- Yannick Nzonde, 29, DRC
Co-Founder: ATI Groupe
Nzonde is a brave man. Five years ago, he founded ATI Groupe, a construction company, with the R6,000 ($478) he earned from renting out his friend’s BMW that he had borrowed for a weekend. He is also the founder of Mulundu Investment Holdings, which houses ATI Groupe and Chi Groupe, a management consulting firm. Mulundu Investment Holdings turns over a million dollars in revenue each year for the 29-year-old.
This is a long way from where it all began when he was only 14. Nzonde is a brave man. “I had bought a watch from a local market place in DRC for $5. One of my younger brother’s friends loved it so much he offered to buy it from me for $20. The next day, someone else offered me more for the same watch,” he says.
It marked the start of a rewarding entrepreneurship journey. He sold everything he could get his hands on. At 15, he relocated to South Africa where he started buying computers, solar lights, fat burners and pool tables and selling them back home.
“I have always been the person to find solutions to problems and people have always come to me. I have always been the person to jump on opportunities once I see a gap in the market. I have also always wanted to leave a legacy.”
Nzonde says he lives by the words of American marketing specialist Guy Kawasaki: “The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning; to create a product or service to make the world a better place.”
One of the many ways he is making the world better is through providing power solutions in rural DRC.
“We are the second company to have brought solar energy solutions to the DRC in the Katanga region. This changed many lives as people are used to generators while some had never seen electricity before,” says Nzonde.
Not bad for a man who comes from a family of 24 and walked 15km to school.
2. Leroy Mwasaru, 20, Kenya
This 20-year-old is making money from waste while solving a serious problem. He is the founder of Greenpact, a company which produces and distributes affordable and high-quality innovative biogas digester systems to get bio-gas from both agricultural and human refuse. His mission is guided by the overarching vision to become the leading provider of clean household energy solutions across East Africa. He has won many accolades including the Innovate Kenya challenge in 2013.
3. Ladipo Lawani, 29, Nigeria
Founder: L&L Foods
L&L foods is a food processing and packaging company focused on the Nigerian market. They source agricultural produce from local farmers and transform them into quality snacks. Their primary line of products is a premium brand of nuts called Mr Ekpa. Lawani employs 12 people.
4. Emmanuel Ademola Ayilara, 29, Nigeria
Founder: LandWey Investment Limited
LandWey is a real estate development and management company turning over $14 million per year. It started with just five employees. Today, they employ 42 full-time staff, 370 realtors and 16,000 consultants.
Ayilara’s journey to entrepreneurship started when he was in school. His first stint was at a coaching center in Abeokuta, Ogun State in Nigeria. The business failed. He tried his hand again, this time, running a vocational training program with over 3,600 students.
“Once I had a taste of success, there was no turning back. Starting and running businesses became my turf and all I had to do was build more capacity. I always believed opportunities would come to those who were most prepared so I put in the hard work even when no one noticed,” he says.
5. Mwiya Musokotwane, 28, Zambia
Founder: Thebe Investment Management
Musokotwane knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur at age 16 after reading US billionaire Warren Buffet’s biography. It inspired him to secure a degree in finance. His first venture in business was when he co-founded a tech startup while pursuing his Master’s. The business failed. At 23, he had a dream to build a mega city. Armed with lessons from the first business, he worked tactfully. At 24, he left his job to pursue it. With the help of his family, he founded Thebe Investment Management. The company is the owner and developer of Nkwashi, a 3,100 acre mega-project in Lusaka, Zambia. By age 25, he had generated $1 million in cash flow. He employs 80 people.
6. Nomvula Mhambi, 29, Zimbabwe
Founder: Disruptive Innovation
When her mother couldn’t afford to take her to university because of the economic and political downturn in Zimbabwe, Mhambi turned to entrepreneurship. She registered a catering and events management company at age 19. She was later invited to work on a concert that featured Akon and Sean Paul. It opened doors.
