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Adichie Is Africa, Africa Is Adichie

She is Beyoncé’s favorite feminist, an award-winning novelist, academic and a TED Talk sensation. Now, her short, yet full and fruitful life has earned her a FORBES AFRICA lifetime achievement award.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s words cleanse the mind. They are profound, creative and thought provoking.

Adichie is the fifth of six children born to high achieving parents. Her mother, Grace Ifeoma, was the first female registrar at the University of Nigeria and her father, James Nwoye Adichie, was Nigeria’s first professor of statistics. He later became Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the same institution.

With a power couple for parents, Adichie acquired a reading habit by the age of four.

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After secondary school, Adichie studied medicine at the University of Nigeria, switched to pharmacy, and then gave it up to go to the United States (US), when she was 19, a year and a half into her studies. She obtained a scholarship to study communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia for two years, and went on to pursue a degree in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University.

Adichie graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2001. She later completed a master’s degree in creative writing at John Hopkins University. In 2005, she was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, and earned a master’s degree in African studies from Yale University in 2008.It was while there that she began writing Purple Hibiscus, published when she was 26. Her work has been translated into 30 languages.

Walk along Fife Street in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and you will see some of the country’s most expensive schools and scores of students sharing a laugh in the blistering sun. Look closely, and you will see many clutching Purple Hibiscus, a work studied in many high schools across Africa.

“Purple Hibiscus is one of the greatest books I have ever read. There is so much struggle and oppression in the book that I can relate to as an African. The ways she writes and describes things like heat in the book is intriguing and make it a good read. To see an African write like this is very inspiring because it shows that we can all tell our stories no matter where we come from. To think she was just 26 years old when she wrote it makes it even more intriguing,” says pupil, Charmaine Hlatshwayo, from Mzilikazi High School in Bulawayo.

Half of a Yellow Sun and the short story collection, The Thing Around Your Neck, were Adichie’s next great works.

She has won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the Orange Prize, the New York Times Notable Book prize, a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year prize and was a National Book Critics Circle finalist.

Adichie is often described as the successor of the late Chinua Achebe. It’s a fitting coincidence that she grew up in a house that once belonged to Achebe, Nigeria’s most celebrated writer.

“Because of writers like Chinua Achebe, I went through a mental shift in my perception of literature. I realized that people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature. I started to write about things I recognized,” said Adichie at her TEDx 2009 talk, The Danger Of A Single Story.

The talk has drawn almost two million views online.

Born in Nsukka, Nigeria, on September 15, 1977, Adichie encountered injustice as she grew up. As a result, for years, the Nigerian author has inspired many with her written work and become part of pop culture. Her speeches are as powerful as her fiction.

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful otherwise you will threaten the men.’ Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage; I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important… But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same…”says Adichie at the TEDx Euston talk titled We Should All Be Feminists, in 2012.

This talk made Adichie Beyoncé’s favorite feminist. Beyoncé sampled parts of this speech on her track, Flawless in 2014. The song reportedly topped iTunes charts in 104 countries and sold nearly 850,000 copies in three days.

“I think Chimamanda is the fearless woman’s voice that has become the drumbeat of feminism. She is intelligent, articulate and knows how to use her voice to speak for women on the international stage,” says Zimbabwean author Raisedon Baya.

But that’s not all.

Adichie’s latest book, Americanah, a best-selling novel, is being turned into a movie, with award-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o as lead. Brad Pitt is the producer, through his Plan B production banner along with Nyong’o and Andrea Calderwood.

The founder and treasurer of the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors’ Association of South Africa (ANFASA), Monica Seeber, says “ANFASA is delighted that an author has been selected for the FORBES AFRICA [lifetime achievement award]. This is recognition that authors have the power to influence people, events and thinking far beyond their own personal spheres. The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Adichie is carrying a banner for every woman who has grown up in Africa. In a few years, she has placed African women’s literature on the world map which makes us wonder what she will achieve in the next 20 years.

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Forbes Africa | 8 Years And Growing

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As FORBES AFRICA celebrates eight years of showcasing African entrepreneurship, we look back on our stellar collection of cover stars, ranging from billionaires to space explorers to industrialists, self-made multi-millionaire businessmen and social entrepreneurs working for Africa. They tell us what they are doing now, how their businesses have grown, and where the continent is headed. 

