13 Young African Business/Economic Leaders To Watch in 2013

Ladi Delano

VENTURES AFRICA – It was American football coach, Vincent Lombardi that said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” Today, there are many young Africans blazing trails across the continent and globally – new breed, cosmopolitan Africans, shaping Africa’s future. Their social/business activities in one way or the other illuminates the potential that will shape the business and economic future of Africa.

Ventures Africa has identified 13 young Africans who have contributed to shaping the future of the continent and the world at large; through their activities and businesses, these global leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs and intellectuals are young, talented and with proven genius in their distinctive fields. To cap it all, they are all under 35 years! In no respective order, here are 13 Young African Business/Economic Leaders to look out for in 2013.

Ladi Delano, Founder & CEO, Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA)

Nigerian serial entrepreneur, Ladi Delano made his first millions selling liquor while living in China. In 2004, at age 22, he founded Solidarnosc Asia, a Chinese alcoholic beverage company that made Solid XS, a premium brand of Vodka. The company later expanded with the launching of a dining and entertainment venue, The Collection.

Solid XS went on to achieve about 70 percent market share in China and was distributed across over 33 cities in China, with revenue of over $22 million annually. After some time, with the global economic downturn, Solid XS was sold to a rival liquor company for about $20 million.

However before selling Solid XS, Delano had set up a real estate investment company focused on mainland China – called Delano Reid Group. The company went on to raise over $80 million for real estate investments in mainland China profiting from China’s real estate economic boom. Apart from the real estate company, Delano is also a founding partner in DRG CIN Energy and Global DRG Capital, providers of global energy solutions.

In December 2011, Delano shifted focus from the Asia economic boom to establish his latest venture, Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA), in Africa. This time, he partnered with Indonesia conglomerate, the Bakrie Group under a joint venture partnership. His company partnership with Bakrie Group was created to facilitate the expansion of the South East Asia’s conglomerate, in Africa. Through the joint venture, the Bakrie Group would invest about $1 billion over five years in Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA) in areas as diverse as mining, oil & gas and agriculture.

An entrepreneur true to his origin, Ladi believes “Nigeria is attractive to the Bakrie Group as an investment destination for several reasons. Firstly, it is experiencing excellent rates of economic growth, approximately 8 percent per year, which is forecast by a wide cross-section of respected economic commentators to continue over the medium to long term.” The young businessman is definitely one to watch in 2013.

Clare Akamanzi, Chief Operating Officer of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB)

Clare is the Chief Operating Officer of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), a Government institution in charge of accelerating economic growth and development in Rwanda. A foundation member of the board since its creation in 2008; 33 year-old Clare had worked as RDB’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer. Then, she was in charge of Business Operations and Services at RDB.

Clare grew up in Uganda where her parents had been taken as refugees during the genocide-attack in her home country –Rwanda. Today, she is one of the young Rwandans actively involved in the economic reformation of her country.

Her awareness to public service started at the age of 18 when she worked for Minister of Gender Inyumba at the Ingando- a solidarity camp.

The Masters Degree holder in Trade and Investment Policy cum International Trade and Investment Lawyer has a passion for business promotion. Before her stint at RDB, Clare served as Rwanda’s commercial diplomat in London and a trade negotiator for the Government of Rwanda at the World Trade Organisation at the age of 25. She was also the Deputy Director-General of the Rwanda Investment and Export Promotion Agency (RIEPA) from 2006-2008.

The young business leader have also chaired the National Customer care campaign in her country and she is credited as the founder of Prosave, a 100 member savings cooperative that promotes a savings culture among Rwandans.

In 2012, Clare was the only Rwandan among the 192 global young leaders from 59 countries honoured for their outstanding leadership, professional accomplishments and commitment to society by the World Economic Forum.

Ashish Thakkar, Co-Founder and CEO, MaraGroup

At the age of 29, the British-born Ugandan is the co-founder and CEO of Mara Group – a Ugandan conglomerate with tentacles in financial services, hotels, renewable energy, technology and manufacturing with active presence in 17 African countries.

Under his leadership, the annual revenue of Mara Group has been able to clock approximately $100 million.

