This year marks the fifth milestone annual FORBES AFRICA 30 under 30 list, and we have introduced a new category of game-changers. Together, they are 120 in total across four sectors: business, technology, creatives and sport. Meet the class of 2019, a stellar collection of entrepreneurs and innovators rewriting rules and taking bold new risks to take Africa to the future.
The list is in no particular order:
1. Nthabiseng Mosia, 28, Sierra Leone
Co-founder and CMO: Easy Solar
Nthabiseng Mosia grew up on the outskirts of the township of Alexandra in South Africa, and while attending high school, load shedding (scheduled power cuts) and electricity black outs would affect her studies.
“So when the lights went out, we lived by candlelight. The first few nights, it was fun and somewhat romantic,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
But a few months into the electricity crisis, the novelty wore off.
Mosia was frustrated while studying for her final high school exams under a dim light of a wick, not knowing at the time that this frustration would be the catalyst that drove her to start Easy Solar.
If load shedding was affecting her to this extent, then how much more for millions of Africans who do not have daily electricity?
Mosia made it her personal mission to fix this problem.
While studying Global Energy Policy and Finance at Columbia University in 2015, she started Easy Solar, along with her co-founders Eric Silverman and Alexandre Tourre.
They founded the business in Sierra Leone, where almost 90% of people did not have electricity at the time.
They introduced an entry-level solar product into their business model in an attempt to really target low-income customers.
Today, Easy Solar supplies, installs and services all variety of solar systems.
They also sell solar PV panels, PV mounting structures, solar charge controllers, solar inverters, lead-acid and Li-Ion batteries.
Easy Solar has also expanded to Liberia, and plans to expand into Guinea in the next few years.
2. Evans Akanno, 29, Nigeria
Founder and CEO: Cregital
With N600,000 ($1,600), Evans Akanno founded Cregital, a creative and digital platform, in 2015.
The company designs and builds websites and platforms for African startups and corporates.
“Running a startup in Nigeria with a lean budget, especially in our economy, requires a lot of courage,” he says.
This is because some of the challenges they face include the high cost of power and the liability of the internet in Nigeria.
However, Akanno says in starting the company, he had to make sure it was bootstrapped from the beginning especially when building the team as he says they hired “attitude over skill”.
Over the years, he has won numerous awards including the 2018 Nigeria Technology Awards as the Tech Young Achiever of the Year and the 2016 Future Awards Africa Prize for Creative Professional.
Last year, he founded another tech platform, called Farmkart, which enables people to bank in agriculture by investing in fish farming. In the same year, he also launched Acts of Random Kindness, Cregital’s CSR initiative to give back to the community.
3. Michael Paul Mollel, 29, Tanzania
Co-founder and Executive Chairman: Jimz Technologies Co. Ltd
Michael Paul Mollel is taking a college startup to the world.
He started providing IT support when he was only 15 years old.
He would sell IT equipment such as dongles and flash drives to students and professors.
In 2015, while attending university, the IT enthusiast sought to solve an existing gap at his institution.
“While pursuing an MBA, I kept noticing that both students and professors had problems with their laptops [and] had no where they could rely to have their laptops attended and fixed,” he says.
That’s when Jimz Technologies Co. Ltd was born.
Initially, they only had enough money to pay for the first month’s rent, including a chair and table.
A year later, clients started filing in and the contracts for IT support grew.
Now, their reach is global and they also provide IT support services for international companies such as Tetra Tech and Winrock International.
“It is possible for an African college startup to go miles; even the sky is not the limit anymore. Our team has grown from two to 10; and our sales have almost quadrupled in 2018,” he says.
Next year, Mollel says they plan to open an office in Kigali; part of his plan in taking his college startup everywhere.
4. Nureshka Viranna, 27, South Africa
Co-founder and Director: ShopLi
Nureshka Viranna grew up in Durban in South Africa and comes from a family of academics.
Despite being encouraged to pursue a similar route, Viranna’s passion was in marketing, technology and innovation.
So she quit her teaching job in 2015 to follow her dreams.
She co-founded an e-commerce company called ShopLi and broke every norm, becoming the first entrepreneur in her family.
“It was the best decision and financial investment I made,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
ShopLi is an e-commerce company that designs and develops online stores and catalogues for businesses that can’t afford high rentals or to pay salaries.
“They now had the ability to sell to anyone in the world and operate 24/7,” she says.
She currently employs a team of five.
At the end of last year, she was asked by a friend to assist her son with learning Afrikaans, but she couldn’t find any online resources to help.
This led her to found another business in 2019 called Lit Academy.
She created an online course focusing on video and study guides to help learners improve their marks.
“Lit Academy has given us the opportunity to make quality education available to learners, at a fraction of the cost of tuition. Our aim is to disrupt the education system in South Africa,” she says.
Viranna describes herself as an innovator, disruptor and entrepreneur and aims to become a leading woman in the e-commerce and digital space.
5. Jacob Rugano, 29, Kenya
Co-founder and director: AfricarTrack International
Jacob Rugano founded a company called AfricarTrack International after developing a mobile-controlled road-accident control system that uses a mobile phone to reduce accidents on the road.
It all started when one of his cousins was involved in an accident.
“The accident was caused by a lorry driver who was driving while drunk and over-speeding. Several members of his family died in the accident,” he says.
This gave Rugano the impetus to start a tech company as a solution to help curb road accidents and in 2014, AfricarTrack International was born.
A programmed chip is installed inside the car which acts as a liaison between the car’s computer and the reporting and control system.
The system then collects data on whether the driver had been driving drunk, driving carelessly, as well as the location of the vehicle if hijacked.
“The sensor also automatically controls the car in case it is about to get involved in an accident, reducing the chances of an accident by over 48.67%,” he says.
The company has won numerous awards including the Changemaker Of The Year at the 2016 African Achievers Awards in Sandton, South Africa.
He was also listed among the 2016 Top 40 Under 40 Men in Kenya by Business Daily.
Rugano is passionate about increasing the number of African tech leaders and currently mentors a group of 150 every Sunday.
He plans to expand to South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and install the technology in at least two million vehicles in Kenya.
6. Fred Oyetayo, 25, Nigeria
Founder and CEO: Fresible
Seven years ago, Fred Oyetayo created a digital agency from his university dorm room, unaware that one day it would erupt into a multi-million naira business. Oyetayo is a trained lawyer but enjoyed the digital space more.
Fresible, his enterprise, provides services such as website development, software development, digital marketing and events management.
Oyetayo says the company has trained over 60 individuals in entrepreneurship, digital marketing and web/app development.
Some of their present and past clients include Afe Babalola University, the Federal High Court Nigeria, Dangote Group and First Bank of Nigeria.
In August 2018, the company launched Dlaw.ng (formerly law repository), a web application that uses artificial intelligence to provide legal services to small and medium scale businesses in Nigeria.
Oyetayo plans on his company being one of the largest tech companies in the world.
7. Alpha Nury, 29, Senegal
Founder and CEO: Jamaa Funding
Alpha Nury left his career in finance, working with global companies, Chanel, Apple and L’Oréal to start his own business aimed at financing others.
With €10,000 ($548,617) in savings, Nury launched Jamaa Funding in 2015.
The business is a crowdfunding site aimed at humanitarian and solidarity-based projects using time and money to fund projects all over the world.
To date, they have had numerous successfully-funded projects such as the creation of a farming school, overcoming sickle cell disease, green turtle protection, funding a football team and building a new school.
Nury’s platform has had successful campaigns with 24,102 supported people in Africa, 150 supported people in Asia, and 40 in America.
“Joy is the feeling that we felt the first time a project was funded on the platform and it is a feeling that we continue to have with the same intensity every time. Seeing dreams come true is our reason to exist as a company,” Nury tells FORBES AFRICA.
