Meet Africa’s 30 young entrepreneurs and next generation billionaires running their own businesses. The list is in no particular order.
- Yannick Nzonde, 29, DRC
Co-Founder: ATI Groupe
Nzonde is a brave man. Five years ago, he founded ATI Groupe, a construction company, with the R6,000 ($478) he earned from renting out his friend’s BMW that he had borrowed for a weekend. He is also the founder of Mulundu Investment Holdings, which houses ATI Groupe and Chi Groupe, a management consulting firm. Mulundu Investment Holdings turns over a million dollars in revenue each year for the 29-year-old.
This is a long way from where it all began when he was only 14.zonde is a brave man. Five years ago, he founded ATI Groupe, a construction company, with the R6,000 ($478) he earned from renting out his friend’s BMW that he had borrowed for a weekend. He is also the founder of Mulundu Investment Holdings, which houses ATI Groupe and Chi Groupe, a management consulting firm. Mulundu Investment Holdings turns over a million dollars in revenue each year for the 29-year-old.
“I had bought a watch from a local market place in DRC for $5. One of my younger brother’s friends loved it so much he offered to buy it from me for $20. The next day, someone else offered me more for the same watch,” he says.
It marked the start of a rewarding entrepreneurship journey. He sold everything he could get his hands on. At 15, he relocated to South Africa where he started buying computers, solar lights, fat burners and pool tables and selling them back home.
“I have always been the person to find solutions to problems and people have always come to me. I have always been the person to jump on opportunities once I see a gap in the market. I have also always wanted to leave a legacy.”
Nzonde says he lives by the words of American marketing specialist Guy Kawasaki: “The best reason to start an organization is to make meaning; to create a product or service to make the world a better place.”
One of the many ways he is making the world better is through providing power solutions in rural DRC.
“We are the second company to have brought solar energy solutions to the DRC in the Katanga region. This changed many lives as people are used to generators while some had never seen electricity before,” says Nzonde.
Not bad for a man who comes from a family of 24 and walked 15km to school.
2. Leroy Mwasaru, 20, Kenya
This 20-year-old is making money from waste while solving a serious problem. He is the founder of Greenpact, a company which produces and distributes affordable and high-quality innovative biogas digester systems to get bio-gas from both agricultural and human refuse. His mission is guided by the overarching vision to become the leading provider of clean household energy solutions across East Africa. He has won many accolades including the Innovate Kenya challenge in 2013.
3. Ladipo Lawani, 29, Nigeria
Founder: L&L Foods
L&L foods is a food processing and packaging company focused on the Nigerian market. They source agricultural produce from local farmers and transform them into quality snacks. Their primary line of products is a premium brand of nuts called Mr Ekpa. Lawani employs 12 people.
4. Emmanuel Ademola Ayilara, 29, Nigeria
Founder: LandWey Investment Limited
LandWey is a real estate development and management company turning over $14 million per year. It started with just five employees. Today, they employ 42 full-time staff, 370 realtors and 16,000 consultants.
Ayilara’s journey to entrepreneurship started when he was in school. His first stint was at a coaching center in Abeokuta, Ogun State in Nigeria. The business failed. He tried his hand again, this time, running a vocational training program with over 3,600 students.
“Once I had a taste of success, there was no turning back. Starting and running businesses became my turf and all I had to do was build more capacity. I always believed opportunities would come to those who were most prepared so I put in the hard work even when no one noticed,” he says.
5. Mwiya Musokotwane, 28, Zambia
Founder: Thebe Investment Management
Musokotwane knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur at age 16 after reading US billionaire Warren Buffet’s biography. It inspired him to secure a degree in finance. His first venture in business was when he co-founded a tech startup while pursuing his Master’s. The business failed. At 23, he had a dream to build a mega city. Armed with lessons from the first business, he worked tactfully. At 24, he left his job to pursue it. With the help of his family, he founded Thebe Investment Management. The company is the owner and developer of Nkwashi, a 3,100 acre mega-project in Lusaka, Zambia. By age 25, he had generated $1 million in cash flow. He employs 80 people.
