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Forbes Africa | 8 Years And Growing

Published 2 years ago
By Forbes Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Unathi Shologu

Aliko Dangote | founder and chair Dangote Group

When Aliko Dangote featured on the cover of FORBES AFRICA’s May edition in 2012, he was called ‘Africa’s Richest Man’. Seven years later, he still holds that title.

With a whopping $9.2 billion (as of September 18, 2019), he holds the number one spot on Forbes’ list of African billionaires.

Part of his secret to success is that Dangote is diversifying from cement into the oil sector.

“We launched our $12 billion oil refinery which was scheduled to open in 2019 but we now have to push back due some import challenges we are sure will be rectified by 2020,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

“The plant, with an estimated capacity of 650,000 barrels per day, will be 40% larger than the current largest refinery which only has a capacity of 450,000 barrels per day,” Dangote adds.

The facility will also house Africa’s largest urea plant with a capacity of three million tons per annum as well as 1,100kms of subsea pipeline infrastructure to handle 3 billion SCF of gas per day.

“Africa is home and we are passionate about its growth and as a result, the Dangote Group is focused on adding value to the continent through jobs,” Dangote tells us.

Their six major projects are expected to create over 250,000 jobs, foreign exchange earnings and savings of $15 billion.

“The refinery will create its own power which will run on natural gas with a projected supply of 12,000MW of power which will be readily available for commercial use and also meet the demand for petrochemical products in Nigeria.”

 This is Dangote’s plan on becoming completely self-sustaining in the next few years.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, Tesla. Picture: Forbes

Elon Musk | CEO, SpaceX, Tesla

When Elon Musk graced the cover of FORBES AFRICA in October 2015, he was described as “made in Africa, making it in the stars”, and he has certainly reached for the stars and beyond.

It was the same year the South African-born billionaire, who is a visionary CEO and founder of Tesla, released the autopilot mode on vehicles before self-driving cars entered the market.

Four years later, Musk has taken the company to new heights, pioneering car manufacturing with technology and expanding the company’s reach in other countries.

 “You can order online at in two minutes, have your car delivered to your doorstep and return for full refund,” he responded to a client on Twitter.

And what’s more, Musk and his team have just introduced Tesla Insurance.

“Starting today, we’re launching Tesla Insurance, a competitively-priced insurance offering designed to provide Tesla owners with up to 20 percent lower rates, and in some cases as much as 30 percent,” Tesla announced on its website last month.

The game-changing vehicle has the automotive industry shaking but that’s not the only one of Musk’s ventures that has investors’ eyes glued to the company.

Musk, who is the founder and CEO of SpaceX, has his eyes set on the stars.

He has plans to take humans to Mars.

In 2018, Musk revealed that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa would be the company’s first paying customer for the Starship mission, which will send the entrepreneur and several others on a circumlunar trajectory around the moon and back in 2023.

Musk could be the first private entrepreneur to pioneer a space-faring nation.

Watch this space.

His net worth according to (at the time of going to press) was $20.2 billion.

Sol Kerzner, founder of Kerzner International, Sun International, Southern Sun Hotel Group. Picture: Forbes Africa

Sol Kerzner | Founder of Kerzner International, Sun International, Southern Sun Hotel Group

At CNBC Africa’s All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLAs) in 2018, Sol Kerzner was handed the Lifetime Achievement award.

“I am just so happy to be here today to receive this award. It means just so much to me to receive this, right here in South Africa, where it began for me,” said an emotional Kerzner at the ceremony hosted in Sandton, Johannesburg.

When FORBES AFRICA featured him in October 2014, he had already made his mark on the global tourism industry.

Unofficially known as the ‘The Sun King’, his career in hospitality began after he left the world of accounting for hotels.

When he left the accounting firm, one of his clients, a director of a company, then asked why he resigned.

“You’re so young, you are a junior partner of this prestigious firm, what are you doing?” he asked Kerzner.

“I’m going to build South Africa’s first really great resort,” Kerzner responded.

The client then asked where he was going to do this.

“I said on the Umhlanga Rocks [In Durban]. He said, ‘take me’. We drove out and I showed him where I finally built the Beverly Hills and he said, ‘well what do you think this would cost to build?’ and I said ‘it could cost almost a million rand’.”

The client offered to invest in Kerzner’s dream and that was the moment he got his big break.

Today, Kerzner is the proud owner of popular resorts such as Sun City in South Africa.

He also owns properties across the globe including in the Bahamas, Mexico, Mauritius, the Maldives, Dubai and Hayman Island.

Christo Wiese, Chairman of Pepkor and Non-Executive Director of Shoprite. Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Christo Wiese | Chairman of Pepkor and Non-Executive Director of Shoprite

Christo Wiese made billions and watched most of them violently tumble in  under a year.

