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Businesses Of The Future: 20 New Wealth Creators On The African Continent

Published 2 years ago
By Karen Mwendera

The New Wealth Creators is the first of its kind list by FORBES WOMAN AFRICA. Herein is a collection of female entrepreneurs on the African continent running businesses and social enterprises that are new, offbeat and radical.

These 20 women have been selected because they have created significant impact in their respective sectors by transforming a market or company, or innovating a product or service, and are pioneering their organization(s) in generating new untapped streams of income.

These women come from across the continent, from the villages and the suburbs, and are in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. They have all adopted sustainable development initiatives in one way or another to help solve Africa’s problems.

They may be wealth creators but their businesses, ironically, did not stem from a need to make money,  but rather from the need to solve Africa’s persisting socio-economic challenges.

 Economically empowering women has shown to boost productivity. It increases economic diversification and income equality, in addition to other positive developmental outcomes.

Simply put, when more women work, economies are likely to grow.

FORBES WOMAN AFRICA put in months of rigorous research, searching near and far for these inspirational entrepreneurs.

We took into account their business model, new ideas, potential, struggles, social impact, growth, influence, resilience and most importantly, their innovation.

Speaking to FORBES WOMAN AFRICA last year at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said: “Innovation [is] becoming the cornerstone for our economy going forward.”

As Africa’s population is reported to increase by 53% by 2100, according to the United Nations, new solutions must be created in order for us to keep up.

One question remains: can Africa translate its significant population growth into economic development, and invest this wealth to improve the quality of life?

Entrepreneurship could very well be the answer, or at least, one of the answers.

Last year, the Founder and Chair of the Alibaba Group Jack Ma paid Africa a visit to discuss tangible investment and technology development.

He encouraged African entrepreneurs to take giant leaps in solving the challenges facing the continent and to take advantage of the digital economy.

From left to right: Rachel Sibande, Arlene Mulder, Miishe Addy, Sarah Collins, Dineo Lioma, Jessica Anuna. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla
Assistant Photographer: Gypseenia Lion

He said that opportunities lie where people complain.

And these women, through their businesses, have identified just that.

Vijay Tirathrai, director of the Techstars Dubai Accelerator, shared the same sentiments with FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

“The new wealth creators, for me, are entrepreneurs who are very conscious about finding solutions in the market place, but from a lens of having social impact or having impacted the environment,” he says.

Tirathrai believes that while servicing consumers, new wealth creators are also “making a safer and a greener planet in the process, eliminating diseases, improving health conditions and advocating for equality for women”.

Women on the African continent have been making headway as drivers of change, and in many ways, they embody new wealth.

They are the true wealth.

As FORBES WOMAN AFRICA, we seek to celebrate such women.

Through this list, money is no longer the central indicator of new wealth creation.

It is about job creation, contributing to healthy societies, recycling waste, giving agency to those who are financially excluded and developing solutions for some of the socio-economic problems we grapple with.

These women may all come from different places but they are bound together by one common thread, and that is the thread of new wealth creation.

This compilation is innovative, exciting, inspiring and shows what businesses of the future may look like.

Meet the FORBES WOMAN AFRICA New Wealth Creators of 2019.

The list on the pages that follow is in no particular order.

-Curated by: Unathi Shologu

Sector: Biotechnology
Dineo Lioma, 28, South Africa
Co-founder and COO of CapeBio Technologies; and Founder of Deep Medical Therapeutics

Dineo Lioma, Co-founder and COO of CapeBio Technologies; and Founder of Deep Medical Therapeutics. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Twenty eight-year-old Dineo Lioma may be young but has already achieved what most millennials  only dream of.

She co-founded three companies and currently runs two of them.

Lioma always saw herself contributing to the global biotechnology industry.

She holds an MPhil in Micro- and Nanotechnology Enterprise, with distinction, from the University of Cambridge. She also holds a BSc in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, which she passed with 24 distinctions, at the University of the Witwatersrand.

“My ultimate vision for Africa is that it transforms into a world-class economy that is able to be one of the key players in the advancement of science and the creation of wealth,” she tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

One of the companies she currently runs is CapeBio Technologies that manufactures and distributes laboratory reagent enzymes used in molecular biology research.

“Scientists can use these enzymes to clone, cut and manipulate DNA,” Lioma says.

The enzymes are sourced from biodiversity hotspots, particularly the Western Cape, making CapeBio Technologies the first local manufacturer and distributor of these enzymes in the country.

“These genetic hotspots have unique genetic information you can extract and use that to manufacture commercial products. So, the hotspots where we source these are very unique to South Africa… and perform extremely well.”

The product has been tested by over 300 researchers at universities in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Nigeria.

The second company she founded over a year ago in partnership with IBM and that she also runs is Deep Medical Therapeutics.

It is a social enterprise that builds artificial intelligent (AI) solutions to assist medical practitioners to make more informed and accurate therapy recommendations in resource-limited settings.

“We want to use TB (tuberculosis) data coupled with artificial intelligence without extracting information around how TB mutates, also to figure out how to fast pace the most appropriate treatment,” she says.

In other words, they use AI to make decisions on how to treat drug-resistant diseases such as TB, based on the patient’s genetic profile.

“We want to build a system that detects at the point of care, what strain of TB you have, and which medication will be most appropriate for your body type,” she says.

They are currently in the research phase and have built a prototype app with a training model to pick up the patterns of genetic mutation.

The driven millennial also co-founded Incitech in 2014. It is a medical diagnostics company developing a rapid HIV diagnostic device to improve testing outcomes.

Currently completing her second Masters at the University of the Witwatersrand, Lioma plans to make a positive impact on the continent.

She also serves as the Vice President of the Ventures portfolio for the Association of Allan Gray Fellows, an NPO focused on developing entrepreneurs to improve socio-economic challenges in Africa.


Sector: E-commerce
Jessica Anuna, 27, Nigeria
Founder and CEO: Klasha

Jessica Anuna, Founder and CEO of Klasha. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Jessica Anuna turned her passion for fashion into an income stream through the e-commerce platform Klasha.

The Nigerian, who grew up in London, founded Klasha in 2017 with an investment of $120,000 from Techstars Dubai, an international startup accelerator, funding and mentorship organization.

She was also named by Management Today as one of their 35 Women Under 35 to watch, and the US embassy in London named her one of its global leaders.

It took years of exploring and traveling before Anuna founded her first business venture.

Growing up in London, Anuna learned French and  Mandarin.

She obtained a Bachelor of Honours degree in Journalism at City, University of London in 2013 and then went on to study Mandarin full time.

She then worked for organizations like NET-A-PORTER, Amazon and Shopify Plus, which gave her an understanding of the world of e-commerce.

