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You Only Live Twice

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Science is pumping in billions searching for solutions that will help humans live longer – and better – and one day even indefinitely.

If you are under 50 years old and reading this article, treat it as a crystal ball – and it will tell you that chances are you may live for another 100 years.

There are species of sharks, whales and turtles that live for hundreds of years. Likewise, researchers are trying to figure out how to make you live longer, if not forever.

“If we are made from the same ‘stuff’ then what’s stopping us from achieving the same,” asks John Sanei, a futurist and entrepreneur based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

For decades, scientists have been trying to do so. But before we go to the future, we must dwell on the past, and the present.

In 1770, Africans had an average life expectancy of a mere 26 years. With newer ways to cure deadly diseases such as small pox and polio, life expectancy gradually increased. Exactly two centuries later, Africans were living to almost 47 years. In 2001, the average life expectancy of Africans rose to 51 years, in 2005 to 53 years, in 2010 to 57 years and in 2015 to 60 years.

Even with such numbers, Africans are still dying sooner than most people in First World countries where life expectancy is in the 80s.

Dr Susan Coetzer spent 14 years studying to be a geriatrician, a specialty focusing on healthcare of the elderly, at the Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre in Johannesburg in South Africa. She says the costs and access to healthcare are the biggest barriers. In Africa, according to Coetzer, poverty and lower education levels link to both frailty and cognitive diseases lowering life expectancy.

“Other risks are because of lifestyle-related problems like diabetes, hypertension and obesity. The HIV epidemic has also decreased life expectancy in the past, but with the availability of treatment, this has improved and we will certainly see more HIV-infected older people in the future,” she says.

As the universe often works, what has an advantage also has a disadvantage. Old age often comes with various accompanying diseases that require constant supervision and medication. The more old people Africa has, the more money it needs to pay for their upkeep.

“Older patients are at a higher risk of becoming frail and frail patients have been proven to cost more – in terms of hospitalization, medication and other needs and of course, the additional care. Even most of the developed countries are battling to budget for the increased financial impact,” says Coetzer.

It is true. In October last year, South Africa had 17.5 million social grant recipients and 3.7 million of them were the aged. There are also few specialists to give proper care to the elderly.

“There are less than 20 geriatric specialists in South Africa serving a population of more than seven million people older than 60 years,” says Coetzer.

The good news is we are in an era where scientists are developing the technology to prevent aging and the diseases associated with it.

If they succeed, you could work and live long without experiencing most symptoms of old age.

For this, it will take an understanding of our genes and aging itself.

According to Dr Samantha Baron, a research and development scientist at Optiphi Skin Care in South Africa who is an expert in genetics and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the primary cause of aging is damage to structures within the cells.

“Damage within the cell can be induced by oxidative stress, glycation, telomere shortening, mutations and epigenetic contributions. The progression of this damage is what leads to eventual cell death and what we know as the general cause of aging,” she says.

It means every time you celebrate your birthday, the probability of death increases. The older you get the more you become prone to diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and arthritis — all associated with age.

Dr Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist, and co-founder of the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) Research Foundation tells FORBES AFRICA these can be avoided. Instead of solving death, he looks at extending life.

Dr Aubrey De Grey. Photo supplied.

“Aging can absolutely not be ‘cured’ but it absolutely can, although not yet, of course, be eliminated by medical interventions that are not cures…

“We already feel comfortable with spending lots of money trying to make Alzheimer’s history, so if we stop pretending that it is somehow separate from ‘aging itself’, we will have taken a huge step towards wanting to make that history too,” he says.

READ MORE: From Death Comes Life

De Grey believes we can increase our lifespan by periodic, comprehensive repair and maintenance of the human body.

“We want to restore the molecular and cellular structure and composition of the body to something like how it is in early adulthood. That means things like using stem cells to replace cells that the body does not naturally replace on its own by cell division when they die, or introducing new enzymes to break down waste products that the body does not naturally break down,” he says.

Baron agrees. She says if scientists could delay cell death by reprogramming cells, increasing cellular lifespan and increasing the efficiency in damage repair mechanisms, they could potentially prevent the onset of diseases associated with aging.

“If true cellular regeneration can be accomplished, then these diseases can be treated and the damage reversed.”

Humans are already able to manipulate the longevity of organisms.

A number of researchers in the United States (US) identified a drug that delays several age-related symptoms in mice. It has sparked massive debate and research in the world of science.

“With an experiment that replicated stem cell-like conditions, Salk Institute researchers made human skin cells in a dish look and behave young again, and mice with premature aging disease were rejuvenated with a 30% increase in lifespan. The Salk Institute expects to see this work in human trials in less than 10 years,” says Sanei.

A growing interest in this field also led to biologists at Osaka University in Japan to discover a new way to nurture and grow the tissues that make up the human eyeball. Using a small sample of adult skin, they are able to grow retinas, corneas and the eye’s lens.

Another team of researchers in the US injected stem cells into the damaged cervical spine of a recently paralyzed 21-year-old man. Three months later, he showed dramatic improvement in sensation and movement of both arms.

Longevity Escape Velocity

According to Sanei, in the next 10 to 12 years, we will hit ‘longevity escape velocity’ — the point at which, for every year that you’re alive, science is able to extend your life for more than a year.

According to Oliver Medvedik, a Director at the Maurice Kanbar Center for Biomedical Research and VP of the longevity-focused non-profit Lifespan.io, interventions are being developed that “reprogram” the chemical signature of the genome, referred to as the epigenome, to a more youthful state.

“The epigenome is largely responsible for determining what the status of each of your cells is. As an adult, you typically don’t want this status to change, but as we age, it does change for the worse,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

There is also a new class of drugs being developed known as ‘senolytics’ that specifically target and destroy cells that are too far gone and are causing secondary damage in the body. These aged cells are referred to as ‘senescent’.

“Tremendous progress has also been made in learning exactly how to reprogram the epigenome of cells so that they become new adult stem cells. These can then be reintroduced into the body to potentially promote the rejuvenation of tissues and organs, after perhaps senescent cells have been cleared,” says Medvedik.

The low-hanging fruits are small molecules that may help slow down aspects of the aging process and allow us to live healthier and longer.

“One such candidate molecule has been known for many years as a Type 2 diabetes treatment, metformin, and is now being set for clinical trials,” says Medvedik.

Scientists are also debating how long humans can possibly live in the future. Some say we will live up to 150, others say 200, and some go as far as a 1,000 years.

Baron says that at this point in time, this is mere speculation.

“It is too premature to accept a maximum lifespan of humans. Eventually, science may lead to the first 200-year-old. I would have to say that living to a 1,000 years old is highly improbable.”

Similar to De Grey and Medvedik, she says to increase lifespan, research needs to focus on improving DNA repair mechanisms, making it more efficient. This would slow down the progression of accumulated damage within the cells and consequently aging. The cells will be able to maintain homeostasis for longer.

Alternatively, she suggests the focus to be on reversing the signs of damage through cell regeneration where the healthy and younger state of the cell is obtained.

“Presently, all we can do is try to minimize the damage we provoke on to our cells by controlling our environmental factors (i.e. eat healthy, exercise, don’t smoke etc) as well as understanding our genetic predispositions. For example, at Optiphi, we offer a comprehensive DNA skin test to decipher your genetic predispositions to certain aging characteristics. Results from this test allow one to approach skin aging from a holistic point of view,” she says.

According to Baron, from an aesthetic point of view, the future market will benefit more from cell regeneration through reprogramming.

“This way you reprogram your own cells to their younger state and maintain the youthfulness of your skin. From a medical stand-point, regeneration of whole organs is definitely the future of regenerative science and exciting advances are happening in this field,” she says.

And indeed, success will mean high profits for those who invest.

Investing in the immortality industry

The rich and famous are ploughing billions into research as they try to solve the issues of ‘growing old’.

“The main wealthy people investing in this space are the techno-visionaries like Peter Thiel, Vitalik Buterin and Michael Greve but increasingly there are also people like Jim Mellon whose expertise is not in tech investing. The field is growing fast,” says De Grey.

Those with money are really keen on this next new frontier.

According to Bay Area News, Scott Smith, founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based investment bank, Viant Capital, said “the Venture Capital community has finally woken up to the fact that, next to millennials, this is the largest market in the world and it’s grossly underserved”.

The last 24 months has seen a huge uptick from the investment community.

Google’s Calico, founded in 2013, has more than $2.5 billion in funding. It paved the way for other startups and foundations like Apollo Ventures, Oisin Biotechnologies, Longevity Fund, Kizoo Technology Ventures, Methuselah Fund and Jim Mellon’s Juvenescence.

If investments trickling in are anything to go by, there is a lot of money to be made in the industry. For example, UNITY Biotechnology reported cash and investments of $198 million as of June 30 compared to $92.2 million in December.

“The increase in cash reflects net proceeds of $59.9 million from UNITY’s Series C convertible preferred stock financing, and $75.9 million from UNITY’s initial public offering. We ended this quarter in a strong financial position as a result of our recent financings. We are well-resourced to move towards our goal of extending human healthspan,” says Keith Leonard, the Chairman and CEO of UNITY in a press statement.

The company is already in first-stage human trials.

“We treated the first patient in our Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating UBX0101 in moderate to severe osteoarthritis of the knee. This is an important step in assessing the role that eliminating senescent cells may play in the treatment of diseases of aging such as osteoarthritis, and we expect to share initial results in the first quarter of next year,” says Leonard.

Big business realizes there is need for startups working in this space.

Ichor Therapeutics, a biotechnology company in New York that develops therapeutic interventions for age-associated diseases, is one of them. It has created Grapeseed.Bio, a life science strategic fund and accelerator program where life science entrepreneurs receive up to $100,000 in seed funding, technical training, full access to Ichor’s research laboratory and mentorship in exchange for equity.