In March 2017, Wiese was worth $5.6 billion according to Forbes magazine.

Less than a year later, he almost lost it all.

It fell to a mere $300 million.

“This is the biggest and fastest drop we have ever seen in the real time net worth of any individual on the Forbes rich list,” Kerry Dolan, head of the wealth unit at Forbes in the United States said to CNBC Africa.

This was thanks to the Steinhoff scandal as Wiese  was one of the stakeholders.

“I count my blessings, because if this fraud had been allowed to go on for another year or two, I would have lost everything, including Shoprite. I decided not to become a bitter person because that destroys my life,” Wiese said to the channel.

He is currently the chairman and 44% owner of Pepkor, a South African-based investment and holding company managing a portfolio of retail chains including Pep, Ackermans, Dunns, Best & Less, and Incredible Connection.

He is also the non-executive director of South African retail giant Shoprite.

Nicky Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer Generations. Picture: Forbes Africa

Nicky Oppenheimer | Oppenheimer Generations

As of September 9, Nicky Oppenheimer and family’s net worth was $7.3 billion, placing him at the 200th spot on the Forbes billionaires list for 2019 and third on the list of African billionaires.

In February 2015, when he graced the cover of FORBES AFRICA, he was worth $6.8 billion. Oppenheimer gives a nod to the publication on its birthday.

“I congratulate FORBES AFRICA on their eighth birthday, and look forward to many more insightful editions on doing business in Africa – and more importantly, how to do business in Africa correctly,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

“For 85 years until 2012, the Oppenheimer family occupied a controlling spot in the world’s diamond trade,” says.

He then sold 40% of his stake in the diamond firm DeBeers to mining group Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash.

In 2014, Oppenheimer started Fireblade Aviation in Johannesburg, which operates chartered flights with a fleet of three planes and two helicopters.

Oppenheimer also owns at least 720 square miles of conservation land across South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, including the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, the largest private game reserve in South Africa.

“For me and my family, doing business correctly has always involved building sustainable and prosperous African societies through focused engagement across the land, people and cultures which we touch. We’ve spent the last eight years investing across the African continent and will continue to do so,” he says.

Adrian Gore, founder and group chief executive of Discovery Limited. Picture: Supplied

Adrian Gore | Founder and group chief executive of Discovery Limited

Located in the heart of Sandton, South Africa, where businesses come to thrive, is a formidable glass building you can’t miss.

It features an abundance of natural light with most of the building wrapped around a series of sunlit atria that plug into a central concourse.

It is estimated that the largest atrium is big enough to house a Boeing 737.

This new building completed at the beginning of 2018 is a proud testimony of Adrian Gore’s hard work and now houses a “12,000 strong team”.

Gore is the founder and group chief executive of Discovery Limited, an insurance and financial services business that has brought in $6.5 billion over 25 years and he continues to introduce new ideas to the world.

Since featuring on our October issue in 2013 and the December/January issue in 2018, Gore and the business have grown exponentially.

“I marvel at the pace and energy of growth and development since then,” he says.

“At that time, we were in the final sprint of delivering on our five-year ambition which ended in December 2018 – ‘to be the best insurer in the world and a powerful force for social good’,” he adds.

“We expanded our global footprint from five countries to 19; doubled our operating profit; established ourselves as a leader in behavioral insurance; and enhanced the discipline around our operating model, enabling us to scale successfully whilst maintaining our financial performance and staying true to our purpose,” he says.

Looking towards the future, Gore says they have a bold new strategy for 2023 of “leading a global transformation of financial services, impacting 100 million lives, with 10 million directly insured, and being a powerful force for social good”.

He also plans on further growing his other business venture, Discovery Bank.

“We are just getting started and no doubt there will be many learnings along the way. We remain of the view the Bank has considerable potential – both on its own – and as enabler of our South African composite strategy. We are excited about what it will enable us to achieve,” Gore says.

Patrice Motsepe, founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals. Picture: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Patrice Motsepe | Founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals

He will always be known as the man responsible for bringing The Global Citizen Festival to Africa which gathered stars from across the world including Oprah Winfrey, Trevor Noah, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Ed Sheeran and more, in December 2018.

He became a billionaire in 2008. He was the first black African on the Forbes list of world billionaires.

He was also FORBES AFRICA’s very first cover star, when the magazine launched in October 2011.

Patrice Motsepe is the founder and executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals (ARM).

And since gracing the FORBES AFRICA cover, he launched a private equity firm, Africa Rainbow Capital, focused on investing in Africa.

After publishing their financial results for the year end 2019, ARM recently said it fell short of expectation under, “strained economic conditions which adversely impacted most of the companies in our portfolio”.

The Intrinsic Net Asset Value (INAV) of the company increased by 2.4% from June 2018, yet they expected the increase to be at least 16% per annum.

