there is the fact that a lot of what gets produced in Africa today gets lost just because the farmers can’t access markets immediately.

“We don’t have good logistics, we don’t have good food manufacturing companies, and the few food manufacturing companies you have, they’re all located in the urban areas, close to the port. But there are no farms close to the ports anyway. And the reason is because in the rural areas you don’t have the right infrastructure to allow the food and agriculture companies to locate there,” says Adesina, explaining the reason for AfDB’s support of agro-industrial zones in rural areas.

The bank will finance infrastructure – power, roads, water, ICT, irrigation – and create an environment or environments that will attract private sector food and agriculture companies to the rural areas.

Another area Adesina is passionate about is financing for women. The AfDB has an initiative called Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), the objective of which is to mobilize $3 billion specifically for women in business on the continent. “If you take a look at Africa today, the gender-based financing gap between men and women is roughly about $42 billion annually, which means that men get a lot more finance than women do. But in Africa, women dominate the small and medium-sized enterprises and they are better business people, and they pay back their loans more than men, maybe at least 95% of their loans are paid back. But they don’t get access to finance.”

The AfDB has an innovative approach to encourage banks to provide financing to women.

Financial institutions will be ranked based on their lending to women. They will be evaluated according to the volume of lending, interest rates charged, and development impact.

“We are Africa’s largest financial institution and we provide huge amounts of lines of credit to banks, trade finance to financial banks. So when they come to us, we will simply take that index, we call it Women Financing Index for Africa, and ask you the question: ‘what have you done for women of late?’ If you haven’t, sorry, you’re not going to get our money. So it’s a way of tilting the financial markets to work on behalf of women. You know, I do bird-watching. But I’ve never seen any bird that has one wing. They always have two wings. So by getting equality for women in finance, African economies will finally be able to fly with two wings. And that’s important,” Adesina says.

Finally, renewable energy is close to Adesina’s heart. “I think that we must have energy sources that are clean. I think Africa should lead the way in clean energy. I think that coal is the past, I think renewable energy is the future.”

Renewables include hydro, wind and solar energy, whereas gas-fired power plants can assist in the transition to renewable energy. In terms of solar, what Adesina likes to call “the desert of power” will help to provide 10,000 megawatts of electricity across the entire Sahel using the power of the sun through the world’s largest solar zone.

It will provide electricity for 250 million people and 90 million of those will get their power through off-grid systems.

“The other thing that we are doing right now is to move countries that have huge legacy investments in coal to invest more in renewable energy, or those that may want to do coal, to shift into renewable energy. Instead, the African Development Bank is establishing what is called a Green Base-load Facility, and this will allow us to mobilize $5 billion of investments, support, and transition into renewable energy.

“Another area that is very big for renewable energy is off-grid energy. In the old system, you need to have power grids that are running all over the place. It used to remind me of landlines for the telephone in those days. But now, you and I carry around our mobile phones. So we don’t need, in most cases, those very expensive transmission lines when you can have mini-grids closer to communities, where you can also have decentralized energy that uses renewable energy for people. Renewable energy is the future. And we have to start investing not in the past but in the future.”

Seen through the eyes of Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, the future for Africa’s economic development is bright.

The continent has indeed found a champion to lead the charge in developing Africa as an integrated, bankable investment destination. 

-Jill De Villiers

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