In Africa today there is an entrepreneurial boom taking place – a steadily rising number of young businessmen and women who are building successful, fast growing companies in the fields of engineering, technology, health, education and more. Forbes recently put together a list of 30 of them.
These savvy young innovators are blazing the trail for their contemporaries and are sure to play a pivotal role in shaping the continent’s future.
Here at ONE we’re especially interested in those using their business acumen to help solve critical socio-economic problems and assist in the fight for the 17 crucial #GlobalGoals as outlined by the UN last month.
Take a look at our list of seven of the best young African entrepreneurs using their industry superpowers for positive change:
- Arthur Zang, 27, Cameroon
Inventor of Cardiopad and Founder of Himore Medical Equipments
Zang is the inventor of Africa’s first medical tablet, the Cardio Pad, a touchscreen device which allows healthcare workers in rural areas to perform heart examinations such as the electrocardiogram (ECG) and send results to specialists in urban centres electronically. This means patients from poorer rural areas do not have to travel to the city each time they need an examination which can be stressful, expensive and time-consuming. The invention is also cheaper and more portable than similar products on the market.
Zhang’s company, Himore Medical Equipments, hopes to produce other medical devices such as ultrasound equipment that can be rolled out into poorer, rural communities.
2. Alain Nteff, 22, Cameroon
Founder, Gifted Mom
As a 20 year old engineering student, Nteff was alarmed when he witnessed the preventable deaths of mothers and newborns when visiting his medic friend Conrad Tankou in rural Cameroon. Together the pair came up with Gifted Mom, an SMS service that expectant and new mothers could register for to receive advice to improve health and wellbeing during pregnancy. Today the service has over 3,400 subscribers and has led to a 20% increase in antenatal attendance rate for women in 21 rural communities.
The problem of maternal and infant death is not just a woman’s issue — it’s a humanitarian issue. Everybody should take it seriously. We all have mothers, we all have sisters, and it’s not just a problem for women or girls.
– Alain Nteff
3. Raindolf Owusu
Founder, Oasis Websoft
Owusu was dubbed the Mark Zuckerberg of Accra by Forbes Africa in November 2012. He runs Oasis Websoft, which developed the Anansi web browser – hailed as Africa’s first. His most recent projects include Anansipedia, an education platform that allows less privileged students to share educational resources; and Bisa, a mobile application that supplies information to the public and gives them access to doctors. “We hope in a few years we can expand our operations in other parts of Africa and to build a digital hub where Africans can learn more about emerging disruptive technologies like 3D printers, drones and how they can be used to improve our lives,” says Owusu. The company is focused on helping West Africa compete with the rest of the world from a technology perspective.
Raindolf discusses his projects with Let’s Talk Tech below:
4. Ellen Chilemba 21, Malawi
Chilemba is easing the difficult circumstances that women in Malawi face (such as low primary school completion rates, low socio-economic status, higher than average rates of HIV and AIDS, and one of the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality) through the for-profit social enterprise she set up when she was 17. The organisation uplifts the women of the community through business education, micro-loans and school grants. Tiwale trains women and helps find them jobs that suit their skills, giving them opportunities to support themselves.
Chilemba is one of the five winners of the Future Forward: Youth Innovations for Employment in Africa award.
5. Ola Orekunrin
Medical Doctor & Founder, The Flying Doctors
Orekunrin is founder and Managing Director of Flying Doctors Nigeria Ltd., an air ambulance service based in Lagos, Nigeria.
Tragedy led Orekunrin to set up the company after her sister, who suffered with sickle cell anaemia, was taken ill when visiting relatives in Nigeria aged 12. The nearest hospital could not deal with the condition and there was no way to transport the girl to a place where she could treatment, leading to her death.
Orekunrin’s company is the first air ambulance service in West Africa to provide urgent helicopter, aeroplane ambulance and evacuation services; transporting victims of medical emergencies, including industrial workers from the country’s booming oil and gas sector.
Check out Orekunrin’s inspiring TED Talk:
6. Best Ayiorworth 23, Uganda
When Ugandan Best Ayiorwoth had to cut her high school education short because her family could not afford to pay her tuition, she was devastated. However, this became the driving force that inspired her to start an award-winning microcredit business, at just 19 years old, that would go on to help hundreds of women and young girls in Uganda.
Often in Uganda when families struggle to put their children through school, the girl is forced to stay at home while the boy completes his education. Girl Power Microlending Organisation (GIPOMO) is a business tied to loans where mothers take out loans to start their own small businesses and in return they must make sure their daughters attend school. This project led to Ayiorworth winning the Anzisha Price in 2013 for young African entrepreneurs.
7. Sangu Delle
Founder, Golden Palm Investments
Delle is a co-founder of Golden Palm Investments, a holding company thatinvests in high-level startups across Africa. The company focuses on real estate, healthcare, agriculture and technology. Delle argues that traditional aid and microfinance plaforms have good intentions but haven’t largely worked in Africa. He believes in investing in pan-African entrepreneurial giants – focusing on world-class companies with the ability to employ hundreds:
Africa has a market of one billion people and, with more high-impact businesses, could quickly outpace other emerging economies.
– Sangu Delle
Delle is also the co-founder of Cleanacwa, a non-profit that provides clean water in Ghana’s underdeveloped regions. He has previously worked at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Valiant Capital Partners, is currently an MBA candidate at Harvard.
Check out his talk on how young entrepreneurs are shaping Africa below:
These entrepreneurs are helping shape and transform the future of the second largest continent. But they can’t do it alone.