February 6, 2015
“Young entrepreneurs and those they inspire are the lifeblood of Africa’s rise.” – Tony O. Elumelu, Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation
Africa’s growing crop of young entrepreneurs will transform the continent and rewrite its future. And they are taking charge of that destiny now. Today, a growing number of Africans are building innovative technologies and businesses that are solving critical socio-economic problems, while creating job opportunities for Africans. It’s in entrepreneurial boom. The young folks are taking the lead – and are making fortunes for themselves in the process. As they should, because what good is entrepreneurship if it doesn’t create wealth?
While there are only a tiny handful of under-30 entrepreneurs who have succeeded in building million-dollar businesses, there is a rising number of young Africans who are building fast-growing companies in food manufacturing, engineering, technology, hospitality, and any other industry you can think of. They are creating jobs, paying taxes, igniting the entrepreneurial spark amongst their contemporaries, and ultimately, playing pivotal roles in the continent’s renaissance. You can’t ignore them anymore.
Following a request I made last month, I received close to 800 nominations for this year’s tally of Africa’s brightest young entrepreneurs under age 30. Fourteen of the names on this year’s list were featured last year, plus there are 16 new rising stars to watch. Since there weren’t enough under-30 entrepreneurs who could meet the criteria, I included a few 30-somethings. The oldest person on the list is a mere 33.
Meet 30 of Africa’s brightest and most inspiring young entrepreneurs: today’s upstarts, tomorrow’s moguls.
1. Ali-shah Jivraj, Ugandan
Founder, Royal Electronics
Ali-shah Jivraj, a 27-year-old third generation Asian-Ugandan entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of Royal Electronics, a $15 million (annual revenues) Ugandan company that assembles and distributes electronic home appliances such as television sets, radios, speakers, and DVD players under the ‘Royal’ brand. He also owns a property development firm which is developing more than 50 residential apartments in Kampala.
2. Trushar Khetia, Kenyan
Founder, Tria Group
Khetia, 28, is the founder of Tria Group, a Kenyan outdoor transit advertising firm that uses public transit vehicles to market leading consumer goods in Kenya. Tria, which was founded in 2013, already has annual revenues exceeding $1.3 million.
Catherine Mahugu, Kenyan
3. Co-Founder, Soko
Catherine Mahugu, 27, is a co- founder of Soko, an online destination platform for shoppers to discover handcrafted accessories from all over the world and purchase them directly from the designers and artisans. In 2013, the company raised $700,000 from a Dubai-based investment firm. At Soko, Mahugu leads innovation to foster new scalable and appropriate solutions. She is an International Telecom Union (ITU) Young Innovators fellow.
4. Teresa Mbagaya, Kenyan
Co-Founder, Econet Education
Mbagaya, 28, previously worked at Google GOOGL +1.22% on its Education team and partnered with the Emerging Markets Outreach team to provide free open source education materials to emerging markets. In 2013, she joined Econet Wireless as the youngest executive to found and lead Econet Education. Since joining Econet, Teresa has launched 3 education services in Zimbabwe with further aims for international expansion: Econet Zero targets 5 million Econet Broadband subscribers offering them free access to 50+ education websites including Coursera, EdX, Wikipedia, Codecademy and others; a global first for any Mobile Network Operator in scale. EcoSchool targets all tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe, an education platform that provides on-the-go, affordable, and reliable access to world-class educational content via the EcoSchool tablet. Recently, the business launched EcoSchool Academy to all 9 million subscribers, an interactive mobile learning environment which provides 50 short courses covering a range of topics. Econet Education has reduced the costs for Medical Students in Zimbabwe, providing tablets on which they can access their text books at significant savings.
5. Abiola Olaniran, Nigerian
Olaniran, 29, is the founder and CEO of Nigerian gaming company, Gamsole. Olaniran founded the company in 2010, and it has venture backing from 88mph, a Kenyan seed fund. The company’s games now have more than 9 million downloads both locally and internationally on the Windows Phone store.
6. Mark Essien, Nigerian
Essien, 31, is the founder of Hotels.ng, Nigeria’s largest hotel booking website. The online portal allows users from all over the world to book rooms from a selection of over 6000 hotels. The company has so far raised more than $250,000 in funding from Spark Fund among other investors.
7. Duran De Villiers, South African
Villiers, 30, is the founder of SteadiDrone, a South Africa-based company that develops and manufactures advanced small unmanned aerial multi-rotor systems for a wide range of applications and industries. The company had 2014 revenues of more than $1.2 million.
