There’s a rising tide of entrepreneurship sweeping across Africa, and the youngsters are riding it vigorously. A growing number of young Africans are not just content waiting around for a proper career bump up the establishment ladder. No. Their ambitions are much more profound; They are setting out to write their own destinies – establishing remarkable enterprises that will transform Africa and reignite its economies.
Every year since 2013, I have assembled a list of 30 incredible young entrepreneurs, all under the age of 35, who are making the most dramatic impact in business in Africa. This year’s call for nominations attracted more than 250 entries from 23 African countries. I enlisted a small group of accomplished African entrepreneurs, Business Journalists, thinkers and thought leaders to select 30 of the most exceptional young entrepreneurs from the lot. This year’s entrepreneurs cut across manufacturing, media, tech, agriculture and fashion. They are impatient to change Africa and together, they represent the entrepreneurial, innovative and intellectual best of their generation.
In no particular order, meet the 2017 class of the 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs In Africa – today’s upstarts, tomorrow’s moguls.
Fahad Awadh, Tanzanian
Founder, YYTZ Agro-Processing
Fahad Awadh, a 29-year old entrepreneur from Tanzania, has set up a cashew processing facility in Tanzania in an effort to bring international standards and traceability to the cashew nuts. He is the founder of YYTZ Agro-Processing, a cashew processing company that is adding value locally while creating jobs and boosting the income of farmers and the community as a whole. The company’s flagship processing facility in Zanzibar has an installed capacity of 2,500 Tons per annum. YYTZ Agro-Processing recently raised a $500,000 investment from the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund to establish another processing facility in Mtwara, southeastern Tanzania.
Alloysius Attah, Ghanaian
Alloysius Attah, 27, founded Farmerline, a Ghanaian software company and social enterprise, in 2013. With offices in Kumasi and Accra, Ghana, and a current full-time staff of 23, Farmerline builds technologies to connect rural customers to information, financial services, and supply chains, with an emphasis on smallholder farmers. Farmerline has developed multiple proprietary softwares that are used widely across different sectors. These include the MERGDATA platform, a data analytics and insight solution, and PAYTIME, a credit scoring and lending app that uses alternative data sources for farmers with no credit history. The company also provides content messaging to deliver good agricultural practices, weather reports, and market information to farmers, reaching beyond barriers in language, literacy, and connectivity by offering information in local languages. Farmerline’s content messaging (voice and SMS), remote surveying, and data collection services have been deployed across 5 countries by companies, NGOs, and governments. Farmerline has already been profitable for two years, having generated just over $375,000 (USD) in revenues in 2016, up from $284,000 in 2015. To date, Farmerline has reached over 200,000 users across West Africa. The recipient of numerous awards including the 2016 SEED Award and the Financial Times/IFC World Bank Group Transformational Business Award for Achievement in Information and Communication Technology, Farmerline plans to reach 1 million active users by 2020.
Gloria Michelle Otieno Muka, Kenyan
In 2013, Gloria Michelle Otieno Muka, 31, founded Recours Four Kenya Consultants Limited (R4Kenya), a fast-growing professional HR services firm located in Nairobi, Kenya. She started the firm with $2,000 of her savings, and within the last 4 years, she has grown the company into a $400,000 (annual revenues) business with 19 employees. Recours Four Kenya offers professional HR services in consultancy, recruitment, training, psychometric testing and staff outsourcing. The company’s clients include the World Bank group, Kenya National Examination Council, USAID, GlaxoSmithKline and Sportpesa.
Brigitha Faustin, Tanzanian
Founder, OBRI Company
Faustin, 30, is the founder and managing Director of OBRI Company, an Agro-Industrial company whose main businesses include edible oils manufacturing and fractionations under the OBRI brand. OBRI Company is modeled as a co-operative social enterprise. Under this model, OBRI has empowered more than 230 local Tanzanian farmers who are organized under farmers associations in Tanzania by providing sustainable market channels for their produce. OBRI’s cooking oils are sold in retail outlets across the country.
Teta Isibo, Rwandan
Founder, Inzuki Designs
Rwandan-born Teta Isibo, 32, is the founder of Inzuki Designs, a young Rwandan brand specializing in Jewellery, accessories and Interior decor hand-made primarily from Local materials. Inzuki’s products typically fuse traditional craftsmanship and contemporary style to present a transcontinental finish. Isibo works with numerous local artisans that use their skills to translate Inzuki’s authentic designs into vibrant quality pieces that are sold all across Rwanda.
Lucia Bakulumpagi-Wamala, Ugandan
Founder, Bakulu Power
Lucia Bakulumpagi-Wamala, 34, is the Founder and CEO of Bakulu Power, an Ugandan renewable energy company. Bakulu Power is currently developing 3 solar mini-grids on islands off Lake Victoria and a clean cooking fuel (biomass) production plant on a refugee camp in Western Uganda.
