10 African Entrepreneurs Under 30
With a loan from his mother, nine years ago Patrick Ngowi set about making money by selling Chinese-brand phones. But though sales were brisk, he wasn’t satisfied with the success and looked for better opportunities. This came when Ngowi noticed only 14 percent of Tanzanians enjoy stable electricity - if any power at all. So he decided to fill this gap, founding Helvetic Solar Contractors. Today it boasts an annual turnover of several million dollars and count among its clients the government and United Nations. In 2012 his company was named first among Tanzania’s mid-sized businesses. Ngowi has also provided thousands of Tanzanians with access to cheap electricity.
If you've never seen him in action here's a video of him skydiving late last year
When his parents became unemployed in 2008, 16-year old Andrew Mupuya looked for ways to make money for his family. He noticed an opportunity in the looming government ban on plastic bags and borrowed the princely sum of $18 to start a small-scale paper bag manufacturing business. Today his company YELI is the country’s first local paper bag and envelope producing company, boasting a wide range of customers. Last it year produced its 500,000th bag, allowing Mupya to employ over a dozen people, pay for his University studies and support his family. Last year Mupuya was named the Grand Prize Winner of the Anzisha Prize.
William Kamkwamba doesn’t own a company, nor does he create a product that is popular with consumers. Instead, he simply changed the lives of his entire village and the surrounding region. The 25-year old Malawian had to drop out of school at age 14, because his parents could not afford the tuition. But he kept learning, borrowing books from a nearby library. This soon sparked his imagination around power generation and led to his first successful project: a windmill, built from scrap, that generates and stores power. This success was followed up by other innovations, including a solar-powered water pump and a radio transmitter. He won several grants, been a speaker at numerous prestigious events and there is even a book written about him.
Zimbabwe Farai Gundan
Farai Gundan has always been a go-getter. Her single-parent mother scraped every penny to put her sister and her through school. Gundan shows the same tenacity: after setting her sights to study in the U.S., she secured a scholarship and then raised money to cover her travelling and living costs. While abroad she noticed a lack of media catering to young black women, leading to her creating a popular blog. This was followed by FaraiMedia, a company that caters advertising platforms for African sites, and the travel reservation site AfricanTripDeals. Gundan is also a successful TV and radio producer and presenter, working with numerous African and American broadcasters.
In Cameroon there is slightly more than one heart surgeon for every million citizens - and most are based in the country’s urban areas. With such staggering odds, 24-year old engineer Arthur Zang saw an opportunity to start a business and also make a difference to the lives of countless people. In 2010 he invented the Cardiopad, a touch-screen medical device that runs diagnostic tests on a patient and sends the results across mobile networks to a doctor. The medical device, which is due to be released commercially this year, has already through numerous tests and is said to be nearly 98 percent accurate. Once available, it will change the lives of many Africans with heart problems - and soon other people across the globe as well.
South AfricaLudwick Phofane Marishane
Water is not always in such ready supply that every person can enjoy a cleansing bath. Then there are some who just don’t like to bath: one was a teenage friend of Ludwick Phofane Marishane, complaining that there should be a substance that you can simply rub on yourself. This caught Marishane’s attention and he did some research, made a business plan and soon developed DryBath. This anti-bacterial lotion made him South Africa’s youngest patent holder. In 2011 he also won the Global Champion of the Global Student Entrepreneurs Awards and Google named him one of the twelve brightest young minds in the world.
After a failed web hosting business, Oluwaseun Osewa looked for a new business avenue to try his technical hands at. It took two years before he stumbled upon the forum format, running a popular discussion spot around the Nigerian mobile GSM industry. It was here that Osewa noticed a need from Nigerians to discuss wider topics, so he set about creating Nairaland, which officially launched in 2005. Today it is Nigeria’s largest website, boasting over a million users
Acutely familiar with the Kenyan capital Nairobi’s incredible waste problem, soon after resigning from her job at a bank Lorna Rutto founded Ecopost. The company manufactures fences from waste plastics, a green alternative to expensive timber fence products - with only 2 percent woodlands cover, it provides an important service to the country’s fencing industry. Through this company, Rutto has spawned an ecosystem of new jobs as traders buy plastic waste from the public, sort it and resell it to her company. In 2011 she was made a laureate of the Cartier Women’s Initiative.
Sandra Appiah and Isaac Boateng
Republic of Congo
When her family emigrated to the U.S., 12-year old Sandra Appiah was exposed to a lot of xenophobia - ironically from African American kids. She later discovered the reason: the way Africa was often portrayed by international media. This started a quest to right that wrong and present the world with a truer face of the mother continent. In 2008 her endeavors led to joining forces with fellow Ghanaian Isaac Boateng and in 2011 they founded Face2Face Africa. The company is the base for a successful magazine, events company and website, tapping into a large base of people keen to learn more about the continent.
Noting a lack of affordable tablets in his part of the world, Verone Mankou set about creating his own. In 2011 it was revealed to the world as Way-C, named indirectly after a local word that means “the light of the stars”. Sold through his company VMK, the Way-C has proven popular in both central Africa and France. VMK has since followed the success of the Way-C with Elikia, an Android-powered smartphone. There are also plans to release an educational tablet device.