“By 2020, we hope to have impacted 500,000 people via our platform.”
Some of his biggest milestones have been collaborating with the World Bank and the African Union. Tropics Magazine shortlisted him as one of theMost Influential People in Business in 2018, alongside Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN.
8. Hansley Noruthun, 27, Mauritius
Founder: Mauritius Space and Science Foundation
Hansley Noruthun was born and raised in the village of Triolet in Mauritius, where being a part of the space industry was just a dream.
Now, it has become his reality.
Noruthun is the founder of the Mauritius Space and Science Foundation (MSSF), a community in Mauritius for space, aeronautics and science professionals, students and enthusiasts.
They tackle local and regional issues, using space applications and technologies in areas such as agribusiness, maritime, climate change, earth observation, health and engagement of youth and women in the sector.
It all started when he received a full scholarship by the UK Space Agency and European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications to complete the Space Studies Program 2015 hosted by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in US.
The following year, he received the Space Generation Leadership Award by the Space Generation Advisory Council in support of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications and elected the National Point of Contact (NPoC) for Mauritius.
This gave him the exposure to further develop MSSF.
He recruited a team of 18 from other African countries, and together, they managed to secure a proposal to host the African Space Generation Workshop series in Mauritius.
“The foundation also managed to connect over 25% of the national general public reaching over 300,000 out of the 1.3 million population,” Noruthun says.
Noruthun’s future plans are stratospheric.
“We will be starting with our exclusive National Space Tour, that will be running globally. This is a new project part of the agenda for the foundation that will be launched this year,” he says.
9. Schizzo Thomson, 29, Malawi
Founder and Managing Director: Sky Energy
Power failure in Malawi is a prominent issue.
But the lightbulb came on for a young Malawian electrical engineer from the city of Blantyre.
Schizzo Thomson left the company he was working with in Ireland, returned to Malawi, and registered his business in 2015.
Sky Energy designs, supplies and installs solar energy and power backup systems.
“I have always said that I never started my business with any money but I started with an idea,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
One of his biggest projects was designing and installing a 40KW solar power system at Mulanje Mission Hospital.
Thompson currently employs 32. They have since expanded to Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
10. Wilford Mwanza, 29, Zimbabwe
Founder and CEO: FordOlutions
Wilford Mwanza once attempted to build a power station to increase the efficiency of the national electricity utility in Zimbabwe.
He initiated and drafted a roadmap for the establishment of a smart grid in Zimbabwe, with assistance from the management at the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC).
This spark of electricity resulted in the creation of Mwanza’s company, FordOlutions. It provides simplified practical training on the applications of robotics using NXT Lego robots for SMEs, private businesses, and government organizations in Zimbabwe.
“To date, we have trained over 1,000 participants, done data analytics which assisted our clients to have better insights in decision making, inspired high schools kids to dream brighter of a future with robotics,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
The 29-year-old electrical engineer has big plans for Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“We believe we are tapping a very green opportunity and have the privilege of directing how the narrative will go in Africa with regard to robotics and automation,” he says.
Last year, he was one of 60 Global Shapers at the World Economic Forum on Africa.
At the 2017 Enactus World Cup in London, he won the Enactus World Wide Global Alumni of the Year, where he was representing Zimbabwe.
11. Vena Arielle Ahouansou, 25, Benin
Co-founder and CEO: KEA Medicals
In 2016, Vèna Arielle Ahouansou was part of a delivery team that successfully delivered two babies. But, unfortunately, the delivery caused a haemorrhage in the mother and a blood transfusion was needed immediately.
It took the doctors 10 minutes to find her blood type as the mother was fighting for her life.
Sadly, it was 10 minutes took long. The mother died that night.
It was a sad and unfortunate loss for Ahouansou and her team.
Since then, she vowed to find a solution to improve healthcare in Africa.
That solution was KEA Medicals, established in 2016.
It is a digital platform that connects health structures through a single database, the Universal Medical Identity (IMU), to facilitate the feedback of the medical history of patients.
As a patient, your medical record can be accessed from anywhere and at any time.
Today, they have over 1,700 health professionals linked on the platform.
They currently employ a team of 15, mixed with tech engineers, medical doctors, communications and laws specialists.
“My vision is to ensure an easy and equitable access to healthcare for people around the world by breaking down barriers to access to healthcare for them,” Ahouansou tells FORBES AFRICA.
In the next four years, she plans to connect 500 million Africans to one million medical doctors.
Ahouansou is also a Techstars accelerator program alumni, GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator program and Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme fellow.
12. Damilola Olokesusi, 29, Nigeria
Co-founder and CEO: Shuttlers Logistics Company
With 40% of all cars in Nigeria registered in Lagos, commuting can be stressful.
Fortunately, Damilola Olokesusi has come up with an innovative way to move with ease in the city.
Her business, Shuttlers Logistics Company, uses web and mobile app technology to enable users to book trips along fixed routes at 60%-80% less than ride-hailing services.
You can book a seat, make payments and track updates of your transportation in real-time in a car shared with other professionals and with free wi-fi services.
Olokesusi and her co-founder used their savings to start the business after her sister was robbed by armed men disguised as public bus drivers, on her way to work.
“These horrific experiences created a need for me to create a solution that my colleagues, friends, family and I could use,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
As the business grew, they received grants from the World Bank, Airtel and Sahara Energy, all of which allowed them to go from one to 22 routes in Lagos.
“One of my biggest highlights within the business [was] meeting with President [Muhammadu] Buhari and Vice-President [Yemi] Osinbajo at a private meeting… where I had the opportunity of explaining what we do at Shuttlers.
“[The] same day, I pitched in front of Mark Zuckerberg, the best part was him mentioning Shuttlers in one of his Facebook posts,” she shares.
Among the awards she has won, she was one of the winners of Women In Africa for the Digital and Technology Award 2017. She is also a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.
She powers on.
13. Diana Esther Wangari, 27, Kenya
Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer: Sagitarix
Diana Esther Wangari was a bright-eyed medical student who had dreams of specializing in neurosurgery.
But instead, when she was introduced to the realities of the health care system in Kenya, her dreams changed.
“I was overwhelmed by a sense of waste and lost opportunities. It always seemed to me that we could be doing so much better,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
As a result, she ventured into health communication and entrepreneurship to bridge the gap between the health system and doctors, policy-makers and patients.
In 2016, she co-founded Sagitarix, a digital platform that facilitates the direct distribution of drugs to those most in need, with a focus on patients with chronic diseases.
The company launched an app called iSikCure which allows patients to place orders for drugs.
The medicine is then delivered on the same day.
They also introduced a subsidiary company, Checkups Medical Centres, a low-cost rapid diagnostics medical clinic which uses technology.
Last year, they were able to distribute medical supplies worth over $200,000.
They currently have five clinics, four in rural areas and one in an urban area.
Wangari says they plan to open up four more urban clinics by June 2020.
Her organization has won the Get In The Ring Contest 2018 in Hague, Netherlands.
They were also finalists at the SBC AfriTech 2018 in Paris, France.
14. Chinedu Azodoh, 29, Nigeria
Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer: Metro Africa Xpress (MAX)
“You need to have been trapped in Lagos traffic to truly understand the strong sentiments it evokes in Lagosians and visitors alike,” Chinedu Azodoh tells FORBES AFRICA, leading to the essence of his business.
Metro Africa Xpress (MAX) is a bike-hailing service that allows passenger or packages to move around Lagos conveniently at the tap of a button.
Azodoh and his co-founder, Adetayo Bamiro, came up with the idea of MAX as part of an assignment while studying at MIT Sloan School, in Massachusetts in the US.