“Direct funding vehicles like Grants for Growth and the TC Growth Fund, combined with mentors and a physical facility at the Tech Garden, have cultivated many promising companies in the software and tech sectors. We want to do the same in the life sciences,” says Kelsey Moody, CEO at Ichor Therapeutics and Managing Partner of Grapeseed.Bio.

The $331 billion anti-aging market

In South Africa, Mic Mann, a futurist, through his advertising and marketing agency Mann Made, co-organizes the SingularityU South Africa Summit. This year, in October, the summit is bringing to Johannesburg speakers like De Grey from all over the world to also discuss aging, longevity and a “future-proof Africa” to make sure we embrace this wave of technology coming our way.

Tickets for the whole two-day event cost between R14,850 ($1,012) and R18,150 ($1,239) and he says they are almost sold out. That’s steep prices for a country where there are more people on social grants than are employed.

“There is massive interest. We have about 100 tickets left. We are going for 1,800 people this year. Last year, we sold out at 1,300 people,” says Mann.

According to Mann, there are many investors getting into the immortality industry.

“I think there will always be a debate or drive of humanity on how we will solve the issue. Firstly, we will become amortal [pursuing a lifestyle that defies the process of aging], but we could still fall off a car or train and die. Eventually, we will become immortal and able to put our conscience in another being or hard drive,” he says.

According to the global anti-aging market research report by Orbis Research, a leading market research company, the anti-aging market is expected to reach $331.41 billion by 2021.

“The industry is exploding in size. I have seen a 1,000 percent increase in the last 18 months in investment in life extension research and technology. Everybody realizes that if life extension can fulfil its promise, many new billionaires will be made,” says Sanei.

According to Sanei, the worldwide pharmaceutical market surpassed $1.1 trillion in 2016. In 2018, the top 10 pharmaceutical companies alone are projected to generate over $355 billion in revenue.

The problem is, according to Sanei, it currently costs more than $2.5 billion, sometimes up to $12 billion, and takes over 10 years to bring a new drug to market.

John Sanei. Photo supplied.

“Nine out of 10 drugs entering phase one clinical trials will never reach patients. As the population ages, we don’t have time to rely on this slow costly production rate. Some 12 percent of the world population will be 65 or older by 2030, and diseases of aging like Alzheimer’s will pose increasingly greater challenges to society,” he says.

Although there are billions being poured into the longevity economy, many ventures have not made money.

“Very little revenue was made in the last few years…However, most life extension and longevity companies are not trying to get quick products to the market. They are searching for the holy grail of medicine: a pill or a therapy to overcome aging. This product, if successful, could generate hundreds of billions of dollars. A few billion people may end up using it eventually,” says Zoltan Istvan, a politician and former journalist who narrowly escaped death and is now trying to prove we can live longer.

While working as a journalist in Vietnam for the National Geographic channel, he almost stepped on a landmine in the jungle. It was such a nerve-racking experience he dedicated the rest of his life to overcoming death.

“It’s hard to pin down what the industry is actually worth, since so many new medicines and robotic parts are not for sale yet and are in development. But I would venture to say that some of the life extension founders and CEOs may eventually become some of the first trillionaires on the planet. If they are successful, they will be able to sell their products to virtually every person on the planet, since almost everybody wants to live longer,” Istvan tells FORBES AFRICA.

According to him, there are only a few reliable medical regenerative products on the market today.

“A few pills are coming in the one-two year pipelines that are FDA-approved and will help people live longer. But there’s an expectation that within five to seven years, an enormous amount of products will hit the market. The problem is which products are ‘snake oil’ products that aren’t FDA approved, and which are really useful for making people live longer. This will take a discerning consumer to know the difference,” he says.

Istvan loves life. His father died last year due to old age.

“Some life extensionists are afraid of death. Not me. I just love life, and since I don’t believe in an afterlife, it’s imperative I make the life I have here on earth last as long as possible — hopefully forever. Death is terrible. It’s forever. I’m haunted by it. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m haunted by my life disappearing forever — of there being no more existence of me,” he says. Istvan predicts we will gain a free year for every year we live past 2020.

“That is how fast the technology of anti-aging is developing. But at some point of this J-curve chart of life extension and living longer, humans hit a point — probably in 25 years or so — when technology and radical science simply overcome all our biological issues, and then we will live indefinitely or at least hundreds of years.”

He says hospitals may have to shut their doors.

“Medical care will go the way of the dinosaurs. At some point in the next 25 years, humans will have such good medicine and science, that pharma companies, hospitals, and doctors will begin to realize they are no longer needed. It won’t happen overnight, but by the end of this century, there will be 90% less hospitals,” he says.

It would mean life extension would have arrived. Right now, we think of medicine in terms of managing disease and how old we are. But in the future, according to Istvan, we will think in terms of getting rid of all disease and physical discomfort forever.

De Grey disagrees.

He says the only difference from the hospitals now will be that most of what hospitals will give you will be preventative.

“All it will shift is the way we think about that fictitious concept that we currently call ‘aging’ itself. We will understand that there is no such thing …,” says De Grey.

What about Africa’s existing problems?

Three generations of Black women smiling

Some argue that in Africa, however, private healthcare is expensive and government hospitals are struggling to treat people, let alone fund aging research.

De Grey, however, says there is still far too much early-life mortality in Africa, more than in the rest of the world – but as of 2015, not a single country in the whole world, including Africa, had a life-expectancy below 50.

“Therefore, Africa is catching up, which, of course, means that it is on course to have the same age-related health crisis that the industrialized world already has. Thus, it is highly timely that African nations should start to pull their weight in this space.”

READ MORE: Investment Marketplace Coming To Africa

Baron says should the lifespan of people increase, we will have bigger problems such as the ever-increasing population, further decline in food and water sources, and large economic transformations that will need to happen.

“[These] problems are already of major concern today and should be addressed before we consider further burdening our already limited resources,” she says.

Istvan sees it another way.

He says if people think they will live hundreds of years, they may not have children or even get married in the first 100 years of their lives.

“This of course will help with the overpopulation issue, and have significant structural ramification for society and human culture.”

There is another challenge. Life extension is most likely to broaden inequality. We may have a world where the super-rich can cheat death while the poor continue to die.

Zoltan Istvan. Photo supplied.

“The problem, of course, is that only the rich Africans will benefit at first. And this will be a hard fact to swallow for those people that live in poverty in Africa,” says Istvan.

De Grey however argues that such treatments will be for free.

“Keeping people healthy pays for itself so spectacularly fast that it would be economically suicidal for any country not to make the necessary investment to ensure that access is not limited by ability to pay. Today’s high-tech medicine for the elderly is not an informative precedent at all, because it doesn’t work – it doesn’t keep people healthy,” he says.

Istvan however further argues that it’s unlikely that a single pill will make people immortal. He says it’s likely to come in a combination of treatments and bionic organ replacements.

“It’s likely to take years of genetic treatments, shots or IV drugs, and organ replacement surgeries. At first, when this starts happening in 10 or 20 years, it will probably cost hundreds of thousands of US dollars, if not millions,” he says.

Longevity would mean a world where the global economy will surge, as people will be able to work much longer and stay younger much longer. Permanent retirement may be a thing of the past and people may be able to do multiple careers over hundreds of years.

 

Longevity’s impact on savings

Currently people retire at about 60 years old. If people continue to live far longer, this will be at the peak of their earning capability.

If you live into your 100s and are as strong as you were in your 30s or 40s, you will still be a part of the working population.

“Extending the human lifespan by 30 years and postponing the current retirement age would generate a massive global GDP boost,” predicts Sanei.

Currently, people retire at about 60 years old. If people continue to live far longer, this will be at the peak of their earning capability.

According to Alexander Forbes, a financial services group headquartered in Sandton, the richest square mile in Africa, retirement savings in South Africa currently amount to R4.4 trillion ($300 billion).

“[It’s] an accumulation of assets that could only have been reached because of policymakers’ insistence that if an employer does offer a retirement fund (or funds) to employees, it is mandatory for all employees to participate in the fund,” it says in its Benefits Barometer report in 2017.

This number is expected to grow as people continue to live longer. South Africa has 4.4 million people over 60 and 2.9 million over 65. According to the report, by 2050, the total population over 60 is projected to be over 6.4 million.

Sanlam, a financial services group based in South Africa, says longevity is a blessing and burden. For its centenary celebrations, the group is focusing on answering longevity questions. Through its advert, the company uses a 10-year-old ambassador to ask questions like, ‘if the person who will live to 200 has already been born, would they stay younger for longer or get older later? How long will they study for? At what age will they retire? How many jobs will they have? Will they choose the same partner for life? How many kids will they have? Will anything come with a lifetime guarantee? How would you plan for a financial future?’

“As a future thinking organization, we wanted to look into the future. We believe in long-term planning. Already, South Africans can’t retire comfortably. Only 6% South Africans retire comfortably so we had to make sure people think about the future,” says Sanlam’s marketing chief, Mariska Oosthuizen, to FORBES AFRICA.

Mikel Moyo, co-founder of Mphato & Associates, a tax consultancy firm in South Africa, says traditional financial planning speaks to retiring at age 65. Living longer means longer working lives.

“It’s is a scary thought,” says Moyo.

“Try speaking to a 30-year-old about retirement planning. The typical response is ‘65 years is 35 years away, why do I need to save now’. What people do not understand is they only have 12 pay cheques per year. This means they only have 12 opportunities to live the life they want to live, to pay for all their obligations and save for retirement. They do not have that perspective. So the rational prediction is that if people currently think 30 years after retirement is long, what happens when it’s an extra 100 years?” According to Moyo, we don’t communicate well about finances as Africans.

“We need to be able to talk about money and speak out against every bad behavior if we are to survive. If we are to live longer, we have to understand ourselves.”

Anne Cabot-Alletzhauser, Head of the Research Institute at Alexander Forbes, says longevity means the financial industry has to break away from the notion that you have to retire at a certain age.

