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The Money Men Of Nigeria’s Banking Industry

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Key contributors to the growth of the Nigerian economy, they have redefined banking by leveraging technology and connecting people to market. From just £100 in his bank account, Pascal Dozie has built a business empire his son Uzoma is taking to the future.

It’s always a difficult proposition, handing over the reins of a business you have painstakingly built ground-up. But for Pascal Dozie, Nigeria’s self-made investment and finance guru, there could not be a better successor than his eldest son, Uzoma Dozie, Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank. But Uzoma has learned from the best.

The rise of Pascal Dozie can outrival any rags-to-riches Dickensian tale. He gained a fortune through tenacity, hard work and wit, on a long and difficult road from Owerri in Imo State where he was born in 1939. His entrepreneurial journey began against the backdrop of a Nigeria marred by the bloody Biafran war waged between 1967 and 1970 that saw over 30,000 Igbo lives lost. Pascal, at the time, was finishing his degree at The London School of Economics where he shared a class and rubbed shoulders with The Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, who dropped out to form the English rock band.

The war back home meant he had to find alternative means of making a living. Learning to be independent since the loss of his father when he was only 15, Pascal’s major influence was his mother who owned a bakery.
As a young man, he found himself on the streets of Uganda cutting his teeth in the exchange business until the Idi Amin coup truncated his work.

“When Amin took over, we were no longer wanted, so we had to come back to Nigeria but there was no money to come back home with.”

Pascal and his wife were unemployed and as a result, the couple planned to relocate to the United States (US) in search of greener pastures. But they changed their plans in the last minute due to his mother’s ill-health and her wish to be closer to her first grandson, Uzoma.

Pascal had to quickly find another way to make ends meet. He decided to start a consulting firm, the African Development Consulting Group, where he worked for multinationals like Nestle and Pfizer.

“My first objective was survival and of course I had an ambition. You set up a company, you want that company to grow; you want it to be robust and profitable. Being in consulting was a tricky affair because you have a lot of receivables. It was a hustle job. A hustle to get payment and a hustle to do the job all the time.”

Then there was the issue of rudimentary communication systems to contend with.

“There were no phones. At one point in time, I had to meet someone in Sokoto, and I boarded a flight to go there. Lo and behold, in the queue boarding that plane was the man I was going to see, catching a flight to another destination. So he apologized because there was no way for him to tell me not to come. So he asked me if it was possible to wait for two days. We had no choice and we found a hotel and waited for the man to come back. If there was any delay, there was nothing we could do but keep waiting until he showed up,” says Pascal.

Pascal Dozie and Uzoma Dozie. Photo by: Kelechi Amadi-Obi

Slowly but surely, his business began to prosper, but Pascal had even bigger aspirations. During the days of his consulting business, he conducted a feasibility study of banks and unearthed a hidden opportunity. But that was the easy part. At the time, Nigerian law stipulated that to set up a bank, no one single person could have more than 5% shareholding in the bank and the firm’s shareholders must be representative of Nigerians from all over the country.

“Now the problem was how do you find them? That was a major challenge. Once they are found, you are now dealing with so many different people from different backgrounds, which means a lot of time; there were a lot of quarrels. We traveled around all of Nigeria to find people who will invest in the bank.”

Secondly, Pascal had noticed traders from the remote villages in the east of the country, where he grew up, faced the problem of carrying huge bundles of cash when they traveled to Lagos on business, making them prone to robberies. To make matters worse, there were a number of  shortcomings in the banking system. For example, to deposit money in a bank, one would have to wait long, sometimes queuing up for almost four hours before a single transaction.

“And to cash a cheque was also difficult. You could go to the bank and they will give you a number in the queue. You could then leave the bank, go to the shop and do so many errands that by the time you come back, your number would still not have been called. There was that gap in service,” says Pascal.

With a passion for economic development, he believed that without a strong financial sector, the Nigerian economy was not going to develop.

“You need a robust financial system to get the economy working, so I said ok, ‘why don’t we try looking at this and provide a solution’. I said ‘if we could get a bank to mitigate against all the things we are lacking, then we can create value for businesses and also contribute to the economic development of Nigeria’,” says Pascal, who was featured on the cover of FORBES AFRICA in October 2012.