6. Nomvula Mhambi, 29, Zimbabwe
Founder: Disruptive Innovation
when her mother couldn’t afford to take her to university because of the economic and political downturn in Zimbabwe, Mhambi turned to entrepreneurship. She registered a catering and events management company at age 19. She was later invited to work on a concert that featured Akon and Sean Paul. It opened doors.
A year later, she was called to assist with artiste logistics for a concert that hosted Ciara, Phat Joe, Lil’ Kim and DJ Scratch. At age 22, her company was contracted by DStv Zimbabwe to host their Big Brother events. She saw a gap in the advertising industry and founded Disruptive Innovation, a full service media communications and advertising social enterprise.
For the first two years of the business, many doors were shut in her face. When she was close to giving up, she was selected for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) where she won a $25,000 grant towards her restroom advertising pilot project.
“I tackle urban hygiene and sanitation issues using market-based approaches improving public amenities through social innovation initiatives with my advertising and marketing social enterprise,” she says.
Mhambi has partnered with local municipalities, renovating dilapidated public toilets, and charging people for use.
This revenue is used to maintain the sites, assist schools in need of sanitation hardware and help clients get their product to their consumers.
Mhambi also runs a hair and nail lounge and is also into agriculture, growing button and oyster mushrooms, which she supplies to a majority of Zimbabwe’s supermarkets and restaurants producing over 1,000 punnets per week. She employs 25 full-time and 12 part-time staff.
7. Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed Falalu, 28, Nigera
Falalu saw an opportunity to make money when he realized Nigeria consumes about seven million metric tonnes of rice and only produces 2.7 million metric tonnes, forcing the country to spend more than $2 billion in imports. “I always had an interest in farming, I remember writing in our high school’s yearbook under feature ambition that I wanted to be a farmer,” he says.
With a total annual capacity to produce more than 5,000 metric tonnes, he founded FaLGates, a rice mill producing a variety of rice products. They employ 30 people in Kaduna and over 150 people at their anchored farms in Niger and Kebbi. They turned over about $450,000 in 2017.
Falalu holds a degree in Computer Science and a Master’s in Management from Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. He also holds an MSc Degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Nottingham.
8. Roger Boniface, 29, South Africa
Boniface is the founder of EDISIM, a training provider that uses simulation to bring real-world learning experiences to the classroom. In less than three years, he has integrated the business simulations into some of Africa’s top business schools. He lectures at Wits and GIBS in South Africa and Strathmore Business School in Nairobi.
“I spend my weekends at different flea markets around Johannesburg and Pretoria and there is no better way to learn about business. My first counterfeit note experience happened at a flea market. I got paid for something I sold with a counterfeit R100 ($8) note,” says Boniface, also the founder of Artson, an events company that hosts art and wine tasting experiences to explore and develop the creativity that people often lose throughout the conveyor belt of life. He also runs JCB, a small textile wholesaler concentrating on the promotional market and mainly focusing on t-shirts, golf shirts and caps. While this business has been successful for over 30 years, Boniface has been running it since 2015. He turns over about R13 million ($1 million) a year.
9. Gilbert Eugene Peters, 29, Zimbabwe
Founder: Spidex Media
This story started like many successful entrepreneurship stories. Peters would buy and sell satellite dishes to his community in Harare. Through word of mouth, this business grew until he employed two people. Together, they installed over 2,000 satellite dishes. All this before he was 19 years old. The demand waned and Peters went into formal employment as a graphic designer.
At 21, armed with $300, he registered Spidex Media with the hope of addressing the need for faster advertising and design services in 24 hours.
“I would go where I was needed to design since I had no office, and only a laptop and business cards. I became a CEO, finance manager, marketer and salesman,” says Peters.
His girlfriend at the time, now his wife, provided her entire $160 salary from working as an ice cream shop attendant to rent office space. The investment paid off.
Today, Spidex has offices in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia. It’s one of the largest advertising companies in Zimbabwe with a majority market share in the financial sector handling brand portfolios worth over $870 million. He has won 12 business and entrepreneurship awards in Zimbabwe, a businessman of the year award at just 25 years old, and employs 55 people.
10. Sihle Ndlela, 28, South Africa
Co-Founder: Majozi Bros Construction
This construction company started from humble beginnings and went on to become one of the leading construction companies in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Ndlela co-founded the company with Simphiwe Majozi. The two met on a cold call, formed a friendship and went into business together.
