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Celebrating Five Years With The Founder & Publisher: Rakesh Wahi

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I was in Cape Town in early-2013 when I was reflecting on the progress we had made with FORBES AFRICA across the continent. A glaring gap was the number of stories about women entrepreneurs. The main reason was that as a startup magazine, FORBES AFRICA was overwhelmed with a waiting list of stories from 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa; by virtue of women having a late head start in the business world, the stories were largely dominated by men who had done great things to transform Africa. To provide a platform, I decided to launch FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

While emotions often get the better of me, I did, however, think that the idea had to be run by my fellow shareholders and senior management. After a fair amount of resistance, founded on pragmatic logic against the idea, I was able to get everyone to see my point of view. At the core of it was that there was a market gap for a magazine showcasing the success of inspirational women. The departure point from FORBES AFRICA was that FORBES WOMAN AFRICA was not about wealth but about influence; about the impact made by women in all walks of life and to bring forth stories that would otherwise never be told in FORBES AFRICA.

Having overcome the scepticism of my Board, the next decision was the choice of editor. A woman I admired and who was doing a show with us on CNBC Africa was Karima Brown. She gladly took up the challenge and FORBES WOMAN AFRICA was launched with a lot of fanfare with Precious Motsepe on our first cover. A few months later, after giving birth to the magazine, Karima moved to pursue another opportunity. I was at a loose end.

READ MORE: How CNBC Africa Plans To Go Digital

However, it was at a dinner I hosted in October 2013, that my banker sister-in-law, Shalini Mehta, invited a friend to join us. This friend was Renuka Methil. In my book, Be a Lion, I have said “meeting people is for a reason”; chance meetings are not coincidences but in our stars. Often, we miss these signs; however, for Renuka and us, this dinner meeting was a blessing and met the intended consequences of our stars. She was appointed Editor of FORBES WOMAN AFRICA by my son, Sid Wahi, who is the CEO of ABN Publishing.

It has been a tumultuous journey as publishing in today’s world is not for the fainthearted. The content has been simply fantastic and the magazine has risen to be the material of choice for inspirational stories. In the last five years, we have covered stories of exceptional women from all over Africa and showcased their great work in business, entrepreneurship and social development. We have discussed the trials and tribulations of women in the workplace and become a champion for equality. The word ‘equality’ is a living value for us at the ABN Group and I am so proud that we have been able to personify our values through affirmative action.

As we move ahead on this journey, I have the privilege of announcing that our Group Managing Director, Roberta Naicker, was unanimously selected as the Business Woman of the Year 2018 at the prestigious Standard Bank event in August 2018. It’s a moment of pride and joy for our young business that is today led by extraordinary women who are building a media organization one brick at a time.

On our 5th anniversary, I take this opportunity to congratulate our team led by Renuka Methil on a fantastic magazine that they have raised and wish them the very best in the period ahead. Renuka has now taken over the reins of both FORBES AFRICA and FORBES WOMAN AFRICA and our editorial integrity is in safe hands.

To our readers and supporters, our appreciation for your encouragement, without which we would not have the motivation to plough ahead on this difficult journey. Thank you to all our advertisers, subscribers and those that have made this incredible magazine commercially stand on its feet. Finally, to my fellow shareholders and Board (Zafar Siddiqi, Sam Bhembe, Busi Mabuza, Roberta Naicker and Sid Wahi), gratitude for having believed in this project and having patiently given management the support and latitude to build something that we are all so proud of.

– Rakesh Wahi

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How To Become A Billionaire: Nigeria’s Oil Baroness Folorunso Alakija On What Makes Tomorrow’s Billionaires

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One of only two female billionaires in Africa, with a net worth of $1 billion, Nigeria’s oil baroness Folorunso Alakija elaborates on the state of African entrepreneurship today.

The 69-year-old 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. 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. Alakija shares her thoughts to FORBES AFRICA on what makes tomorrow’s billionaires:

What is your take on the state of African entrepreneurship today? Is enough being done for young startups?

There are a lot of business opportunities in Africa that do not exist in other parts of the world, yet Africa is seen as a poor continent. The employment constraints in the formal sector in Africa have made it impossible for it to meet the demands of the continent’s working population of which over 60% are the youth. Therefore, it is imperative we harness the potential of Africa’s youth to engage in entrepreneurship and provide adequate assistance to enable them to succeed.

