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

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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.

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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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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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Pioneer For Women In Construction Thandi Ndlovu has died

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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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