“We both had a string of businesses from primary school right through to high school, ranging from selling sweets, loan sharking, throwing parties and selling hot dogs on street corners,” he says.
The two saw a gap in the township construction market.
“We decided to become a turnkey building contracting business offering services from plan drawing, plan submission, general building and renovations. So we became a one-stop construction business,” says Ndlela.
The business grew quickly and their clients now range from malls to residential estates. They also bought 51% of a 35-year-old tool hire business called Hire which has three branches in KZN. They were awarded a $105 million project alongside WBHO as a partner.
Before joining Majozi, Ndlela had been running a successful glass and aluminium business. Together, the duo went on to take the construction industry by storm.
11. Vere Shaba, 29, South Africa
Founder: Shaba & Ramplin Green Building Solutions
This 29-year-old has been the one to watch since 2010, when she was a part of the winning team for the international design competition on Peace and Environmental Studies by Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.
“In 2008, while still a student, I did my mechanical engineering practical training at the Volkswagen South Africa plant in Uitenhage and watched as the rolling blackouts and load shedding affected their productivity. When the power went off, the machines would come off and thousands of workers would sit outside in the sun,” says Shaba.
She became an entrepreneur out of frustration.
“The frustration came when I kept on being put in a box. Having graduated as a mechanical engineer, I was either seen as a green building consultant or a mechanical engineer but never both.”
She resigned from her job in 2016 and founded a company that uses the Integrated Green Design approach in engineering. Now, Shaba & Ramplin Green Building Solutions is a multi-disciplinary consulting firm specializing in engineering, green buildings and interiors services.
Shaba was selected as one of 10 Top Women in Engineering for the annual Standard Bank Topco Top 100 Women in Business & Government, Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans for Environment, the Kingdom of Netherlands’ Inspiring 50 Women in South Africa in STEM, and most recently, has been selected as a finalist for the inaugural Gauteng Premier’s Women Excellence Awards for Young Achievers.
“I still sit in boardrooms as a minority in the boardroom, as the sector is still quite white male dominated, but I know that every day I am in the boardroom is changing mind-sets and creating a platform for the future generations,” she says.
12. Thomas Duncan, 28, Namibia
Anticor is a water treatment and chemical specialist company based in Windhoek specializing in products for the agricultural, commercial, domestic and industrial markets. Duncan inherited Anticor from his late father when he was 24 years old. The business was stagnant and loss-making. In just four years, he turned it around into a profitable business. The company employs 11 people. He also owns Analytical Laboratory Services, Namibia’s largest privately accredited and owned laboratory which has three analytical sections, for water quality, microbiology and food chemistry and soil. It employs 15 people.
13. Wesley Beneke, 29, South Africa
Founder: WCB Construction
Beneke grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His mother taught him that running a business was possible as she was an entrepreneur herself.
“I face hardships every single day as I am a black man playing in the ‘white rich man’ space. The system is built to exclude us and in most cases, my firm and I are constantly found to be precluded from what is so easily achievable by white monopoly. I have had various large clients not pay me and in so doing, completely wipe out my cash flow. However, my family and staff have stuck by me in those times and made the mountains feel like hills,” says Beneke.
He employs 40 permanent staff, has in excess of 150 contract staff and has deals worth over $12 million. He counts the Western Cape government and the South African Roads Agency among his clients.
14. Anita Adetola Adetoye, 26, Nigeria
Founder: Anita Brows Beauty
Adetoye, popularly known as ‘Anita Brows’, is an Irish-Nigerian professional makeup artist, beauty educator, and entrepreneur. She is also the founder of Anita Brows Beauty based in Lagos. With over seven years of experience, she has single-handedly built an award-winning brand, creating jobs for young Nigerians.
“My move to Nigeria was the defining moment for me in the beauty industry. It was the moment my hobby became a livelihood and then became a business. I didn’t choose this path by faith, this path chose me. My goal is to change the face of makeup and beauty artistry,” she says.
She is sought-after worldwide. Over the years, she has featured and liaised with the founder of international brand ‘Iman Cosmetics’, and worked with numerous celebrities across the globe. She has also been recognized in Uganda as the best makeup artist in West Africa and won the Future Awards Prize for beauty. Adetoye employs 13 people and has several sold-out makeup classes in Europe, the US and East Africa. This year, Anita Brows will launch a cosmetic range.