Several governments have been working to provide a conducive atmosphere which will promote entrepreneurship on the continent. However, there is still a lot more to be done in ensuring that the potential of these young entrepreneurs are maximized to the fullest. Some of the challenges young startups in Africa face are as follows: lack of access to finance/insufficient capital; lack of infrastructure; bureaucratic bottlenecks and tough business regulations; inconsistent government policies; dearth of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills; lack of access to information and competition from cheaper foreign alternatives.

It is therefore imperative that governments, non-governmental agencies, and the financial sectors work together to ameliorate these challenges itemized above.

The governments of African nations should provide and strengthen its infrastructure (power, roads and telecom); they should encourage budding entrepreneurs by ensuring that finance is available to businesses with the potential for growth and also commit to further improving their business environments through sustained investment; there must also be a constant push for existing policies and legislation to be reviewed to promote business activities.

These policies must also be enforced, and punitive measures put in place to deter offenders; government regulations should also be flexible to constantly fit the dynamics of the business environment; corruption and unethical behavior must be decisively dealt with and not treated with kid gloves. We must empower our judicial system to enable them to prosecute erring offenders with appropriate sanctions meted out. There should be no “sacred cows” or “untouchables”. The same law must be applied to all, no matter their state or position in the society; non-governmental organizations can also provide support for them through training and skills acquisition programs that will help build their capacity; they could also provide finance to grow their businesses; more mentorship programs should be encouraged, and incubators of young enterprises should be supported by public policy aimed at improving the quality of these youths and their ventures; and also, avenues should be created where young entrepreneurs will be able to connect, learn and share ideas with already successful well-established entrepreneurs.

What, according to you, are the attributes needed for tomorrow’s billionaires?

There is no overnight success. You must start by dreaming big and working towards achieving it. You must be determined to succeed despite all odds. Do not allow your setbacks or failures to stop you but rather make them your stepping stone. Develop your strengths to attain excellence and be tenacious, never give up on your dream or aspiration. Your word must be your bond. You must make strong ethical values and integrity your watchword. Always act professionally and this will enable you to build confidence in your customers and clients. 

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Why Big Tech Is Heading To Africa

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By: Toby Shapshak, Forbes.com Contributor

As Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey demonstrated with his month-long trip in November, the importance of Africa for global companies keeps growing.

The increasingly frequent visits by high-level CEOs shows the importance of the continent, says Max Cuvellier, head of programmes at the GSM Association (GSMA) Mobile for Development (M4D).

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square, Inc, raised some eyebrows in Silicon Valley when he announced he was moving to Africa in 2020. Africa is poised to take off as the next big tech market, and both America and China have taken notice.

Since 2015, the heads of the world’s biggest tech businesses have visited Africa. It started with Airbnb’s Brian Chesky and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella in 2015, with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg visiting Kenya and Nigeria in 2016. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai came in 2017, while then Alphabet’s Sergey Brin visited the following year. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has come to Africa in 2017, twice in 2018 and again this year.

“What I like the most when I look at tech giant CEO visits is that they seem to recognise the potential of the continent not only as a market, but as a source of innovation and talent,” Cuvellier told me. “They dedicate more and more time on these trips to meeting local entrepreneurs, discussing emerging technologies with local experts and going to universities to interact with local students. Some might too quickly dismiss this as anecdotal, but when Jack Ma awards you with a prize (Temie Giwa-Tubosun of LifeBank in Nigeria last week) – or Jack Dorsey endorses you on social media as ‘the most incredible soul in all the world’ (Betelhem Dessie of iCog Labs in Ethiopia), I like to believe these things reflect positively not only on the individuals, but on the whole community.”

Cuvellier has created a map of these CEO visits which demonstrate “things are getting serious”.

Although it might be easy to dismiss the importance of these trips, especially as many people only see a few quotes or a handful of selfies with locals. The most popular article on Brian Chesky’s visit to South Africa in 2015 – the first visit recorded on the map – focuses on how short his visit was, says Cuvellier. 

“But I do believe that the trips in themselves are an indication of growing interest in the continent from ‘tech giants’. Jack Ma is on his third visit to the continent since July 2017 and has now visited seven countries, Jack Dorsey just spent a full month in Africa.”

By comparison, in the same period the Chinese president only made one visit to Africa (visiting four countries in July 2018) and none by the American president. 