“One of the biggest mistakes we have made in South Africa is that we would retire people at the age of 60 or 62 to make way for youth to rise up to senior positions much faster. But in fact, research shows you that you will get better productivity by having people with more experience…You can get transformation without retiring people with experience,” she says.

According to the Alexander Forbes report, there has been a rise in the number of elderly who are bread winners. Between 1996 and 2011, this number increased from 1.7 million to about 2.9 million households.

“Elderly people also appear to be continuing to work later in life. This could be because of economic pressure to continue generating an income, or it may be a reflection of a global trend: educated individuals are beginning to see that they still have value to offer professionally, even if they have hit some arbitrary cut-off date.”

She adds that people make assumptions that as you get older, you become an economic burden to the country.

“We need to change our attitude towards healthcare because the healthcare you give to someone past the age of 60 is completely different to the one you give to someone younger…If you get it right, you significantly reduce the cost of healthcare which is one of the biggest fears of what is going to happen if longevity increases.”

She says the biggest challenge for financial planning is post retirement because you have no idea of what is going to happen to your health.

According to her, quality-care of the elderly exists in the communities, not retirement homes.

“We have had a nice situation whereby adults take care of their children and the children grow up and take care of the elderly,” she says.

The problem is, according to Cabot-Alletzhauser, the financial services industry uses first-world solutions to try solving third-world problems.

“I have a real problem with the financial services industry. It is touted to be first-world quality, and indeed it is, but it solves first-world problems…The insights it has applies maybe to the top 5% of the population.”

She says retirement savings is not a priority for South Africans.

“Most South Africans work, take their income home and take care of their siblings and even grandparents. That’s our modern reality…We don’t have a stable middle class in South Africa. People enter the middle class by virtue of what their income is but they don’t stay there because they immediately get into credit problems…We aren’t focusing on how we create stability during the journey and jumped to retirement,” she says.

Instead of saving for retirement, Cabot-Alletzhauser, says she would support investing in property.

“If they have a house, when they retire, they can rent some of the rooms and make an income…There is a mistaken notion that you are going to retire at 60 and then live to 120. People will keep working if they are to live to 120. I am 69 and I am still capable of working and will continue working.”

 

Preserving and reviving dead people?

Finland-based entrepreneur Filip Poutintsev first heard about the concept of aging when he was three years old.

“I was playing with my grandfather and suddenly asked him ‘why are you so old?’. His reply was very straight forward: ‘we all get old’. After hearing that, I started crying hysterically, as at that point I realized for the first time that I too will get old,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

At about age 12, his teacher told him about cryonics – deep-freezing the bodies of people who have just died, in the hope that scientific advances may allow them to be revived in the future.

“For me, that was like a light at the end of the tunnel. There was finally hope that I may not have to die.”

His curiosity about life and aging grew. He decided he wanted to be frozen after death but was appalled by the limited research in the industry. It compelled him to actively engage.

“I remember reading a few years ago an article about immortality that stated that if we spent as much money on life extension research as we spend on whitening our teeth, we would already be immortal. This was kind of a wakeup call for me. I realized deep inside that if I do nothing and just wait I might not make it to the time biological immortality is possible,” he says.

He founded the Immortality Foundation, which tries to create visibility and attention for anti-aging, longevity and life extension research.

“You see aging is a physical process, and the aging of humans is not different than the aging of a car, it’s just more difficult to fix.”

Breakthrough doesn’t mean everyone with access will live long. Poutintsev says once we eliminate death caused by aging and age-related diseases such as cancer, the biggest cause of death will be accidents, as our bodies will still be vulnerable to physical damage.

“If you want to live to 1,000 years, you need to be very careful not to die in traffic accidents for example. Actually, if we look at modern day statistics on death, we can calculate that even if we will become biologically immortal, our chance to live for 1,000 years is only 60%, due to all sorts of accidents,” he says.

The study of cryonics is growing rapidly.

“The process of cryopreservation involves cooling a legally-dead person to liquid nitrogen temperature where all physical decay essentially stops – with the goal of preserving tissues, organs and especially the brain with its associated memories and personality as perfectly as possible,” says the Cryonics Institute on its website.

A person held in this state is called a cryopreserved patient.

“We do not consider the legal definition of ‘death’ as a permanently irreversible state. We believe that the incredible advances being made today in biology, medicine, computers, nanotechnology and much more, inevitably point to a future where advanced science will be able to revive these patients and restore them to health and even renewed youth.”

There are more than hundreds of cryopreserved patients across the world, says the institute. And it’s costly.

A minimum whole-body suspension costs $28,000 at the Cryonics Institute. Other companies charge more.

For example, the same procedure reportedly costs $200,000 at Alcor4, $155,000 at the American Cryonics Society, $36,000 at KrioRus and $150,000 at Trans Time.

Just as vaccines, surgeries, sterilization and antibiotics ushered in a new age of longevity, new technologies like robotics will expand it further.

“Humans are slowly becoming cyborgs with artificial hips, dentures, and soon will replace all their organs with better performing bionic ones. So it’s quite possible that overpopulation won’t really affect the world, as humans will be machines, and can do things like interplanetary travel as well as only use sunlight to run their bodies, and not food or water or oxygen,” says the futurist Istvan.

There is also an impact for the geriatrics industry.

“I hope that in geriatrics, we will still maintain the ‘human’ part of interacting with patients, instead of everyone just ‘plugging in’ like a robot, says Coetzer.

Sanei agrees. He says most people he speaks to say they never want to become a cyborg but we will naturally become robot-like.

“Let’s go back to the beginning when humans developed the earliest technologies – fire and stone tools. These tools gave people new capabilities, and became extensions of our physical bodies. As we move into the future, we are not even going to notice becoming part-machine, because it’s going to be a sensible thing to do at each point in the journey,” says Sanei.

Entrepreneurship opportunities

Tech billionaires like Google co-founder Sergey Brin are already working on combating aging in the longevity labs of the west. African entrepreneurs have begun to see the merit of such research. One of them is 41-year-old Dr Danny Meyersfeld.

“I love research and being in the lab but there comes a point where you need a clean break from academia otherwise you will be there for the rest of your life,” he says.

We meet him at his offices in Illovo in Sandton. He has invited us to see the DNA-testing in his lab. Meyersfeld is the founder of DNAlysis Biotechnology.

Here, his team conducts different tests – for weight management, disease management, sports performance, skin health, skin-aging and cognitive health.

Dressed in blue jeans and a white shirt, he tells us how he started the business in 2008.

“I had a PhD in Molecular Biology and I didn’t know what to do with it…At the time, we wanted to bring biotech advancement to the South African healthcare environment and to bridge the knowledge gap that exists between academia and the consumer. There is a wealth of knowledge and research that sits in publications and academia that never gets to the people. If research is not done to make a difference to the average human, then what’s the point,” says Meyersfeld.

His idea wasn’t easy to sell.

Danny Meyersfeld. Photo by Motlabana Monnakgotla.

“For the South African market, I think we were about five years too early for these types of tests. We were this lone voice trying to sell a product but also trying to educate and create a market for something that hadn’t existed before,” he says.

The advantage was having examples from the US and European market.  They were able to learn from the mistakes of those companies to find the right model.

“But the challenge was still a lack of awareness of these types of technologies especially with healthcare practitioners because that’s where our market was. We didn’t want to go straight to the consumer; we wanted to work with dieticians and doctors so genetics can be a daily part of their work.”

According to Meyersfeld, longevity is possible but it’s more about being healthy and understanding your DNA.

“I would rather live to 90 and maintain my health than live to 120 and suffer for the last 20 years,” he says.

 

Anti-aging in the beauty business

Dr Reza Mia is the Chief Operating Officer at Anti-Aging Art, a medical aesthetic and wellness center focusing on minimally invasive anti-aging and cosmetic treatments.

“People kept coming to me and saying, ‘aren’t you a doctor, don’t you do botox, don’t you do fillers and I went and did the courses to satisfy that need. Slowly, they kept coming and bringing their brothers, sisters, friends until it became a full-time job,” says Mia.

According to Mia, the industry is growing.

“In South Africa, because it started a bit late, it’s growing faster than the rest of the world. We are normally fully-booked but we try to add doctors to take care of that demand.”

The company says it serves 500 to 600 clients every month. They are 60% women and 40% men, ranging from teenagers to people over 80. Patients pay R3,000 ($205) on average per visit.

“Mostly, people want to fix tiny problems like frown lines and sagging faces. A lot of the time, it’s small things that make them self-conscious, like sweating too much on the face and underarms. Sometimes, they just want maintenance work all over the body,” says Mia.

She says one of the challenges is a lack of the right regulations.

“We see a lot of practices opening up not owned by doctors and they obviously don’t know about the ethics…It’s hurting the industry because people are seeing other people looking unnatural and they think that’s what fillers do.”

Mia wants to expand the business, through franchising, to Tanzania and Dubai in the near future.

The quest for immortality may be very much in the future, but these futurists, doctors and scientists believe that with technology, we are irresistibly closer to finding a cure for aging than we have ever been before.

Never say die.

Cover Story

Forbes Africa #30Under30 List: Leading The Charge

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As 2020 ushers in a new decade and a new set of daunting challenges for the world – climate change, the coronavirus – it’s all the more imperative that the world’s youngest continent rises to the crises and sees opportunities where there seem to be none. These are the men and women forging ahead with credible, creative and profound strategies to shape our tomorrow. Celebrating six years of the FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list, they are the continent’s revolutionary thinkers revitalizing ideas and industries with fresh business models and innovative leadership.

Over 3,000 nominations flooded into our inboxes and landed on our desks from the start of 2020 for this Under 30 list. And the mammoth task? Whittling it down to 30 names.