15. Akinwande Durojaye, 28, Nigeria
While at Covenant University, Durojaye saw the need for a printing and branding business. He started doing business as an intermediary between the students’ association and the print world. In 2014, he used this experience to start JustBrandIt, a printing, branding and advertising agency competing with larger companies in Nigeria. The astute Information and Communications Engineering graduate is also the founder of FixMyRide, a fleet management company which manages different taxi hailing platforms like Uber, Taxify and Oga Taxi. It also houses an auto workshop for vehicle repairs, maintenance and servicing. The name FixMyRide was inspired by MTV’s Pimp My Ride show where vehicles get transformed and upgraded. He employs 13 full-time staff and about 210 contracted drivers. Combined, the companies turn over $1.2 million each year.
He is also the co-founder of FueledUp, a technology-driven company where customers request for fuel and cooking gas delivery via an app. He is also the co-founder of LashBells Food Company, a local snacks production and packaging company.
16. Samuelle Dimairho, 27, Zimbabwe
Co-founder: Chengetedzai Depository Company Limited
Dimairho co-founded Chengetedzai Depository Company Limited, Zimbabwe’s first central securities depository for the capital markets with securities’ deposits that have peaked at over $7 billion and trade settlement now in excess of $2 billion. The company had $1.5 million in revenue last year.
Dimairho is also the founder of Aura Group, a management consulting, technology and business process outsourcing services company expected to turn over $2 million this year.
Dimairho was featured in the Junior Achievement Worldwide, 2011/2012 Africa Annual report on behalf of Zimbabwe, received the top ICT Company Web Developer of the Year 2011 award, was 1st Runner-Up in the Top ICT Company of the Year 2011 award category, and received top ICT Project of the Year 2012 (Public Sector) award. He was also crowned the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Creative Young Entrepreneur of The Year 2014 and also won the Entrepreneurs Organisation Global Student Entrepreneur Award 2014.
Dimairho voluntarily serves as an advisor to the Graduate Development Agency and Young Entrepreneurs Sanctuary Africa, an organization focused on building the soft skills of graduates and mentoring young entrepreneurs. He holds several accounting and business qualifications.
17. Joey Friedman, 26, South Africa
Founder: LA Group of Companies
Growing up, Friedman watched his father run a business and go bankrupt.
“It was extremely hard for me to adjust to receiving food donations… we lost our house and I was not succeeding in school. I had learning disabilities which were not discovered until I was 13. This led me to feeling like a failure and completely incompetent,” says Friedman.
With a lot of financial responsibilities, he had to start thinking of ways to make money.
Nine years ago, he started a business called BOBBLE, a bottle that filters water, then a real estate agency called FRESH REALITY. Then, in 2013, a bigger opportunity presented itself.
“I saw Lounge Around for sale and made it a priority to raise capital for this with my business partner. I finally am able to do what I love and go to work every day extremely excited,” he says.
Lounge Around, part of the LA Group of Companies, is a premium furniture hire company that services prestigious events,.
It specializes in boutique furniture rentals and supplying custom-made furniture and decor for a diverse range of events including exhibitions.
“I had watched my father run businesses my entire life and felt it was my destiny to follow in his footsteps and make a business truly work,” he says.
His company is responsible for supplying events like the Vodacom Durban July, DStv Delicious Festival and Tourism Indaba. They also worked at Winnie Mandela’s funeral and the 2014 presidential inauguration. The company has grown revenue by 1,200% in four years, employs 105 people and owns a 90,000sqm warehouse.
18. Zuko Tisani, 25, South Africa
Founder: Legazy Technology Conferencing
Legazy is a company that supports startups in South Africa in their quest to disrupt. They partner with the world’s best to up-skill, invest in and collaborate with South African startups.
Tisani founded the company in 2016 when he saw the dire need for investment, training and market access for the embryonic startup ecosystem of South Africa.
“The statistics released by ANDE on the 86% failure rate of startup businesses within the first 18 months of starting showed there was a limitation on resources, information and access,” says Tisani.
