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African Of The Year

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The President of the African Development Bank believes passionately that poverty has no place in Africa. Restless about creating opportunities for the continent and promoting food security through agricultural innovation, this is a man on a mission.


Immaculate in his trademark bow tie and bespoke suit, Dr Akinwumi Adesina sits down at a shady outdoor table as a welcome breeze stirs the hot Johannesburg afternoon, and wind-chimes tinkle in the air. This, after an hour under the harsh studio lights for the cover shoot for this article, where he charmed the FORBES AFRICA team with his ready smile and ease in front of the camera.

In four years at the helm of the African Development Bank (AfDB), he has seen many achievements that would leave most people agape at their scope – 16 million people connected to electricity, 70 million received access to agricultural technologies for food security, nine million gained access to finance, 55 million now have access to improved transport, and 31 million have been given access to improved water and sanitation.

And yet, it is not enough.

“We have to go bigger than that,” he says, “I believe Africa needs to move forward, but faster than it has.”

A greater rate of development is made possible by the biggest capital increase in the bank’s 55-year history. At the end of October 2019, AfDB’s 80 shareholder countries approved a $115 billion capital increase, an increase of 125%, from $93 billion to $208 billion. 

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This capital increase was two years in the making. Two years of hard work and intensive discussions. “And I just feel that there’s wind behind our sails. I feel relieved, I feel happy. Happy not only for myself, but happy for Africa and happy for the bank,” he says.

“We are going to deploy a lot of these resources to accelerate what we have been doing. You know we have a High Five strategy for the continent, which is to light up and power Africa, to feed Africa, to industrialize Africa, to integrate Africa, and to improve the quality of life of the people of Africa.

“So I see a very different Africa in the next couple of years coming,” he continues. “I think you will see huge, huge impact for the bank and of course finally, we’ll be able to help attract a lot more investments to the continent because the private sector is the engine of growth. I see the bank being able to take greater risks on behalf of the private sector in Africa. I am very confident in the future of Africa. Extremely confident.

“Africa’s opportunities for investment are literally limitless. All we have to do is to make sure that we continue to improve the business and investment environment.” In November, less than a week after this interview, African and international investors put their money behind Adesina’s dream for a transformed, economically-vibrant Africa.

On the conclusion of the second Africa Investment Forum (AIF), held in the Gauteng province of South Africa, 56 boardroom deals valued at $67.6 billion resulted in secured investor interest of $40.1 billion in 52 deals. That’s a 44% increase in deals tabled in comparison to 2018’s 61 tabled transactions valued at $46.9 billion and 49 deals worth $38.7 billion in secured investment interest. All of this in less than 72 hours.

“Those nations that have wealth are the ones that export value-added products. The ones that are poor are the ones that export raw materials and I think Africa is done exporting rae materials. Africa cannot be used to poverty; it needs wealth.

Smiling broadly, the President of AfDB commented at the session, Unveiling the Boardroom Deals: “Transactions, transactions, transactions. Deals, deals, deals!”

Africa’s sun has been rising steadily. Today, six of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa. Rwanda is growing at 7.7%, Ethiopia at 7.4%, Ghana at 7.2%, and Mauritania and Cote d’Ivoire at almost 7%.

“So the economies of Africa are doing very well and what’s even more amazing is that 37 countries are growing at three to five percent or above. Today, as we speak, 20 African countries are growing at above five percent globally. And that is amazing. You cannot ignore Africa,” Adesina elaborates.

While foreign direct investment (FDI) for the rest of the world grew at -13%, and the FDI for developed countries grew at -23%, FDI in Africa grew by roughly 11%, from $41 billion to $46 billion in 2018.

Says Adesina: “So that tells you how fast Africa is growing. And more exciting for me is the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement which now opens up Africa with a market of $3.3 trillion.

“Take, for example, the moment we start supporting people to invest across borders and you make it easier for people to travel, guess what? Investment will begin to expand. If I want to take, for example, between 2013 and last year, and even this year, the intra-Africa investment, that is African investors investing in other African countries, rose to $108 billion total. And you look at that and ask yourself what are the countries where most of those investments are coming from; almost 40% of that is from South Africa into other countries. The other countries are Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco and Kenya.”

Adesina advises to look beyond trading in the same things through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): “So as opposed to sending raw materials that dominate Africa’s exports to Europe or to America, or to China, if we start trading among ourselves, we should not be trading in raw materials, we should be trading in high value-added products.

“And so, we at the African Development Bank will support the development and the emergence of original, globally competitive value chains, whether it is agriculture, whether it is the pharmaceutical industry, whether it is in other areas of ICT where Africa can be competitive and so at the end of the day, it is about added value to everything that Africa has, because as I always say, the secret of the wealth of nations is very clear.

“Those nations that have wealth are the ones that export value-added products. The ones that are poor are the ones that export raw materials and I think Africa is done exporting raw materials. Africa cannot be used to poverty; it needs wealth,” Adesina says.

In order to take advantage of the collective market of $3.3 trillion the AfCFTA is opening up, it is important to invest in basic enabling conditions.

“First and foremost, you have to co-ordinate, so the African Development Bank has provided almost $5 million to the African Union Commission to establish the Secretariat – the African Continental Free Trade Secretariat in Ghana and we’re delighted that it’s in Ghana. Second, is that we invested heavily in infrastructure to enable that, so whether it is transnational highways, whether it is digital infrastructure, financial inclusion, we’re investing in integrating  our capital markets all across Africa so you can actually mobilize domestic savings in that.”

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Part of the requirements is to ensure that people can move more easily across borders without it taking too much time.

“We are very excited at how many countries have made it easier for Africans to invest in other African countries. For example, today, as an African, you can go into African countries; [for] 25% of them, you won’t even need a visa; 21% of them you can get visas on arrival. And the rest of them, you will need a visa. So, we still have quite a big way to go, but a lot of progress is being made,” Adesina says.