Rajiv Mehta, Kenyan
Founder, Tangerine Investments
Rajiv Mehta, 31, is one of Kenya’s most outstanding young entrepreneurs. He is the founder of Tangerine Investments, an outdoor advertising firm that uses public transit vehicles, litterbins and street poles to market leading consumer goods in Kenya.
Tangerine, which was founded in 2008, has clients such as Kenya Airways, Pizza Inn, Subway and Coca Cola HP among others. The company has annual revenues exceeding $1 million.
Aigbe Omoregie, Nigerian
Founder, Intercontinental Paints
The 34 year-old Nigerian entrepreneur is the founder of Intercontinental Paints, a fast-growing paint manufacturing company based in Lagos. He founded the company in 2006 with a little over $100 in savings, and the company has employed more than 50 people since its inception.
Benson Mengi and Esther Lugoe-Mengi, Tanzanian
Founders, Serensic Africa
A husband and wife duo, Benson Mengi (29), and Esther Lugoe Mengi (26), are the founders of Serensic Africa, one of Tanzania’s leading indigenous cyber security and software development companies. The company offers high-end business process management, system integration and SaaS-architecture solutions as well as Bulk SMS management, custom application development, CMS development and customization services. Serensic’s clients include Tanzanian blue chips such as IPP Group, Coca Cola, Molocaho by Amorette and the United Nations.
Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, Rwandan
Rwandan entrepreneur, Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, 23, is the founder of Habona Ltd, a company that produces affordable and environmentally friendly fuels in form of biomass briquettes and biogas from waste. Habona also produces bio-fertilizer for farmers and provides consultancy and maintenance services regarding integrated waste management and energy solutions.
Amr Sobhy, Egyptian
Sobhy , 28, is an Egyptian entrepreneur, technologist and data/information activist. He founded and runs Cairo-based PushBots, a tech startup that helps mobile publishers better engage their users via mobile messaging. Amr bootstrapped this company and today their infrastructure serves more than 55M users on behalf of over 20k publishers who signed up to the platform from over 167 countries. Each month PushBots sends over half a billion messages and the startup is profitable.
Bruce Dube, South African
Founder, Nine80 Digital
Bruce Dube, 28, is the founder of Nine80 Digital, a Pan African digital media publishing company that targets the youth demographic in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria. The business generates hundreds of thousands of monthly unique youth users from its numerous digital media platforms ranging from youth portals, reference sites, classifieds platforms, gaming sites and video platforms. Nine80’s properties have attracted advertising from clients such as Disney, Coca Cola and Mr. Price Group.
Jennifer Shigoli, Tanzania
Founder, Malkia Investments Company Limited
Jennifer Shigoli, 30, a trained lawyer and diplomat, is the founder of Malkia Investments Company Limited, a company that produces and distributes personal hygiene products. Malkia’s most popular product is its Elea Reusable Sanitary Pads which are produced in Tanzania and packaged with information on hygiene. Shigoli won a $150,000 prize at the BMCE African Entrepreneurship Award last year.
Sonia Mugabo, Rwandan
Founder, Sonia Mugabo
At such a young age, Sonia Mugabo has become a force in Rwandan fashion, entrepreneurship and women’s leadership. Sonia, 26, is the founder of Sonia Mugabo (SM), her eponymous fashion brand. She is a self-taught designer who has focused her brand on sourcing locally including materials, employees and models from her home country of Rwanda. Her brand has quickly found a strong following and is reaching international awareness. She recent opened her second store inside of the Kigali Marriott and is a star clearly on the rise.
Heritiaina Randriamananatahina, Malagasy
Randriamananatahina, 22, is the founder of Fiombonana, an agro-processing enterprise that manufactures dairy products and confectioneries. The company uses only Malagasy raw materials in their products and increases local jobs by hiring low-income local farmers. Randriamananatahina is a 2016 recipient of the Anzisha prize for young African entrepreneurs.
Prinesh Naidoo, South African
Founder, Geco Cam
Prinesh Naidoo, 25, is a co-founder of Eeezee Foam, which has one of the largest polyurethane foam manufacturing plants in South Africa, and for which he received the prestigious FNB ROCCI Business Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2015. Geco Cam, his most recent venture, is the world’s first glasses mounted action cam, and was launched at the International CES in Las Vegas in 2015, where it was the only hardware start-up from South Africa to exhibit.
George Mtemahanji, Tanzanian
Founder, SunSweet Solar
23-year-old George Mtemahanji is the founder of SunSweet Solar, a solar photovoltaic company based in Tanzania. SunSweet Solar designs and installs Solar Off-Grid Systems, Solar Mini and Micro Grid Systems.
Issam Darui, Moroccan
Darui is the founder of Lagare.ma, Morocco’s first electronic bus station which allows the country’s growing number of bus users book tickets online, instead of wasting time and resources standing in long queues. Lagare.ma caters to local residents as well as the overwhelmed international tourist trying to navigate a city’s transport system. The transport app is available in 10 languages with the option to pay for tickets in 25 currencies. Lagare.ma has three employees and 25,000 registered and frequent customers.
