June 13, 2015
We have selected 30 for the future in a number of key fields that drive economic growth. You may not know many of their names now, but in 20 years they could be on the cover of FORBES AFRICA with their story of multi-million-dollar success. We hope so. For now, look, debate and work out who is most likely.
Nominees came from readers and the FORBES AFRICA team; they were decided upon by a selected panel of judges from across Africa. In charge of it all, fittingly, an under 30 himself, one of our journalists Tshepo Tshabalala. Months of research yielded a list of 150 young hopefuls. We worked for weeks, verifying and investigating, to whittle it down. We favored entrepreneurs with fresh ideas and took into account their business size, location, struggles and determination.Senior editors then debated and argued over the final 30. We find this list exciting, thought provoking and forward looking. We hope you will too.
Founder, Zagace Limited
Muyika was orphaned at the age of 10, thrived at school and turned down a scholarship to Harvard to become an entrepreneur. When he was 16, he founded Hypecentury Technologies, a web hosting company. He sold the company two years later to Wemps Telecoms in a six-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.
27, South Africa
Founder, Mind Trix Media
Few young entrepreneurs in Africa have survived being accused of murder and a collision with two cars that cracked his skull. Kunene has. He created eight jobs and a profit with his website-building company, Mind Trix Media, in Cape Town where he was born-and-bred. The company does business with the big names in South Africa and as far afield as Italy, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Angola.
On a Sunday morning, in December 2009, not long after Kunene launched the business, came a knock on the door of his mother’s house in Kayelitsha that could have spelt the end.“I opened to two men in suits. I thought they were from a church, but they were detectives who said someone had seen me committing a murder the night before. I took them into my mother’s garage and showed them a load of T-shirts I had printed the night before and said this is what I was doing. But they arrested me and locked me up in police cells,” says Kunene. The budding entrepreneur spent a week in the cells in Gugulethu before police found the real murderer and let him go.
“All they said was ‘sorry you can go now,’” he says.
Four years later, disaster struck again in Gugulethu, this time on the main road. A car hit Kunene knocking him into the path of another heading the other way. It cracked his skull and smashed one of his legs. He spent three months in hospital and is on medication. Kunene survived to prosper, a lesson to entrepreneurs that if it doesn’t kill you, or imprison you, it makes you stronger.
ReelFruit, founded, in March, 2012 is an emerging fruit processing company focused on packaging and branding and processing of locally, and quality fruit products.The first product is a range of dried fruit snacks and nuts. The products are currently stocked in over 80 stores in Nigeria. ReelFruit is an award-winning brand, winning both an international Women In Business Competition in the Netherlands, as well as an SME exhibition (Creative Focus Africa) in Lagos, Nigeria.
Williams is trying to expand her nut business into the lucrative airline market. She is raising capital to build a factory on the outskirts of Lagos next year. “I hope to be on the cover of FORBES AFRICA in five years’ time,” she says.
Finding your perfect match is never easy but Akano and his co-partner, Chinedu Onyeaso, have made it easier through Founder2Be. The cupids of commerce introduced a match-making service for business owners in Africa. Like online dating, a deal is just a click away. These Nigerians are not strangers to entrepreneurship; the two cofounders also started Entarado, a web development company empowering small businesses with web and mobile solutions.
Founder, Gifted Mom
Nteff was alarmed by the high death rate of newborn babies and pregnant women in his community. When he was 20, he developed a mobile app to help solve this problem. The app helps teenage mothers and health workers calculate due dates. It also collects and sends information to women in the community. His app has more than 500 downloads and is integrated with locally made phones. It has 1,200 pregnant women and mothers as beneficiaries and has led to a 20% increase in antenatal attendance rate for pregnant women in 15 rural communities.Nteff is also working with 200 medical students to reduce brain drain in Cameroon. He plans to reach 50,000 pregnant women and mothers by end of 2015 and 5 million across the continent by 2017.