A year later, she was called to assist with artiste logistics for a concert that hosted Ciara, Phat Joe, Lil’ Kim and DJ Scratch. At age 22, her company was contracted by DStv Zimbabwe to host their Big Brother events. She saw a gap in the advertising industry and founded Disruptive Innovation, a full service media communications and advertising social enterprise.
For the first two years of the business, many doors were shut in her face. When she was close to giving up, she was selected for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) where she won a $25,000 grant towards her restroom advertising pilot project.
“I tackle urban hygiene and sanitation issues using market-based approaches improving public amenities through social innovation initiatives with my advertising and marketing social enterprise,” she says.
Mhambi has partnered with local municipalities, renovating dilapidated public toilets, and charging people for use.
This revenue is used to maintain the sites, assist schools in need of sanitation hardware and help clients get their product to their consumers.
Mhambi also runs a hair and nail lounge and is also into agriculture, growing button and oyster mushrooms, which she supplies to a majority of Zimbabwe’s supermarkets and restaurants producing over 1,000 punnets per week. She employs 25 full-time and 12 part-time staff.
7. Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed Falalu, 28, Nigera
Falalu saw an opportunity to make money when he realized Nigeria consumes about seven million metric tonnes of rice and only produces 2.7 million metric tonnes, forcing the country to spend more than $2 billion in imports. “I always had an interest in farming, I remember writing in our high school’s yearbook under feature ambition that I wanted to be a farmer,” he says.
With a total annual capacity to produce more than 5,000 metric tonnes, he founded FaLGates, a rice mill producing a variety of rice products. They employ 30 people in Kaduna and over 150 people at their anchored farms in Niger and Kebbi. They turned over about $450,000 in 2017.
Falalu holds a degree in Computer Science and a Master’s in Management from Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. He also holds an MSc Degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Nottingham.
8. Roger Boniface, 29, South Africa
Boniface is the founder of EDISIM, a training provider that uses simulation to bring real-world learning experiences to the classroom. In less than three years, he has integrated the business simulations into some of Africa’s top business schools. He lectures at Wits and GIBS in South Africa and Strathmore Business School in Nairobi.
“I spend my weekends at different flea markets around Johannesburg and Pretoria and there is no better way to learn about business. My first counterfeit note experience happened at a flea market. I got paid for something I sold with a counterfeit R100 ($8) note,” says Boniface, also the founder of Artson, an events company that hosts art and wine tasting experiences to explore and develop the creativity that people often lose throughout the conveyor belt of life. He also runs JCB, a small textile wholesaler concentrating on the promotional market and mainly focusing on t-shirts, golf shirts and caps. While this business has been successful for over 30 years, Boniface has been running it since 2015. He turns over about R13 million ($1 million) a year.
9. Gilbert Eugene Peters, 29, Zimbabwe
Founder: Spidex Media
This story started like many successful entrepreneurship stories. Peters would buy and sell satellite dishes to his community in Harare. Through word of mouth, this business grew until he employed two people. Together, they installed over 2,000 satellite dishes. All this before he was 19 years old. The demand waned and Peters went into formal employment as a graphic designer.
At 21, armed with $300, he registered Spidex Media with the hope of addressing the need for faster advertising and design services in 24 hours.
“I would go where I was needed to design since I had no office, and only a laptop and business cards. I became a CEO, finance manager, marketer and salesman,” says Peters.
His girlfriend at the time, now his wife, provided her entire $160 salary from working as an ice cream shop attendant to rent office space. The investment paid off.
Today, Spidex has offices in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia. It’s one of the largest advertising companies in Zimbabwe with a majority market share in the financial sector handling brand portfolios worth over $870 million. He has won 12 business and entrepreneurship awards in Zimbabwe, a businessman of the year award at just 25 years old, and employs 55 people.
10. Sihle Ndlela, 28, South Africa
Co-Founder: Majozi Bros Construction
This construction company started from humble beginnings and went on to become one of the leading construction companies in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Ndlela co-founded the company with Simphiwe Majozi. The two met on a cold call, formed a friendship and went into business together.
“We both had a string of businesses from primary school right through to high school, ranging from selling sweets, loan sharking, throwing parties and selling hot dogs on street corners,” he says.