Also part of enabling conditions is infrastructure.

“Nations progress to the extent of their investment in infrastructure. Whether it is roads, ports, rail, airports or digital infrastructure. It’s like trying to walk as a person and not having a backbone. That’s what infrastructure really is and that’s why the African Development Bank is investing heavily on infrastructure – for countries, but also for regional infrastructure.”

There are 16 landlocked countries in Africa that need interconnectors to gain access to a port. In the southern African region, the AfDB has invested heavily in the Nacala Port Corridor, which opens up opportunities for Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and even South Africa to access Mozambique’s Nacala Port. 

Another investment has been over $360 million to double the capacity of the Walvis Bay Port in Namibia so that it can serve other countries.

Adesina continues: “We are investing right now in energy transport infrastructure, for example, I just came in from Zambia this morning, talking to President Edgar Lungu. And we’re investing in the interconnected power that will link Zambia to Zimbabwe to Botswana and Namibia.

“In West Africa, we just completed in January this year, a landmark historic investment linking Senegal and Gambia through the Senegambia Bridge. They never had a bridge connecting them. They were just neighbors.”


Akinwumi Adesina was adjudged ‘African of the Year’ at the 2019 All Africa Business Leaders Awards held in association with CNBC Africa


The AfDB is also working on a rail project that will link Tanzania to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.

Looking at the infrastructure financing gap, Adesina describes it as “a lot”.

“Africa today has an infrastructure financing gap of anything between $68 billion to $108 billion a year. But I’m not scared of that. It’s whether you look at it as a cup half empty or half full; $68 billion to $108 billion a year means there is a business opportunity of $68 billion to $108 billion. And that’s why the Africa Investment Forum is critical for that.”

While governments have an important role to play in funding the infrastructure gap, the private sector’s contribution is crucial through Public Private Partnerships.

Adesina also believes that Africa should mobilize more domestic savings to invest in infrastructure. “If you look at Africa today, the institutional investors like the pension funds, the sovereign wealth funds, and insurance pool of funds we have is about $1.8 trillion. But all of that is being invested outside Africa in money-market instruments that are earning a negative real rate of return today.

“So you tell me, what sense does it make if I have a sovereign wealth fund that has become the fund of another sovereign, except for money? You invest in money market instruments when you have no power, you have no water, you have no roads, you have no rail. That’s not a smart investment. Or a pension fund of an African country invested in money market instruments outside. Let’s even assume that you make money from that. What are you going to do? You’re going to turn around and offer annuity payments that will give people regular income for the rest of their retirement life, right?

“Well, I’m sorry, it means they will be returning to their communities, to their cities without good water, without good health services, without good transport, without good energy. No. That will be miserable retirement. And so what I want to see is Africa’s pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other institutional investors investing their money to help to close that $68 billion to $108 billion investment gap.”

He remembers his mother telling him as a child, that if you go down to a market, and you do not promote your own product, who will stop at your stall to buy your wares?

“So charity must begin at home. I want Africa’s institutional investors investing in Africa, in roads, in rail, and we as a bank are there to support them to reduce the risk of their investments in Africa. I want an Africa that is able to attract capital, to close this gap. I’m not afraid of the difference in the financing gap. I think we can close it.”

Crucial in improving the lives of millions of Africans is the acceleration of Africa’s agricultural transformation.

Agriculture has been an important part of Adesina’s life.

He grew up as the son of a farm laborer. His family was “desperately poor”.

“And it was through the generosity of somebody who took my dad out of the farm, that my father was able to get an education at an older age. So, without that, you won’t be talking to me today. I would probably be lost in the village selling something by the side of the road. And so when it then came down to what I was going to do, I was very good at school, and my father told me that education is the leveler; if we make the children of poor people stand at the same pedestal as those of rich people.”

His father had a choice of three study paths mapped for the young Adesina: medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine. Three times his father filled in the application forms, three times the answer came back – Adesina’s grades fell just short of acceptance in medical school. But agriculture was recommended.

“I wore my bow ties all the time, and some people never even thought I was a minister of agriculture.

“And the third time, my father said, ‘God must really want you to do agriculture’. And so, that was how I got into agriculture,” he relates.

When he completed a PhD in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University in the United States (US), he wrote to his father, signing the letter as “Doctor”.

“And so from that time, he always called me ‘doctor’. Now, he has gone, bless his soul, he’s passed away. But when our first son was graduating in the United States from medical school, my dad was 92, so I took him to the United States to witness the event. He was there. And so, we were taking photographs and my father said ‘doctor!’, so I turned, I said, ‘yes, dad’. He said, ‘no, I don’t mean you, I mean the REAL doctor’. So I told my father, ‘even the real doctors will tell you, take your medication three times a day, only after food’. Which means agriculture is more important than medicine,” says Adesina, with laughter that is warm and infectious. “So we used to have fun with it!”

Being awarded the Rockefeller Foundation Social Science Post-Doctoral Fellowship in 1988, launched his international career in agricultural development.

Dr Raj Shah, the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, writes in the foreword to Adesina’s authorized biography, Against All Odds: “I have learned a tremendous amount from Akin over the years, but what I think of most is his ability to speak to rural farmers, heads of state, philanthropists and investors with the same genuine, thoughtful and respectful consideration. His ability to be open, honest, and clear with everyone he meets is key to his impact and success as a leader.”

Between 2011 and 2015, Adesina was Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

During this time, he fought corruption and introduced revolutionary changes in the agriculture sector. This led to increased agricultural production, a drop in food imports and declining rates of poverty.