Olaniran, 26, is the founder and CEO of Nigerian gaming company Gamsole. Olaniran founded the company in 2012, and it has venture backing from 88mph, a Kenyan seed fund. The company’s games now have more than 9 million downloads.
Co-founder, Neolab Technology
Chingonzoh’s Twitter profile reads: “I am out, taking over the world”. Apt maybe, Neolab Technology, the award-winning start-up he founded with partners Jabulani Mpofu and Blessing Mukome, works on pioneering technology for emerging economies. They also work with Saisai Wireless, a wireless network for free access to WiFi hotspots in public areas. Neolab, which Chingonzoh calls “the start-up factory”, works in close conjunction with the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, and the students, training and getting them to work in teams and turn concepts into sustainable start-ups. Chingonzoh was only 19 when he started the venture, after acquiring a Bachelor’s degree in quantity surveying. “I have always had the inclination and passion for technology and how it can revolutionize communities… We have created a model that works in the African context based on one key principle: that an entrepreneur must be able to create and transfer value to the end user, using the least amount of resources. Capital must only be availed to scale a product that has already proven its potential. This way, we more or less guarantee the success of a product and do away with over-hyped products whose seeming success is as a result of money and resources. When that money burns out, the product/start-up will then fail. Our model does away with this unsustainability. We believe in ‘frugal innovation’: doing more with less!”
Chingonzoh is now seeking partnerships and investment to scale this model and expand to other markets in and around Africa. “I want to help create and launch 100 sustainable companies in and around Africa by 2020; that means launching at least 20 disruptive start-ups every year. We are already working with 22 start-ups for this year.” Chingonzoh is also a YALI Washington Fellow, the “youngest in 2014,” he says.
29, South Africa
Co-founder, ISP Web Africa
A school drop-out, Rupert grew up in Cape Town has been running his own web development company since the age of 14. At age 16, his friend asked him to jump in on a joint venture. This is how he became the co-founder and chief operating officer of Web Africa, one of the biggest internet service providers in South Africa. Web Africa was started with no money and built it into a $11 million a year business. In 2014, Bryant relaunched Accommodation Direct; an online tourism business that specializes in short-term accommodation rentals. His dream is to sail around the world.
Chief Executive, Royal Electronics
Jivraz began life as an entrepreneur in Kampala at age 17 after a chance meeting with an electronics technician. The two struck on the idea of repairing and manufacturing television sets, radios and DVD players. Out of this, in 2005, came the Royal Electronics firm in Kampala. Less than a decade later, this company is one of six in East Africa that earns $15 million a year in revenue. In the next 10 years, Jivraz plans to venture into foreign currency earning cash crops – like maize and green chilies – and property. He also hopes to build homes for low income earners in Uganda. “These are the people who are driving the economies of Africa and all too often they feel pushed out of the community,” he says.
Jivraz comes from an influential family. His grandfather Merali Jivraj, once one of the richest men in Uganda, lost almost everything when Ugandan-Asians were expelled in 1972 by Idi Amin. He says luck has played more of a part than family ties in his success that sees him drive through Kampala in a white Porsche 911 Carrera S. “There was even luck in that. I was lucky to find the car in Dubai for three quarters of its price and couldn’t let it go,” he says.
The cover of FORBES AFRICA, the domain of African multi-millionaires? “Maybe when I’m 50,” he chuckles down the line from Kampala.
The Cameroonian engineer is the inventor of the Cardiopad, a touch screen medical tablet that enables heart examinations such as the electrocardiogram (ECG) to be performed at rural locations while the results of the test are transferred wirelessly to specialists who can interpret them. The device spares African patients, living in remote areas, the trouble of having to travel to urban centers to seek medical examinations. Zang is the founder of Himore Medical Equipments, the company that owns the rights to the Cardiopad.
Founder and CEO, HeHe Labs
Iribagiza runs a Kigali-based company, HeHe Labs, which builds mobile technology solutions for the government and private companies looking to improve their operational efficiency. HeHe means ‘where’ in Kinyarwanda, says Iribagiza, who founded the research and innovation lab in 2010 while still in college studying computer engineering.