Legazy raised $1 million to host the Web Summit technology conference in South Africa.
“We at Legazy believed the South African startup community needed the community of early-stage investors; the world’s most disruptive tech startups and thought leaders on emerging disruption to be hosted in country for our startup community to gain investment, create partnerships and become as competitive as the largest technology companies out there such as your Ubers and Facebook.”
19. Gisela van Houcke, 27, DRC
Founder: Zuri Luxury Hair&Beauty
Houcke was born in Eastern DRC but was forced to flee the country and move to the United Kingdom at a young age due to the DRC’s political and economic instability.
She moved back to the DRC to contribute to the growth of her motherland. While working as the head of legal at BBOXX ltd in Kigali, she founded Zuri as a hobby in 2015 when she struggled to find quality hair extensions. When she sold extensions worth $50,000 in a few months, she turned the hobby into a business.
“My vision was to build a global platform and brand, which would bring together leading hair and cosmetic products, expertise, technology and a community of passionate customers,” she says.
Zuri Luxury Hair&Beauty is a hair extensions brand. Their extensions are made with 100% human Remy. Their products include lace wigs, extension bundles, closures and lace frontals.
By end 2016, she had sold hair worth over $100,000 across the DRC and Rwanda online.
That year, she also raised $75,000 of equity financing to set up a holding company in Hong Kong, launched a supply chain office in Guangzhou with three employees and opened her first store in Kinshasa. Last year, she introduced a line of lipstick and hair accessories.
Zuri is growing fast and claiming a share of Africa’s big hair industry.
20. Bidemi Zakariyau, 28, Nigeria
Growing up, Zakariyau watched her father build a taxi service and real estate company from nothing. She worked for him during holidays where she acquired skills in project management, sales and communications. Her father convinced her to study law. She interned in law firms for a few months but left to follow her passion in media.
She founded LSF|PR which started as a fashion PR agency.
“Securing my first client was very difficult because I had no public relations experience; I would visit different blogs in Nigeria and look for contact numbers in the article credits and call the designers requesting to work with them for free,” says Zakariyau.
When the door finally opened, she charged very little and worked hard. Client satisfaction led to referrals and new clients.
Six months after law school, she saw opportunities to scale and diversify her client portfolio to include corporate, consumer and lifestyle brands. She rented an office and started hiring workers. Today, the agency’s clientele consists of local and international brands including Philips, Rémy Cointreau, Godrej, William Grant and Sons, Brown-Forman, ARM, AfriOne, Ventures Platform. She employs eight women and runs an online magazine.
21. Zareef Minty, 24, South Africa
Founder: ZRF Holidings
Minty began his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 15 when he started his own clothing brand, Self Made Billionaires. At the time, the market had brands like AMA Kip Kip as one of the only prominent South African t-shirt brands. He saw a gap where brands were not necessarily using the concept of influencers and celebrities to grow.
“I got Kenny Kunene and Lee-Ann Liebenberg to wear my brand. Kenny even wore my clothing in the promo of his second season of So What on ETV. Through these celebrities, I got media hype where a lot of newspapers covered my clothing brand and with that, it brought a lot of corporate work,” he says.
Today, ZRF Holdings houses a PR company, a clothing company and a law firm. He was in the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 List, released a book, is a lawyer, motivational speaker and a radio host.
“I am most impressed by Zareef’s ability to conceptualize problems, organize his thoughts, identify important data and facts, and present a balanced argument… he consistently displayed sound judgement, ethics, and leadership… he has the ability to innovate,” writes advocate Barry Roux, in a letter of recommendation for Minty. You may remember Roux serving as the defence advocate in the Oscar Pistorius trial.
22. Fred Apaloo, 28, Ghana
Founder: Villa Grace
This hospitality management graduate moved back home after studying in the US to make a difference. For about two months, when he returned to Ghana, he cooked and nicely plated all his meals.
“The motive behind that was really to send photos to my friends in the US, to show them that Ghana wasn’t what they thought it was. A lot of them pitied me for choosing to move back,” he says.