Asked about those years, he replies: “Well, you know, I come from a perspective as a minister, that Nigeria’s biggest comparative advantage was not oil and gas, because oil and gas was not something that was going to create a lot of jobs. And I knew that agriculture was what we had huge comparative advantage in. So what I decided to do was to do a lot of work to first change the perception of the sector.

“I wore my bow ties all the time, and some people never even thought I was a minister of agriculture, you know, ‘what kind of minister of agriculture these days is wearing bow ties’, and I said ‘because you think agriculture is for poor people’. You know, guess what? The biggest and richest people in the world in Europe and the United States are farmers. They’re in agriculture.

“So I did a lot of work to change the perception so that people would recognize that agriculture is cool, it’s sexy, it’s a money-making business.”

By his side during his time as Minister of Agriculture, was Grace Oluyemisi, his wife of 35 years and the “rock of the family”.

“I can tell you, I wouldn’t be where I am today without Grace. We are not only best friends, but we are also intellectual partners. When I was minister in Nigeria, I would debate policies with Grace at home,” Adesina says. She had qualified to do a PhD at the same time he did, but opted to dedicate her time to raising a family. The couple have two sons, both of who work in the US.

The elder is the medical doctor Rotimi, whose wife Alexandra will soon qualify as a medical doctor, and the younger is Segun, who is married to Emily and is the father of Adesina’s first granddaughter, Noemi, born in January 2019. 

While raising the family, Grace also studied Economics at the University of London, and was awarded first a Bachelor’s in Economics – with the best result in England and Wales – and then a Master’s degree in Financial Management.

“So we have a lot of debates and I used to tell my colleagues, ministers in Nigeria at the time, that by the time I brought any policy document to the Federal Executive Council, it has passed ‘the Grace test’. If it can pass the Grace test, it can pass anybody’s test. That’s how rigorous she is. Even now at the bank, it’s the same. She debates with me a lot,” Adesina says.

READ MORE: Deals, Dollars and Developments On The African Continent

As agriculture minister, he introduced farmers to modern, digital technology on mobile phones. This “helped to end 40 years of corruption in the seed and fertilizer sector in Nigeria”.

“We gave farmers subsidies via their mobile phones, they’d go to the private sector, and buy the inputs of the traders in their villages, there was no middle man; cut them all off. And we reached 15 million farmers in about four years, which was just incredible.”

That was the Electronic Wallet System, or e-wallet system, which is now being used in many African countries, and as far as Afghanistan.

“I’m very proud of that work,” he says.

“But the other thing that we did was to get the private sector to come into the agriculture sector. Over a four-year period, we succeeded in attracting about $5.6 billion of private sector investments into agriculture, from investing in rice to investing in cotton production or sugar production, or fertilizer manufacturing. I am most proud of that because we managed to really change everything in the agriculture sector, made it a real dynamic sector. And so I was pretty happy and felt it was a great honor to be asked to serve and I think I worked all the time, I didn’t have any life.”

This statement could of course not be left floating in the air.

I had to ask him how he managed to keep up with the blistering pace he sets himself.

“I think it’s my moral compass. This is not a job for me. This is a mission. I believe passionately that poverty has no basis in Africa and I believe we must do everything we can to create opportunities very quickly and I am very restless when it comes to creating opportunities for the continent. So that keeps me going.”

He reminisces about how his father sent him to a village school to complete his high school studies. The young Adesina was not impressed. But his father sat him down and explained, saying: “I sent you to a village school because I wanted you to see even more of the reality of poverty, because you never know what God might make you in life. If God ever makes you anybody important in life, you will know exactly what to do. So it is that passion, that drive, that commitment, that motivates me.

“I am relentless in looking for solutions and I don’t think life is about me, it’s about God provided you an opportunity to be an instrument to change the lives of hundreds of millions of people. And nothing is more important than that,” he explains.

This mission also drives him to not only give of his time, but his own money to assist young people to build their careers. Together with his wife, Grace, he established the World Hunger Fighters Foundation.

He explains: “One of our goals is to develop a new generation of young people that will be global leaders in fighting global hunger and malnutrition, but by doing that through agriculture as a business because I really believe in that. You know I have never seen anybody who wants to be poor. People are poor because they lack opportunities.”

The Foundation is funded by prizes awarded to Adesina, starting with a total cash amount of $1.1 million in the kitty.

“In 2017, I was very honored and greatly humbled to have been awarded the World Food Prize, known as the ‘Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture’. And when I won that award, I was given the prize in Des Moines, Iowa, in the United States. And it comes with a cash prize of $250,000. And as I took to the stage to be given the award, I told them I was not going to take the money for myself. I told them I was going to devote the entire $250,000 to supporting young people in food and agriculture, because I really believe we need more dynamic, entrepreneurial young people in agriculture. So I devoted the whole thing to them.”

This year, in Seoul, South Korea, Adesina was awarded the global Sunhak Peace Prize for his achievements in promoting food security in Africa through agricultural innovation. It came with a cash prize of $500,000, which also went straight into the Foundation.

The Foundation offers a one-year fellowship program. Within the first two weeks of advertising the fellowship, 1,300 applications were received. Ten Borlaug Adesina Fellows were chosen. This was named after Adesina’s mentor, the late 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr Norman Borlaug, who was awarded the prize for his contributions to the ‘green revolution’ and its impact on food production.

In October, the Adesinas took the 10 Borlaug Adesina Fellows to the World Food Prize in Iowa – a global event. “They had never seen anything like that in their life and it was a great exposure for them,” he says. Within 24 hours, they were snapped up by global companies and international agriculture research centers. “It’s going to provide them a world of opportunities that they never dreamed about.

“So really it’s no longer about me. It’s not about you, what you have. If I have a billion dollars today, I would do exactly the same thing. Because I really believe that the future is not just for the youth, the present is for them. We have got to start investing in them. I am very passionate about investing in young people and that’s why, of late, I’ve been speaking a lot about the creation of new banks just for young people in Africa.