Aside Mara, Thakkar founded his first company, Raps and later Riley, a manufacturing company that is lauded for producing the most modern corrugated packaging plants in East Africa and Central Africa. He also created Kensington, a real estate business in Dubai and Africa.

Thakkar is a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. Through his foundation, Mara Foundation –which is one of Africa’s largest non-profit social enterprises – Thakkar has been able to provide mentorship and seed funding to young East African entrepreneurs. He also funds Next Generation Schools, an independent charity focused on improving education quality in disadvantaged secondary schools in Uganda.

This year, the Ugandan billionaire launched Mara.com, Africa’s first multi-lingual online portal for youth mentorship and entrepreneurship. The Mara.com platform will have three dimensions to it: Mentorship, Jobs and Dating. His venture – Mara Mentors, which started as an offline venture by Mara Foundation have been able to mentor about 120 companies.

Achumile “Ace” Majija, Group Lead for the Risk & Capital MI at Prudential Momentum Plc.

A Bcom (Economics and Finance) graduate from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Bcom (honours) in Financial Analysis and Portfolio Management from the University of Cape Town and an MBA with Merit from the University of Leeds Business School in the UK amongst other qualifications; Ace is one of the few quiet African young leaders setting the standards for other African youth to follow.

Sometimes referred to as “Ace” or the “Young Obama from Africa”; he is an avid volunteer and youth ambassador before venturing into business professionally where he started off in Financial Services ( Investment Management) having worked for companies such as Old Mutual and Sanlam. He has also represented his country at the World Youth Congress the World Business Dialogue, and the G20 Youth Summit

At 28, Ace is the first African on the prudential momentum programme (an international leadership development programme for the group) for Prudential Plc– an international financial services company, with presence in Europe, Asia and the US. Ace is currently based at the Group Head Office, as a Group Lead for the Solvency II Risk & Capital MI , including the Use Test process.

With a number of accolades behind his name, such as the South African Chamber of Commerce Rising Star of the Year, and a Young Global Shaper for the World Economic Forum, and also named one of the 200 Young Influential South Africans by the Mail and Guardian ) , he also sits on various boards including UTHANDO SA, Inqubela Investment holdings, Harambe Entrepreneurship Alliance , and SAAA and he is very much involved in socio-economic development projects in his home country and abroad.

Eniola Mafe, Africa Program Manager at Vital Voices Global Partnership

Recently described as a “Convener” in the Diplomatic Courier’s Top 99 under 33 2012. Eniola Mafe is the Africa Program Manager at Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington, D.C.-based international non-profit that works with women leaders to advance women’s human rights, political participation, and economic empowerment. Her role as the Program Manager for Africa in Vital Voices Global Partnerships allows her to “bring people together in creative ways to address a pressing international issue or enhance the foreign policy community.”

With a special focus on organizational development, entrepreneurship, and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, Eniola manages the Africa Businesswomen’s Network (ABWN), a partnership among local African businesswomen’s organizations that enhances the management, business development, and leadership skills of businesswomen. Eniola also manages other programs focused on the growth of women-led small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). According to her “Empowering women isn’t just about the women’s issues. It is about enabling them to have a say in broader issues that have an impact on their world.”

Prior to joining Vital Voices, Eniola worked with Women’s World Banking Ghana (WWBG), where she developed social impact methodology to quantify the social and community impact of the microfinance institutions on its clients, investors, and wider community. According to an article, “Women like Eniola are the faces and voices of the future – young women who are international in their outlook, multi-dimensional, able to mix and move amongst diverse groups and different circles and can traverse boundaries with their sophisticated global worldview.”

Lorna Rutto, Sustainable Living and Green Technology Entrepreneur, Ecopost

Lorna is the CEO of Ecopost, a Nairobi-based recycling company. Born in Kaptembwa Slums in Kenya, Lorna turned her childhood hobby of melting plastic litters to make ornaments into a viable and eco-sensible business.

After working in the financial industry with her commerce and accounting certificate, Lorna created Ecopost in 2009 – a business that utilizes waste plastic to manufacture plastic lumber and posts as an alternative to wood. The plastic lumbers are also used to create fencing posts, sign posts, building and construction.

Lorna, 28, has sold over 20,000 posts which cumulated to saving over 250 Acres of forest and withdrawn over 1,000,000 kg of plastic waste from the environment. Her business today generates about $120,000 revenue in a year.