The two saw a gap in the township construction market.
“We decided to become a turnkey building contracting business offering services from plan drawing, plan submission, general building and renovations. So we became a one-stop construction business,” says Ndlela.
The business grew quickly and their clients now range from malls to residential estates. They also bought 51% of a 35-year-old tool hire business called Hire which has three branches in KZN. They were awarded a $105 million project alongside WBHO as a partner.
Before joining Majozi, Ndlela had been running a successful glass and aluminium business. Together, the duo went on to take the construction industry by storm.
11. Vere Shaba, 29, South Africa
Founder: Shaba & Ramplin Green Building Solutions
This 29-year-old has been the one to watch since 2010, when she was a part of the winning team for the international design competition on Peace and Environmental Studies by Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.
“In 2008, while still a student, I did my mechanical engineering practical training at the Volkswagen South Africa plant in Uitenhage and watched as the rolling blackouts and load shedding affected their productivity. When the power went off, the machines would come off and thousands of workers would sit outside in the sun,” says Shaba.
She became an entrepreneur out of frustration.
“The frustration came when I kept on being put in a box. Having graduated as a mechanical engineer, I was either seen as a green building consultant or a mechanical engineer but never both.”
She resigned from her job in 2016 and founded a company that uses the Integrated Green Design approach in engineering. Now, Shaba & Ramplin Green Building Solutions is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm specializing in engineering, green buildings and interiors services.
Shaba was selected as one of 10 Top Women in Engineering for the annual Standard Bank Topco Top 100 Women in Business & Government, Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans for Environment, the Kingdom of Netherlands’ Inspiring 50 Women in South Africa in STEM, and most recently, has been selected as a finalist for the inaugural Gauteng Premier’s Women Excellence Awards for Young Achievers.
“I still sit in boardrooms as a minority in the boardroom, as the sector is still quite white male dominated, but I know that every day I am in the boardroom is changing mind-sets and creating a platform for the future generations,” she says.
12. Thomas Duncan, 28, Namibia
Anticor is a water treatment and chemical specialist company based in Windhoek specializing in products for the agricultural, commercial, domestic and industrial markets. Duncan inherited Anticor from his late father when he was 24 years old. The business was stagnant and loss-making. In just four years, he turned it around into a profitable business. The company employs 11 people. He also owns Analytical Laboratory Services, Namibia’s largest privately accredited and owned laboratory which has three analytical sections, for water quality, microbiology and food chemistry and soil. It employs 15 people.
13. Wesley Beneke, 29, South Africa
Founder: WCB Construction
Beneke grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His mother taught him that running a business was possible as she was an entrepreneur herself.
“I face hardships every single day as I am a black man playing in the ‘white rich man’ space. The system is built to exclude us and in most cases, my firm and I are constantly found to be precluded from what is so easily achievable by white monopoly. I have had various large clients not pay me and in so doing, completely wipe out my cash flow. However, my family and staff have stuck by me in those times and made the mountains feel like hills,” says Beneke.
He employs 40 permanent staff, has in excess of 150 contract staff and has deals worth over $12 million. He counts the Western Cape government and the South African Roads Agency among his clients.
14. Anita Adetola Adetoye, 26, Nigeria
Founder: Anita Brows Beauty
Adetoye, popularly known as ‘Anita Brows’, is an Irish-Nigerian professional makeup artist, beauty educator, and entrepreneur. She is also the founder of Anita Brows Beauty based in Lagos. With over seven years of experience, she has single-handedly built an award-winning brand, creating jobs for young Nigerians.
“My move to Nigeria was the defining moment for me in the beauty industry. It was the moment my hobby became a livelihood and then became a business. I didn’t choose this path by faith, this path chose me. My goal is to change the face of makeup and beauty artistry,” she says.