While last year, we had 120 in total, with 30 finalists each in the categories of business, technology, sports and arts, this year, we chose to stay with 30: the best of the best spanning all industries. Our youngest list-maker this year is just 16!

In a continent pregnant with opportunities, and at a time a virus pandemic grips the world, young people are the only hope. They are able to step in to offer new and innovative solutions for the problems confronting Africa.

And big business salutes their potential.

“Leaving an ordinary career path to start something new and original is difficult and lonely, and success is not linear. Making the list must also be an incredible encouragement to the brave young people who’ve struck out on their own,” says Fran Luckin, Chief Creative Officer at Grey Africa, a global advertising giant.

The odds stacked against them are great, such as access to funding and institutional and historical inequalities that mean there’s probably very little family wealth or savings for the average young entrepreneur to draw on, adds Luckin.

“If you look at the development from youth-owned businesses and those featured on the 30 Under 30 list, you will realize that Africa has amazing potential,” says Ashok Gupta, Chairman & Founder of Kalyan Group, a diversified business with portfolios in hospitality and agriculture based in Togo.

In the following pages, this is what we will see: the potential of Africa’s future and the people who will lead us.

The list is in no particular order.

Methodology

In drawing up the 2020 list, we sifted through piles of nominations that came in from across Africa, even the remotest corners. Through robust reporting and vigorous vetting, harnessing the experience of our editorial teams across Africa; with extensive research, studies of databases and media coverage; and also delving into the knowledge of our team of external judges, we evaluated the nominees to arrive at a long-list of 100 names, before short-listing to the 30 changing the face of business and society today. We have only considered for selection those who were under the age of 30 as of March 31, 2020. We have also discovered many more to ‘watch out for’ and who will be featured on this list in the years to come. For the 2020 list, FORBES AFRICA partnered once again with SNG Grant Thornton to vet the business and financial statements of the candidates. This involved understanding the landscape, the profitability, growth and most of all, the scalability of each business. But it’s not all about the money. Some of the qualities FORBES AFRICA looks for in the leaders of tomorrow are that they are passionate, innovative, impactful, pioneering and are real hustlers of the African growth story. The list also examines their resilience, strength and ability to turn around their enterprise or careers. At the time of going to press, all facts on the following pages were verified to be correct.


External judges:

Business: Lwandile Qokweni, CEO, Wavewaker

Technology: Teboho Mofokeng, Founder, Bowfica

Sports: Carol Tshabalala, Sportscaster

Arts: Yvette Gayle, Partner and Head of Communications and Engagement, Africa Creative Agency

Audit Partner: SNG Grant Thornton


Bako Ambianda, 29, Cameroon

Founder, Chairman and CEO, Labacorp Group of Companies

Industry: Diversified holdings

At only 29, Bako Ambianda is an international development expert, author, speaker, philanthropist and entrepreneur.

Over the years, he has successfully built an empire. His business acumen was evident from his high school days, when he would pick mangoes, avocados, and bananas from his backyard at home and sell them in his school’s dormitory for a profit.

After high school, he moved to the US in 2011 to further his studies and began a career in diplomacy at the Maryland State House.

While there, he started his first company with only $850.

Global Attain Advancement is an events organization company, the first instalment to the Labacorp Group.

Through the company, he was exposed to learning the tricks and trades of organizing events and found himself a part of the organizing team for former president, Barack Obama’s Energy Congress.

He later returned to Africa to develop the business and launch other entities.

“When I launched Labacorp Group, I set out a mission that all operations of the group will be rooted in the ‘Afri-developism’ economic concept that I created because I wanted to work relentlessly toward contributing to the development of Africa inspired by the ‘Afri-developism’ concept,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Today, the Labacorp group has grown from just housing an events organizing team to owning businesses across manufacturing, power, construction, agribusiness, and exhibition sectors with operations in six countries with 79 employees, and a footprint in Africa, Middle East and North America.

With the offices headquartered in Ghana, Labacorp Industries Limited and a South Korea-based company are setting up a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle waste recycling plant in the country to produce high value-added products such as polyester, staple fiber and geotextile from PET bottle waste.

He has won numerous awards including the Global Business Disruptor 2018 Award by Professional Association of Young Africans (PAYA) and Africa Business Leadership Excellence Award 2018 by African Leadership Magazine.

Gift Sukez, 27, Malawi

Founder and Director, HD Plus Creation Company Limited

Industry: Video Production

Bob Phondo, a notable brand manager in Malawi’s marketing and communications industry, recalls a memory of Gift Sukez in the early days of his business in 2013.

He was seen with nothing but a camera, working from a backroom focusing on where his passion would take him.

Using borrowed cameras, lights and computers, Sukez was able to save up enough to buy his own HD Camera which cost $300.

With the flash of a camera, the picture became clear and HD Plus Creation Company Limited was born, offering media consultancy services and video content creation.

“The passion I had for creative visuals fueled me to work very hard every day and it eventually paid off in 2016 when I managed to register the company and with time, the demand for my services grew,” Sukez tells FORBES AFRICA.

Today, Sukez owns two offices and a video production department and employs up to 18 staff.

“It could be argued that Gift is the best at what he does in Malawi,” says Phondo.

One of Sukez’s most early notable work was when he worked with Akon, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Jah Prayzah and P-Square to produce and direct the making of the 2017 African leaders for change theme song, The Song for Africa.

His company has also produced content for organizations such as UN Malawi, UNICEF and Standard Bank.

The biggest highlight of the business was when they worked on a film directed by Mark Spencer titled Whistleblower shot in Australia, Japan and Malawi.

Last year, they also took part in shooting and working on set for two Australian movies, The Drover’s Wife and Fallout.

Sukez plans to take his knowledge working internationally to produce quality content for Malawians.

“Malawi lacks so much in terms of technology, as a result, we fail to have the right connections and network to help boost the business internationally, but we try with the little capacity we have,” he says. “When I look at my future and the company, my vision is to employ more than 1,000 young people by 2030 in Africa and this includes actors, scriptwriters, directors, producers, cameramen, just to mention a few.”

Thobo Khathola, 28, Botswana

Founder, Managing Director and CEO, Lion Tutoring

Industry: Education technology

It all began in 2015. After his experience as a university student tutor, Thobo Khathola was keen on improving the pass rates of students in Botswana.

So he started operating from the boot of his car in his parents’ home to offer tutoring services to youth in Botswana.

Shortly after, he took loans from friends and family and it paid off.

“One happy client from my church turned into two. Two happy clients turned into 10. Ten became 100 and now we enrol more than 1,000 clients each year,” he says.

Khathola founded Lion Tutoring which he says works like the ‘Uber for tutors’. He now owns offices in Botswana and South Africa.

“I have always been passionate about education and bothered by the declining pass rate of academics in my country and in Africa as a whole. I managed to gain experience and identified a niche,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Lion Tutoring takes advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by engaging clients through their e-commerce platform and mobile application.

Since inception, Lion Tutoring has employed over 300 staff.

The business has won three awards for three consecutive years from 2017, named the Best Youth Owned Business in Botswana at The Botswana Youth Awards and The Palapye Business Awards.

Khathola was listed in the Botswana Stock Exchange’s publication as one of the Top Youth Entrepreneurs to look out for. He was also named one of the Top 30 Most Influential Youth in Botswana by Botswana Youth Magazine.

Khathola has also founded the Lion Tutoring Community Based Project which provides assistance to communities such as the SOS Children’s home, Childline and Mogonye Primary school.

Khathola plans to branch into more African countries.

Tony Mautsu, 27, Botswana

Founder and Managing Director, Social Light

Industry: Digital solutions

Tony Mautsu was born 30 kilometers away from the capital city of Botswana, Gaborone. He grew up in a small village called Mochudi and could not speak English very well.

But from the age of 10, he learned very quickly how to stand out.

Growing up in school, he sold sweets, chips, compact discs and airtime, unknowingly honing his entrepreneurial spirit.

While volunteering at a marathon in 2014, he used social media to generate inspirational quotes and respond to inquiries. This earned him the description of “that social media guy”.

“When I was done with the marathon, I got to work turning this newly-discovered niche into a fully-fledged business. The Social Light, the light that leads corporations into this tricky unknown platform of social media,” he says.

Social Light is geared towards introducing cutting edge-tech services to assist companies position their brands and acquire in-depth information on client sentiments through big data mining and monitoring tools in Botswana.

They offer services such as video animation, graphic designing, content creation, HD-live streaming, application management and social media management.

One of their biggest highlights was when they were commissioned to work with the 2017 Global Expo Botswana, which hosted founder of Virgin Group, business magnate and billionaire Richard Branson.

Last year, they worked with the Youth Town Hall Meeting organized by the Botswana Government which featured telecom giant, Strive Masiyiwa.

The business has grown 750% in the last year, he attests.

Uzair Essack, 27, South Africa

Founder and Managing Director, CapeCrops

Industry: Agriculture, Logistics

Uzair Essack has his roots deep in the fruit and vegetable business.

He is the founder and managing director of CapeCrops, an export business that sells fruits and vegetables sourced from South Africa to the rest of Africa and international markets such as Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

With no background in agriculture, Essack invested his savings to start the business and has managed to build a company which went from earning R500,000 ($30,515) revenue in 2015 to R34 million ($2 million) in 2019.

Some of his clients include major supermarket chains such as Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Tesco and Carrefour and he recently opened an office in Dubai.

Essack employs a staff of 13 and indirectly employs thousands who contribute to farming, cold chain and logistics.

He is also the founder and president of GetGiving, a non-profit company that aims to benefit the community through projects which include food-hamper drives, sanitary drives, stationary drives and careers days.

Essack won the Minara Young Entrepreneur Award in 2019.

“We firmly believe that African fruit and veg is amongst the most wholesome, healthy and flavorsome on the planet and we’re passionate about helping our clients all over the world to showcase it on the global stage,” he says.