They then returned to Lagos and started the business in 2014 with five staff members and three riders in 2014.
“We were both involved in every part of the business, which is to say that we rode the motorcycles, and made deliveries,” Adozoh says.
Today, they have 70 employees and over 1,000 bike riders.
To date, the company has won numerous awards and has been featured by CNN, Business Day and Techstars.
In 2017, they were also one of the 20 top African startups selected for the World Bank Group’s digital acceleration program.
They were also announced as one of the Business Day’s Top 100 Fastest Growing SMEs in Nigeria.
15. Shoriwa Shaun Benjamin, 29, Zimbabwe
Co-founder: Simba Solutions
At the age of 16, Shaun Benjamin taught himself computer programming and it was not long before he mastered the trade.
Today, he is the co-founder and head software developer of Simba Solutions, formerly known as N-Sho Technologies.
The company provides business ICT solutions such as mobile apps, websites and systems, cloud servers and video production.
Benjamin started the company in 2008 with his brother when they lived in Cape Town.
Soon after, they relocated to their home country when the Zimbabwean market was embracing mobile app technology.
“This proved to be a stepping-stone to bigger and more diverse technology projects,” says Benjamin.
Their biggest highlight, to date, was developing a mobile app and web portal for the UNESCO ICT Essentials for Teachers program to equip rural teachers with the essential skills to teach IT.
They have since created opportunities for 15 small enterprises, supported six families and carried out 20 community initiatives.
At the 2018 Agricultural Show, he programmed an advanced virtual reality platform for the Zimbabwe Power Company.
“It is those noble and genuine reactions across members of all ages, from your five-year-olds to your octogenarians, that are priceless, those assurances that your technology is not only impacting an inanimate corporate person, but real people with real lives,” he says.
He plans to create a global brand and is looking at setting up an internship program for young people interested in tech.
16. Karidas Tshintsholo, 24, and Matthew Piper, 25, South Africa
Founders: Khula App
When Karidas Tshintsholo and Matthew Piper moved to Johannesburg to start a business, they slept on the floor for six months, could not afford a bed, or afford to pay rent and electricity.
But they still got up every day, put on suits and tried their best to make it work.
In the end, it was worth it.
The duo now spend their lives as award-winning entrepreneurs, traveling abroad and staying in five-star hotels.
After founding their first business, they made their first million at 23.
However, it was their second business that developed their knack for entrepreneurship.
The duo are reaping what they sowed through their agri-tech business called Khula.
It is a platform that connects producers to customers who are looking for locally-grown fresh produce.
It also helps them make deliveries; and provides a platform for farmers to get mentorship.
Last year, they won the MTN App Of The Year and were ranked one of the world’s top 10 social ventures through The Chivas Venture.
In the next five to 10 years, they plan to scale the business throughout the SADC, Brazil and India.
17. Courtney Bentley 29, South Africa
Co-founder and CEO: Vizibiliti Insight
With just R10 ($0.69) and no formal business experience, Courtney Bentley started his first business, ZA Support, providing Apple product solutions to individuals, SMEs and Mac Pro clients in South Africa.
However, when he tried to apply for credit for the business, he was denied it because he did not have a credit score.
As a result, he sought to find a solution for this problem he shared with millions of South Africans.
“I was so naïve when I first started out. I did not have money to go to university, and I had no financial background so, I really didn’t know anything about the financial system or how it worked,” he says.
His objective was to build a system that could build track-records for individuals and businesses which didn’t require them to incur debt, and his fintech company Vizibiliti Insight sprung from this challenge. In 2016, Bentley co-founded the business as an alternative credit scoring business, using artificial intelligence for the financial services industry, without an individual having to incur debt to prove that they are not a credit risk.
They assess data from individuals, the credit bureau, transactional data, financial analytics and macroeconomic data sets..
The business has analyzed more than R12 billion ($807 million) in loans contracts and has alternative credit intelligence on over 21 million South African consumers and businesses.
“Our goal, in the next 18 months, is to be the number of one most accurate alternative credit scoring platform in South Africa,” he says.
In 2017, the company won the Mercedes-Benz Predictive Manufacturing Award and last year, they were nominated for the CNBC Africa All Africa Business Leaders Awards Innovator of the Year Award.
18. Josh Okpata, 27 and Tochukwu Mbanugo, 29, Nigeria
In 2016, Josh Okpata and Tochukwu Mbanugo thought it would be the end of their business.
While they were in their incubator phase, someone had stolen their business idea and replicated it online.
Their business Eazyhire, a digital peer-to-peer sharing platform that enables individuals and businesses rent items, was gaining a bad reputation.
“He created an unregistered company called Easyhire. Our tagline was ‘Hire, Lease, Rent,’ while his was ‘Rent, Lease, Hire’. Our domain was Eazy hire with a ‘Z’, his was ‘Easyhire’ with an ‘S’. Even the color coding was replicated,” recalls Mbanugo.
They received an overwhelming amount of backlash from the media and prospective clients.
But that did not deter them.
It took a massive PR campaign and hard work to win back the hearts of Nigerians.
Eventually, they succeeded and were awarded Nigerian Technology Start-up of 2016 by the Nigerian Internet Registration Association. Together, they have grown the business from less than $2,000 in 2015 to an estimated $4 million today.
“We have processed over 60,000 transactions and are projected to get to 100,000 by the end of 2019,” Mbanugo says. They currently have 24 full-time employees in two African countries and 22 contract staff in three countries, including Spain.
Some of their biggest clients include Dangote Group, Siemens, Google and Intel.
19. Muhammad Salisu Abdullahi, 28, Nigeria
Co-founder and Managing Director: eTrash2Cash
Muhammad Salisu Abdullahi is a young Nigerian turning waste into wealth.
He co-founded eTrash2Cash in 2016, a social enterprise business, in northern Nigeria, using technology to exchange e-waste for money.
Using the website, mobile app and SMS platform, low-income communities can earn money in exchange for their everyday waste.
The waste is then sorted, processed and recycled into products such as organic compost from food wastes, raw material pellets from plastic wastes, and tissue paper from paper waste.
Since inception, they have created 27 social micro-entrepreneurs, collected 106,222kg of waste, recycled 99,348km of waste and paid N5,575,273 ($15,487) in incentives.
They have since partnered with Microsoft, Co-Creation Hub Nigeria and more.
eTrash2Cash is currently self-sustainable and 50% of the profits are re-invested back into the business.
“[Our goal is] to make eTrash2Cash an enviro-fintech African brand, which helps people at the bottom of the pyramid to monetize all trash they generate and redeem instant cash to improve their lives,” Abdullahi says.
He plans to reach 100,000 low-income earners by 2025.
Abdullahi is a Mandela Washington Fellow and an alumnus of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program.
20. Silas Adekunle, 26, Nigeria
CEO and Co-Founder: Reach Robotics
Silas Adekunle was only a young boy from Nigeria when he dreamed of contributing to the world of modern robotics.
In 2010, he took his first step towards his dream. He went on to study robotics at the University of the West of England.
“I had visions of Transformers in real life, [but] the reality was quite different. I couldn’t find robots that were functioning [the way] I, and indeed most kids, imagined they should. So, I set out to make one,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
Five years ago, he made his first prototype.
It was the MekaMon, the world’s first augmentative reality gaming robot.
Together with his co-founders Chris Beck and John Rees, they spent years building the business and developing the MekaMon technology.
In 2017, they launched the world’s first AR gaming robot and secured $7.5 million in investments.
The same year, they launched with Apple in the UK and the US.
This year, they plan to expose MekaMon to advanced students and allow the technology to be used for study and research at university and postgraduate level. Adekunle plans to enable young Africans to achieve their STEM objectives.