“Because today you have about 640 million young people on the continent, but there are no financial institutions dedicated for them. They have great ideas, but there’s no money. They walk into current banks and when they see them, they see problems. They don’t see hope, they don’t see opportunities. They’re crushed. And that’s the whole asset of a continent. So that’s why I have called for the creation of what is called the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks.”

These banks will be banks for young people, run by young people. Run professionally, the banks will provide grants for the youth to develop their businesses.

“They will invest in the eco-system to which the businesses of young people are connected so that they can succeed,” Adesina explains. “They will be able to provide debt financing for bankable businesses of young people at an affordable rate, and then as their businesses grow over time, this Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Bank will take equity in the businesses of the young people as they grow.

“So, it is a step to helping them to grow, and you’re helping them throughout their business cycle. I really think that when you take a look at the world today, we talk about GDP (Gross Domestic Product). I can have a high GDP as a country, just from oil, just from gas, it does not mean that my young people are contributing to that GDP.

“And so what I want to see in Africa is what I call sometimes Y-GDP, which is the contribution of young people to the GDP of economies. And that can only come through entrepreneurship and innovation,” he continues.

“To be able to have innovation and entrepreneurship, we have to believe in the youth, we have to put our capital at risk for the youth, because if we don’t, all of us are going to be at risk.”

Adesina has been talking to a number of countries about these banks. “I believe that the African Development Bank will be there to help provide some financing to get these banks off the ground. If you look in the past, when micro-enterprises could not get access to financing from the traditional banks, Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel prize, developed the micro-finance institutions.”

The Nobel Peace Prize 2006 was awarded jointly to Yunus and Grameen Bank “for their efforts to create economic and social development from below”.

Adesina does not believe in youth empowerment. But he does believe in the youth. “In my experience, the people who say they’re empowering the youth are the ones who are empowering themselves. The youth don’t need hand-outs, they need investment. Africa’s challenges require Africa’s solutions. And Africa’s biggest assets being our young people, they can’t be roaming the streets. They can’t be dying over the Mediterranean, which I’m very ashamed when I see that. Or they cannot be loitering in the Sahara Desert just trying to make a living,” he explains.

“As nations, we should invest in the young people because as the world’s population gets older, Africa will have the youngest population in the world. The number of young people in Africa in the labor market by 2050 will be close to a billion people. Now, what are they going to do if they don’t have jobs and what are they going to do if they have not created jobs? So we can’t wait for that, that’s why I want us to create the Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks that will provide them the capital, the finance, the confidence they need to turn their ideas into great businesses.”  

There has to be a focus on agriculture as the size of the African food and agriculture sector is going to rise to over $1 trillion by 2030.

“That means that the future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will not be coming from the oil and gas sector, they’ll be coming from the agriculture sector. But I want African countries to be looking at agriculture as a business, not as a way of life. Nobody smokes gas. Nobody drinks oil, but everybody eats food. So food is critical and that is what Africa has a comparative advantage in.

“Think about it; 65% of all the arable land left to feed almost nine billion people in the world by 2050 is not in China, it’s not in Europe, it’s not in Latin America. It’s in Africa. So what Africa does with agriculture is going to determine the future of food in the world. And so we at the African Development Bank are investing right now, over a ten-year period, $25 billion in the agricultural sector to help them to make it a thriving business.”


‘HE IS MR AFRICA!’

“Dr Adesina is a great people’s person. The unique thing about him is that he is a visionary; he makes things happen and sees them before they happen. He also knows how to bring people together. Everybody loves him. I think he should run for the President of Nigeria in the future. He is Mr Africa!” – Masai Ujiri, President, Toronto Raptors

“I find Dr Akinwumi Adesina energetic, evangelical and sincere. He has raised his role to different levels, where, rather than him trying to convince leaders of the world and corporate business leaders to come to Africa, they are actually chasing him.” – Sanjeev Gupta, Executive Director, Financial Services, Africa Finance Corporation

“Dr Adesina has shown good leadership creating the [Africa Investment Forum] platform. He truly is a leader.” – Benedict Oramah, President, Afreximbank

”Dr Adesina is, in my view, the definition of a credible, visionary and courageous leader. He has his sights clearly set on a future Africa that along with global partners, continues to invest in the development of its talent, industry and infrastructure, ensuring sustainable livelihood for its citizens. A prosperous continent that processes its primary produce, trades within itself and the world at large. He is a giant, a role model.” – Ronnie Ntuli, head, Thelo DB


Among the examples Adesina cites is the $600 million for Ghana’s Cocoa Board, for them to buy, store, warehouse and process cocoa.

“We’re going to be doing the same for Cote d’Ivoire. Why? Because Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon account for about seventy-five percent of all the global supply of cocoa beans, and Africa accounts for only two percent of a $120 billion annual chocolate market. You don’t make chocolates from sand, you make it from cocoa beans. So we supply the cocoa beans and we get nothing out of it, so that’s no brain surgery in making chocolate.”

Another example is the $800 million dedicated to support young people in technology and agriculture as a business.

“If we don’t get younger people to get excited about agriculture and to see agriculture as being cool, I believe agriculture is cool, they will not go into agriculture as a business, and who is going to feed us?”

Then there is the fact that a lot of what gets produced in Africa today gets lost just because the farmers can’t access markets immediately.

“We don’t have good logistics, we don’t have good food manufacturing companies, and the few food manufacturing companies you have, they’re all located in the urban areas, close to the port. But there are no farms close to the ports anyway. And the reason is because in the rural areas you don’t have the right infrastructure to allow the food and agriculture companies to locate there,” says Adesina, explaining the reason for AfDB’s support of agro-industrial zones in rural areas.