At the age of 23, Anuna decided to live in China to learn how the Chinese did business.

“I noticed that China was booming and I wanted to be part of that story,” she tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

This led Anuna to start an Fast-Moving Consumer Goods export company specialising in textiles.

She would source fashion and beauty products from factories in the Guangdong province in China, considered to be at the center of China’s export-led manufacturing industries. She would then ship the items to clients in the UK and US.

She returned home to Nigeria in 2016 to see how she could expand her business in China to Africa.

Researching and talking to people on the ground, she found it was difficult for millennials to shop fashion goods in the country and they had to travel all the way to the UK or the US to buy them.

“Those that would go on online platforms would have to wait 21 to 30 days to receive their goods,” she says.

“A lot of them were also not able to pay online in their local currencies.”

With a background in e-commerce, fashion and manufacturing, Anuna launched Klasha in 2017 as a platform for fast fashion retailers serving millennials in Africa.

She set up a warehouse in Lagos and through Klasha, clients can buy fast fashion items in South African rand, Nigeria naira, Kenyan shillings, Ghanaian cedi and three international currencies, with a delivery time of one to five days.

Anuna was accepted into the Alibaba eFounders program. and traveled back to China to learn how to leverage off e-commerce on the African continent.

Anuna currently employs a team of six women, all under the age of 27.

“I do believe Africa has the power to change and be a force economically…

“For me, being a new wealth  creator means creating economic opportunities for females on the ground in Africa,” she says.

With branches in Dubai and Lagos, the 27-year-old spends her time between the two countries and plans to make Africa one of the global players in the fast fashion industry.

She is set on changing the African fashion and e-commerce landscape, one currency at a time.


Sector: Supply chain logistics
Miishe Addy, 38, Ghana
Co-founder and CEO: Jetstream Africa

Miishe Addy, Co-founder and CEO of Jetstream Africa. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Miishe Addy was born in Texas. In 1987, after the ‘Ghana Must Go’ revolution, she visited Ghana with her family and found some of her relatives leaving the country because there wasn’t enough food, medicine or jobs.

Since then, Ghana has changed significantly, and so has Addy.

“Throughout my life, I have been seeing connections between how Africans in the diaspora are treated and the economic power (or lack thereof) that Africans, especially black Africans, have,” she says.

She studied law at Stanford in the US and also taught herself to code.

In 2017, she took it upon herself to be part of the solution.

Addy taught business at Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology Africa, an entrepreneurial training program, seed fund and incubator for African tech startups in Ghana.

While there, she met speaker Solomon Torgbor, who taught students supply chain logistics and its importance in sub-Saharan Africa.

Addy found it fascinating and continued to research it.

She found that logistics in Africa is more expensive than anywhere else in the world.

The two set out to establish a company to solve this problem.

They identified farms, cooperatives and factories in Africa that are ready and willing to participate in the global trade but needed assistance with distribution outside their home market.

Jetstream Africa was born. It’s a data-driven supply chain platform that makes global logistics easy for African suppliers, and is designed for small-scale farmers, to be part of global export trade markets.

Farmers log into the Jetstream Africa app and are able to sell their agricultural produce on an international scale, a problem that many small-scale African farmers find difficult.

In 2018, the company hit the road running.

“If there’s a buyer who wants 20 metric tonnes of cocoa powder from a farm in Ghana, we first figure out if he has capacity on a given date, and then to actually book the order to know how much it costs in almost real time,” Addy says.

They consolidate the freight, take care of the export paperwork and move the product from the supplier to the buyer.

Jetstream Africa is currently building a data platform that estimates how much produce they can buy by looking at analytical data on crop yields, pricing and external factors that can affect yields.

They have managed to export farmers’ goods to the US and the UK.

 They are planning on exporting to Hong Kong this year.

With a team of only five, Addy says they have managed to integrate 5,039 African laborers and processors into the global market since last year with  products such as cocoa, baobab and  shea.

 “I think there is an opportunity for a company like Jetstream Africa to tie together the farm, the factory, the customs agent, the shipper, all  on a unified platform so that goods move more efficiently, and I think this is the only place in the world where that’s possible,” she says.

“For the 21st century, wealth creation, in my view, has to be around egalitarian empowerment. And so, it is not about giving the one percent even more money than they already have. It is about spreading the wealth among a whole lot of different people… wealth creation is not just about numbers, but it is about people.”

Sector: education, coding
Arlene Mulder, 34, South Africa
Co-founder: WeThinkCode and Toybox

Arlene Mulder, Co-founder of WeThinkCode and Toybox. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

After seven years as an investment banker, Arlene Mulder left the finance world to start a tech company that aims to democratize and revolutionize education and deliver the world’s top software engineers.

She co-founded an educational institution called WeThinkCode in 2016.

In high school, Mulder enjoyed solving mathematical problems and challenges many thought were difficult.

“You had to use different rules, but you could use these rules to solve problems in innovative ways and that’s what I always love,” she tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

With her love for maths, she went on to graduate cum laude with an MSc degree in Quantitative Risk Management at North-West University.

As a student, she stayed at the university residence, where she learned and understood the challenges students faced, unaware this insight would culminate in her business model for WeThinkCode.

After her studies, she joined a grad program and then worked on developing credit risk models.

In 2008, in the middle of the global financial crisis, she joined RMB and the banking world, focusing on quantitative credit risk analysis for two years.

At the age of 26, she then moved to a corporate finance position working with senior players at the bank as a Corporate Finance Transactor for five more years.

She learned how CEOs and corporates think strategically. “They were all worried about what was coming, the digital transformation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

With skills in business and coding, Mulder did not only have the upper hand, but could see a gap between the two industries.

The need was for people with new skills, who could understand technology, and how to use them in a business context and to solve problems.

Identifying this problem provided Mulder the idea to change the landscape.

She then met a woman by the name of Camille Agon, who told her about a school in France, Ecole 42, a private, non-profit and tuition-free computer programming school.

At the end of 2014, Mulder quit her job and the two set out to start a similar school in South Africa, focusing on skills for the 21st century. They called the school WeThinkCode, partnering with Ecole 42 in France.

It uses the principle of no-teachers-no-classes, peer-to peer learning, requires no prior qualification and is tuition free.

“If you look at the traditional education model, students pay tuition. Everyone told us ‘no, you are crazy, how can you make it free for students, they are not going to value it, it is never going to work’.”

But Mulder and Agon ignored the criticism.

“Instead of getting the students to pay for the tuition, we’d rather get the corporates to pay,” Mulder says.

But it wasn’t easy. They didn’t give up.

What kept them going was the need to change the education system in South Africa.

