Top 30 CEOs Under 30: Up and Coming African Entrepreneurs
Africans are strong, powerful, and some of the most hard-working people in the world. Apart from been featured in Forbes entrepreneurs' list and other rankings, Africa also boasts of one of the world's largest pools of burgeoning middle-class.
In Africa, business is booming. Africa has long been a rich continent and the number of new startups are rising.
These young company leaders are taking the business world by storm. They are leading the push for new innovations in business, technology, and the creative arts. They have common traits —offering business solutions, impact on the different sectors and inspirations to old and young generations around the world.
Top Under 30 CEOs, Young Entrepreneurs and Business Owners in Africa
Company: SMIDS Animation studios
Damilola Solesi is the CEO and creative director at SMIDS animation studios, a company she founded in 2010.
SMIDS animation studios is one of the leading animation companies in Africa and also rated by the EY (Ernst and Young) industry report 2019 as being in the top 2 animation companies in Nigeria.
In 2020 she won Juror for 2020/2021 International Emmy Awards
Company: Easy Solar
Country: South Africa
Nthabiseng Mosia was born in Ghana. From there, she moved to South Africa, where she was raised. Mosia recognized early on that Africa was undergoing an energy crisis. She and her family experienced power outages in their home when she was young. She realized then how vital electricity was to Africa.
So, she founded Easy Solar. The business is social in nature. It allows people to rent solar devices to power their homes. The rental period is “pay as you go.” People can then, after a while, pay off the lease and own the grid.
Company: Emerald Moringa Tea
Vanessa Zommi is from Cameroon. After her mother was diagnosed with diabetes, Vanessa knew she wanted to find a way to help her. So, she looked to nature to help. She found a remedy for diabetes in the Moringa tree. Vanessa created a tea from the Moringa tree that has an antioxidant in it to treat diabetes.
The Moringa tree leaf tea has managed to help people treat and maintain their sugar in a relatively inexpensive, natural way. Zommi has gotten a lot of attention for her treatment concoction.
Company: Impact Industries
Barclay Okari grew up in Kenya. He started working at a rural Kenyan school in the village of Narok. While he was there, he noticed that a lot of the girls were struggling to find adequate hygienic products. Okari got an idea that he could fix that.
He knew there was a market for the products. He started Impact Industries. Impact Industries provides reusable, affordable sanitary pads to women in Kenya and Uganda. The pad brand is called the Safi Pad.
Mike Chilewe Jr.
Company: Lala Limited
Mike Chilewe Jr. is a young business magnate in Africa. The Malawian is the son of a fellow business owner. Chilewe states that his goal is to control an “African empire,” and he has taken strides to do so. His interest is in media entrepreneurship.
Chilewe Jr. owns the holding company Lala Limited. Lala Ltd. is based in Malawi. It has holdings in many sectors, including agriculture, energy, manufacturing, and transport. Chilewe Jr. also now owns Star FM, a radio station that has been struggling for some time now. Chilewe Jr. has been able to slowly turn Star FM around.
Company: Mazibisa, Inc.
Nkosana Mazibisa first got passionate about business and economics when he was in high school. In his debate class, the topic was about the economic downfall of Zimbabwe. Nkosana decided to try to fix that.
He opened his own public relations firm, Mazibisa, Inc. He ventured into mining briefly, but that did not work out. The brand consultancy firm took off, however. Mazibisa then decided to venture into food service. He opened an Indian restaurant that has also been very profitable.
Company: Martos Gallery
Kayode Ojo is an artist. Ojo’s parents are professors in Nigeria, but he was born in the States. Kayode still identifies with his Nigerian heritage heavily. It has influenced his art. He has been able to book solo art shows in locations such as New York, Paris, Berlin, and Dallas.
Ojo’s art is contemporary. His medium is sculpture, photography, and installation. He works with both people and objects, often photographing people at the end of adolescence. His photographic shows usually feature photos of just one person in the frame.
Company: Helium Health
Adegoke Olubusi and two other cofounders noticed that Nigeria was desperately needing digitized medical records. In an interview with the New York Times, he compared the US to Nigeria. There was little healthcare regulation in Nigeria.
That lack of regulation had one upside: there was more room for innovation. Adegoke founded Helium Health. Helium Health digitizes healthcare documents. It digitizes medical records, hospital management, insurance, and billing. It also digitizes analysis software for hospitals to provide more accurate patient care.
Abubakar Sadiq Mohammed Falalu
Abubakar Falalu was educated at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. He graduated from that UNNC with an MSc in Entrepreneurship. Falalu had always been a dedicated farmer. He combined these farming and entrepreneur skills to found FalGates.