Since its inception in 2011, and despite the changing trends in the publishing industry, FORBES AFRICA has managed to stay relevant, insightful and sought-after, unpacking compelling stories of innovation and entrepreneurship on the youngest continent, in which 60% of the population is aged under 25 years.

 Many of those innovations have been solutions-driven as young entrepreneurs across the continent seek to answer questions that have burdened their communities.

 Always on the pulse, FORBES AFRICA has chronicled and celebrated those innovations – prompting the rest of the globe to pay attention and be fully engaged.

 A prime example of this is the annual 30 Under 30 list, which showcases entrepreneurs and trailblazers under the age of 30 from business, technology, creatives and sports. In 2019, we had 120 entrepreneurs on the list, finalized after a rigorous vetting and due diligence process to well laid down criteria.

 We have always maintained the highest standards of integrity in all our reporting.

 As we transition into the next milestone, FORBES AFRICA reflects on the words of civil rights activist Benjamin Elijah Mays, who once said: “The tragedy of life is not found in failure but complacency. Not in you doing too much, but doing too little. Not in you living above your means, but below your capacity. It’s not failure but aiming too low, that is life’s greatest tragedy.”

 With the transformation in the media landscape, the recent awards given to the magazine for the work done by a hard-working, determined and youthful team, serve as a reminder that we are doing something right.

 Early this year, FORBES AFRICA journalist Karen Mwendera received a Sanlam award for financial journalism as the first runner-up in the ‘African Growth Story’ category. In January, FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil, received the ‘World Woman Super Achiever Award’ from the Global HRD Congress.

 In reflecting on the last eight years, this edition revisits a few of the strong, resilient men and women who have graced our covers.

For some, fortunes have literally changed, as witnessed in the fall of gargantuan African empires such as Steinhoff. Of course, there have been massive moments of triumph too, which have seen some new names feature on the annual African Billionaires List. There have also been moments of tragedy with former cover stars passing away.

 Africa is ripe for the taking and is seen as the next economic frontier. The unique position the continent finds itself in will no doubt give FORBES AFRICA plenty to report on. Here’s to more deadlines and debates for the next eight years.

– Unathi Shologu

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Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa

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Mastercard knows only too well that technology can drive inclusive financial growth with simpler and more efficient ways to do business and life. And Raghu Malhotra, the man spearheading this trajectory in Africa, is also focused on social progress.


In many ways, Raghu Malhotra is like the brand he works for, leaving his footprints in different parts of the world, and in some cases, the most unlikely corners.

On a scorching summer’s day in June 2016, Malhotra traveled 100km east of Jordan’s capital city Amman, to a camp with white tents named Azraq built for the refugees of the Syrian Civil War.

In the desert terrain and hot, windy conditions, people had to queue for hours on end for plates of food handed out of visiting trucks. But some of them, displaced and homeless overnight, expressed their gratitude to Malhotra, President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa (MEA).

Mastercard, a technology company that engages in the global payments industry, had distributed e-cards, as part of a global collaboration with the World Food Programme, to the refugees that they could now use to purchase food and other supplies from local shops.

READ MORE | The Big Bank Theory: South Africa’s Banks Of The Future

 “I spoke to the people myself and saw what their lives were… Even those who were doctors with their families and were displaced… They said to me ‘you have restored dignity to our lives; you have no idea how demeaning it is to queue up to be given food’… We actually digitized how that subsidy for food was given. Some of these things go beyond economics,” says Malhotra. 

Beyond economics.

That very simply sums up Malhotra’s mandate for Africa as well.

The New York-headquartered Mastercard, ranked No. 43 on Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands, with a market cap of $247 billion, which connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and business, is fostering key partnerships across the African continent to help drive inclusive economic growth.

The idea, Malhotra says, “is to get our global skill-set to operate in its most efficient form in every local economy, at the same time, we must do good, and it must be sustainable.”

He calls Africa the next bastion of growth for various industries.

“As a company, we have stated we are going to get 500 million new consumers globally. And Africa plays a big part of that whole story… We want to be an integral part of various economies here,” says the man responsible for driving Mastercard’s global strategy across 69 markets.

Raghu Malhotra President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

“It probably took us over 20 years to get the first 50 million new consumers, in my part of the world, which is the Middle East and Africa (MEA). It took us probably five years to get the next 50 million, and last year alone, we put over 50 million consumers [in the formal economy] in MEA. That is part of our whole African story, so this is just not rhetoric; we are actually building our business on that basis.”