Meanwhile, Uzoma, the eldest of his five sons, was contemplating which career he was going to pursue. The choices boiled down to engineering, medicine or law. He had witnessed the tough early days of his father’s entrepreneurial journey.

“I think my parents were hustling when I was born. We were five boys and I remember we lived at 27 Commercial Avenue, which was also my father’s office. It was a three-bedroom flat and I remember two of the rooms were offices and one was the bedroom for all of us. My dad was a consultant, so he didn’t have a fixed job then and I think my mother had a more stable job than him. Because they were hustling, life was very practical,” says Uzoma.

Where his father is assertive and confident, with each word measured and delivered as though he was giving a keynote address, Uzoma’s youthful exuberance is infectious. But there are similarities too. Pascal is a gentleman in every sense of the word, who loves Mozart and Bach, while Uzoma also has a calm down-to-earth demeanor.

Watching both father and son speak is like looking at two old friends catch up over drinks. Affectionately calling his father ‘PD’, there is an air of reverence and respect for the man who has orchestrated the Dozie legacy and built a multi-million dollar empire from a modest consulting firm, today spanning banking, private equity and telecommunications. Pascal commands his investment and finance empire through the family-owned investment company Kunoch, which pours money into everything, from power generation to gas processing, oil exploration, real estate and banking.

 

Pascal Dozie. Photo by: Kelechi Amadi-Obi

However, for Uzoma, banking was not his first calling. After some initial soul-searching, he opted to be a doctor and that journey led him to the United Kingdom (UK).

After studying Chemistry at the University of Reading, he pursued a masters in Chemical Research at University College London (UCL) before completing an MBA at Imperial College London.

A serendipitous recession in the UK meant Uzoma was unable to find a job, and decided to relocate to Nigeria to enrol into the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme set up by the government.

It involves Nigerian graduates in nation-building and the development of the country. Pascal, through his contacts, secured a role for Uzoma at Guaranty Trust Bank, which was the start of the latter’s love affair with banking.

“When I left university in the UK, I had a lot of credit from banks. I had a credit card, I had a debit card, I had a cheque guarantee card, I was using ATM and when I came back to Nigeria, it was like going back into time. None of those services existed. You had a chequebook, which may be, only one of the new generation banks offered, and one of the motivations or aspirations for me with Diamond Bank was trying to deliver in the Nigerian market those services which I was used to in the UK,” says Uzoma.

Both father and son fervently believe in the power of technology to drive efficiency in the financial sector. The first thing Pascal did to solve the issue of carrying cash over long distances was to set up the Diamond Integrated Banking System (DIBS).

This meant that you could carry a chequebook instead of cash and when you came into the bank, you received your cash. It may sound pretty easy and standard now but at the time in Nigeria’s history, it was revolutionary.

“Nigeria has come a long way. The area that we have not had much success is on our political front. There has been a lot of progress on the economic side; [but] individually, almost everybody is working in silos. But until we have that political will to get the economy to where it ought to be, we are just paying lip service.”

He sold the consulting business to raise the capital to start Diamond Bank. Soon, another opportunity presented itself to Pascal, this time in the telecoms industry. A South African company was looking to set up shop in Africa’s largest economy and Pascal saw in this an opportunity too good to pass up.

Uzoma Dozie. Photo by: Kelechi Amadi-Obi

“So many companies were interested in the MTN project. The Nigerians didn’t know much about what it was about. All they knew was that there was this new way of communicating, which was by mobile telephones, and nobody knew what that was all about. It was one of the first few transparent projects the government ever conducted. The government practically vetted all the shareholders of the company,” says Pascal.

The South Africans wanted to pump millions into a 60% stake in MTN Nigeria, with Nigerians owning 40%. Pascal managed to raise a 20% stake in the new company. But before the deal could close, he says his name was published in the newspapers for unethical trading.

“The MTN people came to me to say ‘we do not want anything to do with you again’. Some mischievous people accused me of playing both sides and the main fact that I was double dipping would have cost us the project. So they wrote a letter to me and I didn’t reply. So they didn’t want to see me, I was more or less like an outcast. So I was not even there the last day of the bidding,” says Pascal.

“It was later on that the chairman of MTN was going back to South Africa and he met that company I was supposed to be involved in and they asked about me and the man said he didn’t know who I was. Then they realized that somebody was trying to be mischievous and they came back to me and apologized,” says Pascal, and the rest as they say is history. Today, the company is one of the most successful in Nigeria and Pascal maintains his position as chairman.