“I always loved physics and maths and it was an attractive space for me to be in. My mother is an entrepreneur and my father a teacher. I am a mash-up of what they do,” says Irigabiza, who went to high school in Uganda. HeHe runs six labs across Rwanda. It is also working with more than 100 Rwandan students in high schools and colleges. The company’s GirlHub has empowered more than 13,000 teenage girls. “We are now refining our vision. It’s a company for Africa by Africans and we are looking at the next vision for Africa,” says Iribagiza. HeHe has over $200,000 in revenues annually. “For a young company, that is great and we are investing in more ideas,” she says. In 2012, HeHe won a $50,000 grant from Inspire Africa, a Rwandan TV entrepreneurial contest.
Mutambo describes himself as an entrepreneur, marketing whiz and all round blogger. He is also the brains behind the recently launched esaja.com – a business network that is dedicated to intra-African trade. Esaja stands for empowering solutions and joint action. “Kwame Nkrumah once said ‘I wasn’t born in Africa, Africa was born in me.’ This quote defines me as an entrepreneur,“ he says. “We have a massive African youth bulge and need to get this lion roaring or else it’ll devour its own future. Trade is key.”
Founder, Oasis Websoft
Owusu is a software engineer based in Accra, Ghana, and was dubbed the Mark Zuckerberg of Accra by FORBES AFRICA in November 2012. He runs Oasis Websoft, which developed the Anansi Web Browser – hailed as Africa’s first web browser. “I believe software can solve many problems in Africa. Our problems on the continent are different and existing software from abroad are not built to suit the African setting. Propriety operating systems are being entrenched into our society and we spend so much money paying for licenses on this software. I decided to build a company that will address this problem and develop homegrown software,” says Owusu.
His most recent projects include Anansipedia, an education platform that allows less privileged students to share educational resources; and Bisa, a mobile application that supplies information to the public and gives them access to doctors. Some of his other notable projects include Dr Diabetes, a web application that educates Africans about diabetes. “We hope in a few years we can expand our operations in other parts of Africa and to build a digital hub where Africans can learn more about emerging disruptive technologies like 3D printers, drones and how they can be used to improve our lives,” says Owusu.
Julie Alexander Fourie
28, South Africa
Fourie is the founder of iFix, which repairs and services all Apple products and Samsung smartphones. The company employs 40 people and services more than 4,000 clients a month. 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 repair broken and faulty iPods and computers. Satisfied customers recommended Fourie’s business and it took off.
28, Republic of Congo
Tech Entrepreneur, Founder & CEO, VMK
Mankou is the founder of VMK and the creator of the first African-made mobile phone, Elikia. He is also the inventor of Way-C tablet, Africa’s version of the iPad. Mankou, the son of a school mistress and an oil engineer, provides affordable smart devices in Africa and increases Internet access in the Republic of Congo. Before receiving $700,000 from the Congolese government, Mankou had to finance his project himself. Banks refused to help him because he was too young and “a little bit crazy,” he says.
25, South Africa
Founder, Headboy Industries
Marishane was in high school when he came up with DryBath, a gel that does all the work of a bath without water. Within a year, he launched Drybath with his company Headboy Industries. He had previously tried his hand at business with his own brand of biodiesel, healthy cigarettes and a security magazine. The idea for DryBath was inspired by a friend of Marishane’s who was too lazy to bath. “Why doesn’t someone invent something that you can put on your skin and then you don’t have to bathe?” asked the friend. Marishane, born in Limpopo, was voted the best student entrepreneur in the world by the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. Google named him as one of the most intelligent young brains in the universe.
Co-founder, Pink Food Industries.