ARC now also owns TymeBank.

Motsepe is ranked number eight on Africa’s Billionaires list for 2019, according to

His estimated net worth is $2.2 billion.

Folorunso Alakija, vice chair of Famfa Oil. Picture: Supplied

Folorunso Alakija | Vice chair of Famfa Oil

There are a few billionaires in Nigeria who can say that they have taken on the government and won.

For FORBES AFRICA’s August 2016 cover, Folorunso Alakija told her story of how she fought tooth-and-nail to get her oil block back.

Today, that fight has driven her to empower other women.

She has since launched Flourish Africa, a non-profit organization aimed at creating a global community that encourages women to thrive in all aspects of their lives.

It was launched in July 2017 and garnered over 2,600 attendees from all over Nigeria and Africa at its first conference held in December that same year.

Her philanthropic efforts have always been something she was passionate about since being part of her Rose of Sharon Foundation 11 years ago.

“Every woman has the potential to be great,” she says.

“If we form a community of like-minded individuals who share a common goal and purpose, we can pull together, make an impact in every community we find ourselves and ultimately, flourish,” she adds.

Today, Alakija is worth $1.1 billion, placing her at number 19 on Forbes’ list of African billionaires 2019.

Jim Ovia, chairman of Zenith Bank. Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Jim Ovia | Founder of Zenith Bank

In the June 2013 cover on him in FORBES AFRICA, Jim Ovia was called ‘the Godfather of banking’ – a suitable name for a man who founded Nigeria’s multinational financial services provider, Zenith Bank.

Recently, he was one of the co-chairs of the World Economic Forum on Africa 2019.

Ovia has always been passionate about the African continent and the perception of it in the West, which inspired the title of his new book, Africa Rise and Shine.

“I think the readers of this book will gain the spirit of commitment, empowerment, focus, hard work and discipline. They will learn that if you are disciplined and work hard, definitely you will do well. The book is about passing on these principles and documenting how it is to do business in Africa, particularly Nigeria,” says Ovia.

Joseph Siaw Agyepong | Executive chair, Jospong Group of Companies and Zoomlion Ghana Limited

Considered one of the richest men in Ghana, Agyepong is a serial entrepreneur.

But he made his fortune from what everyone else didn’t want; waste management.

“I still have a great desire and passion to resolve the menace of plastic and waste management in Ghana and beyond, and as a result, we have, over the years, put in place various initiatives to ensure effective, efficient and reliable waste management systems,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

Over the past three years, the Jospong Group has made some remarkable progress in the environmental sanitation space in Ghana.

Last year, the company added over 100 trucks and 10 road sweepers to its fleet of trucks and tricycles for waste management which has helped to provide access to households with bad road networks.

Additionally, they have established an ultra-modern Integrated Recycling and Compost Plant (IRECOP) in Accra with plans of extending to all 16 regions in Ghana.

“I have also given several keynote addresses at major circular economy events and other international platforms in Hungary, Austria, Nigeria and Ghana as a thought leader in waste management and environmental sanitation in general,” he says.

Agyepong shows us that waste is not something to frown upon when it brings in the big bucks and pays more than the bills.

Tonye Cole, co-founder and former Group Executive Director of Sahara Group. Picture: Supplied

Tonye Cole | Co-founder and former Group Executive Director of Sahara Group

Tonye Cole featured on the cover of FORBES AFRICA in April 2016, at the time called ‘the millionaire of oil and toil’.

Since then, his life has been on an interesting trajectory.

Cole ran Sahara for a couple of more years, surviving through a transitioning government, policy changes, business trends and the rise of new technologies, unaware then that all the hard work would come to end in the business.

In 2018, he resigned.

It was time for a new venture, not in business but in politics.

“The decision which saw me formally resign and disengage completely from the company I had founded in 1996 and my partners, was a shock to the corporate world in Nigeria and in some ways, internally too. Transitions of this nature are rare and even when voiced and prepared for, few believe it would happen due to the dirty, corrosive, corrupt and violent nature of politics in our clime,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

It was no easy feat.

But Cole did not look back.

He joined the All Progressive Congress (APC) and contested for the gubernatorial seat in his home State of Rivers.

“The judiciary truncated [my] political journey when the party was denied the right to field any candidate whatsoever of any elective position in the State. That decision further convinced me that I had made the right decision to transition into politics and strengthened my resolve to remain until we can bring to reality the Nigeria we all know is capable of leading the continent and influencing global perceptions of what incredible feats a world with a progressive, inclusive Africa can achieve,” Cole says.

Today, his Twitter page reads: “Running to represent everyone in Rivers State. Founder of The Nehemiah Youth Empowerment Initiative, Mentor & Biker who believes impossible is nothing.”

