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Top 10 most bankable artists in Africa

Forbes Africa ranks the top 10 most bankable musicians on the continent. We have a mix of battle hardened veterans and bright rising stars. Read it, argue over it and debate it. Music is our middle name in this May edition of FORBES AFRICA. We also look into what happens when the crowds melt away and finance and pension can be a musician’s best friend.

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  1. Oliver Mtukudzi, Zimbabwe

Oliver (Tuku) Mtukudzi has 65 albums under his belt — more than Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.

It’s a remarkable career stretching back 41 years with songs that have enlivened parties all over the world.

“I never decided to be in the music industry. It was in me. My mother said ‘you are a good singer but you will never surpass your birth cry. Your birth cry was so beautiful’,” says Mtukudzi.

Born on September 22, 1952, in Highfield, a suburb in Harare, Zimbabwe; music runs in his blood. Both his parents were musicians. They met at a choir competition and sang a duet for life. It wasn’t long before he found his voice.

“I made a three-string guitar for myself from a tin around 1969 or early 1970s with the help of a [relative]. I was always playing it. My father didn’t like it and he broke the guitar.”

It wasn’t going to stop him. He made up songs as a child and sang everywhere he could.

“One day, I decided to perform for my parents standing on the table and they enjoyed it so much I didn’t get smacked for standing on the table. My mother noticed I had been standing on the table, two or three days later. That’s how good it was,” he chuckles.

Mtukudzi followed his passion.

His Tuku Music album, featuring the smash hit Todii went gold in its first month of release in Zimbabwe.

His skill is appreciated from Angola to Zimbabwe where he sells out concerts. He has millions of views on YouTube, has starred in movies and has over 30 awards.

“I don’t understand Shona but I sing along to his music and buy his albums…. His music makes me feel alive,” says South African fan Ntuthuko Buthelezi.

There is no stopping him making the world feel alive.

 

  1. Sarkodie, Ghana

Born Michael Owusu Addo, Sarkodie has racked up millions of views on YouTube for his music with his debut album and first single, Baby, among the favorites.

He started out as an underground rapper which helped him cross paths with his former manager, Duncan Williams, who helped launch his career.

Staying true to his identity, he is a big advocate of Azonto, a Ghanaian genre that is said to have been born out of Kpanlogo, a traditional dance.

Mewu, the first single off his fourth album, Mary, sold almost 4,000 copies on the first day of its release in Ghana’s capital Accra.

His hard work does not go unnoticed. Sarkodie was the first Ghanaian to win a BET award and has the most nominations. In 2015, he was ranked the 19th “Most Influential Ghanaian” by e-TV Ghana and in 2013 and 2015, he was ranked 8th on FORBES and Channel O’s list, “Top 10 Richest/Bankable African Artists.”

His ambitions don’t end here. In 2013, he launched his clothing line Sark by Yas, launched Obidi Chief Headphones which endorses, among others, Samsung and telecommunications company, Tigo.  In 2014, he also launched the music label SarkCess to empower other African artists.

2017 promises to be an even more exciting year for Sarkodie.

  1. Davido, Nigeria

Davido has claimed a high status in just five years. The single Back When planted him firmly in the music business in 2011.

“It was people like [Nigerian music veterans] P-Square and D’Banj who made me believe that all this was possible,” he recalls.

Dami Duro, an unexpected hit, leaked online almost a year prior to its official release, became the crown jewel for his widely acclaimed 2012 debut album, Omo Baba Olowo.

He became the talk of the continent, securing not just the buy-in of African fans by the multitude, but also unanimous media acknowledgement, with accolades including two MTV Africa Music Awards and the BET Award for ‘Best African Act’. He has also worked with MTN, Guinness, Unilever and has millions of views on YouTube.

“God has been very good and he continues to be. I am very fortunate,” he says.

Last year, he caught the eye of Sony and dissolved his lucrative co-owned HKN record label.

“I had four offers and I went with the one that was going to get my music out there. Right now everybody is trying to grab a piece of Africa. I went with the team that believed and was actually interested in my music.”

Just weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Davido gifted himself with the something money can’t buy. He released Son of Mercy, his very first internationally recorded, produced and released EP; collaborating with R&B It-Girl Tinashe on How Long.

“I could have done an outright R&B record but I decided to take what Tinashe does and fuse that with the culture back at home,” he says.

Davido has collaborated with Young Thug, Future, Trey Songz and Rae Sremmurd, and has toured the world.

No doubt, there is more to come.

  1. WizKid, Nigeria

WizKid is arguably currently the uncrowned king of African music.

Grammy Award-winning artist, Alicia Keys and husband Swizz Beatz, danced to his songs Ojuelegba and Caro, with Keys posting a video on her Instagram account with the caption, “This song makes me happy” and Kylie Jenner posted a video of herself dancing to Wizkid’s music on snapchat.