In nine months, they were able to secure R11 million ($778,000). 

“I think what we did very well is that even though we set up WeThinkCode as a non-profit, we run it like a business and made sure we were completely on top of things. We had models, we knew all the regulations, so we just made sure that we maintained a high quality.”

Exactly three years ago, they opened their doors to the first batch of students.

To date, they have over 38 corporate partners who sponsor tuition fees and provide students internships.

About 600 students have enrolled since they started.

According to Mulder, of the first class of students at WeThinkCode, 100% of them graduated and were placed in jobs. The second class will be completing at the end of May this year.

Last year, they expanded and opened a campus in Cape Town and introduced a robotics lab. She also co-founded Toybox, a tech hub which is a network of experts and fellows from around the continent who share information and knowledge, grow investments and enable collaborations.

Both the companies she co-founded are two different ventures but similar ideas.

Mulder’s mission is to show that new wealth can be created in Africa.

“If you look across the continent and what we are doing here, and the innovations we have, often the world does not see that. They see the problems, they see the corruption. But actually we are very innovative and we can be the best in the world and I would like to show the world that,” she says.


Sector: Coding, energy
Rachel Sibande, 33, Malawi
Founder: mHub and Earth Energy

Rachel Sibande, Founder of mHub and Earth Energy. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

From the age of 11, Rachel Sibande wanted to become a French teacher. But that dream did not come to fruition. Instead, she founded Malawi’s first innovation hub called mHub.

Sibande grew up living between Malawi’s two towns, Lilongwe and Blantyre. In high school, she was enamored with the sciences. By the time she went to university, she was certain she wanted to study technology and computers.

She studied computer science and statistics at the University of Malawi, following it up with an MSc in Information Theory, Coding and Cryptography at Mzuzu University. After completing her studies, Sibande went on to teach at one of the of the country’s elite high schools, Kamuzu Academy, for two years.

“I never had an opportunity to study there but I had a chance to go there and teach, so it was still motivational,” she says.

She then left and worked as a market system specialist for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) within their social economic growth portfolio for funded projects.

In 2012, she was part of the Young African Leaders Initiative in Chicago.

“It was a pivotal moment for me because at that time, I knew I was very passionate about creating change in my country, she says.

While in Chicago, she visited a tech hub for the first time.

“When I saw the work that they were doing, it was a light bulb moment, like an aha moment, where I was like ‘ok, now I have actually found what it is that I need to go start back home that will quench my curiosities and that I can use to make the change that I want to see’,” she says.

This ‘aha moment’ saw her going to Kenya to learn about their technology hubs, and to Rwanda and Zambia.

Inspired, Sibande learned what worked and what didn’t and how she could implement it in Malawi.

“That process helped me come up with a business model for the mHub in Malawi that has helped us to actually be sustainable till this day.”

She started mHub in 2013 as a social enterprise and private technology company.

“I was leveraging my tech expertise. I realized the greatest capital I have is my intellectual capital,” she says.

With just her skill-sets in coding, developing algorithms and technology solutions, she started the company developing websites and enterprise systems.

“I realized there were no platforms like that in Malawi at the time, and I wanted to see and encourage young people to consider careers in tech,” she said.

The company would generate social improvement programs, which led her to setting up the mHub trust.

Through the trust, she trained youth, particularly young girls in digital skills; from the basics of animation to apps and robots.

Since 2013, Sibande says they have reached over 30,000 young people in the country, within all their programs.

Fast forward to 2018 and they have grown exponentially.

Today, mHub also incubates innovative entrepreneurs from the tech, agriculture, architecture and construction industries.

They offer innovative entrepreneurs $40,000 each, with support from external investment partners.

One of the entrepreneurs they have incubated harvests human urine to produce fertilizer at a lower cost than chemical fertilizers.

While working, Sibande realized the constant electricity cuts in Malawi posed serious problems to her business.

“It was even embarrassing for me to have international calls and Skype calls with colleagues outside the country because of the power challenges. So as an innovator, you see the solution in every problem,” she says.

“I had been researching the idea of using locally-available resources to generate electricity to cater for 90% of the population not connected to electric grids, and a third of them who are actually poor.”

She researched low-cost affordable energy in India, Uganda and other countries, for solutions.

And that solution was right in front of her eyes. It was the staple food of Malawi, maize crops.

Sibande reached out to Florida Polytechnic University, a project-based STEM education institution, to help her idea come to life.

They provided her with the technical support to start Earth Energy, an energy business that uses maize cobs to generate electricity.

At the time, they generated enough electricity, using maize cobs, to cater for lighting four houses for six to seven hours.

She employs five people within Earth Energy and buys maize cobs from community members who would have thrown them away.

“I believe in starting where you are from, where you are, and with what you have,” she says.

She pitched her idea at the Next Einstein Forum global gathering in 2018 and received $25,000 prize money for her business idea, ‘Light from Maize’.

She plans to use this to invest in machinery to deploy community micro grids.

She spends her time between Malawi and South Africa, as she is currently completing her PhD in computer science at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape.

“For me [new wealth creation] is about creating opportunities for others and for growing my country’s economy and the continent. I believe that for a long time we have had to import solutions from elsewhere, which meant exporting wealth. So, creating new wealth now, means that we are exporting solutions. We develop home-grown solutions, we export wealth, we retain wealth and it lives within our communities and our continent,” she says.


Sector: Sustainable energy
Sarah Collins, 48, South Africa
Founder: Wonderbag

Sarah Collins, Founder of Wonderbag. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

It is round, made of recyclable material, and uses no heat, electricity or fuel. It is called the Wonderbag.

It cooks food using heat retention, estimated to cut carbon emissions by half a ton per year.

This slow cooking bag was founded by Sarah Collins in 2008.

Her company was honored by TIME Magazine as one of the most genius companies of 2018, alongside Steve Job’s Apple and Rihanna’s Fenty.

Collins’ Wonderbag was a result of years of activism in South Africa. She grew up on a farm in KwaZulu-Natal, spent most of her time with her nanny and learned to speak isiZulu before she learned to speak English.

By the age of 10, she had learned a great deal about farm traditions, such as using firewood to cook, riding horses, selling vegetables and tending to farm animals.

“As kids, we grew up very entrepreneurial and so that laid the foundation for what was to become my life,” she says.

As a teen, Collins began to understand the social injustices of apartheid. In 1986, she was one of the many arrested for striking against the apartheid government.

Collins said her experiences moulded her into becoming a gender and anti-poverty activist.

“I think the discontent and also the inequalities and a sense of not belonging in any world bred in me an activism which has shaped my entire life,” she says.

In the 1990s, she left South Africa to work in tourism in Botswana and began working with women on empowering them around conservation.