Renowned Human Rights Lawyer and former Public Protector of South Africa, Professor Thulisile Thuli Madonsela. Picture: Darren Stewart/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Thuli Madonsela | Advocate, professor of law and founder of ThuMa Foundation

Thuli Madonsela was appointed Public Protector by former South African President Jacob Zuma for a seven-year term commencing October 19, 2009. It was this role that thrust her into the limelight as her reports garnered strong support as well as vehement opposition from various sectors in society.

Having fully served for the seven years, she has since stepped down and was appointed as the Law Trust Chair in Social Justice in the Faculty of Law at Stellenbosch University in 2018.

“I have focused on social justice and stakeholder mobilization around the need to change our approach to social justice. I started by going to Harvard University for a year where I learned about various approaches to social change,” Madonsela says.

“From the beginning of 2018, I joined Stellenboch University as a law professor and took up research chair in social justice. That has provided me with the platform to link up with other people who work around poverty and inequality and to concretize my ideas on how to accelerate the achievement of the constitutional promise on a society founded on social justice,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

“In the process, we have come out with a project called an ‘M-Plan For Social Justice’. It’s about policy reform, people mobilization and growth to catalyze the work that is being done to end poverty by 2030 and reduce structural inequality in society, particularly in South Africa, including structural inequality as a legacy of apartheid, colonialism and patriarchy.

Madonsela is also serving as an instrument for change through her foundation, the Thuli Madonsela Foundation (ThuMa Foundation).

“We have been doing democracy literacy and training young people in particular, around a better way of governing based on a leadership model we designed. It is leadership that is ethical, purpose-driven and impact conscious,” Madonsela adds.

“There is a social economic development project that the ThuMa Foundation has started with the support of Stellenbosch University. It’s about sustainable development goals to get communities to lead themselves out of poverty and into social economic inclusion… The idea of the project is strategic investment in the most left behind wards.”

One of the stakeholders named a rose after Madonsela with the idea being that for every tree that is sold, R5 ($0.3) will go to the social justice fund which will fund projects in municipalities that have projects targeted at inequalities.

Perhaps, ultimately, life could be rosy for all.

Sipho Nkosi, Chairman of Talent10 Holdings and Sasol board member. Picture: Forbes Africa

Sipho Nkosi | Chairman of Talent10 Holdings and Sasol board member

Sipho Nkosi stepped down as CEO of the JSE-listed coal conglomerate Exarro in 2016 and the world has since been his oyster as he has explored a number of his other interests through business.

Nkosi is the chair of Talent10, a company focusing on multiple developments in the way of business.

“Prior to my retirement, we had started another organization, Talent10. From a very small organization, it has grown to become a very interesting one. It is about looking at us as the South African community to say, having worked so hard for all these years, how can we ensure that we plough back without putting money on the table. We do it by creating jobs, creating new industries, by introducing new technology, by extending society so that it thinks differently about investment.

“We looked at many areas, including infrastructure, but we didn’t get much traction from that until we got involved with the tech business – the IOT (Internet of Things) business, which is very important in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We started with six people and now the organization has grown to about 120 people.

“This year, Vodacom took a stake of 51% in the business, because they have the muscle to throw money to roll out programs with Vodafone around the world. So that is quite exciting.

 Nkosi expands on the diverse span of work that is being done by Talent10.

“Another area of focus that we have looked into is the movie space. It attracts a lot of young people and there’s a lot of activity around that. What really becomes problematic is that a lot of foreign developers come into the country, shoot those movies, and they walk away. They pay our people very well, which is really cool.”

However, more could be gained by others in the industry.

“The key thing is that the IP is gone, the distribution rights are gone, and the marketing rights are gone. So, you won’t get that multiply effect that you should be getting out of it. So, our model is to do the same that’s being done by others, but the movie fully belongs to South Africa, and the economy will benefit, and we can get people employed,” Nkosi tells FORBES AFRICA.

“When you are in transition, it’s never easy moving from whatever base you’re in into a new base. But looking at what is happening in the continent, we can do better. We need to have interventions from academics, government and the private sector.”

Sasol Mining is South Africa’s third-largest coal producer and runs one of the world’s largest underground coal-mining complexes. 

Rapelang Rabana, founder of rekindle learning and nisela capital. Picture: Forbes Africa

Rapelang Rabana | Founder of  Rekindle Learning and Nisela Capital

Rapelang Rabana featured on the cover of FORBES AFRICA before the age of 30. The powerhouse has amassed 15 years’ experience building innovative technologies, and she is the founder of learning-tech start-up Rekindle Learning. She recalls the infancy stages of her business.