The bank will finance infrastructure – power, roads, water, ICT, irrigation – and create an environment or environments that will attract private sector food and agriculture companies to the rural areas.

Another area Adesina is passionate about is financing for women. The AfDB has an initiative called Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), the objective of which is to mobilize $3 billion specifically for women in business on the continent. “If you take a look at Africa today, the gender-based financing gap between men and women is roughly about $42 billion annually, which means that men get a lot more finance than women do. But in Africa, women dominate the small and medium-sized enterprises and they are better business people, and they pay back their loans more than men, maybe at least 95% of their loans are paid back. But they don’t get access to finance.”

The AfDB has an innovative approach to encourage banks to provide financing to women.

Financial institutions will be ranked based on their lending to women. They will be evaluated according to the volume of lending, interest rates charged, and development impact.

“We are Africa’s largest financial institution and we provide huge amounts of lines of credit to banks, trade finance to financial banks. So when they come to us, we will simply take that index, we call it Women Financing Index for Africa, and ask you the question: ‘what have you done for women of late?’ If you haven’t, sorry, you’re not going to get our money. So it’s a way of tilting the financial markets to work on behalf of women. You know, I do bird-watching. But I’ve never seen any bird that has one wing. They always have two wings. So by getting equality for women in finance, African economies will finally be able to fly with two wings. And that’s important,” Adesina says.

Finally, renewable energy is close to Adesina’s heart. “I think that we must have energy sources that are clean. I think Africa should lead the way in clean energy. I think that coal is the past, I think renewable energy is the future.”

Renewables include hydro, wind and solar energy, whereas gas-fired power plants can assist in the transition to renewable energy. In terms of solar, what Adesina likes to call “the desert of power” will help to provide 10,000 megawatts of electricity across the entire Sahel using the power of the sun through the world’s largest solar zone.

It will provide electricity for 250 million people and 90 million of those will get their power through off-grid systems.

“The other thing that we are doing right now is to move countries that have huge legacy investments in coal to invest more in renewable energy, or those that may want to do coal, to shift into renewable energy. Instead, the African Development Bank is establishing what is called a Green Base-load Facility, and this will allow us to mobilize $5 billion of investments, support, and transition into renewable energy.

“Another area that is very big for renewable energy is off-grid energy. In the old system, you need to have power grids that are running all over the place. It used to remind me of landlines for the telephone in those days. But now, you and I carry around our mobile phones. So we don’t need, in most cases, those very expensive transmission lines when you can have mini-grids closer to communities, where you can also have decentralized energy that uses renewable energy for people. Renewable energy is the future. And we have to start investing not in the past but in the future.”

Seen through the eyes of Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, the future for Africa’s economic development is bright.

The continent has indeed found a champion to lead the charge in developing Africa as an integrated, bankable investment destination. 

-Jill De Villiers

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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Billionaires

Africa’s Richest 2020: Steady State With Some Volatility On The Margins

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Like elsewhere in the world, fortunes in Africa can be volatile, thanks to changes like a new currency.


Africa’s billionaires are as a group richer than a year ago. Altogether, the continent’s 20 billionaires are worth a combined $73.4 billion, up from $68.7 billion a year ago.

For the ninth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is the richest person in Africa, worth an estimated $10.1 billion, down from $10.3 billion a year ago amid a slightly lower stock price for his Dangote Cement, his largest holding. The much-heralded oil refinery that Dangote is building in Nigeria is still at least a year away from completion.

Nassef Sawiris of Egypt is the new number two richest, worth $8 billion—up from $6.3 billion last year. Sawiris’ most valuable asset is a stake in shoemaker Adidas worth a recent $4 billion. The increase in Adidas’ share price alone added nearly $1.5 billion to his fortune since January 2019. He also owns a significant stake in fertilizer producer OCI N.V. In 2019, Sawiris and U.S. investor Wes Edens purchased the remaining stake they didn’t own in U.K. Premier League team Aston Villa Football Club.

Number three on the list is Nigeria’s Mike Adenuga, worth $7.7 billion. He owns mobile phone network GloMobile as well as oil producer Conoil and extensive real estate holdings.

One member of this elite group is worth 50% less than a year ago. Due primarily to the introduction of a new (weaker) currency in Zimbabwe, Strive Masiyiwa’s fortune fell to $1.1 billion from $2.3 billion in January 2019. Zimbabwe, which has battled with hyperinflation, had been using the U.S. dollar as its currency, but in 2019 it switched to its own currency, initially called the RTGS. When converted into U.S. dollars, the values of Masiyiwa’s stakes in Zimbabwe-listed mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and Cassava Smartech fell dramatically in dollar terms.

 Just two of the 20 billionaires are women: Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos; and Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria. Dos Santos’ fortune has declined to an estimated $2.2 billion, down $100 million from a year ago. In late December, an Angola court issued an order to freeze the assets that Isabel dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, own in Angola. Those include her stake in telecom firm Unitel and stakes in two Angolan banks; Forbes estimates those assets are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. A statement issued by Isabel dos Santos said the judgment contained “a number of untruths” and that she would fight the decision “by using all the instruments of Angolan and international law at my disposal.”

Country rankings are unchanged from a year ago: Egypt and South Africa are tied with five billionaires each, followed by Nigeria with four and Morocco with two. Forbes found one billionaire each from Algeria, Angola, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. That’s the same as last year but a better representation than nine years ago, when only four African nations were home to ten-figure fortunes.

METHODOLOGY

Our list tracks the wealth of African billionaires who reside in Africa or have their primary businesses there, thus excluding Sudanese-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, who is a U.K. citizen, and billionaire London resident Mohamed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian citizen. (Strive Masiyiwa, a citizen of Zimbabwe and a London resident, appears on the list due to his expansive telecom holdings in Africa; Isabel dos Santos, a citizen of Angola, has been living in Europe but retains assets in Angola—although they were recently frozen by a court in Angola.) We calculated net worths using stock prices and currency exchange rates from the close of business on Friday, January 10, 2020. To value privately held businesses, we couple estimates of revenues or profits with prevailing price-to-sales or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies. Some list members grow richer or poorer within weeks—or days—of our measurement date.