Calvin Mathibeli, South African
Founder, Calvin & Family Group
Calvin Mathibeli, a former garden boy, is the founder of Calvin and Family Group (CFG), a construction company. He established the company in 2005 to develop residential properties and later branched out into commercial, retail and industrial developments. He also owns the Unique Lifestyle Café – a high-end restaurant at the heart of the leafy surburb of KZN, Durban.
Nichole Onome Yembra, Nigerian
Managing Partner, GreenHouse Capital
Nichole Onome Yembra, 29, is the Chief Financial, Risk and Investment Officer for Venture Garden Group (VCG) and a Managing Partner at GreenHouse Capital, VCG’s investment arm. Venture Garden Group is a holding company of financial technology entities dedicated to innovative and data-driven solutions. GreenHouse Capital, which launched formally in April 2016, began investments in startups since 2014 under the VGG umbrella. When Nichole joined the VGG and Greenhouse Capital teams, she guided the formal legal structure of the fund and led the investment into 8 new ventures in 2016, raising the group to the 14 companies it has today.
Nichole is not only driving the financial strategy of Venture Garden Group through challenging economic times, she is also actively engaged in serving as the local partner for foreign investors eager to transform African technology startups. Through GreenHouse Capital, she takes on fintech enabled portfolio companies looking to transform the education, renewable energy, big data, and fintech ecosystems. The portfolio companies’ products have connected over 3,000 students to tutors, revolutionized off-grid solar solutions and increased banking services of Nigeria’s nearly 84.6 million unbanked population. Each of these companies has seen at least 2X growth since joining the GH portfolio.
Onyekachi Ekezie, Nigerian
Founder, Kaptain Foods
Onyekachi Ekezie, 33, is the founder of Kaptain Foods, a Nigerian food processing company that produces a range of pre-cooked and packaged ready to eat tomato stews using locally grown fresh produce and spices.
Mubarak Muyika, Kenyan
22-year-old Mubarak is the founder of Zagace, a custom-built app store for small-medium size enterprise packages called zag apps. The platform offers a full suite of enterprise management products from accounting, inventory, sales, manufacturing, storage, HR at a price affordable to small businesses. The platform having operated for over 18 months has a customer base from a diverse range of sectors mainly in Kenya and is in the process expanding its footprint into other African markets and the US. Zagace has raised angel rounds from notable investors such as Jayant Ravalia, a Vice president of Yandex.
Knight Ganje, Zimbabwean
Founder, H&G Advertising
Knight Ganje, a 29 year-old Zimbabwean entrepreneur, is the founder of H&G Advertising, a Botswana-based ad agency with a clientele listing that includes brands such as Unilever, Emirates, Coca-Cola and Samsung.
Jamie Pujara, Kenyan
Pujara, a 33 year-old Kenyan entrepreneur is the founder of BuyRentKenya, one of Kenya’s most popular property listing sites. In 2015, South African online media firm One Africa Media acquired a stake in the company. The site, which Pujara founded in 2012, reports 150,000 visitors every month and has more than 15,000 listings of residential and commercial properties.
Nadeem Juma, Tanzanian
Co-founder, AIM Group
In 2004, and at the age of 19, Tanzanian serial entrepreneur Nadeem Juma founded Efulusi Africa, a software development company that develops custom software with a focus on mobile finance apps and aggregation. Efulusi is credited for developing and deploying Tanzania’s first mobile banking platform. In 2014, Juma, now 31, founded AIM Group, a leading digital agency in the East African country. AIM Group now has 25 employees and has some of Tanzania’s most prominent brands as clients.
Anda Maqanda, South African
Founder, AM Group
29-year-old Maqanda owns the AM Group – a provider of engineering solutions, focusing mainly on Engineering Consulting, Design and Construction of Electrical Overhead Power Lines, Renewable Energy, Automation and Research and Development.
Mutoba Ngoma, Zambian
Founder, Tapera Bio Industries
After studying aeronautical engineering in the United Kingdom, Ngoma, a 31 year-old Zambian entrepreneur returned home to seek his fortune in the renewable energy business. He started Tapera Bio Industries Limited in 2009, a business which is focused on the production and promotion of biodiesel fuel and derivatives of vegetable oils. The company also processes vegetable oils into natural soaps, washing paste and organic shampoo.
Chude Jideonwo & Adebola Williams, Nigerian
Founders, Red Media
Jideonwo (32) and Williams (31) are co-founders and Partners of RED– a leading full service media-content, communication and Development Company in Nigeria. RED is a network of four media companies focused on Africa’s youth: Red Media Africa, a Public Relations company working in West Africa for Facebook, Uber, Union Bank and Heineken; Generation Y!, a TV and online content company with one of Nigeria’s most popular online newspapers and The Future Project, a social enterprise that hosts Africa’s biggest youth social change event, The Future Awards Africa. StateCraft Inc, one of RED’s subsidiaries, is fast becoming Africa’s leading governance communication and consulting firm.