8. Mubarak Muyika, Kenyan
Founder, Zagace Limited
Muyika, 20, is one of Kenya’s most promising young tech entrepreneurs. When he was 16, he founded Hypecentury Technologies, a web hosting company. He sold the company two years later to Wemps Telecoms in a 6-figure deal. Muyika’s new venture, Zagace, which has raised funding from local investors, is a cloud enterprise software that helps companies manage inventory such as accounting, payroll, stock management, marketing and many more all bundled in a simple and easy to use format called Zag apps.
9. Hasnain Noorani, Kenyan
CEO, Pride Group
Noorani, 32, inherited a small driving school and car hire business from his father only four years ago. He is widely credited with expanding that business into what is known today as the Pride Group, a Kenyan conglomerate that owns a portfolio of six 3-star hotels across Kenya under the ‘PrideInn’ brand, bakeries, restaurants, a tour company and other assets.
10. Anda Maqanda, South African
Founder, AM Group
Maqanda, a 29-year-old South African entrepreneur, runs one of the country’s fastest-growing engineering companies. The AM Group, which he founded in 2008 and owns completely, is a multi-faceted provider of engineering solutions, focusing mainly on Engineering Consulting, Design and Construction of Electrical Overhead Power Lines, Renewable Energy, Automation and Research and Development. His client list includes Volkswagen, BMW, Eskom, Kumba Iron Ore, and several other blue-chip companies in South Africa.
11. Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Nigerian
Aboyeji, 23, is a co-founder at Andela, a global talent accelerator that trains young intelligent Africans to be world-class developers and then connects them with top employers around the world looking for top technical talent. Andela’s backers include the founders of Facebook, eBay, and AOL.
12. Ally Edha Awadh, Tanzanian
Founder, Lake Oil Group
Tanzanian oil trader Ally Edha Awadh, 33, is the founder and CEO of Lake Oil Group, one of East Africa’s fastest-growing energy trading companies. Lake Oil Group is now one of the 5 largest distributors of petroleum products in Tanzania and exports to neighboring countries including D.R.Congo, Zambia, Burundi and Rwanda. The company also has a 35 million-liter storage depot at Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam and another depot in Mbeya, a commercial city in the country’s southwest region.
13. Rex Idaminabo, Nigerian
Founder, Achievers Media
Idaminabo, 29, is the founder and CEO of Acheivers Media, the organization which hosts the popular African Achievers Award, an annual event that recognizes individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves in their contribution towards the growth and development of Africa. The event generates in excess of $1 million in sponsorship revenue annually. He is also the co-founder of Young CEO’s Business forum and was recently appointed as an Advisory Board member of the World Leaders Forum in Dubai.
14. Tom Manners, South African
Founder, Clockworld Media
The 26 year-old South African national runs Clockwork Media, a Johannesburg-based integrated communications agency, that has a portfolio of clients that include LG Electronics, Sotheby International Realty, Mimecast, Philips and Tata, amongst others. The company has 11 employees and has expanded to London.
15. Stephen Sembuya, Ugandan
Co-founder, Pink Food Industries
Sembuya, 28, is the founder and CEO of Pink Food Industries, one of the fastest growing convenience foods manufacturers in Uganda. The company, which Sembuya started in 2011, produces food that includes biscuits, non-dairy creamers, chocolate, cornflakes and cocoa powder.
16. Clarisse Iribagize, Rwandan
Founder, HeHe Ltd
Iribagize, 26, runs Kigali-based mobile technology company HeHe Limited, which builds custom mobile applications for businesses, provides 24/7 online and offline support and cloud storage services. Iribagize founded the company in 2010 after winning a $50,000 grant from Inspire Africa, a Rwandan TV entrepreneurial contest. Iribagize’s clientele includes a number of government agencies in Rwanda.
17. Kelvin Macharia Kuria, Kenyan
Founder, Sunrise Tracking
Kuria, 23, is the founder of Sunrise Tracking, a Nairobi-based vehicle security tech firm that offers GPS tracking, CCTV and ability to turn engines off remotely via SMS.
18. Edose Ohen, Nigerian
Founder, Alfa O & O Networks; Glazed the Doughnut Cafe
He is the founder of Alfa O & O Networks, a fixed wireless internet service provider focused on connecting homes in Benin City, Edo State Nigeria to the Internet in order to reduce the digital divide. He also owns Glazed the Doughnut Cafe, Houston’s first 24 hour doughnut shop. Glazed is on track to pull in revenues of $1.2 million this year and is listed as a top doughnut shop in Houston.
19. Christian Ngan, Cameroonian
Founder, Madlyn Cazalis
Ngan, 31, is the founder of Madlyn Cazalis, an African hand-made bio cosmetic company that produces body oils, natural lotions, creams, scrubs, masks and soaps. Madlyn Cazalis products are sold and distributed across more than 30 chemist stores, beauty institutes and retail outlets in Cameroon and neighboring countries in Central Africa.