– Written by Kerry A. Dolan

Africa’s Billionaires List

  1. Aliko Dangote

Net worth: $10.1 billion

Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar

Age: 62

Country: Nigeria

Residence: Lagos

Education: Al-Azhar University, Bachelor of Arts/Science

Dangote, Africa’s richest man, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer. He owns nearly 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company. Dangote Cement produces 45.6 million metric tons annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa. Dangote also owns stakes in publicly-traded salt, sugar and flour manufacturing companies. Dangote Refinery has been under construction for three years and is expected to be one of the world’s largest oil refineries once complete. 

Did You Know?

Dangote’s grandfather was a successful trader of rice and oats in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city.

Dangote told Forbes that when he was young, he bought sweets, gave them to others to sell, and he kept the profits.

2. Nassef Sawiris

Net worth: $8 billion

Origin of wealth: Construction, chemicals

Age: 58

Country:  Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: University of Chicago

Nassef Sawiris is a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family. His brother Naguib is also a billionaire. Sawiris split Orascom Construction Industries into two entities in 2015: OCI and Orascom Construction. He runs OCI, one of the world’s largest nitrogen fertilizer producers, with plants in Texas and Iowa; it trades on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange. Orascom Construction, an engineering and building firm, trades on the Cairo exchange and Nasdaq Dubai. His holdings include stakes in cement giant Lafarge Holcim and Adidas; he sits on the supervisory board of Adidas.

Did You Know?

A University of Chicago graduate, he donated $24.1 million to the school in 2019 to aid Egyptian students and fund an executive education program.

Nassef Sawiris teamed up with Fortress Investment Group’s Wes Edens to purchase a majority stake in Aston Villa Football Club.

3. Mike Adenuga

Net worth: $7.7 billion

Origin of wealth: Telecom, oil

Age: 66

Country: Nigeria

Residence: Lagos

Education: Pace University, Master of Business

Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest man, built his fortune in telecom and oil production. His mobile phone network, Globacom, is the third largest operator in Nigeria, with 43 million subscribers. His oil exploration outfit, Conoil Producing, operates six oil blocks in the Niger Delta. Adenuga got an MBA at Pace University in New York, supporting himself as a student by working as a taxi driver. He made his first million at age 26 selling lace and distributing soft drinks.

4. Nicky Oppenheimer

& family

Net worth: $7.7 billion

Origin of wealth: Diamonds

Age: 74

Country: South Africa

Residence: Johannesburg

Education: Oxford University Christ Church, Master of Arts/Science

Oppenheimer, heir to his family’s fortune, sold his 40% stake in diamond firm DeBeers to mining group Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash in 2012. He was the third generation of his family to run DeBeers, and took the company private in 2001. For 85 years until 2012, the Oppenheimer family occupied a controlling spot in the world’s diamond trade. In 2014, Oppenheimer started Fireblade Aviation in Johannesburg, which operates chartered flights with its fleet of three planes and two helicopters. He owns at least 720 square miles of conservation land across South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Did You Know?

Oppenheimer owns Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, the largest private game reserve in South Africa.

Oppenheimer is a sports fan and plays squash, golf and cricket. Notepads in his office read: “Things I must do before cricket”.

5.Johann Rupert & family

Net worth: $6.5 billion

Origin of wealth: Luxury goods

Age: 69

Country: South Africa

Residence: Cape Town

Rupert is chairman of Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financiere Richemont. The company is best known for the brands Cartier and Montblanc. It was formed in 1998 through a spinoff of assets owned by Rembrandt Group Limited (now Remgro Limited), which his father Anton formed in the 1940s. He owns a 7% stake in diversified investment firm Remgro, which he chairs, as well as 25% of Reinet, an investment holding co. based in Luxembourg. In recent years, Rupert has been a vocal opponent of plans to allow fracking in the Karoo, a region of South Africa where he owns land.

Did You Know?

He also owns part of the Saracens English rugby team and Anthonij Rupert Wines, named after his deceased brother.

Rupert says his biggest regret was not buying half of Gucci when he had the opportunity to do so for just $175 million.

6.Issad Rebrab & family

Net worth: $4.4 billion

Origin of wealth: Food

Age: 76

Country: Algeria

Residence: Algiers

Issad Rebrab is the founder and CEO of Cevital, Algeria’s biggest privately-held company. Cevital owns one of the largest sugar refineries in the world, with the capacity to produce 2 million tons a year. Cevital owns European companies, including French home appliances maker Groupe Brandt, an Italian steel mill and a German water purification company. After serving eight months in jail on charges of corruption, Rebrab was released on January 1, 2020. He denies any wrongdoing.

Did You Know?

Rebrab is the son of militants who fought for Algeria’s independence from France.

Cevital helped finance a biopic on Algerian resistance hero Larbi Ben M’hidi, who was executed by the French in 1957.

7.Mohamed Mansour

Net worth: $3.3 billion

Origin of wealth: Diversified

Age: 71

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration

Mansour oversees family conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (D.1976) in 1952 and has 60,000 employees. Mansour established General Motors dealerships in Egypt in 1975, later becoming one of GM’s biggest distributors worldwide. Mansour Group also has exclusive distribution rights for Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and seven other African countries. He served as Egypt’s Minister of Transportation from 2006 to 2009 under the Hosni Mubarak regime. His brothers Yasseen and Youssef, who share ownership in the family group, are also billionaires; his son Loutfy heads private equity arm Man Capital.