FalGates is a company that mills rice. There was a gap between how much rice Nigerians consumed and how much Nigeria actually produced. Around 4.5 million tons of rice weren’t produced in Nigeria, but Falalu recognized that they could be. FalGates employes thirty factory works and 150 farmers. His company has a 5K metric ton capacity.
Company: Verdant Agri-Tech
Nasir was raised in Nigeria. His parents were farmers, and his siblings are also farmers too. Nasir attended MIT’s Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp as a way to combine his love of farmer and his business acumen. Nasir wanted to help farmers get into the tech age while still doing what they love. He founded Verdant Agri-Tech to help him do so.
Verdant Agri-Tech helps farmers increase and improve food production. VAT gives farmers market information, access to markets and financial services (especially important for rural farmers), and managerial support.
Company: Piggyvest, PushCV and Feminist Coalition
Odunayo Eweniyi is a Nigerian business executive and activist. She is the Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer PiggyVest and co founder of Feminist Coalition.
She graduated from Covenant University in 2013 with a first-class degree in Computer Engineering. Odun started out to launch Push CV with Somto Ifezue and Joshua Chibueze after her graduation in 2013. Two years later, the trio went on to start PiggyVest in 2016.
Country: South Africa
Thuso Mbedu is a famous actress from South Africa. Her most famous work is the telenovela Is’Thunzi. Her life before success was not easy. Mbedu did not have a relationship with her father, and, tragically, her mother died of a brain tumor when she was just four years old. Her grandmother raised her from then on, inspiring her to become a strong woman.
Mbedu first began acting on isiBaya in 2014. Since then, she has had several acting jobs, one of which landed her an Emmy nomination. She also won an award at the South African Film and Television Awards in 2017.
Company: Lounge Around
Country: South Africa
Joey Friedman is from Johannesburg, South Africa. Joey became a major player in the event industry when he became a partner with Lounge Around, part of the LA Group of Companies. But that is not the only company he is known for. Friedman also started Bobble, a company manufacturing water filter bottles. He also founded Fresh Reality.
But Lounge Around is where he really found success. The company provides decor for lounges. The decor is often European-inspired. People can rent or buy the furniture for their lounge. Lounge Around caters to events, new buildings, and more.
Company: ZRF Holdings
Country: South Africa
Zareef Minty is a leadership pioneer who just released his own book. He is a businessman and lawyer, receiving his education from the University of Witwatersrand. He is not just a businessman, he also is a political leader. At nineteen, he became the president of the Patriotic Alliance party.
He also is a news reporter at News24. He also owns his own foundation, Zareef Minty Build-A-School Foundation. Zareef recently released a book called EMPIRE. EMPIRE won him a status as a bestselling author. EMPIRE focuses on his journey to success at such a young age.
Obinna Okwodu was born in America, but he returned to Nigeria shortly after his birth. He is the son of Nigerian parents and one of three kids in his family. While he did return to America to get his degree at MIT in Massachusetts, he moved back to Lagos a year after obtaining it.
Obinna’s company, Fibre, wants to make life easier in Africa for middle-income tenants. In Lagos, landlords often make people pay two years’ rent upfront before allowing them to move in. Fibre lets people pay monthly to rent, making the rental process way easier.
Company: Beni American University
Gossy Ukanwoke received the nickname “Nigeria’s Mark Zuckerberg,” comparing him to the famous American Facebook founder. Ukanwoke decided to found his own university at the young age of 23. He got the idea from engaging with people who used his other business, Student’s Circle. Student’s Circle was a platform allowing people to access resources from major schools.
Many students wanted certificates that would help them with employment. So, Ukanwoke started Beni American University. BAU has ten instructors and two-hundred students so far. The web courses run twelve weeks, costing $100-$300.
Company: Family Tree
Country: South Africa
Cassper Nyovest was born Refiloe Maele Phoolo. Casper is a famous African producer and artist. He grew up in Mafikeng and received his education from Lighthouse Christian College before dropping out in 2006. He first got into rap music when he was twelve years old. He got his big break when rapper HHP saw him perform.
Since then, Nyovest has worked with major recording artists from the states. Rappers like Nas, Talib Kweli, Wiz Khalifa, Kendrick Lamar, and Kid Cudi have all performed with him. Cassper started his own record label, Family Tree, in 2014.
Company: Majozi Bros Construction
Country: South Africa
Sihle Ndlela co-founded the construction company Majozi Bros. Ndlela started his education at George Campbell Tech School, but he dropped out after his father passed away. He attempted to open several businesses, but none succeeded. Until Majozi Bros.
Sihle had started making aluminum windows to make ends meet. Then, he met his business partner. At its start, Majozi Bros Construction had no capital and no government support. He partnered with Simphiwe Majozi and formed Majozi Bros. The company went through ups and downs, but it was eventually very successful. It has made millions in revenue.