Since inception, she has been able to create about 400 jobs in the Kenyan employment-competitive market. She has structured her business in such a way that it will create over 100,000 jobs in the next 15 years.

Her business have not only been able to create jobs for youth and marginalised women in the slums; it has also come a long way in supporting Kenya’s eco-sensible ban of plastic bags.

Among other awards, Lorna won the 2010 Bid Network Nature Challenge Award; 2010 SEED Award, the 2009 Enablis Business Award and the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Nature Award where she took home 1.3 million Shillings ($15, 095 ).

Yetunde Odugbesan, Yetunde Global Consulting LLC.

Yetunde is a young Nigerian blazing trails in Africa and the diaspora. A graduate of the United Nations Worldview Institute – an executive training program for global business professionals, Yetunde is currently working on her PhD in on political corruption and its effect on governmental performance and social services being delivered by local and state government at the Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

25 year-old Yetunde is not new to leadership roles. In high school, she served as a student president, Student Ambassador, Captain of the Varsity Cheerleading team, Founder of the poetry club and most importantly – a consistent honor roll student. Today, she sits on various boards that are aimed at alleviating many of the social and economic issues in various African countries and with her managing consulting company, Yetunde Global Consulting, she offers valuable insight on how to develop and leverage strategic partnerships globally as well as provide branding techniques that can help business and organisation grow to reach its full potential.

She also formed the Young Women’s Guide, a mentorship organisation that helps connect girls with women leaders and groups that can best help them pursue their quest for social change.

Yetunde is a gifted public speaker and youth leader. Her messages are sometimes on key ways to building a better nation. She has been invited by Nigerian governments and the World Bank to speak at conferences and summits. One of such conference includes the U.N. World Conference on the Status of Women, advocating for programs that will empower girls in Africa to realize their potential, even in the midst of poverty and political strife.

Fred Swaniker, Africa Leadership Academy (ALA)

Ghanaian-born serial entrepreneur and business consultant, Fred Swaniker is the co-founder of African leadership Academy (ALA) – a prestigious business in Johannesburg, South Africa that trains and mentors Africa young leaders. Fred co-founded ALA alongside Chris Bradford, Peter Mombaur, and Acha Leke, in 2004 but the school became operational in 2008. With the vision of creating up to 6,000 new leaders for Africa through the ALA’s leadership program in the next 50 years; Fred is helping Africa to shape the path of Africa future business leader in act of leadership and Pan-Africanism.

Fred, 35, is contributing to Africa’s leadership development through his academy by giving the youngsters a world-class academic education, training in entrepreneurship, exposure to mentors and role models, and framework that will enable them to work in an ethical environment. One of Fred’s first formal leadership roles was when he was appointed headmaster of a school in Botswana by his grandmother at just 17 years old, and on a gap year before beginning university.

Aside ALA, Fred is also the founder of Global Leadership Adventures, a leadership development program for youth throughout the world which has about five campuses around the globe (Ghana, South Africa, India, Brazil, and Costa Rica). He also helped to launch Mount Pleasant English Medium School, one of the top-performing private elementary schools in Botswana where he served as a director.

Fred had also worked as the founding Chief Operating Officer of Synexa Life Sciences, a biotechnology company in Cape Town that today employs 30 South African scientists. Before, ALA, he worked in McKinsey & Company, where he advised management teams of large companies across Africa.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder/Managing Director SoleRebels,

Ethiopian-born entrepreneur Bethlehem Alemu, 32, launched her company in Zenabwork, a small village on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia in 2004 as a means of creating jobs for the people in her community by turning their unexploited artisan skill to a worldwide eco-sensible product. Today, the company she started out of necessity is the world’s first Fairtrade Certified footwear by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) and she has since expanded her business to other continents.

In 2012, the Ethiopia-base entrepreneur opened the company’s first stand-alone store in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city. She has since opened three more with the goal of opening about 30 outlets all together.

Bethlehem is globally recognized to have built a world-class brand from the scratch while empowering her community and country. She projects the company’s global retail roll-out will add $15-20 million in revenue by 2015.