The apple did not fall far from the tree. Uzoma religiously preserves the organizational culture, using new technology to democratize the dissemination of financial services to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Pascal had always put employees in the saddle, empowering them to take decisions. That philosophy has worked well for the organization. Furthermore, his decision to realign the structure of the organization and create accessibility for tech-savvy millennials has helped the bank maintain its position as one of the leading financial services institutions in the country.

Uzoma has had varied roles within the organization, starting as an assistant manager and head of the bank’s oil and gas group, where he expanded the oil and gas businesses. One of the things Uzoma also pioneered was leveraging the power of mobile apps to make transactions easier for customers. “We used mobile apps to stop people from coming to the branches and put everything you wanted to do in the bank, apart from withdrawing cash at the bank, on the mobile app. Now, it’s a platform where it’s beyond banking and one of the new things we are doing is to provide a relationship officer and democratize banking so that even the guy at the bottom of the pyramid will get premium banking services and we can only do that through technology,” says Uzoma.

Next, the bank began automating the customer transaction experience by enabling customers to do self-service. Robots were introduced to reduce the workload and allow humans to concentrate on the things they are good at such as creativity and innovation.

“We have eight million people who use their mobile phones to do banking and we have a partnership with MTN. I see Diamond Bank as a platform to help people connect to market. When you talk to people we helped open a bank account into the market place, the first thing they will tell you is that ‘I can now save to take my children to school, I can now save to improve my business’. Diamond Bank is a platform for transformation by connecting people and their market,” says Uzoma.

The way the company has managed to achieve this is by leveraging technology and redefining the business model, which goes beyond banking and coming up with a sharing and collaborating approach as well.

“If I want to lend to a customer, I need to know much more than his financial record, I need to know about his non-financial records so it gives me a better understanding. We use other platforms to connect and engage with our audience like Diamond TV and we also get feedback from what our people want and what the trends are,” adds Uzoma.

Under his leadership, the bank has become one of the most-successful middle-market banks. According to Uzoma, this was as a result of understanding customer cash flows which made it easier to lend to them.

“I don’t know when was the last time I went into a banking hall to do a transaction. Young people have a good opportunity in the tech sector. I would like to see Nigerians developing software and looking at it from our own perspective and being original. One of the things I found in our financial system is the banking system is not technologically advanced like some of the banks we have in Europe,” says Pascal.

“We can use technology to solve a lot of problems in agriculture and a lot of problems in banking. Even deploying technology in a social and economic area. For example, our population, VAT registration, national identity and so many applications. People are working in various silos, why can’t we get all these systems to be coordinated? If you go to Dubai and you enter a taxi and you lose something, you can retrieve it. Once you enter a taxi, it is entered in a central location and everything is harmonized.”

They are a team that work well together. Uzoma is a tech visionary who believes in the power of technology to provide opportunities to leapfrog as a people, and he is relentless in pursuing that goal.

For Nigeria to harness that power, however, there has to be effective leadership to create impact and transformation. According to Uzoma: “We have everything we require in Nigeria to really leverage technology, but we haven’t been able to do that. We need the leadership to put the policy, regulation and legislation in place to help us achieve this. One of the things I am passionate about is educating investors to invest in Nigerian businesses. People are going outside to get investors from venture capital from the US and in 10 years’ time, we are going to find that we have a few Nigerian companies that are very successful globally but they will be owned by foreign companies because Nigerian investors who had the capacity did not understand what they are letting go,” says Uzoma.

Pascal echoes his sentiments. “You will not find any company owned by Nigerians being managed by the third generation or fourth generation as such but you will find that among Indians in Nigeria, and the Lebanese in Nigeria. But ours [Nigerians] have been short-term because the first generation sets up the business, then the next generation tries to develop it and the third generation squanders it.” These days, that has been Pascal’s real focus. He believes in order for Nigeria to effectively compete globally, there has to be a focus on succession-planning. At 79, he is full of life and bursting with ideas. His goal is to create an awareness of building generational wealth through family offices. This dynamic father-son duo is here to stay and set a sterling example for African business.

From modest beginnings – just £100 in his bank account in Lagos when he started – Pascal has built an empire his son is determined to take to Africa’s glorious future

Cover Story

Covid-19: The Ultimate Disruptor

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The coronavirus has rebooted every aspect of life as we know it. Across Africa, home-grown ideas and small-scale technological innovations are coming to the fore to help combat it.