Nour Drissi founded a successful car rental website that has helped many Moroccans find and rent cars. Before starting her business, she worked as the retail manager for a car company. She got the idea for her website there.
On the site, customers can find and compare prices of rental cars. The site makes finding a rental in Morocco very easy. Before Nour started her business, it was very difficult to find a suitable car rental place that would give you a fair deal.
Akomolafe Henrich Bankole
Industry: Technology/Engineering/Real Estate
Companies: Akotex, M7R, BNR
At the tender age of eight, Henrich was introduced into the world of business by co-founding a company with his father where he still serves on the board of directors till date.
A graduate of Computer Engineering from the Kharkiv National University of Radioelectronics, he obtained a Masters degree in Information Technology Strategic Management from Barcelona School of Management (BSM) –Universidad Pompeu Fabra, Spain. He also acquired both engineering and commercial experience in 2016 from MP Ascensores Sevilla, Spain where he served as an intern.
An engineer turned businessman, he started his career in the elevator industry in 2016, at a time when Nigeria slipped into recession. During this time, he also assumed the position of the managing director of Akotex Nigeria Limited, a company concerned with the delivery of Engineering services (Elevators and Escalators).
Putting to use three business strategies, the company has generated remarkable profits within years in business and also established new business lines such as BNR a real estate and construction company and M7R, an Information Technology company.
However, unlike many companies who would request years of work experience, Henrich is keen on taking young passionate graduates in related fields that are working towards being the best at what they do.
Joshua Chibueze is the Co-founder and CMO of PiggyVest and a Co-founder and Marketing Head at PushCV. Joshua attended Covenant University.
Piggyvest is arguably the biggest digital savings and investment technology platform in Nigeria. They have over 3 million users. In this episode of Zero To Scale, Joshua talks about building Piggyvest from a tweet-inspired idea to one of Nigeria’s biggest technology companies, one customer at a time.
Company: Helium Health
Tito Ovia is the third founder of Helium Health. She was the only Nigerian woman to make the 2019 Forbes edition on entrepreneurship. Tito Ovia is a public health expert. She worked for Orbis in Mongolia. She also worked for the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency. Before her working career, she got her education in biomedical science.
Tito Ovia, like her cofounders, realized the need for digital health. Ovia founded Helium Health to improve outcomes for healthcare. She hopes, with Helium Health, to fill a much needed tech gap in Nigeria.
Company: Tell Me Sweet Something
Country: South Africa
Nomzamo Mbatha is an actress from South Africa. She has won a nomination for her amazing talent at the African Academy Awards. Her Best Actress nomination stemmed from her role in Tell Me Sweet Something. Not only is Nomzamo an actress, she is also a UN Ambassador.
Nomzamo is an Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She works with refugees who have run from political strife and danger from their home countries. She does much of her work in Kenya. Her advice to people who want to help is to “Live a life of love.”
Company: Head of State
Taofeek Abijako is the youngest member on this list. Taofeek just graduated high school. He was born in Nigeria in the city of Lagos. His father, like Taofeek himself, was a fashion designer. Taofeek was interested in painting and soccer in school before switching to design.
His story is pretty amazing. He created an entire fashion line in his room while he was in high school. He tweeted about his work, and a Japanese retailer called him not too long after. The fashion line, HEAD OF STATE, took off. Taofeek just recently presented at NYFW.
Emmanuel Acho is a Nigerian athlete. He played football in America, even getting to play in the National Football League as a linebacker. Now, Acho works as an ESPN analyst. However his roles as an athlete and sports commentator are secondary to his humanitarian work.
Acho and his family are deeply involved in mission trips to Nigeria with their church. Acho’s parents formed Living Hope Christian Ministries, which delivers medical care to Nigerians. Acho continues to return to Nigeria, stating that he has lost count of how many times he has gone back to serve as a missionary.
Company: Lightning Labs
Olaoluwa Osuntokun is a Nigerian immigrant who founded Lightning Labs. Osuntokun received an education from the University of California in Santa Barbara. His degree was Bachelor of Arts and Science. Olaoluwa became interested in the possibilities of digital transactions, and he decided to take that to the next level.
Lightning Labs, his company, seeks to make digital currencies easier to use. The company is a private protocol platform that lets people make private, fast transactions from anywhere in the world. The company raised an astounding $2.5 million in funding during investment rounds.
Company: Piggyvest and PushCV
Somoto is the Co-founder & Lead Product Engineer at PiggyTech Global Limited (Piggybank.ng)
He attended the Covenant University
Piggybank.ng is on a mission is to use technology and excellent customer service to build a savings culture and help young Africans better manage their finances.
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