8.Abdulsamad Rabiu

Net worth: $3.1 billion

Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar

Age: 59

Country: Nigeria

Rabiu is the founder of BUA Group, a Nigerian conglomerate active in cement production, sugar refining and real estate. In early January 2020, Rabiu merged his privately-owned Obu Cement company with listed firm Cement Co. of Northern Nigeria, which he controlled. The combined firm, called BUA Cement Plc, trades on the Nigerian stock exchange; Rabiu owns 98.5% of it. Rabiu, the son of a businessman, inherited land from his father. He set up his own business in 1988 importing iron, steel and chemicals.

9.Naguib Sawiris

Net worth: $3 billion

Origin of wealth: Telecom

Age: 65

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Master of Science; Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Bachelor of Arts/Science

Naguib Sawiris is a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family. His brother Nassef is also a billionaire. He built a fortune in telecom, selling Orascom Telecom in 2011 to Russian telecom firm VimpelCom (now Veon) in a multibillion-dollar transaction. He’s chairman of Orascom TMT Investments, which has stakes in a major asset manager in Egypt and an Italian internet company, among others. Family holding La Mancha has stakes in Evolution Mining, Endeavour Mining and Golden Star Resources, which operate gold mines in Africa and Australia. Sawiris is a majority owner in Euronews. He’s also developed a luxury resort called Silversands in Grenada.

Did You Know?

Sawiris helped found The Free Egyptians, a liberal political party, at the onset of Egypt’s uprisings in 2011. 

In 2015, he offered to buy a Greek or Italian island to house Syrian refugees, but Greece and Italy turned him down.

10.Patrice Motsepe

Net worth: $2.6 billion

Origin of wealth: Mining

Age: 57

Country: South Africa

Residence: Johannesburg

Motsepe, the founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, became a billionaire in 2008 – the first black African on the Forbes list. In 2016, he launched a new private equity firm, African Rainbow Capital, focused on investing in Africa. Motsepe also has a stake in Sanlam, a listed financial services firm, and is the president and owner of the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club. He became the first black partner at law firm Bowman Gilfillan in Johannesburg, and then started a contracting business doing mine scut work. In 1994, he bought low-producing gold mine shafts and later turned them profitable.

11. Koos Bekker

Net worth: $2.5 billion

Origin of wealth: Media, investments

Age: 67

Country: South Africa

Residence: Cape Town

Education: Columbia Business School, Master of Business Administration; University of Witwatersrand, LLB

Bekker is revered for transforming South African newspaper publisher Naspers into an ecommerce investor and cable TV powerhouse. He led Naspers to invest in Chinese Internet and media firm Tencent in 2001 – by far the most profitable of the bets he made on companies elsewhere. In 2019, Naspers put some assets into two publicly-traded companies, entertainment firm MultiChoice Group and Prosus, which contains the Tencent stake. It sold a 2% stake in Tencent in March 2018, its first time reducing its holding, but stated at the time it would not sell again for three years. Bekker, who retired as the CEO of Naspers in March 2014, returned as chairman in April 2015.

Did You Know?

His Babylonstoren estate, nearly 600 acres in South Africa’s Western Cape region, features architecture dating back to 1690, a farm, orchard and vineyard and more.

Over the summer of 2015, he sold more than 70% of his Naspers shares.

12.Yasseen Mansour

Net worth: $2.3 billion

Origin of wealth:  Diversified

Age: 58

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: George Washington University,

Bachelor of Arts/Science

Mansour is a shareholder in family-owned conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (d.1976) in 1952. Mansour Group is the exclusive distributor of GM vehicles and Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and several other countries. His brothers Mohamed and Youssef are also billionaires and part owners of Mansour Group. He’s chairman of Palm Hills Developments, one of Egypt’s biggest real estate developers.

Did You Know?

Mansour Group is the sole franchisee of McDonald’s in Egypt, as well as the distributor of Gauloises cigarettes.

13.Isabel dos Santos

Net worth: $2.2 billion

Origin of wealth: Investments

Age: 46

Country: Angola

Education: King’s College London, Bachelor of Arts/Science

Dos Santos is the oldest daughter of Angola’s longtime former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who stepped down in fall 2017. Her father made her head of Sonangol, Angola’s state oil firm, in June 2016, but Angola’s new president removed her from that role in November 2017. Forbes research found that while Isabel’s father was president, she ended up with stakes in Angolan companies including banks and a telecom firm. She owns shares of Portuguese companies, including telecom and cable TV firm Nos SGPS. A spokesperson for Isabel told Forbes that she “is an independent business woman and a private investor representing solely her own interests.” In December 2019, an Angolan court issued an order freezing her stakes in Angolan companies, part of a suit about funds she owes to the state oil firm.

Did You Know?

Isabel dos Santos is nicknamed “the princess” in Angola.

Santos’ mother, Tatiana Kukanova, met her father while he was a student in Azerbaijan. The couple later divorced.

14.Youssef Mansour

Net worth: $1.9 billion

Origin of wealth: Diversified

Age: 74

Country: Egypt

Residence: Cairo

Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration; North Carolina State University, Bachelor of Science in Engineering

Mansour is chairman of family-owned conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (d.1976) in 1952. Mansour Group is the exclusive distributor of GM vehicles and Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and several other countries. He oversees the consumer goods division, which includes supermarket chain Metro, and sole distribution rights for L’Oreal in Egypt. Younger brothers Mohamed and Yasseen are also billionaires and part owners of Mansour Group.

Did You Know?

Former Egypt President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized his father’s original cotton trading business.

Mansour is a founding member of the American Egyptian Chamber of Commerce.