The Nigerian singer and songwriter is spreading the Afrobeat sound to the world. He co-wrote and co-produced One Dance, Drake’s Hot 100-topping hit, has signed a multi-album worldwide deal with Sony Music International and is a Pepsi ambassador.

WizKid, born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, made his mark with Holla At Your Boy in 2010 and has since won many awards, among them the BET Award for Best International Act Africa in 2012 and MTV Europe Music Award for Best Worldwide Act.

His rise to fame started with singing in church at the age of 11 before collaborating with M.I in the award-winning Fast Money Fast Cars in 2009.

He now hangs out with Akon and Chris Brown and has worked with Rihanna, French Montana, Trey Songz, Tinie Tempah and Wale.

  1. Jidenna, Nigerian-America

By the age of 10, Jidenna Theodore Mobisson knew he wanted to do music but was afraid to tell his father who wanted him to be an engineer. It was just as well that his name means embracing the father.

“Luckily after a few years he came around and said ‘just make sure you are an inventor, innovator in your field and you treat your work like a science’,” he says.

It took years to make the dream a reality. He connected with singer and Wonderland record label founder, Janelle Monáe. With her help, two years ago, he produced the smash hit Classic Man with over 56 million views on YouTube; followed by a remix with Kendrick Lamar.

He never forgot his roots.

“As my father would tell the story, I was conceived in Nigeria and then they went to the US for me to be born there so I could have a blue passport,” he says with a chuckle.

At a few weeks old, his parents took him back to Enugu,  Nigeria, where he spent the next six years of his life before moving back to the US.

Life in the US was tough.

“My accent was a lot thicker than it is now and I was teased a lot… Even though Jidenna is my first name, like many African children in the US, I tried to abbreviate it, make it shorter and make it more of a English sounding name,” he says.

By the time he went to university, he made sure everyone knew him as Jidenna.

Last year, he released his debut album, The Chief, which he promoted, first, in Lagos and Johannesburg.

“I am a Naija boy… I want more publishing and royalties to be available to artists in Africa in the music industry so there can be more money and more job opportunities.”

Jidenna has also been working with former US First Lady, Michelle Obama, on her education initiative, does speaking gigs, private shows and was in the HBO series Insecure.

He leaves us with food for thought.

“I hope we don’t chase the American dream but create our own African dream.”

He is dreaming hard.

 

  1.  Tinashe, Zimbabwe-American

Twenty-four-year-old Tinashe Kachingwe sang before she could talk. Her Zimbabwean father Michael, and mother Aimie, from Denmark, have always helped.

Tinashe was a child model by the age of three, made her first appearance in 2000 in the film Cora Unashamed and her voice starred in the cartoon feature film The Polar Express alongside Oscar winning actor, Tom Hanks.

Her debut album, Aquarius, drew a tidal wave of acclaim especially with the #1 multi-platinum single 2 On featuring Schoolboy Q.

Her graceful twists and turns and magical voice have earned her respect among the who’s who of the industry. She has collaborated with the likes of Nick Jonas, Future, Chance The Rapper, A$AP Rocky, Calvin Harris, Usher, Chris Brown and Britney Spears. Her voice has also earned opening spots on tours with Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and Maroon 5. She also wrote That’s My Girl for Fifth Harmony, was announced as Pepsi’s newest Sound Drop artist and her Britney Spears collaboration, Slumber Party, reached the #1 position on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart.

This is a solid foundation for her dream to be an R&B star. Tinashe has taken her career to the next level featuring on the hit comedy Two and a Half Men and will play herself in a multi-episode storyline, on the Fox drama series, Empire, alongside Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard.

Where there is talent, there is opportunity and money.

Tinashe attends the Z100’s iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2015 at Madison Square Garden on December 11, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

 

Tinashe is a brand ambassador for various multinational brands and has relationships with the likes of Alexander Wang, Ralph Lauren and MAC Cosmetics.

That’s not all.

She is the face and owner of her own lifestyle brand, Svu Svu, was honoured as one of 2015’s ELLE Women in Music and was hand-picked by Janet Jackson to perform a tribute to her at the 2015 BET Awards.

Money pours in for Tinashe and she is only 24.

 

  1. Don Jazzy, Nigeria

Like many artists, Don Jazzy, real name Michael Collins Ajereh, started playing music as a child in church before moving to the UK to pursue his career.

“I worked as a security guard in the UK, and after a while I realized I could make some money playing the bass guitar. A friend of mine helped me and took me with their band to play at restaurants and different venues,” he says.

At the time, he would make £150 or £200 for playing for about five hours in London.

“The band got popular that I could make £500 per gig. I grew to the point that I played at a wedding for the President’s daughter at the time.”

This steered him to music production.

Two years later, with then partner D’banj, he decided to move back to Nigeria to make Afrobeats.

“We worked on the album in the UK, so that when we got home we would have something to present. As soon as we got home people accepted us and loved the music.”