It’s 8PM in Johannesburg on March 29, the first Sunday of the lockdown in South Africa, and a team from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) is hard at work, not in the comfort of their homes, but at an innovation lab, designing the first two prototypes of a face shield.

Letlotlo Phohole and Moses Mogotlane, the two members of the team, are working on paper and transparent face shield models, with a Perspex headband, and they are doing all of this at a Transnet-sponsored innovation space hosted at Wits; together in thought, but apart in (social) distance.

Their work would use 3D-printers and a laser-cut solution, in coming up with the very first version of a face shield developed by Wits.

Reeling from the disastrous effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, just like any other part of the world, Africa is turning to home-grown solutions such as this to tackle a global problem.

“Design can save the world,” says Dr Randall Paton, one of the engineers in charge of coordinating this project. And for any innovation at this time, speed is paramount.

“I think that innovation, especially of the sort that leaves us with a legacy of new products or ideas, is essential in tackling an issue like the coronavirus crisis,” he adds.

The face shields were initially designed for health workers at Netcare Hospitals, made from a flat pack consisting of two pieces that can rapidly be assembled.

Now, they are producing the face shields in only 90 seconds using die-cutting (cutting chosen shapes from low-strength materials), as opposed to 3D-printing them which takes up to 90 minutes.

“We are also working with the Wits’ UK representative looking at possible collaborations with the University of Edinburg who responded similarly to Wits in the face shield provision to healthcare workers. We are sharing our stories with the aim of learning from their mass production process that we could emulate,” Phohole tells FORBES AFRICA.

This pandemic could very well see innovation going from Africa to the rest of the world.

Another example is Fablab Rwanda, a space for members to turn innovative ideas into products specifically in the hardware and electronics domain based in Kigali, that has produced 3,500 face shields so far as the entry point for personal protective equipment, especially for health workers, and is now working on producing low-cost ventilators in Rwanda.

A manufacturer of industrial robots, YASKAWA, in South Africa, for many years, has been looking into a crystal ball believing robots would come handy at such a time. “Future-oriented solutions won’t merely be an option, but an absolute necessity,” they say.

Robotics and automation technology are already playing a pivotal role in the health sector, from the use of automated laboratory tests to autonomous disinfectors utilized in hospitals, but they’re about to extend further into other industries faster than anyone could have anticipated.

The global Japanese manufacturer’s southern African branch has already installed over 2,500 robots in the automotive, manufacturing and packaging industries. Decades ago, YASKAWA proposed the innovative concept of an unmanned factory termed ‘Mechatronics’. Since then, the concept has evolved into ‘i³-Mechatronics’, featuring further advancements and implementation of automation through the management of digital data.

“The fast-moving consumer goods and food markets, however, should see an increase and acceptance in the usage of robots and automation technologies… And this is where robotics could come in to reduce contact and cross-contamination,” says Kurt Rosenberg, Managing Director of YASKAWA Southern Africa.

Covid-19 is birthing a new era of health-focused robots and tech to be used in all spheres of life.

Rosenberg believes a robot-powered workforce is the way to the future, both locally and internationally.

And there are more such examples of blue sky thinking.

In South Africa, construction company Profica has partnered with ‘temporary infrastructure specialists’ Chattels to construct temporary Covid-19 triage and testing facilities.

Chattels have already constructed new temporary Covid-19 triage and potential field hospitals at Tygerberg Hospital, Victoria Hospital and Paarl Hospital in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Meanwhile in South Africa’s North West province, in Mogwase, a company called Akim Holdings Pty Ltd has designed a walk-through sanitizing unit. With an engineering company, it has created a tunnel that is practical and adjustable to suit the specifications of clients.

“Covid-19 is an introduction to a world hygiene awareness program that many have not been practicing or have partially practiced. The sanitizer tunnel was created with health risks involved especially for hypersensitive individuals and to also accommodate the disabled and parents with prams, providing a ramp and sprayers that release 5-10ml of sanitizer per person,” says Thuli Mabebo, one of the directors of Akim.

Corona contact-tracing is also an area where technology and manpower meet.

According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland in the United States (US), contact-tracing is key to reopening the economy.