He has begun executing a robotics and engineering pilot program in Nigeria and plans to expand it to other African countries.
“All of us at Reach believe that leading from entertainment is the key to creating the next generation of STEM pioneers,” he says.
21. Joshua Chibueze, 26, Somto Ifezue, 28, and Odunayo Eweniyi, 26, Nigeria
Joshua Chibueze, Somto Ifezue and Odunayo Eweniyi can happily say they have helped Nigerians save $15 million.
The former university mates, at Covenant University in Nigeria, previously co-founded pushcv.com in 2014, a digital job site in Africa with a database of pre-screened candidates.
But that was not all.
Two years later, they founded PiggyVest (formerly piggybank.ng), unaware that it would one day become a million-dollar company.
PiggyVest is a financial technology platform for online savings and investing, helping the youth improve their saving culture.
“PiggyVest was born out of the need to help people create a sustainable means of saving,” Eweniyi tells FORBES AFRICA.
The business has won a number of awards, including the Future Awards Africa Prize In Technology 2018, the Business Day Top 100 SMEs, and the 2017 Village Capital Fintech.
Eweniyi has been recognized as the SME Entrepreneur of the Year at Wealth and Society West Africa for 2019.
22. Uka Eje, 29, Nigeria
Co-founder and CEO: Thrive Agric
Uka Eje used to sell KFC and catfish pepper soup in schools. He even went on to run a food e-commerce site. But these initiatives failed.
However, all those challenges culminated in him becoming the business leader he is today, as the CEO of Thrive Agric, selected as one of the most promising companies of the year at the Africa CEO Forum last year.
Thrive Agric is an agricultural technology-enabled company that works with smallholder farmers in Nigeria to give them access to finance.
They have been able to fund over 15,000 farmers across Nigeria.
They have a permanent staff of 96 and 14 ad-hoc staff.
One of their biggest achievements to date was being selected to participate in the Google Developers Launchpad Space.
As for Eje, he was part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) 2018.
He is also a Mandela Washington Fellow.
“Our vision is to build an Africa that feeds the world and itself, and to get this done, we plan to have boarded close to five million farmers in the next seven years,” he says.
23. Melissa Mwale, 29, Zimbabwe
Founder: Hive Incorporation, and co-founder: CryptoGem
Melissa Mwale is the founder of three organizations, two of them operating in the technology space.
In 2016, Mwale was looking for a professional job while selling second-hand clothes out of the boot of her car.
“The death of my eldest brother when he was only 33 years old gave me a rude awakening. I began to search for my purpose. After deep introspection, I realized I was strongly passionate about Africa,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
The entrepreneur at heart wanted to find something that would not only change her family, but change the lives of Africans, especially women.
As a result, she started Hive Incorporation, an online fashion store.
She sold her car and laptop and used the money to start the business. The sacrifices paid off because as a result of business success, she was able to buy two brand new ones.
The platform has a secure online shopping service with multiple payment methods to choose from such as Debit Visa Cards, Zimswitch, electronic funds transfer, PayPal, EcoCash, Wallet One, Zipit, Bitcoin and cash on delivery.
Her love for digital and e-commerce led her to co-found CryptoGem Global.
It is a peer-to-peer bitcoin exchange that allows cryptocurrency traders to trade for e-monies or local monies.
She was invited by Afrobytes, an African tech marketplace, to share her journey in the e-commerce and blockchain industry in Paris the same year.
“Sharing the African story with international investors made my dream more tangible. I believe in creating solutions for Africa that work for Africa instead of duplicating the West,” she says.
“In the midst of the difficulties currently being faced by my country, Zimbabwe, I still dare to hope, I still believe in solutions that will help everyone at large,” Mwale adds.
One of her goals is to mentor other women in business and create opportunities that might create 100 female millionaire entrepreneurs in Africa by 2030, through an organization she founded called Messe Foundation.
24. Eric Muli, 27, Kenya
Founder and CEO: Odyssey Capital
At only 27, Eric Muli’s company has been listed by the London Stock Exchange Group as one of the companies to inspire Africa.
But his company isn’t the only inspiring thing.
After finishing high school, Muli received a scholarship to attend Babson College in Wellesley in the US and this was where his journey as an entrepreneur began.
He started his first venture, a marketing company called Jossle, while studying.
At the time, Odyssey were recognized by Business Insider as one of the best college startups, along with Uber and Microsoft.
Muli ran the company successfully but something was amiss.
“On graduating in 2014, I had a burning desire to return home and begin building a company that would impact the communities I was raised in,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
The following year, he launched Odyssey Capital, a non-deposit-taking financial institution which provides financial products and services to individuals and businesses in the lower to middle income bracket in Kenya.
With a strict policy of 50/50 male-to-female hiring policy, they have since built a team of over 90 employees, 500 sales agents and built partnerships with Samsung, Huawei, TECNO Mobile, Walmart and Airtel.
This year, Muli is expanding into Uganda and Tanzania.
“We are building an African entity and not just a local entity,” he says.
26. Eric Rutayisire, 28, Rwanda
Founder and CEO: Charis UAS
Eric Rutayisire was born in Kinshasa, Congo, to Rwandan parents who had fled the country due to the political instability and persecution against the Tutsis at the time.
In 2010, he had the opportunity to study at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in the US.
That’s where he fell in love with what would form the business he runs today.
With the $1,000 he invested from his savings, he bought drone parts and built one.
“The building was successful and as I started flying, I saw a great opportunity for business not in the US but in my home country of Rwanda,” he says.
Rutayisire set out to do so and his business, Charis UAS, was born in 2014.
The company provides rapid and high-quality aerial imagery to various industries to support intelligent decision-making.
But it wasn’t easy.
“Many were sceptical about a young African building such technology and many told me it was going to fail. Many times, we were chased out of offices because people thought that we were just kids playing around,” he says.
To prove the value of the technology, Rutayisire worked an entire year free in 2015 and the demand started pouring in.
Now, he employs 16 full-time staff and has opened new offices in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
One of the projects the company worked on was to use drones to fight malaria.
Last year, the company was voted one of the Companies to Inspire Africa by the London Stock Exchange Group.
Rutayisire plans to expand the business into 15 countries and reach 15 million farmers through his company’s services.
27. Wissal Farsal, 27, and Khalid Machchate, 26, Morocco
Founders: K&W Technologies
Wissal Farsal and Khalid Machchate are a duo passionate about technology.
Three years ago, the two founded K&W Technologies International.
It’s a digital solutions firm specializing in software and hardware innovative products in a secure and data-driven process.
They design brands, develop solutions and scale strategies, from machine-learning to analytics, digital marketing and protective cybersecurity solutions.
“We created our first product, Skill Learn, that earned us 5,000 active users in its first four months,” they tell FORBES AFRICA.
In 2017, they were awarded by DEMO Africa as Entrepreneur of the Year and Africa Lion for designing their second product called SOS Santé which is a software and hardware solution used to detect road accidents, and alert the closest emergency service.
Today, they have raised a seed funding round to industrialize SOS Santé and deliver their first batch in Morocco to CACF Insurance and Siemens.
They were also accepted into the Silicon Valley’s acceleration program.
Their goal is to create innovative solutions with social impact for Africa.
27. Tyrone Adams, 28, and Siyabonga Thomas Tiwana, 29, South Africa
Founders: Skywalk Innovations
Having met in their third year at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, this duo founded a business out of their shared passion for technology and entrepreneurship.
While Tyrone Adams was working on a project digitizing bookings for a personal trainer, he brought Siyabonga Thomas Tiwana on board to assist, and together they made magic.
They launched the product and it was a success.
Skywalk Innovations is a tech hub and software engineering firm focused on digital transformation to solve business problems, unlock new potential revenue models or drive down inefficiencies in business processes.