“Most importantly, and beyond the visits, actual commitments are made: Google’s first AI lab in Africa (in Accra, Ghana) was announced by Sundar Pichai in June 2018 and was opened earlier this year; while Ethiopia and the Alibaba Group just inaugurated a global trade platform on Monday. I am hopeful the deals and the partnerships, not just the trips, will keep coming.”

He highlights that much of Africa’s innovation successes are based on the widespread adoption of mobile phones. 

“These tech giants wouldn’t be looking at Africa if it weren’t for mobile technology,” says Cuvellier. 

As of July 2019, the GSMA estimated there were 456-million unique mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa alone, and it remains the fastest growing region globally (4.6% year-on-year). Some 52% of these mobile subscribers (239 million) use mobile internet on a regular basis.

Connectivity is also getting much better:  in 2019, 3G has overtaken 2G to become the leading mobile technology in the region. 

“Mobile money – with 396-million registered mobile money accounts – provides access to financial services to many. Last but not least, the demographic bulge will result in large numbers of young consumers becoming adults and owning a mobile phone for the first time. They will account for the majority of new mobile subscribers and, as ‘digital natives’, will significantly influence mobile usage patterns in the future, not to mention they often are a key target of ‘tech giants’.”

The full list, according to Cuvellier, of tech CEO visits:

  • Brian Chesky, Airbnb (2015)
  • Satya Nadella, Microsoft (2015)
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook (2016)
  • Sundar Pichai, Google (2017)
  • Jack Ma, Alibaba Group (2017, 2018*2, 2019)
  • Sergey Brin, Alphabet (2018)
  • Jack Dorsey, Twitter (2019).

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The Top 5 Emerging Crazy Tech

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A pick of some of the weirdest, coolest tech that could come hurtling our way this year.

  1. A bot that delivers toilet paper

Forgot to instal toilet paper in the loo? The Charmin RollBot is designed to carry a roll of toilet paper on two wheels. With the press of a button on your phone, the RollBot will help with your sanitary requirement.

Using Bluetooth, the bot will commence its mission; an infra-red sensor able to navigate its way to you. According to Business Insider, there’s no price or release date for RollBot, nor is it clear if it will ever be released as a consumer product. Charmin calls RollBot a “conceptual prototype”. The brand unveiled the bot last month at the CES 2020 expo in Las Vegas.

2. The Cyrcle phone

If for any reason you got bored of your rectangular handset, the circular phone is always an alternative offering a different view and take. According to the makers, the phone was designed with the Generation Z, female audience in mind. It’s round and features two headphone jacks. The device was designed by a US-based startup delivering a shape that it says is more “sensual”. The company reckons it will be ready to launch in a year’s time.

3. A smart bed

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. But it’s not always possible to have the best sleep every day. Or is it? There is a bed that’s guaranteed to give you your beauty sleep the way you want it.

Sleep Number Climate 360 has a mattress with features that warm your feet to help you sleep faster. It will also help you stay asleep by cooling your body, and balance your temperature with your natural wake and sleep cycles.

But what’s most intriguing is the fact that the bed also gives you a Sleep IQ score for personalized sleep insights. It measures your heart rate, breathing and movement, tracks your circadian rhythms and can show how your heart rate varies. The smart bed received the CES 2020 Best of Innovation award and is only expected to be available in 2021.

4. Self-changing trash can

For those who dread taking out the trash, this device is possible a no-brainer. Apart from its motion sensors to detect when you need to throw trash, when it’s full, it will automatically seal the trash bag and line the bin with a new one, all with a press of a button.

Even if the bin is overflowing, the top compartment will lift up so it can still seal the bag shut without any mess. The bin, called the Townew bin, was designed by a Canadian company, Knectek Labs.

5. Vertical TV

Just when we were getting used to wider TVs, it seems taller screens may soon be coming to your living room. Samsung’s Sero TV vertical-oriented will soon be hitting markets.

The TV can not only work in the traditional horizontal format, but is also able to turn on its side for playing vertical videos in portrait style.This might come in handy when watching videos from social media platforms such as TikTok or Instagram that deal primarily with vertical videos.

It sits on a stand that prevents it hitting the floor when turning, and can be paired with a phone so that it automatically orientates it correctly based on what’s beamed from the handset. According to TechRadar.com the pricing and availability are yet to be revealed, but the Sero will be leaving Korea and is headed to the US and “several global markets” later this year.

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