Home to four of the world’s top five fastest-growing economies, Africa has the fastest urbanization rate in the world, the youngest population, and a rapidly expanding middle class predicted to increase business and consumer spending.

It’s a continent of opportunity for global players like Mastercard with an eye on the potential of a booming consumer base and small and medium entrepreneurs, most of whom are still not a part of the formal economy. A large proportion of Africa is still unbanked. There is enough business opportunity in offering people digital tools so they can lead respectable financial lives.

READ MORE | The Monk Of Business: Ylias Akbaraly Talks About Secret To Success And Plans To Take Africa With Him

But it is in knowing that financial inclusion is not just about technology, but more about solving bigger problems, as the World Bank says in its overview for Africa: “Achieving higher inclusive growth and reaping the benefits of a demographic dividend will require going beyond a business as usual approach to development for Africa. Going forward, it is imperative that the region undertakes the following four actions, concurrently: invest more and better in its people; leapfrog into the 21st century digital and high-tech economy; harness private finance and know-how to fill the infrastructure gap; and build resilience to fragility and conflict and climate change.”

And in order to enable financial access, Mastercard has a balanced strategy in place, with the right partnerships for inclusive growth on the continent, Malhotra tells FORBES AFRICA.

“Every emerging market has different segments of people and you need to get the right product for the right segment. What we do is a balanced growth strategy across the continent based on timing, opportunity etc… Of course, because the bottom of the pyramid is much bigger, I think what we need is to adapt things differently; that is where the inclusive growth story comes from. That is where the opportunity is, but there is a second part to it…” And that, he summarizes, is advancing sustainable growth, doing good and bringing more transparency and efficiency.

The new pragmatic dispensation of governments in Africa towards ideas, technology and innovation has surely helped open up the stage to newer segment-driven products, especially as Africa already has such global laurels as Safaricom’s mobile money transfer and micro-financing service M-Pesa that took financial access to a whole new level. Also, sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world.

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

Malhotra says he finds African governments consistent in how they are rolling out their digital vision, and in trying to collaborate towards creating better ecosystems for their economies, though each is unique with its own dossier of problems.

“When I speak to various governments around Africa, I see a commonality of what their needs are and I also see a commonality in how they are trying to respond. So I think a lot of them realize running cash economies is a very inefficient way of doing things… Also, the consumer base is much more open to new technology because there is no bedded infrastructure or legacy infrastructure. I think where governments need to start thinking a bit more is how much do they want to do completely on their own.”

Part of this transformation on the path to financial progress is alleviating the burden of cash. Cash still accounts for most consumer payments in Africa. Mastercard, which started out as synonymous with credit cards, continues its efforts to convert consumers from cash to electronic transactions, and move beyond plastic.

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Pioneer For Women In Construction Thandi Ndlovu has died

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The cover of the August (Women’s Month) edition of Forbes Africa beautifully captures the essence of the woman I interviewed only a few weeks ago. Gracious, soft-spoken, brimming with life and energy. Dr Thandi Ndlovu impressed the entire Forbes crew on that afternoon cover shoot with her broad smile, and open yet powerful demeanor.

It is with great sadness that Forbes Africa heard of the accident that took her life on Saturday the 24 August 2019.

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

She had given so much to South Africa and its people – through the apartheid years and during the 25 years of democracy, literally building a better future, first through her medical practice at Orange Farm and then through her company, Motheo Construction Group and the scholarships for tertiary education granted by her Motheo Children’s Foundation.

That sunny winter’s afternoon, I asked her if she, at the age of 65, was considering retirement, and she laughed. A lively, amiable laugh. She told me she was healthy and strong and easily worked 12 to 13 hour days.

READ MORE | WATCH | Making Of The Women’s Month Cover: Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

She loved hiking, and has climbed Kilimanjaro twice, reached the base camps of Mount Everest and Annapurna in Nepal. At the time of the interview, she was training to climb Machu Picchu, the famed ruins in Peru’s mountains.

One of her biggest passions was to make a difference in people’s lives and to motivate people to achieve the best they could. The other was to redress the racial tensions that still remained in South Africa.

Dr Thandi Ndlovu, South Africa is poorer for your passing.

-Jill De Villiers

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