The world’s tech giants Apple and Google have joined forces to unveil plans to build contact-tracing technology with the potential to cover the vast majority of smartphones currently in use across the world. In a joint statement, the companies explained they will develop technology-enabling governments and public health agencies to develop apps to track the pandemic, “with user privacy and security central to the design”. They have decided to refer to it as “exposure notification”.

Closer home, one of the entrepreneurs working on a contact-tracing device app is 2020 FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list-maker, Olajumoke Oduwule, with her company KJK Africa in Nigeria. The ‘DISTANCING App’ ensures the user can observe a six-feet distance with others to control the spread of infectious diseases.

2018 FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list-maker Roger Boniface has been working alongside architects, 3D-printers and branding specialists to build automated wash-bins. Called Geza Wash, they are cost-effective mobile wash-bins that can service large numbers of people. Boniface plans to instal these in high-density areas such as taxi ranks and plans to see “42,000 hands washed within the first 10 days”.

Communications solutions provider, Liquid Telecom, is also coming up with digital solutions for Africa during the pandemic. It has provided solutions for remote learning at Kibabii virtual school in Kenya, established Covid-19 toll-free helplines in Zimbabwe, and provided better connectivity across the East African Community.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa is also pushing the boundaries of innovation, using an app developed for rhino poaching to tackle Covid-19. Cmore allows rangers to use their cellphones to track poaching incidents, sightings, carcass locations, or to track rangers out on patrol. Now, it is being used to record screening data and assist in tracking potential coronavirus cases. “Community health workers have to enter information on a cellphone and, when they press submit, the cellphone sends a location – not just to the person that has been screened – and that location pins itself on the screen at the CSIR, so we know where we have covered the country with our screens,” says Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory group, during an event just before the lockdown at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

As cases spike in South Africa, Evolutio, an African company whose cloud solutions include BSS/OSS and CRM, has developed artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Covid-19 screening software that will allow the system to identify Covid-19, pneumonia and tuberculosis on chest x-rays, or a photo of the x-ray, in the absence or presence of pathological findings. “Our results from reading thousands of x-rays has showed that the system can achieve an accuracy comparable to radiologists, above 90% sensitivity and above 80% specificity across conditions,” says Evolutio’s co-founder Sunil Menon. However, he says the regulatory authorities have not responded to most Covid-19-related initiatives so they have faced challenges with any local traction.

This is an issue encountered by most innovative players in the fray. Some local manufacturers of Covid-19 test kits claim the regulatory authorities are stifling the distribution and export of kits despite massive demand globally. It will take a while before legislation can approve certain home-based innovations; as a result, it is global innovations that seem to be thriving in Africa.

An ad hoc team of engineers and doctors from the MIT Emergency Ventilator (E-Vent) Project, has developed a low-cost, open-source alternative of ventilators to assist hospitals across the world facing shortages. The goal of the project has been to find a way to automate resuscitator bags using mechanical paddles that continuously, precisely and gently squeeze the sides of the bag. Instead of relying on someone’s hands to manipulate the bag and deliver oxygen, the idea is that this device could do it automatically, and act as a long-term ventilator.

‘A Game Of Survival, Not Growth’

Small businesses all over the world are succumbing to the pandemic.

Latest research from fintech group Yoco shows small business revenues in South Africa have plunged over 84% in the pandemic.

“This pandemic has been the ultimate disruptor,” says Mashudu Modau, an entrepreneurship enthusiast and founder of Founders Sauce. Formally working as the community and partnerships manager at Yoco, he was one of many retrenched globally in the pandemic.

“[Covid-19] reduced the number of small businesses that were trading by 90%,” says Modau. “This meant 90% of the small businesses went from trading on a monthly, weekly, or daily basis, to zero.”

Many small businesses operating in Africa already face challenges such as not being registered, lack of resources or lack of funding and as a result, the lockdown has crippled the SMME economy.

“Informal economy businesses were completely wiped out, where they could not trade at all and those that were left operating could not trade at a significant level,” he adds.

Only essential workers or businesses deemed essential services could operate during the lockdown in South Africa. As a result, many businesses are relying on digital platforms to survive if they can afford it, and if lucky, with a client base still consuming their products. Most have had to come up with new ideas. Like startup Granadilla which went from swimwear to grocery delivery in weeks. South African brand Tshepo Jeans, known for denim clothing, quickly pivoted to producing fashionable denim masks. Falke, a South African company once known as a sock manufacturing company, has now turned towards manufacturing face masks from its facility in Pretoria.