They assist businesses to develop mobile applications, in innovative research, and digital transformation and software integrations.
“We wanted to become Africa’s technology partner,” says Adams.
And so, they set out to do just that. Their clients were local and international, ranging from different industries such as government, agriculture, finance and education.
Their current team of nine is made up of engineers, business analysts and user interface/user experience experts, a majority of whom are also Cape Peninsula University of Technology alumni.
“Our goal is to be the biggest software engineering company in Africa. We are aiming towards a turnover of over R100 million ($6.7 million) in five years and to be listed in a stock exchange,” says Tiwana.
28. Chika Madubuko, 27, Nigeria
Co-founder and CEO: Greymate Care
When Chika Madubuko’s grandmother was bedridden due to diabetes, her family found it difficult to care for her.
“We were all busy and couldn’t provide her with the care she deserved. Hiring a caregiver for her was so complicated. Sometimes, miles were traveled in futility to interview one caregiver, and we often ended up with a poorly-trained caregiver,” she recalls.
As a result, she decided to create a business as a solution to this problem.
Greymate Care is a digital platform that connects patients to an insured and professional caregiver 24/7.
Madubuko launched the business with $4,500 in Abuja in 2016.
Her team has since grown to a staff of 20.
She plans to expand into other African countries such as Kenya and South Africa.
Among her accolades, Madubuko was a finalist for the She Leads Africa Accelerator 2017.
She also received an award for Social Innovation by Women in Africa Philanthropy Entrepreneurs Club Programme.
29. Dorcas Owinoh, 28, Kenya
Co-founder and Director: LakeHub
Dorcas Owino was born in Kibera, one of the informal settlements in Kenya.
Now, she works at improving technology access to girls from similar backgrounds.
She co-founded LakeHub with her team at university. It is a technology and social innovation hub in Kisumu that supports a community of creatives, programmers, hackers, designers and entrepreneurs; a majority of whom are girls aged between 13 and 19 years old.
One of their biggest successes was in 2017 when a group of girls from LakeHub were the only team picked to represent Africa at the 2017 Technovation Challenge, sponsored by Google, Verizon and the United Nations in Silicon Valley, US.
“I feel strongly that as women, we have to own our careers and destinies, because no one else is going to be as invested in your success as you will be. Also, it is imperative that women find both mentors and sponsors who can help them guide and navigate the landmines along the way,” Owinoh says.
Some of her company’s partners are Siemens Stiftung, Pluralsight, Hivos, and Segal Family Foundation.
Last year, she was a runner-up at the Queens Young Leaders awards.
30. Ndabenhle Ngulube, 28, Matthew Smith, 26, and Marnus van Heerden, 29, South Africa
Founders: Pineapple App
With a snap on your mobile phone, you can now insure anything under a minute thanks to this trio.
Marnus van Heerden, Matthew Smith and Ndabenhle Ngulube founded the Pineapple app in 2017.
It is a peer-to-peer, decentralized digital form of fast insurance for absolutely anything except vehicles and houses.
Hannover-Re, one of the largest reinsurance groups in the world, ran a global competition to select a team that would come up with an idea to disrupt the insurance space.
Van Heerden, Smith and Ngulube were the lucky ones to represent Johannesburg and were incubated for six months with salaries and the Pineapple app was born.
“Laden with paper intensive on-boarding procedures, and hidden behind a veil of complexity, the insurance industry has become somewhat of a landmark for innovation,” they tell FORBES AFRICA.
The next year, they secured R5.2 million ($359,412) in seed investment from Lireas Holdings.
Since then, they have built a community of 13,000 users.
In 2018, at the Lireas conference, they received a certificate of excellence as the Most Innovative Company and won the MTN business award for the Best Consumer Solution.
This year, they plan to expand their services to insure vehicles at the snap of a picture and they plan to expand to the US as well.
Their plan is to become the go-to insurance product for the “sharing economy”.
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.
Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women
This is a first-of-its-kind Pan-African unranked compilation of the continent’s leading women, drawn from business, politics, media, science, sports and public life, who are challenging the status quo and creating a trail on terrain where there was none. They are reshaping history, closing inequalities and pioneering new avenues of wealth creation and in turn, lifting others with them.
This is a first-of-its-kind Pan-African unranked compilation of the continent’s leading women, drawn from business, politics, media, science, sports and public life, who are challenging the status quo and creating a trail on terrain where there was none. They are reshaping history, closing inequalities and pioneering new avenues of wealth creation and in turn, lifting others with them.
|GRACA MACHEL||SOUTH AFRICA||FOUNDER, GRACA MACHEL TRUST||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT|
|CLARE AKAMANZI||RWANDA||CEO, RWANDA DEVELOPMENT BOARD||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT/GOVERNANCE|
|FOLORUNSO ALAKIJA||NIGERIA||EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIR, FAMFA OIL||OIL SECTOR|
|JENNIFER RIRIA||KENYA||GROUP CEO, ECHO NETWORK AFRICA (ENA); FOUNDING MEMBER, KENYA WOMEN FINANCE TRUST||FINANCE|
|LOUISE MUSHIKIWABO||RWANDA||SECRETARY GENERAL, ORGANISATION INTERNATIONALE DE LA FRANCOPHONIE (OIF)|
|AYA CHEBBI||TUNISIA||BLOGGER AND AFRICA UNION YOUTH ENVOY||MEDIA|
|ELSIE KANZA||TANZANIA||HEAD OF AFRICA AND MEMBER OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM||FINANCE|
|IBUKUN AWOSIKA||NIGERIA||FOUNDER AND CEO, THE CHAIR CENTRE GROUP||MANUFACTURING|
|DR JUDY DLAMINI||SOUTH AFRICA||FOUNDER, MBEKANI GROUP||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT|
|CHARLIZE THERON||SOUTH AFRICA||HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS||ENTERTAINMENT|
|CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE||NIGERIA||AUTHOR, PUBLIC SPEAKER||PUBLISHING|
|PHUTI MAHANYELE-DABENGWA||SOUTH AFRICA||CEO, NASPERS SOUTH AFRICA||TECHNOLOGY|
|OBIAGELI ‘OBY’ EZEKWESILI||NIGERIA||SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR, AFRICA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT POLICY INITIATIVE (AEDPI)||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT|
|GLENDA GRAY||SOUTH AFRICA||PRESIDENT AND CEO, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL (SAMRC)||HEALTHCARE|
|THULI MADONSELA||SOUTH AFRICA||LAW TRUST CHAIR, SOCIAL JUSTICE RESEARCH AT STELLENBOSCH UNIVERSITY||LAW|
|WENDY LUHABE||SOUTH AFRICA||SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR & CO-FOUNDER, WIPHOLD||FINANCE|
|ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO||BENIN||FOUR-TIME GRAMMY AWARD WINNER||ENTERTAINMENT|
|MANAL ROSTOM||EGYPT||FOUNDER, SURVIVING HIJAB AND FACE OF NIKE PRO HIJAB||HEALTH AND FITNESS|
|LYDIA NSEKERA||BURUNDI||PRESIDENT, NATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE (NOC) OF BURUNDI AND MEMBER OF FIFA COUNCIL||SPORT/GOVERNANCE|
|WINNIE BYANYIMA||UGANDA||EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNAIDS||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT|
|NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA||NIGERIA||CHAIR, BOARD OF THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR VACCINES AND IMMUNISATION (GAVI)||HEALTHCARE|
|PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA||SOUTH AFRICA||EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITED NATIONS (UN) WOMEN||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT|
