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



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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.

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Cover Story

Forbes Africa | 8 Years And Growing




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As FORBES AFRICA celebrates eight years of showcasing African entrepreneurship, we look back on our stellar collection of cover stars, ranging from billionaires to space explorers to industrialists, self-made multi-millionaire businessmen and social entrepreneurs working for Africa. They tell us what they are doing now, how their businesses have grown, and where the continent is headed. 

Since its inception in 2011, and despite the changing trends in the publishing industry, FORBES AFRICA has managed to stay relevant, insightful and sought-after, unpacking compelling stories of innovation and entrepreneurship on the youngest continent, in which 60% of the population is aged under 25 years.

 Many of those innovations have been solutions-driven as young entrepreneurs across the continent seek to answer questions that have burdened their communities.

 Always on the pulse, FORBES AFRICA has chronicled and celebrated those innovations – prompting the rest of the globe to pay attention and be fully engaged.

 A prime example of this is the annual 30 Under 30 list, which showcases entrepreneurs and trailblazers under the age of 30 from business, technology, creatives and sports. In 2019, we had 120 entrepreneurs on the list, finalized after a rigorous vetting and due diligence process to well laid down criteria.

 We have always maintained the highest standards of integrity in all our reporting.

 As we transition into the next milestone, FORBES AFRICA reflects on the words of civil rights activist Benjamin Elijah Mays, who once said: “The tragedy of life is not found in failure but complacency. Not in you doing too much, but doing too little. Not in you living above your means, but below your capacity. It’s not failure but aiming too low, that is life’s greatest tragedy.”

 With the transformation in the media landscape, the recent awards given to the magazine for the work done by a hard-working, determined and youthful team, serve as a reminder that we are doing something right.

 Early this year, FORBES AFRICA journalist Karen Mwendera received a Sanlam award for financial journalism as the first runner-up in the ‘African Growth Story’ category. In January, FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil, received the ‘World Woman Super Achiever Award’ from the Global HRD Congress.

 In reflecting on the last eight years, this edition revisits a few of the strong, resilient men and women who have graced our covers.

For some, fortunes have literally changed, as witnessed in the fall of gargantuan African empires such as Steinhoff. Of course, there have been massive moments of triumph too, which have seen some new names feature on the annual African Billionaires List. There have also been moments of tragedy with former cover stars passing away.

 Africa is ripe for the taking and is seen as the next economic frontier. The unique position the continent finds itself in will no doubt give FORBES AFRICA plenty to report on. Here’s to more deadlines and debates for the next eight years.

– Unathi Shologu

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Cover Story

Mastercard: Diligent About Digital In Africa



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Mastercard knows only too well that technology can drive inclusive financial growth with simpler and more efficient ways to do business and life. And Raghu Malhotra, the man spearheading this trajectory in Africa, is also focused on social progress.

In many ways, Raghu Malhotra is like the brand he works for, leaving his footprints in different parts of the world, and in some cases, the most unlikely corners.

On a scorching summer’s day in June 2016, Malhotra traveled 100km east of Jordan’s capital city Amman, to a camp with white tents named Azraq built for the refugees of the Syrian Civil War.

In the desert terrain and hot, windy conditions, people had to queue for hours on end for plates of food handed out of visiting trucks. But some of them, displaced and homeless overnight, expressed their gratitude to Malhotra, President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa (MEA).

Mastercard, a technology company that engages in the global payments industry, had distributed e-cards, as part of a global collaboration with the World Food Programme, to the refugees that they could now use to purchase food and other supplies from local shops.

READ MORE | The Big Bank Theory: South Africa’s Banks Of The Future

 “I spoke to the people myself and saw what their lives were… Even those who were doctors with their families and were displaced… They said to me ‘you have restored dignity to our lives; you have no idea how demeaning it is to queue up to be given food’… We actually digitized how that subsidy for food was given. Some of these things go beyond economics,” says Malhotra. 

Beyond economics.

That very simply sums up Malhotra’s mandate for Africa as well.

The New York-headquartered Mastercard, ranked No. 43 on Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Valuable Brands, with a market cap of $247 billion, which connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and business, is fostering key partnerships across the African continent to help drive inclusive economic growth.

The idea, Malhotra says, “is to get our global skill-set to operate in its most efficient form in every local economy, at the same time, we must do good, and it must be sustainable.”

He calls Africa the next bastion of growth for various industries.

“As a company, we have stated we are going to get 500 million new consumers globally. And Africa plays a big part of that whole story… We want to be an integral part of various economies here,” says the man responsible for driving Mastercard’s global strategy across 69 markets.