Baraka Daniel Kiranga, 29, Tanzania

Founder and Director, Hamasa Media Group

Industry: Digital Media

Baraka Daniel Kiranga started his business with a mere $20 in 2014 while pursuing his Bachelor of Science degree at the Institute of Finance Management in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

With a friend, he bought a template for an online magazine, designed it, and wrote inspirational stories of young entrepreneurs and change-makers in the country.

Impressed by his initiative, Kiranga received a small contribution from his father and friends to register the business with the magazine as his first product.

For seven months, he worked on bootstrapping the business.

Since then, Kiranga has not looked back and the business has grown by 449%.

With a team of 11, the company now offers media consultancy services to clients such as WHO-Tanzania, NGOs, news outlets and journalists.

In August this year, they plan to launch an art media lab to provide innovative media solutions such as strategy training, media monitoring, cloud computing and digital security services.

Last year, Kiranga was awarded a trophy by the National Training Institute of Egypt during an Arab African development forum in Egypt for his involvement in promoting youth development in Africa.

“Don’t lose your focus when you are subjected to the heat of financial instability. It is working for the betterment of your business; at the end of the day, you will emerge on the other side of the valley and say it was better it happened,” he says.

Hamasa is a business consultancy on digital media management and data technologies in producing data-driven stories.

Newman Tshepo Ramatokwane, 29, Botswana

Founder of Native Stretch Tents and Canopies (pty) Ltd

Industry: Events

Most people would have given up after dropping out of college twice, but not Newman Tshepo Ramatokwane.

“Go against the grain,” he says. This was a clear goal Ramatokwane set for himself when he started his upward-bound career.

Born in the capital city of Botswana, Gaborone, he was groomed in a business-orientated family.

Thus, the drive for entrepreneurship was grilled into him from a tender age.

During his primary school years, Ramatokwane made money selling his art drawings to his colleagues and he would polish his sister’s shoes for a fee.

“At the age of sixteen, I came across a financial literacy book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, it was then that my entrepreneurial spirit was unleashed,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

It was in 2013 that he decided to found his own business – Native Stretch Tents and Canopies now trading as Native Event – from a one-bedroom house.

The company initially hired out stretch tents only, but with the rapid growth, they began manufacturing furniture.

Ramatokwane also invested in a mobile bar service, transport and logistics, and in an accounting firm.

“I come from a country where entrepreneurship is not generally taught or pursued.

“We have a culture that never believed that one can become an entrepreneur at a young age and actually succeed at it,” he says.

By 2015, his company won the local Global Expo’s 2015 and 2016 Best Small Medium Enterprise recognition.

In 2018, Ramatokwane moved the business into a 1,000sqm warehouse providing more services such as event consultation, planning and management.

Since then, the company has executed over 300 events, including the Southern African Inter Revenue Games, De Beers Diamond Week 2019, the Presidential Inauguration 2019 and the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation V-Sat Launch.

He currently employs 20 full-time staff and about 10 part-time contract staff.

Shamim Nabuuma Kaliisa, 24, Uganda

Founder and Executive Director of Chil Artificial Intelligence Lab

Industry: Artificial intelligence in medicine

At only 24, Shamim Nabuuma Kaliisa is an entrepreneur with a background in the medical field.

She is also a cancer survivor.

But she would rather you call her an entrepreneur, she expresses, as she arrives for the FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 photoshoot in Johannesburg, straight from the airport, after flying in from Uganda.

Her company Chil Artificial Intelligence Lab was founded out of both passion and personal experience.

When she was 13, she lost her mother to cervical cancer. Kaliisa’s mother had one last wish.

“She called for me from school and when I reached the Uganda Cancer Institute, my mother told me ‘my daughter, study hard and become a doctor and look for a way to extend services to women like your mother who lacked key screening services in our villages’,” Kaliisa recounts.

Those last words sank in and the young Kaliisa vowed to fulfil her mother’s dream.

But things took a different turn.

During her second year pursuing a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery, she felt an unusual pain in one of her breasts. She got it tested and the results returned positive.

“Luckily, it was still in its early stages. I was treated, though I lost one of my breasts [to mastectomy] as a way to save the rest of me,” she says.

These experiences led to her founding a company in 2017 to offer mobile cancer screening, which later incorporated the use of artificial intelligence guided e-oncology services (to detect cervical and breast cancer). Today, her company also incorporates drone services for easier transportation of cervical cancer specimens from the rural areas to laboratories without women having to travel long distances out of the villages.

Kaliisa, who locals refer to as “mama cancer”, is a winner of the Takeda Young Entrepreneur Award 2018, Young African Entrepreneur Award 2018, Social Impact Finalist AWIEF Awards 2018, has received an Honourable Mention at the Maathai Impact Award 2019, and was chosen among the top 10 artificial intelligence companies founded in Africa by Google for start-ups.

She has also been endorsed by the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Kaliisa continues to make strides in the field of cancer screening. Packing up her things after the photoshoot with us, she heads back to the airport for her flight home.

It’s business as usual for this young woman on a mission to help women in villages survive cancer like she did.

Lloyd Harris, 23, South Africa

Tennis player

Industry: Sports

Nicknamed ‘The King’ in the South Africa Davis Cup team, at only 22, Lloyd Harris is currently South Africa’s second ranked tennis player behind Kevin Anderson.

The young Cape Town-born player found his feet at the age of three when he picked up his first racket. Following in the footsteps of his mother, who would play at a tennis club, by the age of four, Harris was already able to serve from the baseline.

When other 10-year-olds were riding bicycles and playing video games, Harris was competing in the Under 10 World Cup in Croatia, his first game on an international stage.

This was the beginning of his tennis career.

In 2014, he became the first-ever South African to represent South Africa at the Youth Olympics in 2014.

But it wasn’t always easy.

Harris and his family sacrificed everything to ensure he reached a professional level.

And in 2018, Harris endured a devastating loss.

At the eleventh hour, while preparing for a match, he received news that his father passed away.

Harris did not react well to the news.

Waves of unimaginable pain shot down his spine, making it difficult for him to play.

“It was an eye-opener that changed my world. He was incredibly proud of me and my tennis. I lay in bed, cried all day, had no idea whether or not I should play. I was ready to get on the next plane home and then decided to stay and play for my father. I won two tournaments, in two weeks,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Harris’s decision to continue to play for his father brought him more triumph. In 2018, he was nominated as an alternate for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan.

He also represented South Africa at the Davis Cup as the number one player in seven ties with a win-to-loss record of 11-4.

Last year, he qualified for his second Grand Slam main draw at a senior men’s singles level and he reached the 100th spot in the ATP Rankings, cracking the top 100 for the first time in his career.

“I think that as South Africans, we need to have a lot of belief and support to get far on the ATP Tour. Where I come from, nobody has really, for so many years, made it from South Africa. The last one was maybe Wayne Ferreira. It’s hard to believe we can actually do everything from South Africa,” he says.

“I still have plenty of time on the tour and only have to look at Roger Federer, who is still playing at 38 and remains at the top of his game, to gain inspiration. I still have many years to go and we are just focused on the process at the moment.”

DJ Cuppy, 27, Nigeria

DJ, Founder and Director, Red Velvet Music Group

Industry: Entertainment

Many had high expectations for Florence Ifeoluwa Otedola to follow in her family’s oil business and become an oil trader.

Her life was a set stage from the day she was born.

Dancing to the tune, she pursued a degree in economics and management.

“I was convinced my plan was to make lots of money and be the next Femi Otedola!” she tells FORBES AFRICA

But the young Nigerian longed to pursue the arts.

As a teen, she performed at local parties, events and in front of crowds filled with youthful energy.

It was one gig here and another there, honing her skills until she became the reputed DJ she is now.

Otedola now goes by the name ‘DJ Cuppy’ and has become one of Nigeria’s most accomplished DJs, always identified by her trademark pink hair style.

In 2015, she had the opportunity to perform for her country and president Muhammadu Buhari at his inauguration. Since then, she had both her hands on-deck performing all over the world from Senegal and Ghana to the UK, playing in front of more country presidents.

In 2015, she founded The Cuppy Foundation, an NGO aimed at uplifting women, children, and people living with disabilities and tackling issues such as education, malnourishment and poverty.

DJ Cuppy also holds a master’s degree in Music Business from New York University.

She has won a number of awards including Best Female DJ at the Beatz Awards in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. This year, she has been nominated for a Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Award.

Mr Eazi, 28, Nigeria

Musician and Founder, emPawa Africa

Industry: Entertainment

Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and raised in Lagos, Oluwatosin Ajibade would sit at the breakfast table with his dad, listening to old records his father used to play.

This was the key moment that inspired Ajibade to become ‘Mr Eazi’, one of Africa’s notable music stars.

He began his music career while attending college in Ghana, where his side hustles included promoting concerts and running a concierge service shuttling wealthy kids to parties.

“I began my career with a small cash gift from friends, which enabled me to pay for my first professional-quality video for Skintight,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

This later led him to producing more African favorites in 2017 such as Leg Over and Pour Me Water, both sitting at over 74 million views on YouTube.

But the music did not stop there.

His success has also seen him performing on global stages in the UK and the US including being one of only two African artists to play the world’s most prestigious music festival, Coachella in 2019.

Mr Eazi’s ascent to global stardom has seen him clock over 280 million YouTube views and more than 4.1 million Spotify streams per month, making him one of the most streamed African artists worldwide.

But now, Mr Eazi is establishing himself as an entrepreneur as well.

After founding emPawa in 2018, he has been on a global campaign to mentor and fund African artists.

The entity has provided marketing and business support for established acts like Nigeria’s Simi and Ghana’s King Promise.

emPawa also had a notable hand in Beyonce’s Grammy-nominated The Lion King: The Gift album, helping the pop megastar’s US-based team assemble leading African talent for this landmark project.

“It’s something I wish someone had created when I first started making music. Sometimes, all it takes is that one person to believe in you,” he says.