She started a horse safari business and later, a social enterprise involving local communities in the Okavango Delta.

She then returned home to South Africa and started an NGO that integrated young people and the elderly into nature reserves to learn about tourism and conservation.

She ventured into other social businesses after that.

“I tried everything from earthworm farming, vegetable gardening, recycling, and dress-making; every social enterprise I could think of that would fit around a household so that the mother or grandmother was still present but could generate an income,” she says.

In 2008, she had her biggest epiphany.

“I was thinking about my grandmother and how in the 70s, we didn’t have electricity on the farms, so would we cook with these boxes. And the Wonderbag was born.”

It reduces fuel emission, conserves forests with less firewood used and reduces electricity usage.

“Why can’t heat retention work? Why can’t it be the energy of the future?” Collins asked herself at the time.

Together with 500 women, they played around with heat retention cooking as a pilot program and the results were successful.

 “Africa has the most fertile land of female entrepreneurs in the world,” she says.

“I knew in my heart that my life would never be the same and this was going to be one of the revolutionary products in the world in terms of cooking.”

Whenever she spoke about the idea, people thought she was crazy.

Today, Wonderbag is sold in 32 countries globally.

It can be found in refugee camps in Africa and the Middle East, and in households across Africa.

Last year, she was awarded ‘Woman of the Decade in Entrepreneurship’ at the World Economic Forum. Collins plans to have 50 million more bags in homes in the next five years.

Sector: HR innovations
Ngozi Adebiyi, 44, Nigeria
Founder, CEO and Lead Consultant: OutsideIn HR

Ngozi Adebiyi, Founder, CEO and Lead Consultant of OutsideIn HR. Picture: Supplied

Ngozi Adebiyi is a human resource (HR) manager-turned-entrepreneur.

Surprised by the lack of innovative processes within the HR sector, Adebiyi took it upon herself to provide an innovative service to companies through gaming and business simulations.

Adebiyi grew up in the Delta State of Nigeria, an area known for oil and agriculture.

She has worked in the HR sector for over 13 years, with companies such as Walmart in the US and Diageo group in Nigeria. However, her life in HR was not as fulfilling as she thought.

In 2011, she decided to freelance while looking for greener pastures.

“People that I had worked with starting asking me, ‘oh, come and help us with this, come and help us with that’, so I usually say that I became an accidental entrepreneur,” she says.

Clients would ask her for her company name, regardless of the fact that she was freelancing.

This prompted Adebiyi to start OutsideIn HR.

“I didn’t know it at the time but I was doing HR from the outside in,” she says.

In December 2012, she set up her company, without any investments.

She first targeted the oil and gas industry, a sector she knew little about.

“It was hard, I must say… at the time, at least twice, I thought I was going to go back [to being an employee]. I thought it was too hard and I just wasn’t cut out to do this,” she says.

However, she persevered.

OutsideIn HR offered talent management services, consulting and coaching and training services to clients.

But something was still amiss.

“You could see that some of the participants were kind of distracted,” she says.

Some participants would leave the room, or take calls during the training sessions.

Adebiyi then started researching for ways to make her service more interactive and innovative.

In 2016, she decided to partner with CELEMI, a solution provider, for innovative answers to her challenges.

OutsideIn HR is now offering HR and business simulation programs catered to each client.

Each simulation is a game, or challenge, that the participants have to solve, and they can do it even from their mobile phones.

Adebiyi relates it to being as interactive as playing Candy Crush, a mobile app-based game.

“We are building skills for the future,” Adebiyi says.

Her company has worked with government, parastatals and companies. Currently, Adebiyi employs 10 people and plans to grow the business.

Her goal is to revolutionize HR in Nigeria by providing innovative services.


Sector: Digital pharmacies
Vivian Nwakah, 36, Nigeria
Founder and CEO: Medsaf

Vivian Nwakah, Founder and CEO of Medsaf. Picture: Supplied

Ngozi Adebiyi is a human resource (HR) manager-turned-entrepreneur.

Surprised by the lack of innovative processes

Five years ago, Vivian Nwakah lost a friend who died as a result of taking fake medication as well as a lack of adequate healthcare services.

Since then, Nwakah has dedicated her life to solving healthcare problems in Nigeria.

Born and raised in Chicago, Nwakah’s parents migrated to the US in the 1970s and did not return.

She pursued her studies in psychology and sociology at the University of Illinois, and then started her first business, Comet Home Healthcare, a home healthcare service.

In 2012, she enrolled at the Georgia State University – J. Mack Robinson College of Business to pursue an MBA in International Business.

During her studies, she traveled to Nigeria, for the first time in her life, to fulfil her internship requirements for three months, learning about the healthcare systems in the country.

Little did she know those three months would be extended to a lifetime.

“When I got to Nigeria, that’s when my eyes opened up to the different opportunities and problems that deserved solutions here and I have, actually, been here since,” she says.

While she pursued her internship, she learned a great deal.

“I felt that excitement of just the ability to potentially do something really big, and just making an impact,” she said.

Nwakah’s entrepreneurial side was calling.

She first worked in an oil and gas company to create renewable energy for a company called GreenTech in 2014.

However, a few months into working there, she received the devastating news that her friend had died as a result of consuming counterfeit drugs. 

“He died from taking a fake malaria pill but he also died in a horrible way, in that he went to one hospital and they gave him more malaria pills, and then went to another and they pumped his stomach with something that made his liver fail.

“They took him to other hospitals after that but his health did not improve,” she says.

“At the end of the day, he died in the back of a car.

“That was so shocking and eye-opening to me that the healthcare industry in Nigeria had very serious issues. And in the story of his death, you see many different problems with the healthcare system.”

Meanwhile, Nwakah started facing challenges with her own health.

She had a surgery in the US and while she was living in Nigeria, had trouble finding the medication she needed for her care.

“I had experiences where I felt that something was wrong with the medication I was receiving in Nigeria and then I started to talk to people and almost everyone I met had a similar story,” she says.

“In Nigeria, you could be young and then die and no one would bat an eye because it happens so often and there is no answer for it.”

Nwakah had seen a gap and wanted to be part of the solution.

After three years of research and planning, she founded Medsaf in January 2017.

It is a digital medication supply chain management solution, linking hospitals and medication manufacturers from all over the world through a “pay as you go” system.

Through the technology platform, she disrupted the pharmaceutical industry by creating a transparent, affordable and safe manufacturing method to get direct medication to hospitals and pharmacies across Nigeria.

According to Nwakah, more than 400 hospitals and pharmacies signed up to use the platform and app when they launched, allowing stakeholders to see drug information, tracking and tracing details on a smartphone.