|WARIS DIRIE||SOMALIA||PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, DESERT FLOWER FOUNDATION||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT|
|ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF||LIBERIA||FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT OF LIBERIA, NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE||GOVERNANCE|
|YVONNE CHAKA CHAKA||SOUTH AFRICA||AWARD-WINNING MUSICIAN||ENTERTAINMENT|
|SAHLE-WORK ZEWDE||ETHIOPIA||PRESIDENT OF ETHIOPIA||GOVERNANCE|
|MAMOKGETHI (KGETHI) PHAKENG||SOUTH AFRICA||VICE-CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN (UCT)||EDUCATION|
|REBECCA ENONCHONG||CAMEROON||FOUNDER & CEO, APPSTECH||TECHNOLOGY|
|BONANG MATHEBA||SOUTH AFRICA||MEDIA PERSONALITY, ENTREPRENEUR||ENTERTAINMENT|
|FATMA SAMOURA||SENEGAL||SECRETARY-GENERAL, FIFA||SPORT|
|IRENE CHARNLEY||SOUTH AFRICA||FOUNDER, SMILE COMMUNICATIONS||TECHNOLOGY|
|UCHENNA ‘UCHE’ PEDRO||NIGERIA||FOUNDER AND CEO, BELLANAIJA||MEDIA|
|ILWAD ELMAN||SOMALIA||FOUNDER, ELMAN PEACE CENTRE||ACTIVISM|
|WENDY APPELBAUM||SOUTH AFRICA||FOUNDER AND CHAIRPERSON, DE MORGENZON WINE ESTATE||ENTREPRENEUR|
|OLAJUMOKE ADENOWO||NIGERIA||FOUNDER, AD CONSULTING||ADVERTISING|
|BETHLEHEM TILAHUN ALEMU||ETHIOPIA||FOUNDER AND CEO, SOLEREBELS FOOTWEAR, GARDEN OF COFFEE, TEFFTASTIC||ENTREPRENEUR|
|NKOSAZANA DLAMINI-ZUMA||SOUTH AFRICA||MINISTER OF COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS, SOUTH AFRICA||GOVERNANCE|
|WENDY ACKERMAN||SOUTH AFRICA||EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PICK ‘N PAY||RETAIL|
|CASTER SEMENYA||SOUTH AFRICA||OLYMPIC CHAMPION||SPORT|
|RAWYA MANSOUR||EGYPT||FOUNDER AND CEO, RAMSCO||AGRICULTURE|
|ARUNMA OTEH||NIGERIA||ACADEMIC SCHOLAR, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD FORMER TREASURER AND VICE PRESIDENT, WORLD BANK LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE AFRICA ADVISORY GROUP MEMBER||FINANCE|
|FATOU BENSOUDA||GAMBIA||PROSECUTOR, INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC)||LAW|
|HAJER SHARIEF||LIBYA||HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE||ACTIVISM|
|AMINA J. MOHAMMED||NIGERIA||DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT|
|PRECIOUS MOTSEPE||SOUTH AFRICA||FOUNDER, AFRICAN FASHION INTERNATIONAL||FASHION|
|LUPITA NYONG’O||KENYA||OSCAR-WINNING ACTOR||ENTERTAINMENT|
|VERA SONGWE||CAMEROON||EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICA||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT|
|MAGDA WIERZYCKA||SOUTH AFRICA||FOUNDER, SYGNIA||FINANCE|
|TARA FELA-DUROTOYE||NIGERIA||FOUNDER, HOUSE OF TARA INTERNATIONAL||BEAUTY|
|THERESA KACHINDAMOTO||MALAWI||CHIEF OF DEDZA DISTRICT||SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT|
Africa’s Richest 2020: Steady State With Some Volatility On The Margins
Like elsewhere in the world, fortunes in Africa can be volatile, thanks to changes like a new currency.
Africa’s billionaires are as a group richer than a year ago. Altogether, the continent’s 20 billionaires are worth a combined $73.4 billion, up from $68.7 billion a year ago.
For the ninth year in a row, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria is the richest person in Africa, worth an estimated $10.1 billion, down from $10.3 billion a year ago amid a slightly lower stock price for his Dangote Cement, his largest holding. The much-heralded oil refinery that Dangote is building in Nigeria is still at least a year away from completion.
Nassef Sawiris of Egypt is the new number two richest, worth $8 billion—up from $6.3 billion last year. Sawiris’ most valuable asset is a stake in shoemaker Adidas worth a recent $4 billion. The increase in Adidas’ share price alone added nearly $1.5 billion to his fortune since January 2019. He also owns a significant stake in fertilizer producer OCI N.V. In 2019, Sawiris and U.S. investor Wes Edens purchased the remaining stake they didn’t own in U.K. Premier League team Aston Villa Football Club.
Number three on the list is Nigeria’s Mike Adenuga, worth $7.7 billion. He owns mobile phone network GloMobile as well as oil producer Conoil and extensive real estate holdings.
One member of this elite group is worth 50% less than a year ago. Due primarily to the introduction of a new (weaker) currency in Zimbabwe, Strive Masiyiwa’s fortune fell to $1.1 billion from $2.3 billion in January 2019. Zimbabwe, which has battled with hyperinflation, had been using the U.S. dollar as its currency, but in 2019 it switched to its own currency, initially called the RTGS. When converted into U.S. dollars, the values of Masiyiwa’s stakes in Zimbabwe-listed mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and Cassava Smartech fell dramatically in dollar terms.
Just two of the 20 billionaires are women: Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos; and Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria. Dos Santos’ fortune has declined to an estimated $2.2 billion, down $100 million from a year ago. In late December, an Angola court issued an order to freeze the assets that Isabel dos Santos and her husband, Sindika Dokolo, own in Angola. Those include her stake in telecom firm Unitel and stakes in two Angolan banks; Forbes estimates those assets are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. A statement issued by Isabel dos Santos said the judgment contained “a number of untruths” and that she would fight the decision “by using all the instruments of Angolan and international law at my disposal.”
Country rankings are unchanged from a year ago: Egypt and South Africa are tied with five billionaires each, followed by Nigeria with four and Morocco with two. Forbes found one billionaire each from Algeria, Angola, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. That’s the same as last year but a better representation than nine years ago, when only four African nations were home to ten-figure fortunes.
Our list tracks the wealth of African billionaires who reside in Africa or have their primary businesses there, thus excluding Sudanese-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, who is a U.K. citizen, and billionaire London resident Mohamed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian citizen. (Strive Masiyiwa, a citizen of Zimbabwe and a London resident, appears on the list due to his expansive telecom holdings in Africa; Isabel dos Santos, a citizen of Angola, has been living in Europe but retains assets in Angola—although they were recently frozen by a court in Angola.) We calculated net worths using stock prices and currency exchange rates from the close of business on Friday, January 10, 2020. To value privately held businesses, we couple estimates of revenues or profits with prevailing price-to-sales or price-to-earnings ratios for similar public companies. Some list members grow richer or poorer within weeks—or days—of our measurement date.
– Written by Kerry A. Dolan
Africa’s Billionaires List
- Aliko Dangote
Net worth: $10.1 billion
Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar
Education: Al-Azhar University, Bachelor of Arts/Science
Dangote, Africa’s richest man, founded and chairs Dangote Cement, the continent’s largest cement producer. He owns nearly 85% of publicly-traded Dangote Cement through a holding company. Dangote Cement produces 45.6 million metric tons annually and has operations in 10 countries across Africa. Dangote also owns stakes in publicly-traded salt, sugar and flour manufacturing companies. Dangote Refinery has been under construction for three years and is expected to be one of the world’s largest oil refineries once complete.
Did You Know?
Dangote’s grandfather was a successful trader of rice and oats in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city.
Dangote told Forbes that when he was young, he bought sweets, gave them to others to sell, and he kept the profits.