She is sought-after worldwide. Over the years, she has featured and liaised with the founder of international brand ‘Iman Cosmetics’, and worked with numerous celebrities across the globe. She has also been recognized in Uganda as the best makeup artist in West Africa and won the Future Awards Prize for beauty. Adetoye employs 13 people and has several sold-out makeup classes in Europe, the US and East Africa. This year, Anita Brows will launch a cosmetic range.
15. Akinwande Durojaye, 28, Nigeria
While at Covenant University, Durojaye saw the need for a printing and branding business. He started doing business as an intermediary between the students’ association and the print world. In 2014, he used this experience to start JustBrandIt, a printing, branding and advertising agency competing with larger companies in Nigeria.
The astute Information and Communications Engineering graduate is also the founder of FixMyRide, a fleet management company which manages different taxi hailing platforms like Uber, Taxify and Oga Taxi. It also houses an auto workshop for vehicle repairs, maintenance and servicing. The name FixMyRide was inspired by MTV’s Pimp My Ride show where vehicles get transformed and upgraded. He employs 13 full-time staff and about 210 contracted drivers. Combined, the companies turn over $1.2 million each year.
He is also the co-founder of FueledUp, a technology-driven company where customers request for fuel and cooking gas delivery via an app. He is also the co-founder of LashBells Food Company, a local snacks production and packaging company.
16. Samuelle Dimairho, 27, Zimbabwe
Co-founder: Chengetedzai Depository Company Limited
Dimairho co-founded Chengetedzai Depository Company Limited, Zimbabwe’s first central securities depository for the capital markets with securities’ deposits that have peaked at over $7 billion and trade settlement now in excess of $2 billion. The company had $1.5 million in revenue last year.
He is also the founder of Aura Group, a management consulting, technology and business process outsourcing services company expected to turn over $2 million this year.
Dimairho was featured in the Junior Achievement Worldwide, 2011/2012 Africa Annual report on behalf of Zimbabwe, received the top ICT Company Web Developer of the Year 2011 award, was 1st Runner-Up in the Top ICT Company of the Year 2011 award category, and received top ICT Project of the Year 2012 (Public Sector) award. He was also crowned the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Creative Young Entrepreneur of The Year 2014 and also won the Entrepreneurs Organisation Global Student Entrepreneur Award 2014.
Dimairho voluntarily serves as an advisor to the Graduate Development Agency and Young Entrepreneurs Sanctuary Africa, an organization focused on building the soft skills of graduates and mentoring young entrepreneurs. He holds several accounting and business qualifications.
17. Joey Friedman, 26, South Africa
Founder: LA Group of Companies
Growing up, Friedman watched his father run a business and go bankrupt.
“It was extremely hard for me to adjust to receiving food donations… we lost our house and I was not succeeding in school. I had learning disabilities which were not discovered until I was 13. This led me to feeling like a failure and completely incompetent,” says Friedman.
With a lot of financial responsibilities, he had to start thinking of ways to make money.
Nine years ago, he started a business called BOBBLE, a bottle that filters water, then a real estate agency called FRESH REALITY. Then, in 2013, a bigger opportunity presented itself.
“I saw Lounge Around for sale and made it a priority to raise capital for this with my business partner. I finally am able to do what I love and go to work every day extremely excited,” he says.
Lounge Around, part of the LA Group of Companies, is a premium furniture hire company that services prestigious events,.
It specializes in boutique furniture rentals and supplying custom-made furniture and decor for a diverse range of events including exhibitions.
“I had watched my father run businesses my entire life and felt it was my destiny to follow in his footsteps and make a business truly work,” he says.
His company is responsible for supplying events like the Vodacom Durban July, DStv Delicious Festival and Tourism Indaba. They also worked at Winnie Mandela’s funeral and the 2014 presidential inauguration. The company has grown revenue by 1,200% in four years, employs 105 people and owns a 90,000sqm warehouse.
18. Zuko Tisani, 25, South Africa
Founder: Legazy Technology Conferencing
Legazy is a company that supports startups in South Africa in their quest to disrupt. They partner with the world’s best to up-skill, invest in and collaborate with South African startups.
Tisani founded the company in 2016 when he saw the dire need for investment, training and market access for the embryonic startup ecosystem of South Africa.
