Africa is fast becoming one of the most entrepreneur friendly continents on Earth, with many countries developing rapidly in economic terms, led by Nigeria and South Africa. Thanks to improving educational systems, both government and privately funded, more and more talented Africans are now finding that they do not have to leave their home countries to attend universities in the USA and UK. This has the added benefit that graduates from African universities are more likely to stay and work closer to home, rather than overseas.
Organizations such as the African Leadership Academy (ALA) have been set up by business leaders and philanthropists. The ALAs board of governors, for example, includes several notable businessmen and women including Futhi Mtoba (partner and chairwoman Deloitte & Touche South Africa), James Mwangi (CEO Equity Bank) and Tunde Folawiyo (group executive director Yinka Folawiyo Group).
A relatively recent initiative involving MasterCard and the African Leadership Academy is the Anzisha Prize. First awarded in 2011 it is aimed at rewarding young African entrepreneurs who have formed successful enterprises within their own communities or devised and established innovative solutions to social issues. Each year 12 finalists from across the continent are awarded an all-expenses paid week in South Africa to take part in a an entrepreneurship conference and workshop and conference at the ALA campus close to Johannesburg. Grand prizewinners are then chosen from these 12 to share prizes worth $75,000.
The prize has helped young entrepreneurs such as 23-year-old George Bakka (Uganda); Antoinette Furah, 22 (Congo); Faisal Burham, 19 (Tanzania) and Barclay Paul Okari, 22 (Kenya). While these budding entrepreneurs are just starting out in their chosen careers there are others who have already made their mark.
Africa’s young entrepreneurs
Uche Pedro (Nigeria) – the 29 year old founder of BellaNaija, a company specializing in developing online media content for African audiences, primarily Nigerian. BellaNaija.com has become the country’s leading entertainment, lifestyle and fashion website, with around 10 million page views each month. Uche Pedro was selected as a Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI Associate) in 2011 and in the same year, at the Futures Awards, was a “Young Person of the Year” finalist. In February 2014 Uche was listed as being one of the ’30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa in 2014′ by Forbes magazine.
Arthur Zang (Cameroon) – the 26-year founder of Himore Medical Equipment who invented ‘Cardio Pad’, a handheld touch screen medical tablet device that allows ECGs and other heart related examinations to be carried out in rural locations. The results are then transmitted to specialists in medical centers for them to interpret. Earlier this year Arthur became a 2014 Young Laureate in Applied Technology, a Rolex Award for Enterprise.
Joel Mwale (Kenya) – this 21 year old founded a rainwater filtration and bottling business, SkyDrop, in 2012 to produce extremely economical drinking water, milk and a range of other dairy products. Later in the same year an Israeli company paid $500,000 for a 60% share in the company. More recently, in 2013, Mwale founded Gigavia, an Internet site designed to provide a secure online environment that can be used for social networking, e-learning and mentoring purposes.
One thing each of these young businesspeople has in common is their diversity of the businesses they have established and when a wider cross-section of entrepreneurs is looked at this is a recurring theme. Diversity represents strength, confirming the belief that Africa, as a whole, has a bright future ahead.