“In early 2015, I was in the early stages of starting Rekindle Learning in terms of conceptualizing and designing the product and building various partnerships – with the goal of marrying technology and good learning principles, so that we can achieve better learning outcomes in academic environments as well as corporate training environments,” Rabana tells FORBES AFRICA.

“A key part of the Rekindle Learning approach is the concept of micro-learning. It’s about creating an environment for continuous smaller steps of learning. It can help us repackage content that is usually a PowerPoint or PDF file into bitesize learning steps in the form of short videos and interactive questions.

She sees a shift in the way companies currently invest in their staff.

“More companies are looking for these learning inefficiencies. Previously, companies were very happy to accept the tick-box exercise – now, they are really looking for learning impact and true learning outcomes.”

The recent changing of the tide has not been without its challenges as Rabana has fought to remain relevant.

“It’s been very frustrating to see that while companies talk about people being their greatest assets, in reality, they don’t really put their weight and budget behind it. That is a disconcerting realization within the South African context knowing the skills deficit that this country faces.”

She has some concerns around the lack of support smaller businesses get.

 “It is still mega-businesses and public sector that procure half-a-billion-dollars in finances, while we have tiny companies trying to sell to mega-businesses. We are really going to have to look carefully at the procurement processes within government and large businesses.

“As a country, we want to drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but that would be impossible if we don’t buy locally,” she ends.

Thandi Ndlovu and Nonkululeko Gobodo, moulded by South Africa’s apartheid past, tore their way into male-dominated sectors. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Thandi Ndlovu and Nonkululeko Gobodo | Chief executive officer and head of leadership consulting, nkululeko leadership consulting

Thandi Ndlovu, the cover star of this year’s August (commemorating Women’s Month in South Africa) edition of FORBES AFRICA tragically passed away in a car accident the same month.

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

Ndlovu’s co-cover star Nonkululeko Gobodo recalls the day of the photoshoot and interview with the magazine.

“It was such a great honor to be the cover story of FORBES AFRICA’s August issue and being chosen to celebrate 25 years of South Africa’s democracy and Women’s Month; such a testament of how far women have progressed in South Africa since the dawn of democracy. The FORBES AFRICA team was fabulous, it was all a great experience. The story was well-written and it touched and inspired so many people. The cover with Dr Thandi Ndlovu was really stunning,” Gobodo tells FORBES AFRICA.

Gobodo is a visionary in auditing from the Eastern Cape. She made history as the first black chartered accountant and has built formidable accounting firms. She remembers Ndlovu fondly.

“The passing of Dr Thandi Ndlovu was a shock to all of us. The whole nation was really shattered at the loss of such a phenomenal woman leader. She passed as she was being celebrated during Women’s Month. I was grateful that her contribution was recognized while she was alive, as if we all knew she was about to leave us.

“I remember how happy we were and how we enjoyed the day of the photoshoot. I kept asking myself why things turned out the way they did. I felt connected somehow,” Godobo says.  

Ndlovu’s legacy is a reflection of a life lived to the fullest. She loved hiking, and had climbed Kilimanjaro twice, reached the base camps of Mount Everest and Annapurna in Nepal. At the time of the interview, she was training to climb Machu Picchu, the famed ruins in Peru’s mountains.

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

Ramachandran Ottapathu, CEO of Choppies. Picture: Supplied

Ramachandran Ottapathu |CEO, Choppies

Ram Ottapathu, founder of southern African retailer Choppies, returned as CEO last month after being suspended four months ago.

An extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of Choppies shareholders ousted the existing board that had decided to suspend Ottapathu after he had made some suggestions as to changes to the board and structural adjustments to the company.

A new board has been put in place.

In response, Ottapathu said: “I am happy to have the support of the majority of shareholders. I remain committed to getting the business back to where it should be for the benefit of all stakeholders, including the shareholders, staff, creditors and the business community in all the countries where the business operates,” he said in a statement. 

Ottapathu remembers his FORBES AFRICA cover fondly: “The professionalism from the FORBES AFRICA team itself was an experience. The exposure I got as an individual and our business was the best address or accreditation we got in our lifetime, even now, we use it as a reference point.

“I feel much better and more energized to serve my stakeholders as CEO since coming back. My entrepreneurial journey continues relentlessly and I am very optimistic about 2020 for southern Africa.

“It’s a great service by FORBES AFRICA to the African and global business community and I wish you continue this forever,” says Ottapathu to the magazine.

Mayur Madhvani | Joint Managing Director, The Madhvani Group

Kilometers away from the capital of Uganda, at Kakira Sugar, sugar baron Mayur Madhvani continues the legacy of his forefathers as the Madhvani Group’s Joint Managing Director.

“Our congratulations on the eighth anniversary of FORBES AFRICA. We had a very good experience with FORBES AFRICA that visited us at Kakira Sugar in Uganda in March. They were thoroughly professional and came well-prepared with all the questions,” he says.