“The statistics released by ANDE on the 86% failure rate of startup businesses within the first 18 months of starting showed there was a limitation on resources, information and access,” says Tisani.
Legazy raised $1 million to host the Web Summit technology conference in South Africa.
“We at Legazy believed the South African startup community needed the community of early-stage investors; the world’s most disruptive tech startups and thought leaders on emerging disruption to be hosted in country for our startup community to gain investment, create partnerships and become as competitive as the largest technology companies out there such as your Ubers and Facebook.”
19. Gisela van Houcke, 27, DRC
Founder: Zuri Luxury Hair&Beauty
Houcke was born in Eastern DRC but was forced to flee the country and move to the United Kingdom at a young age due to the DRC’s political and economic instability.
She moved back to the DRC to contribute to the growth of her motherland. While working as the head of legal at BBOXX ltd in Kigali, she founded Zuri as a hobby in 2015 when she struggled to find quality hair extensions. When she sold extensions worth $50,000 in a few months, she turned the hobby into a business.
“My vision was to build a global platform and brand, which would bring together leading hair and cosmetic products, expertise, technology and a community of passionate customers,” she says.
Zuri Luxury Hair&Beauty is a hair extensions brand. Their extensions are made with 100% human Remy. Their products include lace wigs, extension bundles, closures and lace frontals.
By end 2016, she had sold hair worth over $100,000 across the DRC and Rwanda online.
That year, she also raised $75,000 of equity financing to set up a holding company in Hong Kong, launched a supply chain office in Guangzhou with three employees and opened her first store in Kinshasa. Last year, she introduced a line of lipstick and hair accessories.
Zuri is growing fast and claiming a share of Africa’s big hair industry.
20. Bidemi Zakariyau, 28, Nigeria
Growing up, Zakariyau watched her father build a taxi service and real estate company from nothing. She worked for him during holidays where she acquired skills in project management, sales and communications. Her father convinced her to study law. She interned in law firms for a few months but left to follow her passion in media.
She founded LSF|PR which started as a fashion PR agency.
“Securing my first client was very difficult because I had no public relations experience; I would visit different blogs in Nigeria and look for contact numbers in the article credits and call the designers requesting to work with them for free,” says Zakariyau.
When the door finally opened, she charged very little and worked hard. Client satisfaction led to referrals and new clients.
Six months after law school, she saw opportunities to scale and diversify her client portfolio to include corporate, consumer and lifestyle brands. She rented an office and started hiring workers. Today, the agency’s clientele consists of local and international brands including Philips, Rémy Cointreau, Godrej, William Grant and Sons, Brown-Forman, ARM, AfriOne, Ventures Platform. She employs eight women and runs an online magazine.
21. Zareef Minty, 24, South Africa
Founder: ZRF Holidings
Minty began his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 15 when he started his own clothing brand, Self Made Billionaires. At the time, the market had brands like AMA Kip Kip as one of the only prominent South African t-shirt brands. He saw a gap where brands were not necessarily using the concept of influencers and celebrities to grow.
“I got Kenny Kunene and Lee-Ann Liebenberg to wear my brand. Kenny even wore my clothing in the promo of his second season of So What on ETV. Through these celebrities, I got media hype where a lot of newspapers covered my clothing brand and with that, it brought a lot of corporate work,” he says.
Today, ZRF Holdings houses a PR company, a clothing company and a law firm. He was in the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 List, released a book, is a lawyer, motivational speaker and a radio host.
“I am most impressed by Zareef’s ability to conceptualize problems, organize his thoughts, identify important data and facts, and present a balanced argument… he consistently displayed sound judgement, ethics, and leadership… he has the ability to innovate,” writes advocate Barry Roux, in a letter of recommendation for Minty. You may remember Roux serving as the defence advocate in the Oscar Pistorius trial.
22. Fred Apaloo, 28, Ghana
Founder: Villa Grace
This hospitality management graduate moved back home after studying in the US to make a difference. For about two months, when he returned to Ghana, he cooked and nicely plated all his meals.