Medsaf also gives hospitals and pharmacies a ‘credit score’ based on indicators such as repayment history, insurance data and patient feedback.

They make profit from medication sold through the platforms as well as through inventory management and data subscription services.

The company currently employs 13 individuals who are mostly pharmacists.

They have raised $1.4 million to date and are looking to expand to other countries.

Medsaf won the Nigeria round of Seedstars Lagos in 2017 and also won the Greatest Social Impact award of the Global SME Awards at the ITU Telecom Awards 2017 in South Korea.

“A new wealth creator is using innovative and disruptive ideas to improve on existing ways of life or ways of business in emerging markets and opening the people’s minds to doing things differently and creating jobs and opportunities that didn’t exist before because of their innovative thinking,” Nwakah tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA. 


Sector: Drone technology
Dale McErlean, 32, South Africa
Co-founder and Director: NTSU Aviation Solutions and AfricaUSC

Dale McErlean, Co-founder and Director of NTSU Aviation Solutions and AfricaUSC. Picture: Supplied

Dale McErlean was born with aviation in her blood. She is the holder of a frozen Airline Transport Pilot License, with 2,000 hours on a fixed-wing twin turbine aircraft.

However, she spread her wings beyond aviation and ventured into entrepreneurship.

McErlean was born and raised in the East Rand of Johannesburg, an area that’s home to Africa’s busiest airport, OR Tambo International Airport.

“I had always been an academic so when I said I wanted to be a pilot, my dad said, ‘well, you can be a pilot but you need an education behind you as well’,” she says.

Fulfilling her father’s wishes, she graduated with a BCom degree, specializing in Aviation Management from the University of Pretoria in 2008 with a cum laude.

She worked as ground crew at Virgin Atlantic Airways at OR Tambo International and Cape Town International Airport for five years.

In the meantime, she was completing her degree and pilot’s license to pursue her dream to fly.

She flew the Cessna Caravan, King Air 200 and Beechcraft 1900 for four years and furthered her aviation career in 2014, joining the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

It was here that McErlean first got involved with Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), commonly known as drones.

She was responsible for the accreditation of RPAS operators and issuing of operator certificates, at the forefront of new regulations within the drone industry in South Africa.

“I started thinking ‘I’ve got all this knowledge but as a regulator at the SACAA, I’m not actually allowed to use it to develop the industry because as a regulator, you are not there to promote and develop’,” she says.

McErlean wanted to contribute to the industry in a different way.

“So I started thinking about going at it on my own and people asked me ‘so what are you going to do?’, and I was like ‘I’m just going to wing it’,” she says.

McErlean found herself starting her own company with her now co-founder, Sam Twala, who had also previously worked for SACAA.

At the end of 2017, McErlean resigned and the following year, in 2018, they officially started NTSU Aviation Solutions, an aviation company offering specialized services to the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry.

The name NTSU was inspired by the seSotho word ntsu, which means eagle.

They do compliance for operators in civil aviation and help existing operators amend their current operations manual and specifications to do more complex projects.

McErlean says they have worked with 10 to 12 companies on a monthly basis, and have worked with companies in mining, as well as protection services.

One of the most complex projects she has worked on involved security surveillance using drones in Cape Town, just 3km away from the airport. “We do security surveillance at night, this is flying drones at night beyond visual line of sight,” she says.

The drones were instrumental in the arrests of 25 criminals.

“We coordinate with the ground team and we can then loiter overhead, or follow the criminals to wherever they go and then apprehend them,” she says.

This led to McErlean winning an award as one of 10 Women to Watch in UAS in Las Vegas for 2018, making her the only woman from Africa to win.

“The largest use of drones is going to be on the African continent due to our minerals, due to rain, and due to our geography,” McErlean says.

Because of the opportunities drones offer on the continent, McErlean and Twala also founded a second company called AfricaUSC that educates and trains new and existing RPAS operators.

McErlean says they are also working their way up the African continent, helping other countries implement regulations to fly drones.

For McErlean, being a new wealth creator is about development, job creation and sustainability.

“With the use of technology now, you want to use what’s available to make things better and create wealth,” she says.

Sector: Bee farming and recycling
Patrice Murugi, 23, Kenya
Founder and CEO: Patvention Recycling Enterprise

Patrice Murugi, Founder and CEO of Patvention Recycling Enterprise. Picture: Supplied

Patrice Murugi may have a small-scale business, but her ideas have big potential.

Growing up, she learned how to bee farm and now she has managed to turn the hobby into a profitable business growing the bee farming industry in Kenya.

Murugi comes from a small village in Nanyuki, a town in central Kenya bordered by Mount Kenya and bursting with wildlife.

As a teenager, Murugi moved in with her dad in Nyeri County.

While there, she watched her dad build beehives from waste material and then farm bees, to provide for the family.

This inspired her to pursue a diploma in business management at Kenyatta University.

She realized that bee farming could be a solution to some of the problems in her community.

“We have a big issue of waste management in Nyeri County, so I thought of how I could turn that into a social enterprise. That’s how I started my business,” she tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

In 2017, with the help of her family and the youth in her community, she would collect saw dust and rice husks and fabricate bee hives out of them.

This was the beginning of what would be her first business venture, Patvention Recycling Enterprise.

She currently employs eight people.

Murugi also houses beehives on a small plot in her backyard and teaches community members how to become bee hive farmers.

“My other plan is to encourage bee farming at a large scale because here it is a very profitable venture that many youth can do,” she says.

Murugi says she plans to also turn the bee venom market into a profitable business to help cure diseases. She has since expanded her business to also manufacturing briquettes out of waste. She plans to buy a carbonizing machine big enough to process waste in dumping sites, and also plans to branch out into Nairobi.


Sector: Sustainable energy
Stella Sigana, 36, Kenya
Founder and Executive Director: Alternative Waste Technologies

Stella Sigana, Founder and Executive Director of Alternative Waste Technologies. Picture: Supplied

A social entrepreneur, Stella Sigana is passionate about environmental preservation and building social enterprises. One of them is Alternative Waste Technologies, which produces charcoal briquettes from agricultural waste.

Founded in 2016, her goal was to create an alternative cooking fuel to mitigate against deforestation and climate change and contribute to reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Sigana was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, in a family of five daughters, she the eldest.

Growing up, Sigana went to a high school that boarded Kibera, the largest informal settlement in Nairobi.

The experience exposed her to the harsh conditions of people living in poverty.

She obtained a Masters in Science (Entrepreneurship) at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in 2010. She worked with a number of businesses and NGOs for three years, which saw her doing work in Kibera.

While there, Sigana enrolled into an accelerator program and developed a concept for briquetting.