Wisdom Mawuli Parku, 26, Ghana

Founder, Majora Group

Industry: Diversified holdings

Murphy’s Law states that ‘anything that can go wrong will go wrong’, and Wisdom Mawuli learned that very early in life.

“I lost over GHC3,000 ($541) when I had wanted to travel to the US in 2014 and consulted a travel and tour company on campus. My visa was sadly turned down but it spurred me to conduct a detailed research in the traveling and ticketing industry, hence the birth of Majora Group,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Majora Group began in a mining community and town called Obuasi in Ghana in 2017 with subsidiaries in travel, education, consultancy, photography and printing.

It came about with Mawuli who wanted to travel to the US but encountered an unfavorable experience.

After the business started, Mawuli again lost a sum of GHC12,000 ($2,162) to a fake Ghanaian recruitment agent in Dubai, leading the business to further setbacks.

“This major setback led my business to huge debt which nearly collapsed after a few months of commencement. Lastly, the Obuasi office caught fire in June 2018 which made me change the entire wiring system of the office building, hence incurring huge financial losses,” he says.

It took a while but Mawuli was able to get the business back on track.

They have sold over 1,000 trips, serviced more than 800 clients and secured five academic accreditations from universities in Europe and Canada as recruitment partners.

The company has grown 57% in revenue last year, he says, and now has two branches in Obuasi and Accra and consists of a staff of nine.

“As an entrepreneur exposed to the high unemployment rate in Ghana, it is my dream to expand my company to become a global conglomerate in Africa so I can create employment for the youth in my country within the company’s capacity. I believe the youth hold the future to sustainable development and I therefore seek to contribute to it through entrepreneurship and job creation.”

Passionate about developing Ghana, Mawuli serves as the executive director for Vision Aid Foundation.

Ogutu Okudo, 28, Kenya

Founder and CEO, Women in Energy & Extractives Africa (WEX Africa)

Industry: Oil and energy

In 2012, Lucky Okudo found herself at a conference on the outskirts of Nairobi discussing environmental sustainability and the strategic role women play.

At the same time, on the opposite end of the continent in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, communities were protesting the negligence in operations by oil companies resulting in oil spills.

“I vividly remember noticing the men dominantly speaking, but it was the woman performing the balancing act of her child on her right hip and yams to feed a family on her head that was the inspiration behind Women in Energy & Extractives Africa that initially began as Women in Oil and Gas East Africa (WIOGEA) [now known as WEX],” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

Ironically, during this period, oil hadn’t been discovered in Kenya yet, but Okudo was on a mission, not knowing that fate would knock on Kenya’s doors months later in 2012.

Oil reserves were discovered in Kenya’s vast and dry remote area of Turkana County and became a source of new wealth and a source of conflict for the pastoralist Turkana people, especially the women who were often the marginalized group.

Part of WEX’s role then was to speak for women in the energy and extractive sector, informing industry participants and decision-makers of the challenges and opportunities women are finding in pursuing careers in these sectors.

To do this, Okudo participated in market meetings and industry bodies to constantly increase the visibility of the organization.

Today, WEX Africa is a social enterprise bridging the gender gap in the oil, gas, mining and alternative energy sectors in Africa

They have 15 employees in five countries and over 75 volunteers in 10 countries and counting. At only 28, Okudo has already been hailed potentially as the next Folorunso Alakija of Africa.

CNN Africa Voices referred to her as “the woman on a mission to disrupt the energy sector”.

She has been recognized internationally and is a recipient of numerous of awards including President Uhuru Kenyatta recognizing her in 2018 as one of the young female Kenyan trailblazers, being awarded the Under 30 Women in Energy East Africa (2018) and in 2019, the Kenya Upstream Oil and Gas Woman of the Year.

In 2019, she addressed the Economic and Social Council at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, accompanying President Kenyatta as part of the Kenyan delegation to the United Nations General Assembly.

“The energy agenda being no different; under-utilized, overpriced, more than half a billion Africans living in darkness and exploited natural resources with little to no impactful gain to individual countries, people and communities. I am passionate about the opportunity to play a role in factoring a development driven by strategic partnerships,” she says.

Okudo sits on numerous boards advising their strategic operations in East Africa including Bboxx Kenya, the London-based next generation off-grid utility platform operating in 15 countries developing solutions for off-grid communities by providing affordable, pay-as-you-go solar power, impacting over a million people.

2020 is a big year for her as she plans to organize STEM outreaches, release a children’s book and publish guidelines to sustainably engaging Women in Energy and Extractive Sector Projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

By the end of the year, Okudo plans to set up offices in all their East African satellite locations.

Patoranking, 29, Nigeria

Musician

Industry: Entertainment

A quick Google search for the best dancehall artists in Africa, and Patoranking’s name is sure to pop up.

His beats are a unique blend of dancehall, reggae and Afrobeats combined, recognizable both on the continent and the global music scene.

In 2016 and 2017, he was a judge on the internationally-acclaimed reality singing competition, The Voice Nigeria.

He was also awarded MTV Africa’s Song of the Year for hit song My Woman, My Everything in 2016.

The following year, he was crowned Best African Artist at the South African Music Awards (SAMA).

Internationally, he was featured on Major Lazer’s Particula hit song alongside Nasty C, Jidenna and Ice Prince in 2018.

In the same year, he traveled with American singer and songwriter Lauryn Hill for The Miseducation for Lauryn Hill album’s 20th anniversary tour across North America as a special guest.

To date, Patoranking has been nominated for over 40 awards including Male Artist of the Year and Best Dancehall Artist, taking home more than 20 awards for these categories.

Tracy Batta, 29, Nigeria

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Smoothie Express

Industry: Food and Beverage

Tracy Batta was determined to live her life like a healthy fruit basket in 2014.

She would blend fruits together into a smoothie detox and would package some to carry to work.

However, the process was often tedious and time-consuming, let alone a bit messy.

So she decided to start a smoothie delivery company for professionals like herself.

With her business partner (Omowunmi Akande), she raised $10,000 from their savings, built a website, bought a motorcycle for deliveries and set out to start the Smoothie Express.

But it wasn’t a smooth start to the business.

They rented out a spare room from a guest house which turned out to be a bad deal.

“We agreed to pay [the owner] 50% of our profit every month. This deal later became crippling for the business as we had to pay out almost a million naira in some months,” Batta tells FORBES AFRICA.

This forced them to find other means.

In 2016, they moved into their own kitchen and the business began to grow as the two researched and carefully-curated their own recipes.

The next year, they opened their first brick-and-mortar store in the heart of Victoria Island and were now able to service walk-in clients.

“People usually do not trust that women are able to handle businesses for a long period as it is believed that we would get married someday, start having babies and ‘abandon’ the business. This however never stopped us as we worked hard to make our business cash-flow positive.”

The company now has grown to launch three modern stores with headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria.

They currently employ a team of 35 while the produce comes from over 15 farms across the country.

Last year, they received a loan from a women empowerment program sponsored by Access Bank.

Batta is also a contributor to The Guardian Nigeria.

She plans to grow Smoothie Express to become an international brand with locations across Africa by 2025.

Olajumoke Oduwole , 29, Nigeria

Founder and CEO and Senior Web Developer, KJK Communication Limited

Industry: Tech / software development        

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Larry Page, Ginni Rometty, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, are but a few of the names Olajumoke Oduwole looks up to.

Very soon, she plans to become a part of this coveted list of techpreneurs.

She founded KJK in 2014 as a one-woman business, able to write 16 programming languages.

The business was founded out of the realization that not many small businesses had access to skilled programmers and tech experts.

“This meant small businesses have a disadvantage from the start. This observation piqued my interest in serving this underserved population,” she says.

After quitting her previous job, she ventured into this unchartered territory in May 2014 from her bedroom with savings of $300.

It was a small space but had lofty dreams.

After a year, the business grew and she was able to open an office and employ two more people.

Today, the team includes 18 full-time employees and works with 37 contract programmers on a project basis.

The business has since built apps such as the tru-DATA app owned by TrippleGee & Co. Plc. a security company which resulted in a contract worth $2 million.

“The tru-DATA product is being used to combat counterfeiting and proliferation of fake products, impacting the community and people’s lives. This feat strengthened our belief in our purpose, instilled a sense of pride, and gave us the vision of being the IBM of Africa,” she says.

Last year, they also received funding from the World Bank.

She is the beneficiary of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women, a global initiative that fosters economic growth for women entrepreneurs.

“In the next five to 10 years, I plan to build products that will provide a tangible solution to problems faced by growing businesses in Nigeria and Africa,” she says.

“I believe it is our duty as people sharing life in this world to shape the future. I am committed to building my technology dreams so that the outcome will shape the future of African business. You can partner with me on this journey to influence the economic narrative of Africa for good.”

Paul Makaya, 26, Zimbabwe

Founder and CEO, Bergast House

Industry: Digital design and marketing

It’s not easy doing business in a country perennially in an economic crisis.

But Paul Makaya is defying the odds in Zimbabwe.

With just the $200 he had saved up, Makaya and his friends invested it in 2016 and rented a miniature one-room office space that had only two chairs.

This was only the beginning of Bergast House, a company that offers strategy, public relations, digital and design services.

Today, the two chairs he started the business with have quintupled, as they now have a team of 10 and can gladly say they have worked with numerous organizations including software giant Microsoft.

“The initial trigger was obviously frustration about the limitations of being an employee, but in that sense as well, I felt that as a young, dynamic person, there was so much more that I could offer to the industry,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

“I also felt we had a part to play in the rise of the African continent. Our vision is to rebrand Africa and this is our purpose.”

The company has served over 103 clients including Zuva Petroleum, Astro Mobile, Maranatha Group of Schools, the Contact Centre Association of Zimbabwe, Tech24, the Chartered Institute of Customer Management, Steward Bank, and the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society, delivering an advertising value of up to $175 million.