Apaloo’s interest in creating awareness through social media grew when he realized the photos were attracting a positive reaction. He then started a brunch series called ‘Brunch Friends’. These were weekend brunch sessions at his house, where he cooked brunch for his closest friends and family and they discussed issues faced by the young. They encouraged him to expand these sessions. In 2015, he founded Villa Grace, a boutique dining company that hosts intimate pop-up brunches which have quickly become some of Accra’s most exclusive and unique dining experiences, selling out tables weeks in advance.
23. Kene Rapu, 28, Nigeria
Founder: Kene Rapu
Through her first product line, ‘Slippers by Kene’, launched in 2011, Rapu became an entreprenuer who promotes the growth of Nigerian industry by using locally-sourced materials to make slippers and sandals. She says running a business is hard work, even more so in Nigeria.
“The odds are against us, as more businesses are expected to fail than to succeed. From lack of adequate power supply, to sufficient skilled man power, to the costs and scarcity of materials, the list goes on,” she says, adding that it’s harder for women.
“I remember on my hunt for property for my factory last year, I met a gentleman who made it extremely clear he would not, under any circumstances, rent his property out to women.”
Rapu holds a law degree from the University of Bristol and a Master’s in Fashion Entrepreneurship from the London College of Fashion. In 2016, she was selected by the Tony Elumelu Foundation as one of 1,000 African entrepreneurs whose idea could change Africa, and in 2017, was listed as one of 100 Most Influential Women in Nigeria by Leading Ladies Africa.
24. Jack Mthembu, 27, South Africa
Founder: First One Adventures
Mthembu started buying and selling in grade three. Instead of giving him money, his grandmother would give him packets of sweets to sell. In high school, he sold ice cream to friends and neighbors in the blazing hot township of Namakgale in Limpopo. He would also organize fun runs on his street and charge people to participate.
His journey continued and in 2014, while in his second year at university, he participated in a business idea competition hosted by the North West University Business Development Centre. He won it and used the prize money as capital. He bought a camera and set up a business in photography, corporate branding and graphic design.
The same year, he was a runnerup for the Nedbank Sustainable Entrepreneurship competition, joined the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurs and got a mentor to assist him. “I had my fair share of disappointment having to live seven months on my friend’s couch in 2016, while in the meanwhile turning down jobs on every angle. Because I had this burning passion to get my business off the ground and needed all the time in the world. I also had the fear of being consumed by corporate; amongst job offers I had to turn down was ABSA, Stanlib and Liberty,” he says.
After a few months, his corporate branding company collapsed but he had a lifeline. He had also founded First One Adventures, a highly-profitable organization aimed at developing high school learners through life coaching and personal skills development camps. The core focus of the organization is raising young people to be independent thinkers. He also offers accounting services to small businesses.
25. Reabetswe Ngwane, 25, South Africa
Ngwane’s entrepreneurial journey began when she started her first business with a friend. They recycled plastic bags, turning them into school bags with solar lanterns, and provided them to kids in underprivileged areas. Unfortunately, that partnership did not last. She then started yet another business with her sister. This time, they recycled tyre tubes to make fashionable bags. The bags cost anything between R500 ($40) to R1,400 ($111). She also makes first-aid kit bags, respiratory bags or masks and seat protectors for the mining and construction industries.
26. Anelisa Mntuyedwa, 28, South Africa
Founder: Gilbert Civils
Growing up in the rural village of Chalumna in the Eastern Cape Province, Mntuyedwa had quite an interesting upbringing. She remembers chasing cattle and helping her parents plough corn fields over the weekend.
From about age 10, she says she had a dream very different from her peers. She wanted to be an entrepreneur with a business listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, when all her friends wanted to be lawyers and doctors. She was inspired by her father and mother who had jobs but always had a business on the side.
After completing her BSc Honours in Soil Science in 2013, her parents gave her R500 ($40) as a congratulatory gift. She used it to set up Gilbert Civils, a construction company in the Eastern Cape. Her services have been used by the likes of Buffalo City and DNA Structures.
27.Gozie Coker, 29, Nigeria
Founder: Coker Creative
Coker is the ultimate planner.
“Planning events is something I have always done, so much so that growing up, I was nicknamed ‘the organ’, short for organizer. I derived joy planning all my family and friends’ celebrations, from vacations to birthdays, and even anniversaries,” she says.