Featuring on the April 2019 cover of FORBES AFRICA with his nephew and Joint Managing Director Kamlesh, he says the group has made substantial progress since.

They have added value to their byproduct from sugarcane, Extra Neutral Alcohol, to produce vodka, gin, rum and whiskey, guided by an award-winning master distiller.

The group has also made preliminary plans for the establishment of an extensive irrigation system on its sugar estates. This is to ensure higher cane yields and productivity against global climate change.

Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa, CEO of Naspers South Africa. Picure: Forbes Africa

Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa | CEO, Naspers South Africa

She is among the most successful self-made entrepreneurs in South Africa, a mentor and businesswoman commanding the boardroom. For the first time in history, Naspers, founded over a century ago, has a black woman executive at the head of its South African operations.

“In the past year, there has been a significant shift in my professional life, as I have moved from running my own organization to now becoming the CEO of Naspers in South Africa,” Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa tells FORBES AFRICA.

She was born in the township of Soweto, home to icons like Nelson Mandela, Richard Maponya and Trevor Noah. Here, she first learned about struggle, power and resilience.

“The boardroom was very interesting. We weren’t seeing a lot of young black women. I remember one of my colleagues telling me that they walked into a boardroom and one of the board members assumed she was one of the tea ladies and immediately placed an order… I remember even being on a flight and sitting next to a person I had only read about and he started flirting with me telling me what apartment he could buy me even though I was married,” she told FORBES AFRICA for the cover last year.

The newly-appointed Naspers CEO is also the only black woman to run a JSE-listed top 40 company. Mahanyele-Dabengwa is expected to run the company’s two new units, Naspers Labs and its South Africa-focused funding initiative, Naspers Foundry, which will invest in tech entrepreneurs.

“This is really a significant period for Naspers, as this month [in September] in Amsterdam, we will become the largest technology investor in Europe. And for an African business to become an organization of this size in Europe, we hope that we can be a big global player like the Googles and Apples of the world. We look forward to more technology programs being developed on the African continent as in other parts of the world, and that we all can be a part of 4IR and it does not just exist in terminology but it exists in our everyday life,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

She will lead the day-to-day business at Naspers and represent its local interests. Its South Africa operations include Takealot, Superbalist, Mr D Food, OLX, AutoTrader SA, Property24 and Media24.

“My wish for FORBES AFRICA as you turn eight is you continue to create, mobilize and develop all of the people impacted by your magazine. And then, in the same way you see an eight-year-old doing so without any fears, and with full courage, that you too may be able to continue to fulfil your dreams which really are the dreams of so many young Africans.”

Stacey Brewer the CEO and co-founder, SPARK Schools. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Stacey Brewer | CEO and co-founder, SPARK Schools

SPARK Schools is a network of schools offering affordable, competitive education in a blended learning model that uses technology to drive cost-efficiencies and quality of education – at the same price as government.

Brewer tells FORBES AFRICA about new developments since she was a cover star in August 2018.

“When the cover story was published, the SPARK Schools network consisted of 15 primary schools with just over 750 employees. Today, we have 20 primary schools in the network and have launched our very first high school. Now, we serve over 10,500 scholars and the SPARK family has over 1,100 employees.

“Our investment into the professional development of our teachers (324 hours per year) has seen them become sought-after in the education economy and this is a testament to the value of investing in those who impart knowledge to the future leaders of South Africa. SPARK Schools has also brought on its first South African institutional investor this year, Womens Development Bank Investment Holdings (WDBIH). This investment will be used to give more communities in South Africa access to quality affordable education.”

Brewer acknowledges the role public awareness has played in the success of the schools. “SPARK Schools has been fortunate enough to be profiled on credible platforms that value social impact and the business model innovation that underpins its business model. FORBES AFRICA is one such platform and, while it is difficult to quantify the positive impact of the visibility, it is an article that is mentioned regularly when entering into new collaborative partnerships, interviewing new employees and getting feedback from some of our SPARK parents and guardians.”

Brewer offers an anecdote about the day of the FORBES AFRICA photoshoot with her co-cover star Phuti Mahanyele.

“I remember that load shedding interrupted the shoot day while I was mid-conversation with Phuti. I recall how she was not distracted by being plunged into ‘darkness’ rather unexpectedly. I think most entrepreneurs will recognize why that is such a great metaphor for the focus and resilience required to overcome the obstacles on an entrepreneur’s journey.”

Wendy Appelbaum, Chairperson and Owner, DeMorgenzon Wine Estate. Picture: Forbes Africa

Wendy Appelbaum | Chairperson and Owner, DeMorgenzon Wine Estate

It is not every day you get to meet the woman who is, by some estimates, one of Africa’s richest women.