Makaya has been listed on the Gumiguru 40 Under 30 list of emerging Zimbabwean leaders and in 2019, was selected to be the vice curator of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Harare Hub.

He is also a founding member of the Zimbabwe National Youth Awards, an annual event which seeks to identify, award, celebrate and develop exceptional young Zimbabweans in all sectors of the country’s economy.

Makaya plans to grow the business into countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Namibia.

Anwar Bougroug, 29, Morocco

Founder and Creative Director, Bougroug

Industry: Fashion

Morocco is home to very diverse coasts, remarkable architecture, intricate handmade cultural pieces, and it is also home to a young designer making a name for himself thanks to his innovation and unique vision for fashion.

Anwar Bougroug founded a genderless fashion label in 2017 called Bougroug.

Since the unisex fashion movement that has been gaining momentum in recent years and as gender fluidity becomes more normalized, Bougroug is pushing boundaries by being one of the few promoting this trend in the north African country known for its conservative people.

“We are breaking the gender binary and gender roles by representing a new kind of individual, freer than ever from societal norms and rules,” he says.

What started out as a personal project to tackle toxic masculinity and empower women in the region became a visible creative fashion house.

With every item uniquely handcrafted down to the very last thread by Moroccan artisans, Bougroug incorporates long-standing Moroccan crafting techniques.

Having roots both in Morocco and Europe, Bougroug has been able to work with different companies such as H&M and Bershka, designing and developing collections for women, men, kids and babies.

Bougroug has its head office in Stockholm, Sweden, and the production office in Marrakech. Last year, Bougroug decided to amplify his social agenda to write about sexuality, gender-based violence, politics, fashion and society in Morocco.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – MAY 27: Pieter-Steph du Toit during the South African mens national rugby team photocall session at Southern Sun Montecasino Hotel on May 27, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Pieter-Steph du Toit, 27,

South Africa Rugby player

Industry: Sports

Being the grandson of former professional rugby player, Springbok prop Piet Spiere du Toit, and older brother to Johan, also a professional rugby player, expectations are high to carry on the family legacy.

But Pieter-Steph du Toit is doing well.

He hails from the farm area of Swartland, a region in South Africa’s Western Cape province, and has become a superstar in rugby.

Last year, he was awarded the 2019 Men’s World Rugby Player of the Year and SA Rugby Player of the Year after the Springboks’ victory at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

“Pieter-Steph led the charge for the Springboks and he deserves this accolade to go with his World Player of the Year Award,” says Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, in a press statement.

Du Toit plays as a lock or flanker for the South Africa national team and the Stormers in Super Rugby.

According to rugbypass.com, he has successfully won 90% of his tackles, an easy feat for this two-meter tall and 119kg giant.

With the World Cup triumph now firmly in the past, Du Toit looks forward to two massive goals he has set for himself.

One of those is to play in the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour, while the other is to win Super Rugby with the Stormers in the franchise’s final year at Newlands.

Swanky Jerry, 28, Nigeria

Founder, Chief Creative Officer, Swanky Signatures

Industry: Fashion

Red carpets, glamor, lights and cameras; this is the life of Jeremiah Ogbodo Ike, known as ‘Swanky Jerry’.

Featuring gold shoes and a white and black agbada (a four-piece male attire) resembling the Versace print, Ogbodo’s dresscode is as fitting as his nick name.

Swanky Jerry is a Nigerian celebrity fashion stylist who has dressed the likes of Pearl Thusi, Davido, Nyanda, Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage, AKA, Sarkodie and African presidents and first ladies.

It was at the first-ever Global Citizen Festival in South Africa late 2018 when FORBES AFRICA first met with him accompanying D’Banj, who he styled, and who performed before the thousands present that day.

Swanky Jerry’s styling can be seen through the subtle blend of couture and African Ankara fabrics.

His love for fashion started at a young age as he and his family traveled a lot from city to city.

“We would usually have to wear the clothes of the locals of each city we visited, to blend in, and I absolutely loved it! Growing up within this lifestyle, I became more inspired by my surroundings and began to invest in Nigerian fashion magazines and people-watching at big events due to the elaborate fashion being paraded,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

After the death of his father, Ogbode socialized a lot as a coping mechanism.

It was not long before he became known as “that stylish guy”.

“It was a bittersweet journey for me because although I had experienced one of the biggest losses in my life, the death of my father had practically pushed me into the amazing place I am today. I found happiness and peace in creating and was virtually driven to turn my passion into a career in order to make money and fend for myself. And this was during a very difficult time as fashion styling, especially for me, wasn’t very popular or respected in Nigeria. However, I took the risk and I’m very grateful for where it has led me to today,” he says.

He then launched his fashion and lifestyle brand, Swanky Signatures Styling, in 2012, and it has since grown to become one of the most popular and influential brands in the industry.

Creative director, celebrity stylist, wardrobe stylist, designer, social influencer and consultant are just a few titles under his stylish belt.

He is also passionate about giving back and lending his hand to different charities and drawing attention to movements such as ‘Break the Silence’ and #WalkForLove.

He has also been featured internationally by CNN.

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 09: Silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana poses on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men’s 800m on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 9, 2012 in London, England (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Nijel Amos, 26, Botswana

Track and field athlete

Industry: Sports

Nijel Amos is known as Botswana’s 800-meter superstar.

Having shocked the nation by gaining podium position at the 2012 Summer Olympics at just 18 years old, he also made history by becoming the first Motswana to win a medal at the Olympics.

Since then, he has been running swiftly into more victories.

In 2014, he won numerous gold medals: the 800m and 4x400m relay in Marrakech.

The following year, he went on to impress at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games where he won a gold medal and later won gold in the 800m at the All Africa Games.

In more recent years, he has continued to run the good race for his country, clocking some of his best times in the 2019 IAAF season.

Amos has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and is a medal hopeful for Botswana, which still only boasts one Olympic medal.

Amos has also founded a foundation called Chase Dream Empire to empower youth, particularly ex-convicts.

Davies Okeowo, 29, Nigeria

Co-founder and CEO, Enterprise Hill and Competence Africa

Industry: Business Development

While in his second year as an undergraduate studying accounting, Davies Okeowo watched an episode of the Donald Trump-produced business reality show, The Apprentice, and it was in that moment he decided that he wanted to become an entrepreneur.

He set to turn his dream into a reality; however, his first business after university failed dismally.

“I made no sales in a full year and burned all my savings,” he says.

Luckily, Okeowo had a mentor who guided him and taught him to build a structure for a sustainable business to the point that he started helping other entrepreneurs and this birthed Enterprise Hill.

With a computer and internet connection, he founded the business in 2015 as an accounting and business development firm in a bid to strengthen medium and small business enterprises across Nigeria.

“I have come to the understanding that the depth of the business structure and human capital problem isn’t just a problem in my sphere of influence, it is a problem across the African continent; which my undertakings are devoted to solving,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

In 2017, he founded Competence Africa, a social enterprise now focused on the employability of young Nigerians.

“I strongly believe that Africa’s development is largely predicated on the quality of her people and as such, I setup Competence Africa to help ensure that Africa’s youth possess high level commercial competencies,” he says.

Since inception, over 148 students have graduated from their competence development program and impacted over 2,000 businesses.

Returning full circle, the young man whose dream was inspired by a business reality show, became the winner of one, as he won the second season of The Next Titan, a Nigerian entrepreneurial reality show.

“I have a long-term commitment to the African development cause and my theory of change is to invest in the development of young African talent, contribute to the development of strong entrepreneurial ecosystems across the continent, and advocate for developmental policies in a bid to make Africa a first world continent,” he says.

Davies is also a speaker, trainer and has facilitated training sessions for organizations such as The British Council and the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Sports, to name a few.

Maryam Gwadabe, 29, Nigeria

Founder and CEO, Blue Sapphire Hub

Industry: ICT

Dressed in a veil and abaya, an attire known to the Huasa tribe of Nigeria, Maryam Gwadabe is not your typical Information Technology guru.

Gwadabe is a tech expert passionate about teaching and supporting young people, a gift she discovered when attending a program at a vocational center and she noticed that some of her classmates struggled with their programming skills.

On graduating, she tutored and mentored some of her friends and close relatives.

With a capital investment of NGN150,000 ($405), she then bought some training material, developed a curriculum and started facilitating basic and advanced ICT skills from her living room. But many thought Gwadabe was crazy and what she was doing would fail.

After a year, in 2014, her students exceeded her expectations and her packed living room testified that she was doing something right.

With support from her proud father who saw this growth, she set up a hub in 2015, known today as the Blue Sapphire Hub in the heart of Kano State in northern Nigeria.

The company provides ICT, entrepreneurship and incubation programs and consultancy and product development services to many young men and women, especially those like her.

Gwadabe employs a staff of 15 and since inception, has trained over 5,000 youth and women, and supported over 20 tech-driven and non-tech driven startups with business development support.

“What is more fulfilling than this; impacting the lives of women and seeing the returns? I have been advocating for bridging the digital gender divide for the past five years and now a lot of women are into tech in Nigeria, because of the impact of my work,” she says.

Each year, she hosts different forums such as ‘Hour of Code’, an event for children to learn coding, ‘ICT solutions for her’ and the ‘System trix seminar’ that teaches the latest tech tips, tricks and trends.

Next year, she is opening another hub in the capital city and plans to reach other African countries such as Niger, Chad, the Gambia and Cameroon.

Director Kit, 29, South Africa

Director, Writer and Producer

Industry: Entertainment

When Keitumetsi Qhali, also known as Director Kit, walks into the studio for the FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 photoshoot, her demeanor is that of a hard-talking businesswoman, but with a creative twist.

Well, she has to be this way, as a woman in a predominately white male-dominated industry with limited budgets.

Qhali, who hails from the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, is a multi-award winning director.