It was upward movement from then on. Don Jazzy is a multi-award winning artist, was MTN brand ambassador and is running a successful record label which is home to stars like Dr.SID and Tiwa Savage, is in real estate and launched Flobyt, a company that provides free Wi-Fi in Nigeria.

“With Flobyt we make money from advertising because the people watch like a 10-second video before logging on.”

There is no turning back for Don Jazzy.

  1. Hugh Masekela, South Africa

Born in Witbank, east of Johannesburg, Hugh Masekela is committed to restoring African heritage. This world-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer and singer has released more than 43 albums and performed with Marvin Gaye, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Miriam Makeba.

“The music I make, I don’t call it my music. It is based on my township and indigenous rural roots in South Africa. That’s what brought me fame all over the world,” he says.

At the age of 14, he got his first trumpet and developed his signature sound in the late 1950s, melding jazz with African music.

His first album, Trumpet Africaine, was released in 1962.

In the ensuing decades, he became an international star and an outspoken political voice with songs such as Stimela, with over a million YouTube views, Soweto Blues and Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela), which became an anti-apartheid anthem.

His music did not whither with the apartheid government.

In 2010, he opened the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert; South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma honored him with the highest order in the country given for achievements in arts, culture, literature, music, journalism, and sports, and the US Virgin Islands proclaimed ‘Hugh Masekela Day’, not long after he joined U2 on stage during the Johannesburg leg of their world tour.

Masekela, who also owns a studio and record label, has numerous awards, honorary doctorates and was nominated for a Grammy for his 2010 album Jabulani in the best world music category, alongside Jay-Z, Kanye West, Frank Ocean and Mumford & Sons. He is insurance company Assupol’s brand ambassador since 2012

Masekela maintains a busy international tour schedule as his fan base around the world continues to grow. He shows no signs of slowing down. Between April and November, he will perform in London, South Africa and three shows in the US for up to $125 to admit one. His music is also sold online for about $10, and reports claim it would cost about $20,000 for a live performance from the star.

Accolades, sold out concerts and smash hits are Masekela’s way of life.

  1. black coffee, South Africa

Black Coffee, real name Nkosinathi Maphumulo, has not only raised the bar for South African house music, but has put it on the world map.

The multi-award-winning artist was born in South Africa’s house music province, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), raised in the Eastern Cape province, where struggle stalwart Nelson Mandela hailed from, before moving back to KZN to study music. It was worth it.

In 2003, he was chosen as one of two South African participants in the Red Bull Music Academy steering him into the South African DJ scene. He never looked back.

The DJ founded Soulistic Music, a leading management and record company, and introduced himself to the world through a self-titled album.

The year 2008 marked a very fruitful year in Black Coffee’s career. Soulistic Music signed releases from Culoe De Song, Tumelo and Zakes Bantwini, all achieving gold and platinum sales.

Black Coffee took his career a step further to collaborating with international artists. He worked with Alicia Keys on a remix of In Common, released a Superman remix with Drake and even R&B superstars Usher and John Legend want to do songs with him.

One of his Pieces of Me album favorites, We Dance Again became part of a worldwide dance challenge with people taking videos of themselves dancing outside a car.

“This new Black Coffee album is crazy,” said rapper Swizz Beatz on his Instagram jamming to the album.

His work has been recognized all over the world. Last year, he was the first South African to win a BET Award. He also won three South African Music Awards and a DJ Award for Best Deep House, and does sold-out tours.

When in the US, Black Coffee hangs with P Diddy. He has earned the seat at the high table.

  1. Akon, Senegalese-American

With over 35 million albums sold worldwide, numerous awards, five Grammy Award nominations, 45 Billboard Hot 100 songs under his belt and over 51 million likes on his Facebook page, Akon is not only bankable but also unstoppable.

He has had chart-dominating singles like Smack That and Lonely, he’s made more than 300 guest appearances for the likes of Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Lil Wayne, R. Kelly and Eminem. That’s not all.

The singer and producer was not only listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the #1 selling artist for master ringtones in the world, but also became the first solo artist in history to lock down both the number one and number two spots on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Senegalese-American isn’t showing signs of slowing down. With a new album on deck for 2017, he has set his sights on breaking into Hollywood and is already well on his way to making his mark landing his first major movie in indie action thriller American Heist, a remake of the 1959 Steve McQueen movie The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery.

He is also a friend of corporates, cashing in on the Pepsi soccer ad campaign and was in FORBES’ Celebrity 100 list in 2010.

His unquestionable musical talent aside, Akon is a formidable entrepreneur and humanitarian.

He owns two thriving record labels which helped jumpstart the careers of both Lady Gaga and T-Pain and is founder of Konvict clothing.

With a heart even bigger than his resume, Akon also created The Konfidence Foundation, a youth charity organization, and in February 2014, he launched a partnership to bring solar energy to half a billion African households with the Akon Lighting Africa and, most recently, Akon Lighting Asia projects.

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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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