Sembuya is living proof that a phoenix can rise from the ashes of a family fortune. The Sembuyas were the Rockerfellers of Kampala with their business empire based around Sembule Steel Mills. In the late 1990s, a power struggle at the company, followed by court cases and debt, led to its decline. Young Sembuya dabbled in publishing for a while, but discovering that the family still owned a cocoa plantation he took it over and make it the heart of a chocolate-making company set up a year ago. “I have always come up with crazy ideas,” he says. The 700-acre farm, which employs 100 workers, is the largest individually-owned cocoa plantation in Africa. It supplies a factory that makes everything from chocolate bars and drinks to biscuits. New machinery has increased output from 80 kilograms a day to 60 kilograms an hour. The chocolate is making inroads with exports across east Africa; the region gets most of its chocolate from Egypt, South Africa and Europe.
Founder of Feed Green Ethiopia Exports Company
Wolderufael 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. He worked for Ethiopian Airlines for almost four years and noticed many Ethiopians travelling with bags full of Ethiopian spices. Wolderufael founded the company in 2012, exporting spices and dry food to the United States and Europe and, as demand increased, to new markets within Africa. His latest export is Ethiopian coffee and Wolderufael hopes to be one of the biggest food companies in Africa in 10 years. The company largely employs single mothers, young men and women from poor backgrounds.
Founder, Kronex Chemicals Ltd
This Asian-Kenyan is the founder and CEO of Kronex Chemicals, a manufacturer of affordable dishwashing liquids and multi-purpose detergent for Kenya’s lower class. He started the company to improve the deteriorated levels of hygiene in the country. Kronex set up a manufacturing plant along Mombasa Road in January 2013 and operations started in June that year. He is taking on larger firms in Kenya by producing liquid soap and changing the perception that it a luxury product.
Founder, Skydrop Enterprises
Mwale founded SkyDrop Enterprises, a rainwater filtration and bottling company which produces low-cost purified drinking water, milk and other dairy products in Kenya. In 2012, Mwale sold a 60% stake in Skydrop to an Israeli firm for $500,000. Next stop: education. Last year, Mwale founded Gigavia, an educational social networking website. Five years after dropping out of high school, Mwale travelled the world and rubbed shoulders with several presidents. The idea for his first business was inspired by two events from his childhood. At 14 he suffered dysentery (infection of the intestines) from drinking dirty water in his village outside the western Kenyan town of Kitale. As a student, his school had visited a Coca-Cola bottling plant where he saw how the company made its bottled water. “I knew if there was any business I could easily go into, it was in water,” recalls Mwale. So, at 16, he started SkyDrop Enterprises, a producer and bottler of low-cost purified drinking water. He boiled water, packed it in polythene bags and sold it to truck drivers in Kitale.
Founder and Chief executive, Africa Impact Group
Chleuh is the founder 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 and 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 non-profits.
Chilemba is easing the difficult circumstances that women in Malawi face with Tiwale, her for-profit social enterprise she started when she was 17. Tiwale trains women as entrepreneurs or finds them jobs that suit their skills. It also has a microfinance loan program. Tiwale’s Design Project trains women to do traditional fabric dye-printing. Some of the revenue from this is used to fund other programs offered by the organization that give women opportunities to support themselves. These include a school grant program that covers fees, transportation costs, school supplies and offers a small stipend.
In 2008, Kitheka and his friends established an online education platform, Blu-Uni (later renamed Funda), providing university students with a cheaper way to get course material. Kitheka started his business along with his partners after returning to the Miambani village where his father grew up in. After being away for 10 years, the 21-year-old Kitheka was heartbroken to see the lack of progress in the community. Funda was created to provide resources young Africans who have the potential to become the next presidents, CEOs and entrepreneurs. Kitheka says these are the people who will create change in Africa.