But seven years ago, FORBES AFRICA had that privilege as she graced the cover of the August edition in 2012. She was written about as a feisty woman not afraid to fight her father in the boardroom, Liberty Group mogul Sir Donald Gordan.

Now, a bulk of her wealth stems from the vineyards.

She currently chairs DeMorgenzon Estate, a wine farm and agricultural business in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

In an interview with CNN Market Place Africa last year, Appelbaum outlined the size of her business and her hopes for the future.

“We make about 750,000 bottles a year… we export about 75% [of that to Europe and the US],” she said.

“I think we have potential for another 25% growth, I won’t make wine that I can’t sell. So, I think one must keep increasing once the reputation is established,” she said.

After purchasing the farm in 2003, one of her most unique innovations is the fact that she has speakers across the vineyard to play baroque music to the grapes and the barrels.

Appelbaum won the 2015 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Businesswoman of the Year award. She was also a FORBES WOMAN AFRICA cover star the same year.

Laurie Dippenaar, the former CEO of FirstRand. Picture: Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

Laurie Dippenaar | Co-founder and former chairman, FirstRand Financial Group

While some opt to live on a farm on the outskirts of the city when they retire, Laurie Dippenaar opted to travel the world, literally.

“Last month, I visited the Geographic North Pole. You can only get there in a nuclear power Russian icebreaker. Not many people have been 90° north because it’s just a point in the sea.

“It’s a fascinating thought, you are on top of the world and if you think about the location – if you stick a pole in the ice and you walk around it, you’ve literally walked around the world,” he says.

Dippenaar, who stepped down as chairman for the FirstRand Group last year, says the transition has been easy.

 “The pace of my life has slowed down considerably,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

“Since then, I’ve moved into a family office where it’s run as a Dippenaar family office. My son has come to work for us, he looks after our unlisted investments. It’s a very small space. I’ve got an accountant, a book-keeper, my secretary who’s worked for me for 36 years and my colleague who works between London and Johannesburg,” he says.

Despite traveling around the world and enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle, Dippenaar still follows what’s happening in the country dear to him.

“The economy is not growing for a variety of reasons. Some of them are own goals; we’ve got policy uncertainty and the previous leadership crisis. I think what needs to happen is that we need to get the basics right again and get our institutions right.

“We need an NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) that works and a Hawks (South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation which targets organized crime, economic crime, and corruption) that works,” he says.

According to, his estimated net worth was $610 million as of 2015.

Today, Dippenaar remains the chairman of OUTsurance and still chairs the think tank for the Centre of Development and Enterprise.

Phiwa Nkambule, founder and CEO, Riovic. Picture: Forbes Africa

Phiwa Nkambule | Founder and CEO, Riovic

Every year, FORBES AFRICA releases a special edition called the FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list highlighting some of the youngest entrepreneurs and game-changers on the continent.

One of them in 2018 was Eswatini-born Phiwa Nkambule, who graced the cover alongside eight others.

“Being told I’d be on the cover of FORBES AFRICA was a dream come true but it was also intimidating,” he recalls.

“My photoshoot and interview was handled by a team of young people who didn’t just focus on their job but also engaged with us on a personal level…,” he says.

Apart from the experience of being on the cover, his business was propeled to new heights and new doors have opened.

“One of the highlights was my appointment to the board of a state-owned enterprise in the Kingdom of Eswatini by the Minister of ICT, Princess Sikhanyiso (King Mswati’s eldest daughter),” he says.

Despite the Kingdom of Eswatini being affected by an economic recession, Nkambule was able to press on.

“One of the most important things Riovic is working towards is securing an insurance licence in South Africa and being on the publication has enabled me to connect with some of the most powerful and resourced people in the country and beyond who have joined me in the journey towards achieving this goal,” he says.

City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba. Picture: Felix Dlangamandla/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images.

Herman Mashaba | Mayor, City of Johannesburg

Since featuring on the cover of FORBES AFRICA in 2012, a lot has changed in the life of Herman Mashaba, who was once a full-time businessman.

He swapped his entrepreneurial hat for politics and since 2016, South Africa has witnessed him reign in one of the most powerful positions in the country, as the mayor of Johannesburg.

“For one, the responsibilities are greater. I have more than five million residents with serious expectations for my administration to improve their lives, coupled with 35,000 employees who look to me daily for decisive and ethical leadership,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

“Whereas one was able to take decisions quicker in business, I now operate in a highly-regulated space. But that is not necessarily a bad thing because there are checks and balances one needs to adhere to in order to make sure that the City’s residents get maximum bang for their buck,” he adds.

He says his role as the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg is to create a new culture of ethical and moral leadership.