With hospitals around the world facing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), businesses have stepped up. Nike, for example, has manufactured full face shields and powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR) lenses to protect against the virus, while the Prada group has started the production of 80,000 medical overalls and 110,000 masks to be allocated to healthcare personnel. Food and beverage company Nestlé is contributing masks and other PPE to frontline workers. It’s also donating medical equipment to hospitals in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal. Additionally, in Burkina Faso, it will donate three ventilators, for use in intensive care units.

The lockdown regulations have also grounded the construction sector.

Siphelele Mngaza, the Founder and CEO of Hannah Properties in South Africa, had to curtail operations, resulting in many clients pulling out of contracts. However, this has made him rethink his building strategy, especially in crowded areas.

“Social distancing and self-quarantine is almost impossible because shacks can [heat] up to about 50 degrees in summer and be really cold in winter with no electricity and no water,” he says. The key then is how to build better cities suitable for everyone.

He emphasizes the importance of having smoother surfaces, greener buildings that incorporate plants, better ventilation and access to natural light. “[Post the pandemic] I envision healthier buildings that behave like plants,” says Mngaza.

On the other side of the spectrum, businesses operating in the digital space have seen a boom at this time. Twenty-eight-year-old entrepreneur Cleo Johnson has taken full advantage of this. She is the founder of Nuecleo, a hospitality and marketing consultancy in South Africa. With clients based in Africa and overseas, she has been able to put together post-corona marketing plans remotely.

“The big thing is, ‘what is your business going to look like post corona?’ Because it is not going to be the same,” she tells FORBES AFRICA. She remains optimistic.

“As a business owner, taking care of yourself mentally is extremely important as it also gives you clarity on a way forward. There is time now to refine your business, your growth strategy and how you can scale your business.”

Those that grab the opportunities or gaps in this pandemic stand a better chance of surviving because if a small business does not receive any revenue within 30 days, it may die, says Modau.

“Right now, it’s a game of survival, not necessarily growth,” he adds.

Where Africa Stands In Healthcare

In Zimbabwe, Dr Masimba Dean Ndoro is a medical doctor on the frontline, working in the country’s Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. Wearing his white coat and stethoscope, every day, Ndoro prepares himself for the worst.

“Zimbabwe is in the midst of a crisis knowing exactly that its healthcare system is dilapidated,” he tells FORBES AFRICA. He says Zimbabwe was not ready for the devastation wreaked by Covid-19 on its economy and people. “The fact that there is limited supply of hospital equipment in our institutions, especially in this part of the globe, has had a negative effect on our motivation to report for work.”

March 20 marked the first confirmed case of the virus in Zimbabwe, when a 38-year-old man arrived at his home in Victoria Falls after a trip to Manchester in the UK.

By the end of April, there were 29 confirmed cases and four deaths, a small number compared to neighboring South Africa, but with huge repercussions nevertheless.

With Zimbabwe’s economy on its knees and socioeconomic problems lingering, healthcare in the country was already in dire straits. In an effort to curb the virus, the country was put on lockdown.

Coronavirus testing rolled out. But Ndoro believes this is not enough.

“There has been an outcry for the need to decentralize centers for testing so we reach containment faster. It’s so unfortunate relevant authorities are lagging behind,” he laments.

In Malawi too, efforts to curb the virus have been challenging. The nation is divided. Since the first case of the virus hit headlines in the country on April 2, it was met with skepticism by many in a nation not used to epidemics. For a country that recently nullified its 2020 elections, the public’s trust in the government also reportedly declined. Being told to stay at home and stop business because of an invisible opponent was the least of many citizens’ worries amidst the political instability.

By April 7, the country had recorded its first Covid-19 death. Panic ensued, and the president declared a national disaster. Part of the nation began practicing social distancing despite the Malawi High Court putting in an injunction against the notion of a 21-day lockdown.

On May 5, thousands in Malawi took to the streets in support of the opposition party alliance as they submitted their presidential candidate nomination in Blantyre. It was a sea of red.

“It’s like all they care about is to vote, then start the fight against Covid-19,” a Malawian citizen tells FORBES AFRICA. He watched the crowds chant and dance. “The pandemic is here, and it is real. But we Malawians, we are taking it for granted,” says another to us.