25, South Africa
Founder, Rethink Education
This young entrepreneur turned his first cents selling wrist bands in school colors to his friends in the playground, at the age of 12, at the elite Johannesburg school of St Stithians.The next venture came at the University of Cape Town. Hoernle liked a glass of wine and, while finding supply, hit on the idea of driving across the Western Cape to buy in bulk to retail to his college friends. When he left college, Hoernle founded Rethink Education with the aim of focusing directly on the high school market, in an effort to make current technology more useful in the schooling system. “We saw the gap in the market where you find people paying R100,000 a year in school fees and yet they still struggle with fractions,” he says. Rethink’s platforms give learners access to high school mathematics and science content in a chat-styled interface via both mobile phones and the web. To date, Rethink Education has distributed math and science content to more than 500,000 South Africans and is launching in Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
Medical Doctor & Founder, The Flying Doctors
Orekunrin is founder and Managing Director of Flying Doctors Nigeria Ltd., an air ambulance service based in Lagos, Nigeria. Orekunrin’s company is the first air ambulance service in West Africa to provide urgent helicopter, airplane ambulance and evacuation services. “Tragedy led me to entrepreneurship,” she says. “I believe that perhaps my sister, who died when she was just 12 years old, may have lived if this sort of service was available in Nigeria at the time,” she says. Born in London and raised in a working-class foster home in Lowestoft, a little fishing town in the East of England, Orekunrin enrolled for a medical degree at the University of York and qualified at 21 – one of the youngest ever to take the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath in Britain. She is a 2013 New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute and was named a Young Global Leader in 2013 by the World Economic Forum.
Often in Uganda when families struggle to put their children through school, the girl is forced to stay at home while the boy completes school. Ayiorworth couldn’t afford to go to school following the death of her father. She started a microlending business so other girls can. Girl Power Microlending Organisation (Gipomo) is a business tied to loans where mothers take out loans to start their own small businesses and in return they must make sure their daughters attend school. This project gained Ayiorworth the Anzisha Price in 2013 for young African entrepreneurs. She ploughed her winnings back into her microlending business.
Founder, Golden Palm Investments
Delle is a co-founder of Golden Palm Investments, a holding company that invests in startups across Africa. Some of the entrepreneurs on this list have benefited from his investments. Golden Palm Investments focuses on real estate, healthcare, agriculture and technology. Delle showed entrepreneurial promise while in school. He sold his homework to classmates to earn money to travel to the United States, where he had accepted a scholarship. He is also the co-founder of cleanacwa, a non-profit that provides 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.
29, South Africa
Founder, Elegance Group
A 2016 swimming Olympic hopeful, Hussmann also runs an aviation business through Elegance Group, which includes Elegance Air, sport consulting and aviation consulting. He was born in Accra, raised in Germany, but made a home in South Africa where Elegance is thriving and making its mark in the aviation industry. It offers “the hour package flying principle” with chartered airlines, where companies are able to buy bulk hours of 25 to 50 hours and utilize them when it suits.
Co-founder, Easy Taxi Nigeria
Cardoso was the founding chief executive of online taxi hailing app, Easy Taxi Nigeria, a Rocket Internet-backed startup. While still affiliated with Easy Taxi, he is moving on to new projects. Easy Taxi, under Cardoso’s watch, grew to be one of the most used taxi hailing apps in Lagos and Abuja. It has been a tough year for Cardoso. His mother, Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, died of Ebola this year. Adadevoh was one of the doctors in Nigeria who helped treat the disease.
Mahugu is one of the founders of Soko, an online platform where global shoppers can buy handcrafted accessories direct from artisans in Kenya. Born and raised in Nairobi, Mahugu studied computer science for her graduate degree. “I used to fix things and gadgets as a child… From a young age, I was fascinated by science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Family support motivated my sister to study civil engineering and me to study computer science. Although these are male-dominated fields, my parents’ positive attitude provided an empowering environment, and we were encouraged to pursue our own interests.”
“If you want to be an innovative tech company anywhere in the world right now, mobile must be a significant component of what you do. Pervasive mobile phone ownership and services such as M-Pesa have made Kenya a global hub of innovative business models that leverage mobile in order to leapfrog many of the infrastructural barriers the industrialized world faces for challenges as diverse as payment solutions and opportunities for poverty alleviation,” says Mahugu.
Mahugu took the Design Liberation Technology course at Stanford University in 2010 and has been involved in various development projects including Stanford’s Nokia Africa Research Center which builds mobile applications for informal communities.