Raghu Malhotra President for Mastercard in the Middle East and Africa. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

“It probably took us over 20 years to get the first 50 million new consumers, in my part of the world, which is the Middle East and Africa (MEA). It took us probably five years to get the next 50 million, and last year alone, we put over 50 million consumers [in the formal economy] in MEA. That is part of our whole African story, so this is just not rhetoric; we are actually building our business on that basis.”

Home to four of the world’s top five fastest-growing economies, Africa has the fastest urbanization rate in the world, the youngest population, and a rapidly expanding middle class predicted to increase business and consumer spending.

It’s a continent of opportunity for global players like Mastercard with an eye on the potential of a booming consumer base and small and medium entrepreneurs, most of whom are still not a part of the formal economy. A large proportion of Africa is still unbanked. There is enough business opportunity in offering people digital tools so they can lead respectable financial lives.

READ MORE | The Monk Of Business: Ylias Akbaraly Talks About Secret To Success And Plans To Take Africa With Him

But it is in knowing that financial inclusion is not just about technology, but more about solving bigger problems, as the World Bank says in its overview for Africa: “Achieving higher inclusive growth and reaping the benefits of a demographic dividend will require going beyond a business as usual approach to development for Africa. Going forward, it is imperative that the region undertakes the following four actions, concurrently: invest more and better in its people; leapfrog into the 21st century digital and high-tech economy; harness private finance and know-how to fill the infrastructure gap; and build resilience to fragility and conflict and climate change.”

And in order to enable financial access, Mastercard has a balanced strategy in place, with the right partnerships for inclusive growth on the continent, Malhotra tells FORBES AFRICA.

“Every emerging market has different segments of people and you need to get the right product for the right segment. What we do is a balanced growth strategy across the continent based on timing, opportunity etc… Of course, because the bottom of the pyramid is much bigger, I think what we need is to adapt things differently; that is where the inclusive growth story comes from. That is where the opportunity is, but there is a second part to it…” And that, he summarizes, is advancing sustainable growth, doing good and bringing more transparency and efficiency.

The new pragmatic dispensation of governments in Africa towards ideas, technology and innovation has surely helped open up the stage to newer segment-driven products, especially as Africa already has such global laurels as Safaricom’s mobile money transfer and micro-financing service M-Pesa that took financial access to a whole new level. Also, sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world.

READ MORE | Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

Malhotra says he finds African governments consistent in how they are rolling out their digital vision, and in trying to collaborate towards creating better ecosystems for their economies, though each is unique with its own dossier of problems.

“When I speak to various governments around Africa, I see a commonality of what their needs are and I also see a commonality in how they are trying to respond. So I think a lot of them realize running cash economies is a very inefficient way of doing things… Also, the consumer base is much more open to new technology because there is no bedded infrastructure or legacy infrastructure. I think where governments need to start thinking a bit more is how much do they want to do completely on their own.”

Part of this transformation on the path to financial progress is alleviating the burden of cash. Cash still accounts for most consumer payments in Africa. Mastercard, which started out as synonymous with credit cards, continues its efforts to convert consumers from cash to electronic transactions, and move beyond plastic.

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Cover Story

Pioneer For Women In Construction Thandi Ndlovu has died




The cover of the August (Women’s Month) edition of Forbes Africa beautifully captures the essence of the woman I interviewed only a few weeks ago. Gracious, soft-spoken, brimming with life and energy. Dr Thandi Ndlovu impressed the entire Forbes crew on that afternoon cover shoot with her broad smile, and open yet powerful demeanor.

It is with great sadness that Forbes Africa heard of the accident that took her life on Saturday the 24 August 2019.

READ MORE |COVER: Feisty And Fearless Pioneers Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

She had given so much to South Africa and its people – through the apartheid years and during the 25 years of democracy, literally building a better future, first through her medical practice at Orange Farm and then through her company, Motheo Construction Group and the scholarships for tertiary education granted by her Motheo Children’s Foundation.

That sunny winter’s afternoon, I asked her if she, at the age of 65, was considering retirement, and she laughed. A lively, amiable laugh. She told me she was healthy and strong and easily worked 12 to 13 hour days.

READ MORE | WATCH | Making Of The Women’s Month Cover: Thandi Ndlovu & Nonkululeko Gobodo

She loved hiking, and has climbed Kilimanjaro twice, reached the base camps of Mount Everest and Annapurna in Nepal. At the time of the interview, she was training to climb Machu Picchu, the famed ruins in Peru’s mountains.

One of her biggest passions was to make a difference in people’s lives and to motivate people to achieve the best they could. The other was to redress the racial tensions that still remained in South Africa.

Dr Thandi Ndlovu, South Africa is poorer for your passing.

-Jill De Villiers

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