Amid all the chaos, one of the many at the helm in the fight against the virus in Malawi is Dr Titus Divala, a medical doctor and epidemiologist.

Operating from the southern part of the country in the city of Blantyre, he works for the University College of Medicine focusing on malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis, but now, is also part of the national committee leading efforts surrounding the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“One thing I have learned as a medical doctor and epidemiologist, I never thought I would come across something that consumes my every thought,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

“For countries like ours, where we are sort of struggling to get hold of every case, what will happen is the virus will spread widely to most of the population and then at some point, it may not be able to move forward because most of the population is already infected. This is a point we call ‘herd immunity’.”

However, there is one key advantage Malawi and other African countries may have over Covid-19 and that is a young population. It is quite possible the risk of death is slightly lower than that of an older European or American population. However, according to Divala, if a vaccine is found, it may take long to reach African countries due to political and economic challenges.

Further up the continent, in Nigeria, Dr Nneka Mobisson, provides healthcare support for her clients digitally.

“I realized that we as Africans were not willing to take ownership of fixing our healthcare systems. We all have a role to play in ensuring the health and happiness of Africa and I hope everyone is willing to take on that responsibility in the post-Covid world,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

She is the co-founder and CEO of mDoc, a social enterprise that integrates methodologies in quality improvement and behavioral science with web and mobile-based technology to optimize the end-to-end care experience for people living with chronic illnesses. At this time, her patients are most at risk.

In the first week of April, Mobisson lost an acquaintance to Covid-19. “She had been at the Yale School of Public Health when I was there for medical school and was my best friend’s close friend. She was such a champion for public health in the US, a 45-year-old mother of three, so it just hit too close to home,” says Mobisson, who also knows more friends who have tested positive for the disease. She and her team have been working 24/7 to combat the virus – digitally.

Very few healthcare entities have the ability to provide virtual care and at such a time, it puts Mobisson at an advantage.

“We have a responsibility to protect the vulnerable, and we have been knee-deep supporting our members, the general population and health workers with Covid-19 support. We have shut down all our in-person hubs but have ramped up all virtual care support,” she says.

They have built a center locator called Navihealth which helps to reduce the burden of overwhelmed and insufficient hospital systems in the country. Digitally, they have been able to reach thousands.

However, Mobisson says it has not been easy with funding and resources being limited.

“Most of our team is located in Lagos and electricity is not constant which makes the reality of providing 24/7 guidance to people challenging. We fortunately have a redundancy system when generators or fuel are not available but it certainly makes things very expensive.”

What About Other Diseases?

As governments, hospitals and organizations shift all focus to Covid-19, burdening existing healthcare systems, where does it leave patients with other conditions needing critical care?

“Other diseases are suffering now,” says Dr Herbert Longwe, a lab director at ICAP at Columbia University in Pretoria, South Africa.

Liam Klassen, a 19-year-old from South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, experienced this first-hand. After discovering that flesh-eating bacteria had entered a wound in his leg, he was admitted to a hospital 45km away from home. The staff, he says, were too preoccupied treating Covid-19 patients.

“It was very intense being in hospital, with nurses and doctors, and they really wanted me to get out of the hospital as soon as possible. And my wound was very severe,” he says. Anxiety levels remained high for the family as they were not allowed at the hospital due to regulations, what’s worse; they say they didn’t receive adequate communication about what was going on.

“What has happened is, many people are focused on Covid-19 now, and skilled people who were looking at HIV, are now focusing their attention on Covid-19 and the other diseases are being abandoned,” notes Longwe. His work involves doing surveys to measure the impact of HIV, the burden of the disease and the populations that have been affected. Longwe says that there has been a lack of further research and finances being put into other diseases, as a result, the coronavirus has triggered a funding crisis for NGOs when they are needed the most. “People are no longer paying more attention and putting their efforts in writing grants or research proposals on other diseases, for example, TB, HIV and malaria. The focus has dramatically shifted away from those diseases. But those diseases are still killing us. They are still a public health problem,” he adds.

But on the other hand, the pandemic will expand knowledge in the public health space and grow more human resources and skills. “We are going to draw a lot of knowledge in terms of public health on disease intervention, disease prevention and disease control,” says Longwe.