She spent her holidays interning for event companies. Soon after graduating from Baylor University, with a degree in marketing, she interned with Kennedy Creative, a full-service event management company in Austin, Texas. A year later, she went on to pursue a master’s in Strategic Management from the Cass Business School in London.
“I used my graduation thesis to test my business plan for what we now know as Coker Creative.”
A boutique event company, since its launch almost four years ago, it has executed events for private and corporate clients in Nigeria and internationally. Its clients include Etisalat, Zippy, Redrick Public Relations, Access and Bella Naija.
28. Alexander Knieps, 27, South Africa
This budding entrepreneur comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Printulu sells commercial print products such as flyers and business cards online to South African SMEs. The company has served over 5,000 clients to date.
It hasn’t always been an easy journey for the German-born entrepreneur. When starting Printulu, an investor promised him one million dollars in funding. Unfortunately, according to Knieps, the conditions of the contract were so unfavourable he couldn’t sign the contract.
“At that time, the development of the website, self-funded, was almost done and I was already hiring a team to go live. I decided I am going to do this – no matter what – with investors or without. This was one of the most difficult times in my life: very little money, no support system in South Africa and numerous business hurdles,” he says.
His success is proof it’s not about the cards you’re dealt, but how you play the hand.
29. Adam Amoussou, 27, Benin
Founder: AMOSCONSULT GROUP
Amoussou grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. He says he always felt the pressure to succeed.
“You have a standard to keep up to and in Benin, they say ‘a man who hasn’t done more than his father has done nothing, he is a complete failure’, so I grew up picturing myself taking over the family business and taking it to the next level,” he says.
His journey to entrepreneurship began in 2012 while in university.
“I had the highest marks in statistics so a couple of friends came to my place on weekends looking for assistance and I helped, but the following weekend they came accompanied by other classmates,” he says.
In 2012, he started charging them for tutoring sessions. A few months later, he and his girlfriend at the time, now fiancé, launched an online clothing shop, which is growing in retail. In May 2014, they opened street restaurants selling Kotas. The business died because of competition. In 2015, he sold his car to start AMOSCONSULT GROUP, a company supplying tropical fruits to the international market.
“I noticed the infinite potential of our Benin agriculture. So I went on and did research and found out Benin could supply one of the highest quality of tropical fruits and products and they were in high demand. I had the vision that soon my country will reach food self-sufficiency, be among the fastest-growing economies in Africa and be the vegetable garden where other African countries and the rest of the world buy good quality food and products at a very competitive price,” says Amoussou.
The company supplies fruits and produce such as cashew nuts, pineapples, palm oil and nuts, coconuts, shea butter and cotton. To meet the demand, they partner with farmers, provide them with information about the quality of fruits and produce in high demand, purchase these from them and sell internationally. The business has expanded into Togo and plans to open a branch in South Africa this year.
30. Nataliey Bitature, 28, Uganda
Co-Founder: Musana Carts
Bitature was raised by entrepreneurs. She grew up running around building sites, cleaning shop floors and counting stock in the evenings. When she was on track to study investment banking, she volunteered at a school in rural Ibanda and realized there was another need for business.
“Entrepreneurship provided for my family and for the first time I saw that it was something I took for granted. The teenage girls in the class I taught had very simple and unambitious dreams and it broke my heart. I knew I had to get into business that changed lives, improved communities and gave other Ugandan girls the opportunities I had had,” she says.
She fundraised $60,000 for building two classrooms and an IT lab for the girls.
She later co-founded Musana Carts. These are solar-powered street vending carts designed for micro-entrepreneurs in Uganda. They are modular, made for the customization of business features including fridges, sockets and mobile money terminals. Musana Carts equip its vendors with finance and business training and offers a path to legalization for those trapped in the informal sector.
Bitature was named a World Economic Forum Top Woman Innovator in 2016 and was invited to present at the World Bank headquarters for the Spring Meetings 2017. She also previously founded two service businesses in Kampala: Tateru Properties and Handymen Uganda.
“I believe because of the family I come from I’ve had the unique opportunity to be exposed to people and institutions that can help my causes. When I was preparing to pitch Musana Carts to President Clinton and a panel of esteemed judges in New York, I got to pitch to the Prime Minister of Uganda…,” she says.