She later registered it as a business in 2016 calling it Alternative Waste Technologies.

The same year, she pitched her business to the Tony Elumelu Foundation and was selected as part of the 1,000 Africans on the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, receiving $5,000.

Today, Alternative Waste Technologies sources organic waste from farmlands and markets.

They then carbonize and compact the waste to make charcoal blocks. The waste is sourced from saw dust, rice husks, coffee husks, bagasse and charcoal dust.

Sigana says these bio fuels have less smoke emissions and better burning efficiency.

Some of her clients include schools, restaurants, hospitals, hotels, camps and lodges based in the Maasai Mara reserve and conservancy.

They also sell to informal settlements in Kibera at a lower cost – one 50kg bag of the briquettes costs $20.

“With 170 tonnes of briquettes sold in the community, we have saved about 1,974 trees from being cut,” she says.

Sigana won the NextGen in Franchising Global Competition Award for the social sector in 2018.

For Sigana, being a new wealth creator means using unconventional methods of innovation to generate income, create employment and have an impact in conserving the environment in untapped areas.


Sector: Recycling waste
Brenda Katwesigye, 28, Uganda
Founder and CEO: Wazi Recycling Industries


Brenda Katwesigye, Founder and CEO of Wazi Recycling Industries. Picture: Supplied

Brenda Katwesigye first ventured into entrepreneurship at the age of 21.

While pursuing her BSc in Telecommunication Engineering at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, she started her first business.

Cellphones and laptops were not allowed during graduation ceremonies at the time, so Katwesigye saw the opportunity to provide a service. She created lockers and started a business keeping people’s tech devices for a fee. She and her staff were eventually banned from selling on the university grounds.

In 2014, she was hired by Deloitte East Africa and worked there for three years.

But while she was working full-time, the entrepreneur in her began to resurface.

Katwesigye would work long hours and sometimes at night and that affected her eye sight. She visited an eye center and was told she needed glasses.

But, unfortunately, her insurance could only cover half the price of the spectacles.

“And 80% of that was just the frame and I was like ‘why are you charging me so much money’?”

This birthed Katwesigye’s idea to come up with cost-effective glasses, particularly for those who did not have access to insurance.

Then came Wazi Recyling Industries, a company she founded in 2016.

Wazi means ‘clear’ in Kiswahili.

They would collect, shred and mould the plastic from water bottles and plastic bags to produce eco-friendly glasses that cost $20.

She says they recycle over three tonnes of plastic waste every week contributing to sustainable development in Uganda.

“We’ve reached more than 10,000 people in Uganda with eyewear alone and exported a little bit in Rwanda,” she says.

They have also raised $250,000 worth of investments, which they used to buy machinery with. In 2018, Katwesigye expanded the business to create affordable building material such as interlocking blocks, paving tiles and foundation blocks using recycled material.

They employ seven people full-time, and 24 part-time, made up of women and youth.

Katwesigye is a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow and served on the regional advisory board of the Young African Leaders initiative.

She says being a new wealth creator is about creating revenue or value from unconventional places whilst making an impact.

Sector: Micro Insurance
Adelaide Odhiambo, 37, Kenya
Founder and CEO: Bluewater Insurance

Adelaide Odhiambo, Founder and CEO of Bluewater Insurance. Picture: Supplied

Adelaide Odhiambo has over 15 years of experience in the insurance industry.

She grew up in Kilimani in Nairobi, Kenya.

Odhiambo comes from a large family comprising eight siblings: she attributes this to acquiring the social skills needed to make it in the corporate world.

She graduated from the University of Nairobi with a BSc in Actuarial Science in 2007.

Her third year project involved an insurance product for housekeepers.

“I feel that that was the point which triggered designing solutions for people who are really underserved by different financial services,” she tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

She gained experience working for global brands where she designed insurance products for them.

“The large insurance companies and the challenges they were facing to innovate is what kind of drove me to design Bluewave,” she says.

She bridged the gap tapping into non-conventional models.

“I asked myself ‘who will start designing insurance products for people who are [impoverished], facing the highest level of risk but completely uninsured’,” she says. She founded Bluewave Insurance Agency, a micro insurance company targeting low-income earners, who are able to access insurance via their mobile phone by dialing a short code and accessing micro insurance for Ksh20 ($0.2 ) per week.

They cater for citizens in informal settlements, villages and non-urban areas and provides them with motor insurance, health insurance, life insurance and agriculture insurance.

In 2017, Odhiambo partnered with Jubilee Insurance to provide more services.

The next year, she expanded and entered the Rwandan market. Her company won best startup of 2018 at Seedstars Nairobi and had the opportunity to represent Kenya at Seedstars world regional and global summits.

This year, Odhiambo plans to incorporate blockchain technology to safeguard the company’s insurance data and make the software easier to use.

At the time of the interview, Odhaimbo says she had just launched a hailing taxi app rolling out free micro insurance to drivers and riders of Boda Boda bicycles and motorcycle taxis.

Odhaimbo currently has a team of six.

“I think a new wealth creator is someone who is looking at a frontier that either people have ignored or have found too difficult to pursue,” she says.


Sector: Beauty tech
Mathebe Molise, 32, South Africa
Founder: Beauty on TApp

Mathebe Molise, Founder of Beauty on TApp. Picture: Supplied

Mathebe Molise is a chartered accountant and business manager. The beauty industry saw her adding entrepreneurship to her list of qualifications.

Born and bred in Johannesburg, she grew up with her grandmother in Soweto, until the age of seven.

In school, she enjoyed maths and chose to pursue a career in accounting.

She graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a BSc in Accounting in 2009.

She then obtained her CTA in accounting the following year.

In 2013, she qualified as a chartered accountant, after which she spent a few months in Boston, in the US, doing some work in insurance.

She then returned to South Africa and in 2014, was employed by Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) as a credit analyst for four years.

She was promoted as a business manager for RMB Africa in January 2018.

Despite the years in business and accounting, Molise ended up founding a business in a completely different field.

“I chose a finance-focused career but I always had a creative side to me that I think was kind of muted in order to follow my career,” she says.

It all started in 2014.

“A friend of mine was getting married in Cape Town and we were looking for makeup artists and being unfamiliar with the area, and not having a network in Cape Town to reach out to, I thought it was really interesting that there wasn’t a tool wherein you could flick a few buttons and a list of makeup artists would pop up,” she tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA

“It was also a time when innovation was quite prevalent, and with the beauty industry being so big, I thought that there was a gap in the market for a tool that people could use to connect to lesser-known beauty companies or makeup artists,” she says.

All these ideas culminated to become her business, Beauty on TApp.