“The motive behind that was really to send photos to my friends in the US, to show them that Ghana wasn’t what they thought it was. A lot of them pitied me for choosing to move back,” he says.
Apaloo’s interest in creating awareness through social media grew when he realized the photos were attracting a positive reaction. He then started a brunch series called ‘Brunch Friends’. These were weekend brunch sessions at his house, where he cooked brunch for his closest friends and family and they discussed issues faced by the young. They encouraged him to expand these sessions. In 2015, he founded Villa Grace, a boutique dining company that hosts intimate pop-up brunches which have quickly become some of Accra’s most exclusive and unique dining experiences, selling out tables weeks in advance.
23. Kene Rapu, 28, Nigeria
Founder: Kene Rapu
Through her first product line, ‘Slippers by Kene’, launched in 2011, Rapu became an entreprenuer who promotes the growth of Nigerian industry by using locally-sourced materials to make slippers and sandals. She says running a business is hard work, even more so in Nigeria.
“The odds are against us, as more businesses are expected to fail than to succeed. From lack of adequate power supply, to sufficient skilled man power, to the costs and scarcity of materials, the list goes on,” she says, adding that it’s harder for women.
“I remember on my hunt for property for my factory last year, I met a gentleman who made it extremely clear he would not, under any circumstances, rent his property out to women.”
Rapu holds a law degree from the University of Bristol and a Master’s in Fashion Entrepreneurship from the London College of Fashion. In 2016, she was selected by the Tony Elumelu Foundation as one of 1,000 African entrepreneurs whose idea could change Africa, and in 2017, was listed as one of 100 Most Influential Women in Nigeria by Leading Ladies Africa.
24. Jack Mthembu, 27, South Africa
Founder: First One Adventures
Mthembu started buying and selling in grade three. Instead of giving him money, his grandmother would give him packets of sweets to sell. In high school, he sold ice cream to friends and neighbors in the blazing hot township of Namakgale in Limpopo. He would also organize fun runs on his street and charge people to participate.
His journey continued and in 2014, while in his second year at university, he participated in a business idea competition hosted by the North West University Business Development Centre. He won it and used the prize money as capital. He bought a camera and set up a business in photography, corporate branding and graphic design.
The same year, he was a runnerup for the Nedbank Sustainable Entrepreneurship competition, joined the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurs and got a mentor to assist him. “I had my fair share of disappointment having to live seven months on my friend’s couch in 2016, while in the meanwhile turning down jobs on every angle. Because I had this burning passion to get my business off the ground and needed all the time in the world. I also had the fear of being consumed by corporate; amongst job offers I had to turn down was ABSA, Stanlib and Liberty,” he says.
After a few months, his corporate branding company collapsed but he had a lifeline. He had also founded First One Adventures, a highly-profitable organization aimed at developing high school learners through life coaching and personal skills development camps. The core focus of the organization is raising young people to be independent thinkers. He also offers accounting services to small businesses.
25. Reabetswe Ngwane, 25, South Africa
Ngwane’s entrepreneurial journey began when she started her first business with a friend. They recycled plastic bags, turning them into school bags with solar lanterns, and provided them to kids in underprivileged areas. Unfortunately, that partnership did not last. She then started yet another business with her sister. This time, they recycled tyre tubes to make fashionable bags. The bags cost anything between R500 ($40) to R1,400 ($111). She also makes first-aid kit bags, respiratory bags or masks and seat protectors for the mining and construction industries.
26. Anelisa Mntuyedwa, 28, South Africa
Founder: Gilbert Civils
Growing up in the rural village of Chalumna in the Eastern Cape Province, Mntuyedwa had quite an interesting upbringing. She remembers chasing cattle and helping her parents plough corn fields over the weekend.
From about age 10, she says she had a dream very different from her peers. She wanted to be an entrepreneur with a business listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, when all her friends wanted to be lawyers and doctors. She was inspired by her father and mother who had jobs but always had a business on the side.