2. Nassef Sawiris
Net worth: $8 billion
Origin of wealth: Construction, chemicals
Education: University of Chicago
Nassef Sawiris is a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family. His brother Naguib is also a billionaire. Sawiris split Orascom Construction Industries into two entities in 2015: OCI and Orascom Construction. He runs OCI, one of the world’s largest nitrogen fertilizer producers, with plants in Texas and Iowa; it trades on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange. Orascom Construction, an engineering and building firm, trades on the Cairo exchange and Nasdaq Dubai. His holdings include stakes in cement giant Lafarge Holcim and Adidas; he sits on the supervisory board of Adidas.
Did You Know?
A University of Chicago graduate, he donated $24.1 million to the school in 2019 to aid Egyptian students and fund an executive education program.
Nassef Sawiris teamed up with Fortress Investment Group’s Wes Edens to purchase a majority stake in Aston Villa Football Club.
3. Mike Adenuga
Net worth: $7.7 billion
Origin of wealth: Telecom, oil
Education: Pace University, Master of Business
Adenuga, Nigeria’s second richest man, built his fortune in telecom and oil production. His mobile phone network, Globacom, is the third largest operator in Nigeria, with 43 million subscribers. His oil exploration outfit, Conoil Producing, operates six oil blocks in the Niger Delta. Adenuga got an MBA at Pace University in New York, supporting himself as a student by working as a taxi driver. He made his first million at age 26 selling lace and distributing soft drinks.
4. Nicky Oppenheimer
Net worth: $7.7 billion
Origin of wealth: Diamonds
Country: South Africa
Education: Oxford University Christ Church, Master of Arts/Science
Oppenheimer, heir to his family’s fortune, sold his 40% stake in diamond firm DeBeers to mining group Anglo American for $5.1 billion in cash in 2012. He was the third generation of his family to run DeBeers, and took the company private in 2001. For 85 years until 2012, the Oppenheimer family occupied a controlling spot in the world’s diamond trade. In 2014, Oppenheimer started Fireblade Aviation in Johannesburg, which operates chartered flights with its fleet of three planes and two helicopters. He owns at least 720 square miles of conservation land across South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Did You Know?
Oppenheimer owns Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, the largest private game reserve in South Africa.
Oppenheimer is a sports fan and plays squash, golf and cricket. Notepads in his office read: “Things I must do before cricket”.
5.Johann Rupert & family
Net worth: $6.5 billion
Origin of wealth: Luxury goods
Country: South Africa
Residence: Cape Town
Rupert is chairman of Swiss luxury goods firm Compagnie Financiere Richemont. The company is best known for the brands Cartier and Montblanc. It was formed in 1998 through a spinoff of assets owned by Rembrandt Group Limited (now Remgro Limited), which his father Anton formed in the 1940s. He owns a 7% stake in diversified investment firm Remgro, which he chairs, as well as 25% of Reinet, an investment holding co. based in Luxembourg. In recent years, Rupert has been a vocal opponent of plans to allow fracking in the Karoo, a region of South Africa where he owns land.
Did You Know?
He also owns part of the Saracens English rugby team and Anthonij Rupert Wines, named after his deceased brother.
Rupert says his biggest regret was not buying half of Gucci when he had the opportunity to do so for just $175 million.
6.Issad Rebrab & family
Net worth: $4.4 billion
Origin of wealth: Food
Issad Rebrab is the founder and CEO of Cevital, Algeria’s biggest privately-held company. Cevital owns one of the largest sugar refineries in the world, with the capacity to produce 2 million tons a year. Cevital owns European companies, including French home appliances maker Groupe Brandt, an Italian steel mill and a German water purification company. After serving eight months in jail on charges of corruption, Rebrab was released on January 1, 2020. He denies any wrongdoing.
Did You Know?
Rebrab is the son of militants who fought for Algeria’s independence from France.
Cevital helped finance a biopic on Algerian resistance hero Larbi Ben M’hidi, who was executed by the French in 1957.
Net worth: $3.3 billion
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration
Mansour oversees family conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (D.1976) in 1952 and has 60,000 employees. Mansour established General Motors dealerships in Egypt in 1975, later becoming one of GM’s biggest distributors worldwide. Mansour Group also has exclusive distribution rights for Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and seven other African countries. He served as Egypt’s Minister of Transportation from 2006 to 2009 under the Hosni Mubarak regime. His brothers Yasseen and Youssef, who share ownership in the family group, are also billionaires; his son Loutfy heads private equity arm Man Capital.
Net worth: $3.1 billion
Origin of wealth: Cement, sugar
Rabiu is the founder of BUA Group, a Nigerian conglomerate active in cement production, sugar refining and real estate. In early January 2020, Rabiu merged his privately-owned Obu Cement company with listed firm Cement Co. of Northern Nigeria, which he controlled. The combined firm, called BUA Cement Plc, trades on the Nigerian stock exchange; Rabiu owns 98.5% of it. Rabiu, the son of a businessman, inherited land from his father. He set up his own business in 1988 importing iron, steel and chemicals.
Net worth: $3 billion
Origin of wealth: Telecom
Education: Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Master of Science; Swiss Federal Polytechnical Institute, Bachelor of Arts/Science
Naguib Sawiris is a scion of Egypt’s wealthiest family. His brother Nassef is also a billionaire. He built a fortune in telecom, selling Orascom Telecom in 2011 to Russian telecom firm VimpelCom (now Veon) in a multibillion-dollar transaction. He’s chairman of Orascom TMT Investments, which has stakes in a major asset manager in Egypt and an Italian internet company, among others. Family holding La Mancha has stakes in Evolution Mining, Endeavour Mining and Golden Star Resources, which operate gold mines in Africa and Australia. Sawiris is a majority owner in Euronews. He’s also developed a luxury resort called Silversands in Grenada.
Did You Know?
Sawiris helped found The Free Egyptians, a liberal political party, at the onset of Egypt’s uprisings in 2011.
In 2015, he offered to buy a Greek or Italian island to house Syrian refugees, but Greece and Italy turned him down.
Net worth: $2.6 billion
Origin of wealth: Mining
Country: South Africa
Motsepe, the founder and chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, became a billionaire in 2008 – the first black African on the Forbes list. In 2016, he launched a new private equity firm, African Rainbow Capital, focused on investing in Africa. Motsepe also has a stake in Sanlam, a listed financial services firm, and is the president and owner of the Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club. He became the first black partner at law firm Bowman Gilfillan in Johannesburg, and then started a contracting business doing mine scut work. In 1994, he bought low-producing gold mine shafts and later turned them profitable.
11. Koos Bekker
Net worth: $2.5 billion
Origin of wealth: Media, investments
Country: South Africa
Residence: Cape Town
Education: Columbia Business School, Master of Business Administration; University of Witwatersrand, LLB
Bekker is revered for transforming South African newspaper publisher Naspers into an ecommerce investor and cable TV powerhouse. He led Naspers to invest in Chinese Internet and media firm Tencent in 2001 – by far the most profitable of the bets he made on companies elsewhere. In 2019, Naspers put some assets into two publicly-traded companies, entertainment firm MultiChoice Group and Prosus, which contains the Tencent stake. It sold a 2% stake in Tencent in March 2018, its first time reducing its holding, but stated at the time it would not sell again for three years. Bekker, who retired as the CEO of Naspers in March 2014, returned as chairman in April 2015.
Did You Know?
His Babylonstoren estate, nearly 600 acres in South Africa’s Western Cape region, features architecture dating back to 1690, a farm, orchard and vineyard and more.
Over the summer of 2015, he sold more than 70% of his Naspers shares.