Regarding last month’s xenophobic attacks and inner city violence in Johannesburg, which made headlines, Mashaba says: “I continue to welcome immigrants to the City of Joburg because they bring diversity and skills that many South Africans simply do not possess. And that is the important aspect that many commentators overlook.”

Of an approved offer of 154 properties to the private sector, he says that the city has managed to attract investment worth R22 billion ($1.5 billion) with the first 84 properties put out to tender.

The next 70 properties are to yield a further R15 billion ($1.02 billion) to R20 billion ($1.36 billion) in investments.

“While this has been a punishing job, I find joy in achieving successes that transform the lives of ordinary residents,” he says.

Paul Harris, founder and former CEO of FirstRand and co-owner of Rain. Picture: Forbes Africa

Paul Harris | Founder and former CEO of FirstRand and co-owner of Rain

They say Paul Harris built his fortune on banking and bright ideas.

Together with another former FORBES AFRICA cover star, Laurie Dippenaar, and another friend, he built the FirstRand empire.

His vision was to see Africa use technology to open up more opportunities to “create different business models”.

He may have left the banking world but he still has a knack for bright ideas.

Harris is now making it rain as one of the pioneers behind South Africa’s first high-speed 5G. Harris partly owns South Africa’s data-only network operator called Rain, alongside Patrice Motsepe and Michael Jordaan.

According to BusinessDay, they have partnered with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to roll out high-speed 5G network this year.

“5G is here. If there is any doubt, you only have to walk around,” Harris told BusinessDay.

Harris featured on the February 2016 edition of FORBES AFRICA under the headline ‘The $200-Million Pioneer Who Changed The Way Africans Bank’.

In a few years to come, it could possibly read, ‘The pioneer who changed the way Africans use data”.

Jannie Mouton, founder and chairman, PSG Group. Picture: Supplied

Jannie Mouton | Founder and chairman, PSG Group

Getting fired from the organization he founded was tough, but that may have been one of the best things to have happened to Jannie Mouton.

He featured on the FORBES AFRICA cover in November 2012 telling the story of how he was dismissed from broking firm Senekal, Mouton and Kitshoff.

Fifteen years after the incident, he founded PSG Group, one of Africa’s successful and formidable business empires.

But since then, his company has had its fair share of ups and downs.

In the past three years, PSG distanced itself from Steinhoff, one of its largest shareholders.

Early last year, he revealed to his “colleagues, shareholders and friends” in a letter that he suffered from an early form of dementia and suffers from short-term memory loss.

Shortly after making the announcement, he resigned as the chairman and director of the PSG Group handing over the PSG baton.

“I still come into the office every day – I enjoy seeing how the people at PSG endeavor daily to make a difference by working hard and smart. I regularly share the lessons learned over the years with our team and can see how the PSG DNA of thinking and doing has taken root throughout the group,” Mouton said in the letter.

Despite battling with his health, Mouton made his mark in the world of business. In 2017, listed his net worth at $1 billion. In July 2017, he was again on the cover of FORBES AFRICA, with his son Piet.

Entrepreneur Reginald Mengi. Picture: Supplied

Reginald Mengi  | Entrepreneur

In July 2014, the Tanzanian mogul was FORBES AFRICA’s cover star.

In May this year, he passed away.

He was known as the Tanzanian tycoon who started his life from humble beginnings living “barefoot and bedding down with farm animals in a tiny hut”.

When he appeared on the cover, he had $550 million to his name.

He died at the age of 75 but his legacy continues.

“I will remember him for his immense contribution to the development of our country and for the words in his book, I Can, I Must, I Will,” said John Magufuli, President of Tanzania on his Twitter page early this year.

Many more prominent Africans shared their condolences including billionaire Mohammed Dewji.

Mengi owned newspapers, radio and television.

One of the most powerful quotes from his 2014 interview with FORBES AFRICA was a message for all Africans.

“A rich African cannot look at life the way a rich American or European looks at life. In the case of Africans, we are surrounded by many poor people, we grew up with them. We have to know where we’ve come from. Look at the rich Africans; tell me one who didn’t come from poverty. We all came from poverty, but we have to look back to where we’ve come from. We should not forget.”

Mohammed Dewji, Tanzanian businessman. Picture: Forbes Africa

Mohammed Dewji, Tanzanian businessman

Happy birthday FORBES AFRICA! I still can’t believe it has been eight years. Kudos to the entire founding team for putting together a publication we needed on the continent, and to the management for consistently showcasing Africa’s success stories. Through your articles, you inspire us to see more, dream more, and do more for the continent. Keep raising the bar and continue to explore and disseminate the hidden gems of Africa.

– Mohammed Dewji, Tanzanian businessman, President of MeTL, former FORBES AFRICA cover star and Africa’s youngest billionaire, according to Forbes

– Unathi Shologu, Karen Mwendera and Peace Hyde

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