After completing her BSc Honours in Soil Science in 2013, her parents gave her R500 ($40) as a congratulatory gift. She used it to set up Gilbert Civils, a construction company in the Eastern Cape. Her services have been used by the likes of Buffalo City and DNA Structures.
27.Gozie Coker, 29, Nigeria
Founder: Coker Creative
Coker is the ultimate planner.
“Planning events is something I have always done, so much so that growing up, I was nicknamed ‘the organ’, short for organizer. I derived joy planning all my family and friends’ celebrations, from vacations to birthdays, and even anniversaries,” she says.
She spent her holidays interning for event companies. Soon after graduating from Baylor University, with a degree in marketing, she interned with Kennedy Creative, a full-service event management company in Austin, Texas. A year later, she went on to pursue a master’s in Strategic Management from the Cass Business School in London.
“I used my graduation thesis to test my business plan for what we now know as Coker Creative.”
A boutique event company, since its launch almost four years ago, it has executed events for private and corporate clients in Nigeria and internationally. Its clients include Etisalat, Zippy, Redrick Public Relations, Access and Bella Naija.
28. Alexander Knieps, 27, South Africa
This budding entrepreneur comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Printulu sells commercial print products such as flyers and business cards online to South African SMEs. The company has served over 5,000 clients to date.
It hasn’t always been an easy journey for the German-born entrepreneur. When starting Printulu, an investor promised him one million dollars in funding. Unfortunately, according to Knieps, the conditions of the contract were so unfavourable he couldn’t sign the contract.
“At that time, the development of the website, self-funded, was almost done and I was already hiring a team to go live. I decided I am going to do this – no matter what – with investors or without. This was one of the most difficult times in my life: very little money, no support system in South Africa and numerous business hurdles,” he says.
His success is proof it’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.
29. Adam Amoussou, 27, Benin
Founder: AMOSCONSULT GROUP
Amoussou grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. He says he always felt the pressure to succeed.
“You have a standard to keep up to and in Benin, they say ‘a man who hasn’t done more than his father has done nothing, he is a complete failure’, so I grew up picturing myself taking over the family business and taking it to the next level,” he says.
His journey to entrepreneurship began in 2012 while in university.
“I had the highest marks in statistics so a couple of friends came to my place on weekends looking for assistance and I helped, but the following weekend they came accompanied by other classmates,” he says.
In 2012, he started charging them for tutoring sessions. A few months later, he and his girlfriend at the time, now fiancé, launched an online clothing shop, which is growing in retail. In May 2014, they opened street restaurants selling Kotas. The business died because of competition. In 2015, he sold his car to start AMOSCONSULT GROUP, a company supplying tropical fruits to the international market.
“I noticed the infinite potential of our Benin agriculture. So I went on and did research and found out Benin could supply one of the highest quality of tropical fruits and products and they were in high demand. I had the vision that soon my country will reach food self-sufficiency, be among the fastest-growing economies in Africa and be the vegetable garden where other African countries and the rest of the world buy good quality food and products at a very competitive price,” says Amoussou.
The company supplies fruits and produce such as cashew nuts, pineapples, palm oil and nuts, coconuts, shea butter and cotton. To meet the demand, they partner with farmers, provide them with information about the quality of fruits and produce in high demand, purchase these from them and sell internationally. The business has expanded into Togo and plans to open a branch in South Africa this year.
30. Nataliey Bitature, 28, Uganda
Co-Founder: Musana Carts
Bitature was raised by entrepreneurs. She grew up running around building sites, cleaning shop floors and counting stock in the evenings. When she was on track to study investment banking, she volunteered at a school in rural Ibanda and realized there was another need for business.
“Entrepreneurship provided for my family and for the first time I saw that it was something I took for granted. The teenage girls in the class I taught had very simple and unambitious dreams and it broke my heart. I knew I had to get into business that changed lives, improved communities and gave other Ugandan girls the opportunities I had had,” she says.
She fundraised $60,000 for building two classrooms and an IT lab for the girls.