It is a digital app-based service that links small- to medium-sized beauty businesses and informal traders to clients. After three months of testing, the business launched in 2015.

With no experience of coding or app development, Molise had to learn the ropes and costing along the way.

Using her savings, she started the business and continues to run it while still working full-time.

More than 100 beauty businesses are now listed on the app.

It is free for businesses to list on the app and free for users to download.

Molise says they also have businesses from Nigeria and the US listed on the app.

However, she says, every business that lists is vetted for credibility.

The app also features GPS location services, and Uber integration to directly book drivers.

Since the app started, they have had more than 4,000 downloads.

“It goes just beyond an app, it has given small businesses opportunities,” she says.

The app has now evolved into an online store that connects product manufacturers based in South Africa as well.

Since then, they have had over 2,000 products sold on their platform to local and international communities.

“I think beauty is not an African thing, it is a global thing and I think people share the same struggles all over the world and especially for young black females, some applications are not necessarily created for them,” she says.

With her accounting degree and her ideas to solve problems plaguing the beauty industry, Molise plans to take her company global.


Sector: Education innovations
Audrey Patricia Cheng, 25, Kenya
Co-Founder and CEO: Moringa School

Audrey Patricia Cheng, Co-Founder and CEO of Moringa School. Picture: Supplied

Cheng grew up in the US born to Taiwanese parents. Her father was an academic and attended some of the top institutions in the US and Taiwan.

“My dad was probably one of the most educated people I knew… but something I noticed growing up was that he was such a great student, and when he joined the private sector, he couldn’t actually hold a job,” she says.

Cheng says he didn’t have the skills to sell himself and it affected the family financially.

It set her on a quest to find out what the education system lacked in equipping students for the professional world.

Cheng wanted to be a part of the solution. In 2014, when she moved to Nairobi, Kenya, her life changed.

She worked as a project manager and associate for venture capital firm, Savannah Fund, which focussed on African startups. The firm outsourced talent from international countries.

Cheng researched the problem and talked to educational institutions and companies to find out the challenges they were facing.

“The skills that students were being taught were not what employees were looking for,” she says.

Cheng realized the gap and this gave birth to Moringa School in 2015.

It is a Kenya-based learning institution, equipping students with digital and professional skills training, focusing on trades such as software development, project building, coding, and communication.

“When we started Moringa, I actually decided that we were going to bootstrap the organization and not raise any capital. Until today, we haven’t received any outside investment and it has been going very quickly since we started,” says Cheng, who used all her savings to start the company.

The company partnered with Hack Reactor, a software engineering coding bootcamp education program founded in San Francisco, to acquire more knowledge about the industry. Cheng and her team then built all the content for Moringa from scratch to cater to the skills needed in Kenya.

The school targets students between the ages of 18 to 25 years old who have completed their secondary school or are at university level.

In 2018, Moringa trained more than 800 students with some getting placed in some of Kenya’s top companies like Safaricom and Barclays. A few also went on to further their education at Harvard.

Moringa has also expanded to Rwanda, Ghana and Pakistan.

Cheng’s plan is to prepare Africans for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The digital divide between western countries and emerging markets is actually quite massive. One of the fears I’ve always had is if Africans on the continent will always be tech consumers as opposed to tech producers,” she says.

Moringa School currently employs more than 80 staff.

“I think new wealth creators are people who are thinking realistically about the problem, so it is not just about how I create more wealth for myself, but how we create wealth for more people and for the next generation,” she says.

Sector: Alternative food production
Michelle Adelman, 52, Botswana
Founder and CEO: Infinite Foods, Go Fresh! and Crossover Meat

Michelle Adelman, Founder and CEO of Infinite Foods, Go Fresh! and Crossover Meat. Picture: Supplied

Michelle Adelman is a champion for developing sustainable methods to achieve food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

She founded four businesses in total and three of them are linked to alternative food production.

It all happened seven years ago when she visited Botswana from the US for the first time.

Adelman was looking for businesses that could create new sustainable growth in the economy, use technology as the catalyst, create employment for youth and women, and use sustainable technology that would protect the environment for the future.

“I started looking at a whole pipeline of projects, and looked at some acquisitions. I looked at starting some new things from scratch and I made a million mistakes,” she says. “But the thing I kept coming back to was agriculture.”

She studied agricultural engineering and wanted to use those skills to contribute to alternative food production.

At the time, many of the food products in Botswana were transported from South Africa.

This led to her founding a company called Go Fresh! a company that grows vegetables and herbs using hydroponic technology in controlled greenhouses.

The vegetables are grown using only 2% water and they control the farming conditions such as water system, soil and weather, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of the vegetables.

In 2018, she decided to venture into the meat business.

She then founded Infinite Foods, a company producing plant-based protein, to solve the food security problem.

“We put plants and water into a cow and we get meat. So why don’t we put the plants in water and make meat directly without the cow?” she says.

In October 2018, they launched Beyond Burger in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa, which is a burger made out of plants.

This year, they are launching an egg product made from mung bean plants and plant-based milk products to cater to lactose-intolerant customers. From Infinite Foods, she then founded Crossover Meats the same year. It is beef that is made out of 60% chicken.

“Chicken is a lot less intensive on the environment than beef, so when you make this new burger, it is 50% better for the environment and you are getting a lot of the benefits you get from plant-based protein, but you are getting a real meat product,” Adelman says.

Through Go Fresh! Infinite Foods and Crossover Meats, Adelman is trying to change the future of foods.

Apart from these, she is also the founder and CEO of Accite Holdings, an investment company for innovative startups.

For Adelman, being a new wealth creator means embracing the future. “You have to look forward to what is next and how can you look at innovation and pull it forward. You can create new and innovative things that can compete, that can innovate, and that can be ahead of the curve,” she says.


Sector: Container conversion
Beverly Gumbi, 46, South Africa
Founder: Isivuno Containers

Beverly Gumbi, Founder of Isivuno Containers. Picture: Supplied

An eight-day trip to China was all it took for Beverly Gumbi to change her life from employee to employer.

She is currently a pioneer for the shipping container business in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province of South Africa, and is providing alternative building structures for local and government communities.

In 2002, Gumbi was retrenched from her teaching job.

She then received a job with a telecommunications company where she got exposed to the container business.

She had had the opportunity to visit China and saw how they had converted containers into unconventional buildings.

When she returned to South Africa, she wanted to implement this.

Gumbi left her job and began setting up the business, with funding from one of the development banks and Isivuno Containers was founded.

It is a container conversion, rental and supply company based in Pinetown, KZN.

She buys pre-owned and new containers and converts them into modern office spaces equipped with windows, doors and décor.

