In recent years, there has been a second scramble for Africa as multi nationals compete for emerging markets in Africa. That is not the whole story though. There are many homegrown African entrepreneurs that are shaping the future of Africa and the world. Some of them are billionaires. Some are soon-to-be billionaires. Here are a few:
Jason Njoku started with a YouTube channel way back in 2010. Today he is the founder of iRoko Founders and iRoko TV which is the leading online streaming service on the continent. In short, iRoko is Africa’s answer to Netflix. Njoku recently launched Rok on Sky TV in the UK and it is turning around now in its sixth month. If Africa will have its fair share of airplay in the television industry and video on demand; it will be because of people like Jason Njoku. He is now also a venture capitalist. Njoku credits his success to the fact that his good choices have had a greater impact than his mistakes.
South Africa’s Alan Knott-Craig may have trained as an Accountant, but he found his fortune in the Telecommunications Industry. He owns Hero Telecoms, a company that provides broadband internet. Hero has done so well in South Africa that Knott-Craig is now eyeing the European market. He cornered South Africa by creating low-cost solutions, and he hopes to replicate the same success in other markets. Ironically, Knott-Craig says he is driven by the fear of failure.
His nonprofit, Project Isizwe provides free public WiFi network to communities across South Africa. Through Project Isizwe, 1.8 million low-income people enjoy access to the internet. Access to the high-speed internet makes it easy for people to access information, learn, find work, market their products and services and start new businesses. He wants all South Africans to have access to high-speed internet.
Econet Founder Strive Masiyiwa runs a conglomerate with investments spread over 15 countries in Africa. He was one of the pioneer Africans to invest in mobile technology through Econet Wireless. Today he is making inroads into entertainment with Kwese TV. Strive is easily Zimbabwe’s richest man and he is recognised globally as a business leader. Masiyiwa controls a slice of the mobile market in several countries across Africa as well as in Bolivia, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. He co-owns the London-based Liquid Telecom Group and the US-based Sheldon Technologies. He is an African businessman who is recognised as a leader in the world; not just by Africa.
In 2011, Fred Deegbe was upset when a shoe shiner told him that his shoes were too good to be made in Ghana. The former banker wanted desperately to prove that good and beautiful things can be made in Africa. Deegbe’s shoe company Heel the World has injected life into Ghana’s dying shoe industry. The company specialises in the high end, hand crafted footwear. Years later he followed up Heel the World with a women’s line called Duaba Sera. The brand is now six years old and his shoes are sold to discerning customers all over the world. Heel the World may not be a global giant but it has proved that good things can be made in Africa. It has already inspired more Ghanaians than ever to pursue careers in fashion and design.
BETHLEHEM TILAHUN ALEMU
Also in the shoe business is Ethiopian Bethlehem Alemu. She specialises in eco-friendly footwear which is manufactured using recycled materials. SoleRebels is the name of her shoe label and her products find their way to customers in more than fifty countries all over the world. Alemu started from a humble beginning. She raised $10,000 by convincing her family to invest in her business. Luckily they did and today her success means she can branch into leather bags and belts. SoleRebel’s shoe designs have a distinctive Ethiopian feel to them.
It is hard to talk about business in Africa without mentioning Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man. He is currently worth $18 billion.Dangote began as an importer of fish, rice, baby food, and sugar. Today he is a manufacturing magnate with sugar factories, cement factories, salt factories, and flour processing factories. He owns a petrol refinery as well. Because of Dangote’s aggressiveness, he now has massive investments in eight countries in Western, Eastern, Southern and Central Africa. Aliko Dangote remains just as aggressive as ever. There is a good chance that he will remain Africa’s richest man for some time to come.