She later co-founded Musana Carts. These are solar-powered street vending carts designed for micro-entrepreneurs in Uganda. They are modular, made for the customization of business features including fridges, sockets and mobile money terminals. Musana Carts equip its vendors with finance and business training and offers a path to legalization for those trapped in the informal sector.
Bitature was named a World Economic Forum Top Woman Innovator in 2016 and was invited to present at the World Bank headquarters for the Spring Meetings 2017. She also previously founded two service businesses in Kampala: Tateru Properties and Handymen Uganda.
“I believe because of the family I come from I’ve had the unique opportunity to be exposed to people and institutions that can help my causes. When I was preparing to pitch Musana Carts to President Clinton and a panel of esteemed judges in New York, I got to pitch to the Prime Minister of Uganda…,” she says.
Watch live: FORBES AFRICA’s Under30 in conversation with the managing editor — Leadership & Management Amid Crisis
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- Shamim Nabuuma
- Keitumetsi Qhali
- Paul Makaya
- Thobo Khathola
Forbes Africa #30Under30 List: Leading The Charge
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Pieter-Steph du Toit, 27,
South Africa Rugby player
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
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.
Nijel Amos, 26, Botswana
Track and field athlete
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Asisat Oshoala, 25, Nigeria
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
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.
Nominations Open for FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 class of 2020
FORBES AFRICA is on the hunt for Africans under the age of 30, who are building brands, creating jobs and transforming the continent, to join our Under 30 community for 2020.
JOHANNESBURG, 07 January 2020: Attention entrepreneurs, creatives, sport stars and technology geeks — the 2020 FORBES AFRICA Under 30 nominations are now officially open.
The FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list is the most-anticipated list of game-changers on the continent and this year, we are on the hunt for 30 of Africa’s brightest achievers under the age of 30 spanning these categories: Business, Technology, Creatives and Sport.
Each year, FORBES AFRICA looks for resilient self-starters, innovators, entrepreneurs and disruptors who have the acumen to stay the course in their chosen field, come what may.
Past honorees include Sho Madjozi, Bruce Diale, Karabo Poppy, Kwesta, Nomzamo Mbatha, Burna Boy, Nthabiseng Mosia, Busi Mkhumbuzi Pooe, Henrich Akomolafe, Davido, Yemi Alade, Vere Shaba, Nasty C and WizKid.
What’s different this year is that we have whittled down the list to just 30 finalists, making the competition stiff and the vetting process even more rigorous.
Says FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil: “The start of a new decade means the unraveling of fresh talent on the African continent. I can’t wait to see the potential billionaires who will land up on our desks. Our coveted sixth annual Under 30 list will herald some of the decade’s biggest names in business and life.”
If you think you have what it takes to be on this year’s list or know an entrepreneur, creative, technology entrepreneur or sports star under 30 with a proven track-record on the continent – introduce them to FORBES AFRICA by applying or submitting your nomination.
NOMINATIONS AND APPLICATIONS CRITERIA:
Business and Technology categories
- Must be an entrepreneur/founder aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
- Should have a legitimate REGISTERED business on the continent
- Business/businesses should be two years or older
- Nominees must have risked own money and have a social impact
- Must be profit generating
- Must employ people in Africa
- All applications must be in English
- Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up
- Must be a sports person aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
- Must be representing an African team
- Should have a proven track record of no less than two years
- Should be making significant earnings
- Should have some endorsement deals
- Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
- All applications must be in English
- Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up
- Must be a creative aged 29 or younger on 31 March 2020
- Must be from or based in Africa
- Should be making significant earnings
- Should have a proven creative record of no less than two years
- Must have social influence
- Entrepreneurship and social impact is a plus
- All applications must be in English
- Should be available and prepared to participate in the Under 30 Meet-Up
Your entry should include:
- Full Names
- Company name/Team you are applying with
- A short motivation on why you should be on the list
- A short profile on self and company
- Links to published material / news clippings about nominee
- All social media handles
- Contact information
- High-res images of yourself
Applications and nominations must be sent via email to FORBES AFRICA journalist and curator of the list, Karen Mwendera, on [email protected]
Nominations close on 3 February 2020.
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