15. Aziz Akhannouch

& family

Net worth: $1.7 billion

Origin of wealth: Petroleum, diversified

Age: 59

Country: Morocco

Residence: Casablanca

Education: Universite de Sherbrooke, Master of Business Administration

Aziz Akhannouch is the majority owner of Akwa Group, a multibillion-dollar conglomerate founded by his father and a partner, Ahmed Wakrim, in 1932. It has interests in petroleum, gas and chemicals through publicly-traded Afriquia Gaz and Maghreb Oxygene. Akhannouch is Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the president of a royalist political party.

Did You Know?

His wife Salwa Idrissi runs her own company, which has franchises for Gap, Gucci and Ralph Lauren in Morocco.

16.Mohammed Dewji

Net worth: $1.6 billion

Origin of wealth:  Diversified

Age: 44

Country: Tanzania

Residence: Dar es Salaam

Mohammed Dewji is the CEO of MeTL, a Tanzanian conglomerate founded by his father in the 1970s. MeTL is active in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in eastern, southern and central Africa. MeTL operates in at least six African countries and has ambitions to expand to several more. Dewji, Tanzania’s only billionaire, signed the Giving Pledge in 2016, promising to donate at least half his fortune to philanthropic causes. Dewji was reportedly kidnapped at gunpoint in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in October 2018 and released after nine days.

Did You Know?

Dewji retired from Tanzania’s parliament in early 2015 after completing two terms.

Dewji, who is known as Mo (short for Mohammed), launched Mo Cola several years ago to compete with Coca Cola.

17.Othman Benjelloun

& family

Net worth: $1.4 billion

Origin of wealth: Banking, insurance

Age: 87

Country: Morocco

Residence: Casablanca

Education: Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, Diploma

Benjelloun is CEO of BMCE Bank of Africa, which has a presence in more than 20 African countries. His father was a shareholder in RMA Watanya, a Moroccan insurance company; Benjelloun built it into a leading insurer. Through his holding company FinanceCom, he has a stake in the Moroccan arm of French telecom firm Orange. He inaugurated in 2014 a $500 million plan to build the 55-story Mohammed VI Tower in Rabat. It will be one of the tallest buildings in Africa. FinanceCom is part of a project to develop a multibillion-dollar tech city in Tangiers that is expected to host 200 Chinese companies.

Did You Know?

He co-owns Ranch Adarouch, one of the biggest cattle breeders in Africa.

Benjelloun and his wife received the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award for building schools in rural Morocco in 2016.

18.Michiel Le Roux

Net worth: $1.3 billion

Origin of wealth: Banking

Age: 70

Country: South Africa

Residence: Stellenbosch

Le Roux of South Africa founded Capitec Bank in 2001 and owns about an 11% stake. The bank, which trades on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, targets South Africa’s emerging middle class. He served as chairman of the board of Capitec from 2007 to 2016 and has continued on as a board member. Le Roux previously ran Boland Bank, a small regional bank in Cape Town’s hinterland.

Did You Know?

The bank has more than 800 branches and over 13,000 employees.

Fellow South African Jannie Mouton’s PSG Group owns a 30% stake in Capitec Bank.

19.Strive Masiyiwa

Net worth: $1.1 billion

Origin of wealth: Telecom

Age: 58

Country: Zimbabwe

Residence: London

Education: University of Wales, Bachelor of Engineering

Masiyiwa overcame protracted government opposition to launch mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in his country of birth in 1998. He owns just over 50% of the publicly-traded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, which is one part of his larger Econet Group. Masiyiwa also owns just over half of private company Liquid Telecom, which provides fiber optic and satellite services to telecom firms across Africa. His other assets include stakes in mobile phone networks in Burundi and Lesotho, and investments in fintech and power distribution firms in Africa. He and his wife Tsitsi founded the Higherlife Foundation, which supports orphaned and poor children in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi and Lesotho.

Did You Know?            

After studying at university in Britain, Masiyiwa worked at ZPTC, Zimbabwe’s phone company.

He left ZPTC to start an engineering services firm, then sold it and founded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, but had to battle the government in court for years

20.Folorunso Alakija

Net worth: $1 billion

Origin of wealth: Oil

Age: 69

Country: Nigeria

Residence: Lagos

Folorunso Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset. Famfa Oil’s partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Alakija’s first company was a fashion label whose customers included the wife of former Nigerian president Ibrahim Babangida. The Nigerian government awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license in 1993, which was later converted to an oil mining lease. The Agbami field has been operating since 2008; Famfa Oil says it will likely operate through 2024.


What It’s Like Meeting Africa’s Richest Man

 FORBES AFRICA journalist Peace Hyde says she first interviewed Aliko Dangote in Nigeria about three years ago for the popular FORBES AFRICA show, My Worst Day With Peace Hyde, airing on CNBC Africa, and has since had the privilege of meeting and speaking with him several times at both official and private functions.

“Dangote is someone who is extremely focused and driven with a bullish passion for Africa. For him, the goal is to dream as big and as grandiose as you can when it comes to the future of Africa because he believes, we have the human capital and resources to transform our continent. Everything is possible in his mind. His approach to business is testament to this fact.”

The largest employer in Africa’s most populous economy, he is also seen as a stabilizing force within the economies of several countries across the African continent. His story, however, has not been without failure.

“Dangote has had his fair share of ups and downs. But his advice to young entrepreneurs is having the ability to delay gratification and work hard through tough times so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor at a later date,” says Hyde.

Through the Dangote Foundation, which has the objective of reducing the number of lives lost to malnutrition and disease as well as combating Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children, thousands of children have been saved from the brink of death.

Dangote is also known as a man of few words. “I have seen him spend an entire afternoon answering questions about his business to a room of MBA graduates and proceeding to take pictures with everyone before leaving.

“You will not find any of the obvious trappings of wealth like flashy cars or a big entourage with him and he takes the time to speak to anyone who approaches him at a function,” adds Hyde.

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