She works in long and short form films and videos and to date, has directed over 29 videos.

Her early work dates back to 2014 when she directed an African hit music video Rands and Nairas by Nigerian artist Emmy Gee featuring AB Crazy & Dj Dimplez.

The music video won the Best Music Video of the Year award at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards and was nominated for the Channel O music video award, for the most gifted music video of the year and Most Gifted Newcomer.

Qhali bagged all these wins at the age of 24.

Later, she was signed to the prestigious Darling Films production company as their first black female commercials director.

“It is a big deal to be recognized in this industry. My mom always said I need to work twice as hard as the men. I need to be twice as fast and twice as smart,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

Fast forward to recent years, her talent continued to stand, on stages locally and internationally.

In 2018, she directed a short film titled The Initiate which was bought by Showmax.

And last year, she was nominated for a Loerie Award for her fashion film Winter Blues for the Edgars winter campaign.

She also won a SAFTA (South African Film and Television Awards) for Best Factual Educational Documentary Programme for her short film titled KICK IT.

Last year, she was also listed as one of the Mail & Guardian Young 200.

She is currently doing some work with Netflix which she says she is not at liberty to talk about right now.

It’s lights, camera and action until then.

Sasha Vybz, 28, Uganda

Founder, Savy Filmz, and Video Director

Industry: Entertainment

Hailing from humble beginnings in the Kabale district of Uganda, Ian Akankwasa, popularly known as ‘Sasha Vybz’, was attracted to motion pictures from a very young age.

“When I was a young kid, I used to love film so much. I was always intrigued. I wanted to find out how they make these movies. I wanted to make movies and I wanted to tell stories. Given the fact that I was a very quiet person I thought I could express myself through filmmaking. I never imagined myself to get this far,” he says.

He taught himself using online resources, and hacks and tricks from his former days as an events photographer but was unable to develop the quality films and videos he yearned for, or to address the lack of high-quality videos in Uganda’s entertainment scene.

So he enrolled at the CityVarsity School of Media Studies and Creative Arts College in Cape Town, South Africa, to pursue his unfulfilled dreams.

Immediately after his studies, he broke into the music scene in East Africa and became one of the most sought-after music directors for artists in Nigeria, South Africa and Burundi.

He began turning Uganda’s music into gold with high-definition quality.

He has worked with top musicians such as Patoranking, Bebe Cool and Toniks.

His talent has seen him bagging awards including Best Video Director at the 2019 African Muzik Awards in Dallas, Texas.

His other awards include Club Music Video Award 2017, HiPipo Video Director 2018/19, Buzz Video of the Year 2016/17 and the Rising Star Video Director 2018/19.

Savy Filmz specializes in motion pictures, music videos, movies and documentaries.

CNN has hailed him as a filmmaker “making music videos as an art form”.

Lewis Appiagyei, 16, Ghana

Car racer

Industry: Sports

At the age of 10, Lewis Appiagyei already had his first Guinness World Record for the fastest lap driven on the Laguna Seca Circuit in virtual racing on PlayStation3.

This record is still unbeaten.

While many boys his age were playing with toy cars, he raced to fame following in the tyre tread of Lewis Hamilton, one of his heroes.

“My aim is to become Africa’s first Formula One world champion, a prize which is still up for grabs to all African racing drivers wherever they may be,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Recently, he made it on to the 30 Under 30 Future of Ghana’s list in 2018 and is the current go-karting champion.

His passion for racing has taken him to race tracks in Europe and Dubai.

Early this year, he won his last junior trophy at the Buckmore Park Kart Circuit in Kent England, the same circuit where many current Formula One drivers learned their trade including Jenson Button and Hamilton.

For Appiagyei, this marked the end of the era, and the start of a new one.

There is no telling what the big leagues hold for this young talent but he predicts that he will become a Formula One champion just like his namesake role model.

Hadeel Osman, 29, Sudan

Creative Director, Stylist, Founder, DAVU Studio

Industry: Arts

Hadeel Osman has over seven years of experience in the media and fashion industries.

Her creative inspiration stems from her years raised in the United Arab Emirates and living in Malaysia.

But when she decided to return to Sudan in 2016, her career painted a complicated but optimistic picture.

“Sudan is a very interesting and a difficult nation to create in. Coming here, it was hard to find raw inspiration from the streets. With a very controlling regime, limited resources and a never-ending economic crisis, life was very dim and colors were nowhere in sight,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

This allowed her to come up with the name of her business, DAVU, which stands for ‘designing a visual utopia’.

It is a multi-disciplinary creative studio that fuses design, art, education and sustainability.

“I also wanted to contribute to the arts and culture scene of my country, which has fallen under the radar both locally in the commercial sphere and regionally across the continent,” she says.

She has worked on several projects with clients in Dubai, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Sudan to enhance their branding strategies.

DAVU Studio offers an array of creative services in the form of art and creative direction, concept development, branding, styling and most importantly, informal education through interactive, immersive and creative workshops.

Through this, she has had the opportunity to work with Sudanese visual artists and designers, and was commissioned by the Sudan Independent Film Festival to train costume designers, jewelry designers and filmmakers.

Being a creative on a mission to change the outlook of her country, she has also dedicated the remainder of her career to uplifting Sudan in the creative field and Africa as a frontier of the world’s art and culture. Osman believes with the recent revolution, the future looks bright as she hopes to create a Sudan chapter of the Fashion Revolution organization, designing a suitable gender-neutral, capsule fashion collection inspired by traditional Sudanese design aesthetics.

O’Plérou Grebet, 22, Ivory Coast

Graphic Designer, Digital Artist, Founder, Zouzoukwa

Industry: Creative Tech

Quiet, creative and impactful are pretty much the words that sum up O’Plérou Grebet, the Ivorian graphic designer on a mission to promote African cultures in modern and interactive ways.

He is the founder and creator of Zouzoukwa, an Android and iOS app which allows thousands of African people to communicate more clearly using stickers and emojis representing African culture.

He has created 365 free emojis that portray contemporary African life. These include three-legged pots, djembe drums, women dressed in ankaras, tuk-tuk vehicles, African masks, hair braids and shekere, a West African percussion instrument made with a dried gourd; all this self-taught watching YouTube videos.

After mastering the skill, he would post his creations on Instagram which soon gained momentum.

Using art, culture and technology, Grebet is sharing West African heritage to the world.

He has since featured in numerous publications, locally, and internationally, including the New York Times, CNN, NPR and Fast Company.

The app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times in less than a year.

“I am aware of the impact of social media, and I use it to allow people to embrace their culture through it. The most popular filter I made is Selflove 225, which adds a rotating text above the head of the user saying ‘ye dja’, which means ‘I slay’ in Ivorian slang,” Grebet tells FOBRES AFRICA.

The African Talents Awards named Zouzoukwa the best app of 2019.

Currently, the Ivorian has been using tech to create Instagram Augmented Reality filters.

“I hope to be one of the 2020 FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 to inspire the African youth, and show that what we create has real impact. I also make connections with other Africans transforming our continent and see how we could work together,” the quiet creative says.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND – MARCH 10: Asisat Oshoala the new Arsenal Ladies signing at London Colney on March 10, 2016 in St Albans, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Asisat Oshoala, 25, Nigeria

Footballer

Industry: Sports

In a 2017 photograph taken at the CAF Awards ceremony in Accra, Ghana, Asisat Oshoala, stands proudly as the only woman in the photo among some of the football greats: Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, and countrymate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

She may not be one of the boys but she is surely in their league.

But growing football was the last thing for a young Nigerian woman to even think about pursuing.

As a result, Oshoala’s parents were not happy when she dropped out of school to pursue a career in the game.

But years later, it paid off as she has built a successful career and become a titan of Nigerian football.

On the pitch, with speed, technique and balance, Oshoala is definitely a keeper.

Recently, she won the Confederation of African Football’s (CAF) Women’s Player of the Year for the fourth time.

“I am really excited, proud of myself; four times is something to always remember,” she told BBC Sport Africa.

“It [the win] keeps me going, but of course, there is still more work to do, I want to create my own history and not just equal someone else’s record. I’m going to give my best to create mine,” she said.

She plays for both the Nigerian national team and internationally, for the Spanish side FC Barcelona Femení in the Primera División as a forward.

Barcelona was to face Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League, which has now been postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Scilla Owusu, 23, Ghana

Video Director, Producer, Screenwriter, and Founder of Youngtrepreneurs

Industry: Entertainment

What do Davido, Burna Boy, Sarkodie, Mr Eazi, Patoranking, Diamond Platnumz, Morgan Heritage, Wande Coal and Maleek Berry all have in common?

Apart from directing many of Africa’s top music hits, they can attribute the creative success of some of their videos to 23-year-old Ghanaian video director, Scilla Owusu.

It all started in the summer of 2015, after Owusu graduated from college with a business studies degree in London and she felt lost and did not know what her life’s purpose was.

Putting pen to paper, Scilla eventually found her passion in screenwriting which led her to launch her first six-part series titled A Lesson Learnt that she wrote and produced.

This led her to win an award at the Screen Nation Film & Television Awards in 2016.

Following this success, Owusu dove into the world of music video production at the age of 19.

“Being in such a male-dominated industry as a music video producer, especially a young black female video producer, felt like being black twice because I had to work twice as hard to prove I was worthy of being in the room, despite my great talents,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

Within a year, Scilla’s drive led her to direct popular music videos such as Tomorrow by M.anifest featuring Burna Boy, Love coming down by Don EE featuring Davido and Odo Bi by Stonebwoy featuring Sarkodie.

Her love for the entertainment industry led her to launch her own social youth organization in Ghana called Youngtrepreneurs to help young Ghanaian creatives improve their business knowledge, gain work skills and provide career opportunities. Owusu has been featured by different media outlets including the BBC and OkayAfrica.

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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
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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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