Her company has also worked on converting containers into computer and science labs, cinemas, mobile gyms and mobile clinics.

Fourteen years on, Isivuno Containers is still running, and Gumbi has received numerous awards including the SAB KickStart Competition award in her region in 2007, and the national award in 2008.

She has since partnered with the Zambian government to supply ablution facilities with showers and waterless toilets.

Gumbi employs a team of 25 full-time staff, and hopes to expand her business to other African countries and also add apartments and housing to her chain of products.


Sector: Fintech
Odunayo Eweniyi, 26, Nigeria
Co-founder and COO: Piggybank.ng

Odunayo Eweniyi, Co-founder and COO of Piggybank.ng. Picture: Supplied

A first class graduate of computer engineering at Covenant University in Nigeria, at only 26, Eweniyi can happily say she has helped Nigerians save $15 million.

She comes from the Oyo State of Nigeria, and is the first of four children.

After her studies in 2013, she left her parents’ home to live with her aunt.

She began job hunting and met two former university mates Somto Ifezue and Joshua Chibueze.

They asked Eweniyi to join them on working on a discount card platform business. It operated for four months and then failed. The trio then worked on another tech-based project that managed a database of pre-screened candidates suitable for employment.

However, that failed too.

It was in December 2015 that they founded what would become a million-dollar company.

“On social media, there was a lady who had been saving all through 2015 N100 ($0.27) every day, inside a box. So she broke that box on December 21  and she had N35,000 ($97) in that box,” Eweniyi says.

“Piggybank.ng was born out of the need to help people create a sustainable means of saving,” she says.

After inception, the business, unfortunately, had to be shut down because of conflict between regulatory rules and micro finance. Once they found a regulatory partner, they re-launched.

However, it shut down again because they had to implement security software on the platform.

In April 2016, the business was up and running again, but still, their entrepreneurship journey came at a price.

“I was handling the social media, as well as the finances, as well as so many other things because we were bootstrapping, and no one actually believed that our product was going to be a thing.” 

By 2017, Eweniyi says people began warming up to the idea as their security software was operating better.

They rewarded users for bringing more clients onto the platform, instead of spending money on advertisers and the app quickly gained traction.

They then partnered with United Bank for Africa as a micro finance partner and launched a SafeLock feature which allows users to put aside an amount of money for a fixed period without having any access to it until that time is up. Users are also able to earn interest upfront.

By the end of the year, they managed to save N683 million ($1.8 million) and in March 2018, they raised an additional $1 million.

With that money, they were able to purchase their own micro finance license and it was uphill from there.

Later that year, they installed a health insurance service at a lower cost than average insurance companies.

A day before this interview, their analytics reflected 185,000 current users on the application.

The business won a number of awards including Future Awards Africa Prize in Technology 2018, Business Day Top 100 SMEs, and the 2017 Village Capital Fintech.

As for Eweniyi, she was part of the World Women in FinTech Power list for 2017 and the  yNaija Most Influential People in Technology in 2017 and 2018.

She considers a new wealth creator to be someone who is deviating from the norm.

“A new wealth creator is finding newer, more creative and easier ways to help people create wealth,” she says.

Sector: Digital health
Nneka Mobisson, Nigeria
Co-founder and CEO: mDoc

Nneka Mobisson, Co-founder and CEO of mDoc. Picture: Supplied

Dr Nneka Mobisson lost her father in 2010 to a stroke because of a lack of doctors to help control his hypertension. For Mobisson, the tragedy exposed a gap in the healthcare system and she sought to change that.

Hailing from a family of academics, she followed suit.

Mobisson graduated from some of the top institutions in the world, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University.

She is adamant about improving the lives of Africans through tech.

It all started in 2016 when she left her position as an Executive Director for Africa at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and co-founded mDoc.

Her goal was to optimize the care experience of people living with chronic healthcare needs such as diabetes, respiratory system disease, HIV, asthma and cancer.

People access the technology platform on their phones and are led to a virtual care team consisting of coaches and nurses in real time.

They assess patients, discuss their health goals and advise them on medical care actions.

They also provide digital navigation, trackers and digital support groups for the patients.

“We want to integrate with the healthcare system and not replace it. But integrating means we also have to do our part to also improve it,” she tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

They have experts from South Africa, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, US, UK and Nigeria, operating on the service.

But for Mobisson, her business is more than just a tech enabler for healthcare.

“It’s not just about the high tech but it’s also about a high-touch approach. It is realizing that in our context, we have got to be innovative in how we create and foster community, and how we foster knowledge and how we empower our people,” she says.

On International Women’s Day, she is launching a micro-financing company for women to save for their health and have access to credit for economic empowerment.

“The idea is that if we can help have a healthier female population and we know that when our women are economically empowered, our communities benefit more,” she says.

Having achieved her dream to contribute to health systems on the continent, after her father’s death, she endowed a scholarship in his name at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology with her brother, Jidenna Mobisson, a popular musician in Africa and the US.

Mobisson is a 2017 Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards finalist and a 2014 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.


Sector: Alternative food production
Leah Bessa, 28, South Africa
Co-founder and head of product development: Gourmet Grubb

Leah Bessa, Co-founder and head of product development of Gourmet Grubb. Picture: Supplied

Leah Bessa considers herself to be a blend of an academic, agri-preneur, ento-preneur and creative.

In 2016, while Leah was pursuing her Masters in Food Science at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, she focused on insects as an alternative protein source.

“Once we challenge the way we eat and grow food, we open ourselves up to recognize the many healthy and incredibly sustainable food options out there,” she says.

 In 2017 Gourmet Grubb was birthed.

It is a company which produces entomilk (milk derived from insects), a dairy alternative, made from insects.

They also retail gourmet ice-cream made of insect milk. Bessa develops new formulations and technologies and microbial analysis.

“I set out to develop something so vastly different and innovative that, if I didn’t tell you we were using insects in our product, you would never be able to guess,” she says.

The Hermetia illucens, a tropical insect known as the black soldier fly, is the driving force behind the products.

She says they are high in protein and fat, concentrations of minerals, zinc, iron, calcium and provide a rich and “creamy mouthful” taste.

“We are sort of creating a future market as much as we are creating a current one,” she says.

Bessa is currently doing her PhD in Food Science at Stellenbosch University and researching the potential of insects to be a food ingredient for human consumption.

-Words: Karen Mwendera
-Curated by: Unathi Shologu
-Art directors: Lucy Nkosi | Katlego Banoe
-Makeup artist: Vanessa Unamaca – Makole Made Beauty
-Stylist: Keabetswe Mafora;
-Dresses supplied by: B Bridal House | Ukara Online Store; Studio: OverExposed Photography, Johannesbrg

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