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‘Who Are The Women To look Up To?’

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Afua Osei and Yasmin Belo-Osagie were lucky they shared the same vision when over a year ago they launched She Leads Africa, a social enterprise supporting female entrepreneurs on the continent.

They had both previously worked for women’s causes, though in different capacities. Osei, a Ghanaian, had worked with women keen on running for Congress in the United States (US), while Belo-Osagie, whose parents hail from Nigeria and Ghana, had led the women’s mentorship initiative during her tenure at management consulting firm McKinsey in Lagos.

After a year of toying with the idea, they put in motion a She Leads Africa pitch competition in Lagos, inviting over 200 sound entrepreneurial ideas from African women and assessing them to provide crucial support and financing.

“Getting involved in the technology and start-up ecosystem in Accra and Lagos showed me that the need for advice and resources [among] young women wasn’t exclusive to the corporate track. Young women looking to build companies were faced with an environment that was neither friendly nor encouraging. When I connected with Yasmin, we knew this was the right time to pursue She Leads Africa,” admits Osei.

“I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. However, each time I asked myself, ‘Who are the women I can look up to in this quest?’ I realized there were just not that many of them,” echoes Belo-Osagie.

The first hurdle they encountered was that the women they met had great business ideas but no business education to know how to execute them, especially when it came to sourcing funding.

Other areas of concern for the founders continue to be stereotyping and networking issues. They saw that in Africa, small and medium enterprises are headed by female entrepreneurs who believe they can only go so far.

“We want people to understand that greater female participation in the economy is a good thing and it’s not just a moral argument. It’s a developmental and economic one,” says Belo-Osagie.

In their own lives, the cofounders have donned many professional hats. But all roads finally led them to Lagos.

Belo-Osagie had varying interests (law, finance, journalism) and explored them at college. She graduated cum laude in history from Princeton University in the US.

“I also had interests in non-academic work and soon made my way to Le Cordon Bleu [famous culinary school] in London and Paris, and then went off to work in Hong Kong at the Mandarin Oriental,” she says.

After that, she joined McKinsey as a business analyst in Lagos, leaving it eventually to focus on She Leads Africa.

“I am not driven by money,” says Belo-Osagie. “I am driven by the opportunity to solve interesting problems related to Africa. I would also like to get into public policy one day.”

Osei on the other hand graduated cum laude from Allegheny College in the US, and served as a political consultant providing strategy and communications expertise to political campaigns across the US.

Mid-way through the political campaigning, she also served as a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia and worked for the US’ First Lady Michelle Obama in her research and communications teams.

She took time off to pursue a Master’s in Public Policy and Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Chicago and thereafter moved to Lagos to work for a management consulting firm.

“I am passionate about business and social innovation, its ability to empower and unite people to create value for a bigger vision,” says Osei.

They focused the pitch competition on four key groups: young entrepreneurs, investors, impact-driven foundations and high net-worth individuals, offering 10 finalists a platform to grow their existing networks and gain industry-specific knowledge.

Cherae Robinson, CEO of Rare Customs & Tastemakers Africa, who emerged competition-winner with $10,000 in support of her business, says She Leads Africa closes a critical gap for Africa-focused female entrepreneurs.

“The mentorship, the confidence, funding and continued support I have received after the competition has contributed to my fearlessness in building a multimillion dollar business,” says Robinson.

Taffi Woolward, CEO& Co-founder of Thando’s, also a finalist, says through She Leads Africa, she was invited to present her company at the Diaspora Demo Day held at the World Bank in Washington DC.

She Leads Africa has aggressive pan-African plans and for the young founders fronting it, there is no better time for it than now.

Entrepreneurs

The Foodies With A Drive For Business

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Two taxi commuters who went on to become friends and tenacious business partners selling gourmet cuisine out of a food truck.

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Billionaires

Abducted Tanzanian Billionaire Mo Dewji Returns Home

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Tanzanian billionaire entrepreneur Mohammed Dewji, who was abducted by unidentified kidnappers on October 11 in Dar es Salaam, has been released and has returned home safe.

 

In a statement released by MeTL group at 3.15AM today, the prominent businessman says: “I thank Allah that I have returned home safely, I thank all my fellow Tanzanians and everyone around the world for their prayers. I thank the authorities of Tanzania, including the Police Force for working for my safe return.”

The Tanzanian police have also released a video in which Dewji, dressed in a t-shirt and who looks visibly shaken and worn out, thanks his supporters.

Said a source who works closely with Dewji to FORBES AFRICA: “He was released in the middle of Dar es Salaam around 3AM today, unharmed, after which he ran to the nearest security guards who dropped him off home. He does not know who his abductors were. He was only taken about 20 minutes away from the city center, so he has been in Dar es Salaam since the abduction. He has no visible bodily harm with the exception of marks from the handcuffs.”
She also revealed that the abductors wanted ransom but let him go on account of the media hype around the kidnapping.

Dewji was on his way to a gym session at a luxury hotel in Oyster Bay, Dar es Salaam, in the early hours of October 11, when he was kidnapped by the masked gunmen.

Dewji’s family had earlier offered 1 billion Tanzanian Shillings ($436,674) to anyone who could help them find him.
Dewji, popularly known as “Mo” in Tanzania, is the CEO of MeTL active in textile manufacturing, flour milling, beverages and edible oils in eastern, southern and central Africa. He is also the main sponsor of football club Simba.
Dewji was featured on the cover of FORBES AFRICA in July 2013 and was named FORBES AFRICA’s Person of The Year in 2016. The 43-year-old single-handedly turned his father’s trading business into Tanzania’s largest import-export group.

Dewji’s personal networth is $1.5 billion, according to the Africa billionaires list released by FORBES earlier this year. He is also Africa’s youngest billionaire.

Dewji’s office has said it will release a personal address by Dewji “once he is settled”.

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Entrepreneurs

No Wasted Opportunities For Swazi Entrepreneur

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In the mountainous kingdom of eSwatini, a former pre-school helper is turning trash to treasure.

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