Net worth: $2.3 billion
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Education: George Washington University,
Bachelor of Arts/Science
Mansour is a shareholder in family-owned conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (d.1976) in 1952. Mansour Group is the exclusive distributor of GM vehicles and Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and several other countries. His brothers Mohamed and Youssef are also billionaires and part owners of Mansour Group. He’s chairman of Palm Hills Developments, one of Egypt’s biggest real estate developers.
Did You Know?
Mansour Group is the sole franchisee of McDonald’s in Egypt, as well as the distributor of Gauloises cigarettes.
13.Isabel dos Santos
Net worth: $2.2 billion
Origin of wealth: Investments
Education: King’s College London, Bachelor of Arts/Science
Dos Santos is the oldest daughter of Angola’s longtime former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who stepped down in fall 2017. Her father made her head of Sonangol, Angola’s state oil firm, in June 2016, but Angola’s new president removed her from that role in November 2017. Forbes research found that while Isabel’s father was president, she ended up with stakes in Angolan companies including banks and a telecom firm. She owns shares of Portuguese companies, including telecom and cable TV firm Nos SGPS. A spokesperson for Isabel told Forbes that she “is an independent business woman and a private investor representing solely her own interests.” In December 2019, an Angolan court issued an order freezing her stakes in Angolan companies, part of a suit about funds she owes to the state oil firm.
Did You Know?
Isabel dos Santos is nicknamed “the princess” in Angola.
Santos’ mother, Tatiana Kukanova, met her father while he was a student in Azerbaijan. The couple later divorced.
Net worth: $1.9 billion
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Education: Auburn University, Master of Business Administration; North Carolina State University, Bachelor of Science in Engineering
Mansour is chairman of family-owned conglomerate Mansour Group, which was founded by his father Loutfy (d.1976) in 1952. Mansour Group is the exclusive distributor of GM vehicles and Caterpillar equipment in Egypt and several other countries. He oversees the consumer goods division, which includes supermarket chain Metro, and sole distribution rights for L’Oreal in Egypt. Younger brothers Mohamed and Yasseen are also billionaires and part owners of Mansour Group.
Did You Know?
Former Egypt President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized his father’s original cotton trading business.
Mansour is a founding member of the American Egyptian Chamber of Commerce.
15. Aziz Akhannouch
Net worth: $1.7 billion
Origin of wealth: Petroleum, diversified
Education: Universite de Sherbrooke, Master of Business Administration
Aziz Akhannouch is the majority owner of Akwa Group, a multibillion-dollar conglomerate founded by his father and a partner, Ahmed Wakrim, in 1932. It has interests in petroleum, gas and chemicals through publicly-traded Afriquia Gaz and Maghreb Oxygene. Akhannouch is Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the president of a royalist political party.
Did You Know?
His wife Salwa Idrissi runs her own company, which has franchises for Gap, Gucci and Ralph Lauren in Morocco.
Net worth: $1.6 billion
Origin of wealth: Diversified
Residence: Dar es Salaam
Mohammed Dewji is the CEO of MeTL, a Tanzanian conglomerate founded by his father in the 1970s. MeTL is active in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in eastern, southern and central Africa. MeTL operates in at least six African countries and has ambitions to expand to several more. Dewji, Tanzania’s only billionaire, signed the Giving Pledge in 2016, promising to donate at least half his fortune to philanthropic causes. Dewji was reportedly kidnapped at gunpoint in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in October 2018 and released after nine days.
Did You Know?
Dewji retired from Tanzania’s parliament in early 2015 after completing two terms.
Dewji, who is known as Mo (short for Mohammed), launched Mo Cola several years ago to compete with Coca Cola.
Net worth: $1.4 billion
Origin of wealth: Banking, insurance
Education: Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne, Diploma
Benjelloun is CEO of BMCE Bank of Africa, which has a presence in more than 20 African countries. His father was a shareholder in RMA Watanya, a Moroccan insurance company; Benjelloun built it into a leading insurer. Through his holding company FinanceCom, he has a stake in the Moroccan arm of French telecom firm Orange. He inaugurated in 2014 a $500 million plan to build the 55-story Mohammed VI Tower in Rabat. It will be one of the tallest buildings in Africa. FinanceCom is part of a project to develop a multibillion-dollar tech city in Tangiers that is expected to host 200 Chinese companies.
Did You Know?
He co-owns Ranch Adarouch, one of the biggest cattle breeders in Africa.
Benjelloun and his wife received the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award for building schools in rural Morocco in 2016.
18.Michiel Le Roux
Net worth: $1.3 billion
Origin of wealth: Banking
Country: South Africa
Le Roux of South Africa founded Capitec Bank in 2001 and owns about an 11% stake. The bank, which trades on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, targets South Africa’s emerging middle class. He served as chairman of the board of Capitec from 2007 to 2016 and has continued on as a board member. Le Roux previously ran Boland Bank, a small regional bank in Cape Town’s hinterland.
Did You Know?
The bank has more than 800 branches and over 13,000 employees.
Fellow South African Jannie Mouton’s PSG Group owns a 30% stake in Capitec Bank.
Net worth: $1.1 billion
Origin of wealth: Telecom
Education: University of Wales, Bachelor of Engineering
Masiyiwa overcame protracted government opposition to launch mobile phone network Econet Wireless Zimbabwe in his country of birth in 1998. He owns just over 50% of the publicly-traded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, which is one part of his larger Econet Group. Masiyiwa also owns just over half of private company Liquid Telecom, which provides fiber optic and satellite services to telecom firms across Africa. His other assets include stakes in mobile phone networks in Burundi and Lesotho, and investments in fintech and power distribution firms in Africa. He and his wife Tsitsi founded the Higherlife Foundation, which supports orphaned and poor children in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Burundi and Lesotho.
Did You Know?
After studying at university in Britain, Masiyiwa worked at ZPTC, Zimbabwe’s phone company.
He left ZPTC to start an engineering services firm, then sold it and founded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, but had to battle the government in court for years
Net worth: $1 billion
Origin of wealth: Oil
Folorunso Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset. Famfa Oil’s partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Alakija’s first company was a fashion label whose customers included the wife of former Nigerian president Ibrahim Babangida. The Nigerian government awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license in 1993, which was later converted to an oil mining lease. The Agbami field has been operating since 2008; Famfa Oil says it will likely operate through 2024.
What It’s Like Meeting Africa’s Richest Man
FORBES AFRICA journalist Peace Hyde says she first interviewed Aliko Dangote in Nigeria about three years ago for the popular FORBES AFRICA show, My Worst Day With Peace Hyde, airing on CNBC Africa, and has since had the privilege of meeting and speaking with him several times at both official and private functions.
“Dangote is someone who is extremely focused and driven with a bullish passion for Africa. For him, the goal is to dream as big and as grandiose as you can when it comes to the future of Africa because he believes, we have the human capital and resources to transform our continent. Everything is possible in his mind. His approach to business is testament to this fact.”
The largest employer in Africa’s most populous economy, he is also seen as a stabilizing force within the economies of several countries across the African continent. His story, however, has not been without failure.
“Dangote has had his fair share of ups and downs. But his advice to young entrepreneurs is having the ability to delay gratification and work hard through tough times so they can enjoy the fruits of their labor at a later date,” says Hyde.
Through the Dangote Foundation, which has the objective of reducing the number of lives lost to malnutrition and disease as well as combating Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children, thousands of children have been saved from the brink of death.
Dangote is also known as a man of few words. “I have seen him spend an entire afternoon answering questions about his business to a room of MBA graduates and proceeding to take pictures with everyone before leaving.
“You will not find any of the obvious trappings of wealth like flashy cars or a big entourage with him and he takes the time to speak to anyone who approaches him at a function,” adds Hyde.
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