Hunt For A Vaccine

Billions of dollars are being spent globally to find a vaccine for Covid-19, but the big question is which is the most promising? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 70 vaccines in the works for Covid-19, but only four of them are already being tested.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will fund the manufacturing of seven potential vaccines. But it is possible that one or two of these may be successful.

In South Africa, Peter Van Heusden, a bioinformatician focusing on pathogen genomics, is part of a team researching ways to understand the coronavirus. Simply put, he builds and uses software to make sense of genomic material from bacteria, parasites and viruses.

Together with Dr Mushal Allam, a graduate of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and other scientists, they immediately got to work researching the virus in January this year. “My role has been in sequence analysis, that is taking the data from the sequencing process and trying to clean it up and make sense of it, both for this single SARS-CoV-2 genome and to understand the genome in the context of other SARS-CoV-2 genomes worldwide (collected on the GISAID portal),” Van Heusden says.

This work is a breakthrough in understanding Covid-19 in South Africa in the context of the global pandemic. “The initial genome sequencing was costly and time-consuming but efforts are underway to reduce this cost and get faster turnaround time. This will allow us to help those trying to trace the transmission of the disease in South Africa and the continent,” he says. This research will also help in understanding the global diversity of Covid-19 and note any significant changes in the virus.

Madagascar has reportedly found a cure for Covid-19 in an artemisia-based tonic that’s subject to more trials.

Other options being explored globally to treat Covid-19 include new drugs specifically designed to target SARS-CoV-2, as well as repurposed drugs designed to treat a different disease.

One of the oldest treatments being tested, is convalescent plasma. This involves using blood plasma from people who have recovered from Covid-19 and infusing it into patients presenting the disease.

In Pakistan and India, it was reported that Covid-19 patients recovered through this method, although it’s contested.

In short, it’s all hands on deck as countries and corporates come together to find ways to alleviate the disease.

Rebuilding the world

It’s hard to imagine what the world may look like by the end of the year. From healthcare, to retail, media, travel and education, it will no longer be business as usual. Experts are already coming up with strategies to entirely rebuild nations.

“I hope that in the post-Covid or Covid world, we are willing to invest in primary care systems, non-siloed care that focuses on building awareness and health literacy and one that invests in educating, retaining and supporting our healthcare workers at all levels of the system,” says Mobisson.

Sanitizing, social distancing and mask-wearing are the expected new norms, along with remote working and e-learning. Van Heusden fears the worst in a post-corona society. “I fear there will be a lot of trauma. How we deal with that will define the post-Covid-19 world. We might turn inwards and focus on blame and recriminations. Or we might draw on new awareness of how interconnected we all are and draw strength from that,” he says. In a tweet, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says “the reality is that we are sailing in uncharted waters. There is still a great deal about the epidemiology of the virus that is unknown. It is better to err on the side of caution than to pay the devastating price of a lapse in judgement.”

We are living a textbook example of history as it’s being made, amid uncertainty that will likely not go away for long. The moot question is: will we all live to tell the tale of a pre-and-post Covid-19 world? Only science can answer that.

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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
CASTER SEMENYASOUTH AFRICAOLYMPIC CHAMPIONSPORT
RAWYA MANSOUREGYPTFOUNDER AND CEO, RAMSCOAGRICULTURE
ARUNMA OTEHNIGERIAACADEMIC SCHOLAR, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD FORMER TREASURER AND VICE PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE AFRICA ADVISORY GROUP MEMBERFINANCE
FATOU BENSOUDAGAMBIAPROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC)LAW
HAJER SHARIEFLIBYAHUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATEACTIVISM
AMINA J. MOHAMMEDNIGERIADEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONSSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
PRECIOUS MOTSEPESOUTH AFRICAFOUNDER, AFRICAN FASHION INTERNATIONALFASHION
LUPITA NYONG’OKENYAOSCAR-WINNING ACTORENTERTAINMENT
VERA SONGWECAMEROONEXECUTIVE SECRETARY, UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICASOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
MAGDA WIERZYCKASOUTH AFRICAFOUNDER, SYGNIAFINANCE
TARA FELA-DUROTOYENIGERIAFOUNDER, HOUSE OF TARA INTERNATIONALBEAUTY
THERESA KACHINDAMOTOMALAWICHIEF OF DEDZA DISTRICTSOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

-Mashokane Mahlo

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