The accounting graduate was been honoured as a Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum, 2011 among other accolades. She received the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the 2012 World Economic Forum on Africa which this year took place in Ethiopia.

James Mworia, Chief Executive Officer, Centum Investment Company

In 2001, James started out in Centum as an intern helping to file documents – today, he is the CEO of the Nairobi and Uganda Securities Exchanges listed firm; Centum Investment Company Limited. Centum is the largest quoted investment firm in East Africa with substantial equity investments in blue chips companies like Coca-Cola, UAP Insurance, AON Minet, Nairobi Bottlers, Kenya Wine Agency, Kisii Bottlers, General Motors East Africa and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB).

Before Centum, his first job was filing in a law firm during school holidays when he was in high school. He has also worked as a senior investment officer at Transcentury Ltd., Kenya.

Mworia, at 34, is one of the youngest CEOs in Kenya and is also an advocate of the High Court, a Chartered Financial Analyst and a Certified Public Accountant all roll in one. He was honored in 2011 as the Africa Young Business Leader of the Year 2011 at the All Africa Business Leader Awards.

June Arunga, Founder and Chief Executive of Open Quest Media LLC.

June is a law degree holder from the University of Buckingham and founder/president of Open Quest Media LLC, a successful multimedia production company based in New York. She also co-founded Black Star Line SA with Herman Chinery-Hesse, a software engineer often referred to as “Bill Gates of Ghana”. The company is a technology-solution provider in the field of mobile phone-based payments and money transfer which particularly targets African entrepreneurs.

June, 31, is a Member of the board of advisers for Global Envison, USA and a Senior Fellow at Istituto Bruno Leoni, Italy.

The Nakuru, Kenya born Arunga has been named by Forbes Magazine as one of its 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa and one of Fast Company’s 100 most Creative People in Business.

June is passionate about globalization and development changes in Africa. Her work over the years has reflected this. In 2003, she did a BBC-produced documentary on Africa tagged-The Devil’s Foothpath with Insight News TV – 5,000 mile journey from Cairo to Cape Town through six countries conflict inflicted countries.

She also served as the writer/co-presenter on the a documentary, Africa: Who is to Blame?; Africa’s Ultimate Resource – a profile on African immigrant entrepreneurs, why they leave and what happens to their ventures when they move business from one continent to another; co-authored The Cell-Phone Revolution in Kenya.

Jessica Shelver, Network Development and Affiliations Officer with Democratic Alliance (DA) Abroad

Johannesburg-born Jessica Shelver was awarded the “Rising Star of the Year” 2012 at the annual South African Business Awards, hosted by the South African Chamber of Commerce at SA House in London. At only 26, Jessica has contributed immensely to shaping the future of politics and business in Africa’s biggest economy, South Africa.

Jessica fell in love with Politics a few years back when she became aware of the power and the influence government and politics has throughout the democratic world. According to her, “Politics for me is the power to effect change, and to make a difference.” Having campaigned vigorously against the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, holding protests in London, Washington and Perth. She was also involved with a number of senior Democratic Alliance leaders, including Helen Zille and Dr Wilmot James, at events in London that have focused on investment and economic growth in our country. The DA Abroad have also partnered with the Ubunye-Unity Trust to raise funds to purchase desks and chairs for a school in the township of Diepsloot, Gauteng – these were delivered to the school at the end of November.

Aside politics, Jessica is also passionate about educational development and community service. “Education is the tool for change and insight. Without it, our world and our nation will continue to descend into petty corruption and unenlightened decision-making.” she says. Surely, she’s one to watch come 2013.

Isis Nyongo, Vice President and Managing Director, InMobi Africa.

At 35, Isis is one of the youngest and most vibrant technology female managers in Africa. She has always worked in media and tech space in Africa. As a young African leader in the tech industry, she has worked in with MyJobsEve, the first online job site in Kenya before moving on to work for MTV and then Google (Business Development Manager for Google’s operation in Africa) where she helped develop mobile strategies for the brand in Africa.

Now, the Stanford and Harvard Business school graduate works is the Vice-President and Managing Director for Africa of InMobi, an innovative global mobile advertising and one of the world’s largest independent mobile advertising networks that help advertisers reach mobile internet users.

Isis was selected as one of a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in January, 2012.