20. Senai Wolderufael, Ethiopian
Founder, Feed Green Ethiopia Exports Company
Wolderufael, a 28 year-old Ethiopian entrepreneur, is the founder of Feed Green Ethiopia Exports Company, an Addis Ababa-based outfit that produces and exports popular Ethiopian spice blends such as Shiro, Mitmita, Korarima and Berbere. Wolderufael founded the company in 2012 primarily to serve the needs of the Ethiopian diaspora in the United States and Europe, but as demand for Ethiopian spices increased significantly, Feed Green began exporting to new markets within Africa. The company employs only women.
21. Eric Kinoti, Kenyan
Founder, Shades System East Africa
Kinoti, 30, is the founder of Shades System East Africa, a $1 million (annual sales) company that manufactures military and relief tents, branded gazebos, restaurant canopies, car parking shades, marquees, luxury tents, wedding party tents canvas seats and bouncing castles across the region. The company’s biggest clients are non-governmental and humanitarian organizations. Based in Nairobi, Shades System exports its products to Somalia, Congo and Rwanda.
22. Nick Kaoma, South African
Founder, Head Honcho Clothing
Kaoma, a 29 year-old Cape Town native is the founder and creative director of Head Honcho clothing, a South African lifestyle brand that produces streetwear clothing that enjoys an impressive following among South Africa’s young urban dwellers. The company’s product line includes t-shirts and caps to cardigans, varsity jackets, hoodies, tank tops and female dresses.
23. Ronak Shah, Kenyan
Founder, Kronex Chemicals Ltd
The 27 year old Asian-Kenyan is the founder and CEO of Kronex Chemicals Ltd, a fast-growing manufacturer of low-cost household cleaning products such as dishwashing liquids and multi-purpose detergent targeted at Kenya’s lower class.
24. Issam Chleuh, Malian
Founder, Africa Impact Group
Chleuh, 28, is the founder of the Africa Impact Group, an international organization focused on directing investment to socially and environmentally beneficial ventures, an asset class called Impact Investing. The company’s services include data & research, news, advisory services, and start-up incubation. Africa Impact Group’s clients include impact investors, private equity firms, family offices, leading African corporations, governments and nonprofits.
25. Julie Alexander Fourie, South African
Julie Alexander Fourie, 27, runs a company that employs 40 people and services more than 4,000 clients a month. Fourie is the founder of iFix, which repairs and services all Apple products and Samsung Smartphones. iFix has branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Fourie started the company in 2006 from his dorm room at the University of Stellenbosch, helping colleagues and friends repaid broken and faulty iPods and computers. Satisfied friends subsequently referred other Apple product owners in search of repairs and Fourie’s business took off.
26. Sangu Delle, Ghanaian
Founder, Golden Palm Investments
Delle, 28 is a co-founder of Golden Palm Investments, a holding company that invests in early stage venture and growth financing across Africa with a strong bias for Real Estate, healthcare, agribusiness and technology. GPI has backed startups such as Solo Mobile in Nigeria, mPharma in Ghana and Zamsolar in Zambia. He is also the co-founder of cleanacwa, a non-profit working to provide access to clean water in Ghana’s underdeveloped regions. Sangu, who previously worked at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Valiant Capital Partners, is currently an MBA candidate at Harvard.
27. Uche Pedro, Nigerian
Pedro, 30, is one of Nigerian most popular new media entrepreneurs. BellaNaija, the Nigerian lifestyle, entertainment and fashion website which she founded, attracts more than 10 million page views every month from readers all across the world.
28. Barclay Paul, Kenyan
Founder/CEO Impact Africa Industries
Paul, 23, is the founder of Impact Africa Industries, a company that produces low cost sanitary pads for poor women in informal settlements Kenya three years ago and he now sells the pads to as far as Uganda and South Sudan. The company is located in Kitale, a small town in Western Kenya and has 23 employees, 15 of whom are women who help in production and distribution of the sanitary pads.
29. Isaac Oboth, Ugandan
Isaac Oboth, 25, runsMedia 256 LTD, a film and television production company in East Africa. Media 256 was founded in 2011 and has a client list that includes Coca Cola, UNDP, USAID, the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange, Marie Stopes International, the African Leadership Network, and the African Leadership Academy.
30. Adii Pienaar, South African
Adii Pienaar, 29, is the founder of Woothemes, a company that designs and develops customizable commercial themes and plugins for WordPress. Adii built the business with a bootstrap budget, and the company today generates over $3 million in annual revenues from the sale of its themes. Woothemes also develops and sells themes for other content management systems, including Tumblr. Pienaar also runs PublicBeta, a service that allows successful entrepreneurs to transfer knowledge to new startups.
Source: Mfonobong Nsehe, Forbes