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Five African Entrepreneurs to Watch

Africa’s entrepreneurship landscape in recent years has seen a surge in early-stage, rural, female and opportunity-driven entrepreneurs across the continent. In May 2017 the African Development Bank (AfDB) released its flagship African Economic Outlook (AEO) report and it focused on entrepreneurship and industrialisation in Africa.

According to that report, 22 per cent of Africa’s working-age population was said to have started new businesses, while small and medium enterprises (SMEs) constitute the largest providers of formal sector jobs in sub-Saharan Africa. For a continent that is projected to see up to 29 million young people join its labour force every year between 2015 and 2030, the importance of entrepreneurship – especially with regards to job creation – cannot be overemphasized.

There are several remarkable entrepreneurs across Africa, men and women whose courage, determination and hard work have not only built successful businesses solving local problems and tapping into global markets but are also paving the way for younger Africans to forge their own paths and write their success stories as well. These five (5) Africans listed below in many ways demonstrate the role that entrepreneurs play in Africa’s economic growth.


FRED SWANIKER (Ghana) – Fred, an entrepreneur and leadership development expert is one of only five (5) Africans listed in the Time 100 List for this year. He always believed that Africa’s future will be determined by its youth, and upon completing his MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2004, he launched the African Leadership Academy, and since then has also launched the African Leadership Network and the African Leadership University, with the aim of educating 3 million leaders by 2060. Fred is a TED Fellow, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and was named one of the Top Ten Young Power Men in Africa.

BRIDGET RADEBE (South Africa) – Bridget is a successful miner and the founder of Mmakau Mining, a mining company focusing on gold, platinum, uranium, chrome and coal. As an entrepreneur you have to be willing to till the ground and grind out your success, just like Bridget who despite being the older sister to South African billionaire, Patrice Motsepe, started her career working in the mines herself before rising to become the first black woman in the country to found her own mining company.


STRIVE MASIYIWA (Zimbabwe) –Strive’s doggedness is exemplary and worthy of emulation by other African entrepreneurs. His protracted legal battle with the government of Zimbabwe has been recognized as a landmark case that paved the way for private capital in Africa’s telecommunications industry. Strive founded his company Mascom in 1998 and later obtained a license to launch Econet Wireless, now a global telecommunications group with operations, investments and offices in more than 15 countries (in Africa, Europe, USA, Latin America and Asia-Pacific). According to Forbes’ real-time billionaire’s sheet, Masiyiwais worth $2.3 billion and is the first of such in Zimbabwe.

Benedict Peters

BENEDICT PETERS (Nigeria) – Benedict is the founder of Aiteo Group, the largest indigenous oil producing firm in Nigeria by output. Starting out in 1999 trading mainly in the downstream sector, in 2015 Aiteo won the bid for the largest onshore oil block in sub-Saharan Africa. His story is one of dedication and determination, another trait every entrepreneur should imbibe. Benedict also believes in paving the way for future generations and continues to inspire and empower young Africans. He continues to lead and support many local initiatives and programs, notably in football with the Aiteo Cup and sponsorship of the Nigerian Football Federation and the CAF Awards. He was recognized by Forbes as Africa’s Oil and Gas Leader of the Year, and also recognized by the Foreign Investment Network (FIN) as the African Icon of the Year. According to Ventures Africa, he debuted on the list of Africa’s wealthiest people in 2014 with a net worth of $2.7 Billion.

IRENE CHARNLEY (South Africa/Mauritius)–Irene is the CEO of Smile Telecoms and one of South Africa’s most influential business leaders stemming from her earlier career as a trade unionist in the country. She served in various capacities at MTN until her exit and founded Smile in 2007. Her company, Smile, has operations in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa.

Culled from African interviews Related

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