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Influential African business leaders

Africa is increasingly taking its place on the global stage as a continent of growth and opportunity. Here are some of the African business leaders using their entrepreneurship skills to ensure this rise persists, according to a research by Africa Leadership University.

1. Elon Musk

A lethal combination of genius, hard work and dedication to bring a technological revolution, the South African-born American entrepreneur Elon Musk, 48, is working to bring radical innovation in transportation both on Earth and in space.

Perhaps the most famous entrepreneur from the African continent, Musk’s success is owed to his innovation and will to succeed. This coupled with his leadership and management skills have led him to be incredibly popular among the youth as well.

He is currently the CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and Chairman of SolarCity. He is worth of $22.3 billion (Sh2.287 trillion) and is listed by Forbes as the 40th-richest person in the world.

2. Aliko Dangote

Revered by many and famously known as Africa’s richest man, Dangote is a Nigerian business magnate, investor, and owner of the Dangote Group, which has interests in commodities in Nigeria and other African countries. He often says “Nigeria is one of the best-kept secrets.

A lot of foreigners are not investing because they’re waiting for the right time. There is no right time”. Dangote’s Entrepreneurial leadership and management skills led him to found Dangote Group. The 62-year-old born in Kano region is currently valued at $10.6 billion (Sh1.87 trillion).

3. Mike Adenuga

Nigerian billionaire businessman, and the second richest person in Nigeria, Mike Adenuga,66, came up with a plan to found Globacom which would go on to serve the telecommunications needs of Nigerians and compete with telecommunications giants like MTN Group. Currently, Globacom is worth over $1billion (Sh102 billion).

Adenuga owns stakes in the Equatorial Trust Bank and the oil exploration firm Conoil (formerly Consolidated Oil Company). Forbes has estimated his net worth at $9.4 billion (Sh964 billion) as of 2019. 

His telecom company Globacom spread quickly and launched services in Benin in 2008, and has continued its spread across Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, with more licences currently being prospected in other West African countries.

4. Strive Masiyiwa

A Zimbabwean entrepreneur and founder of Econet, a multinational telecommunications company serving countries across Africa, Europe, and Asia, Masiyiwa featured on the 2018 Forbes list as one of Africa’s billionaires.

He has won numerous accolades and gained international recognition for his business expertise and philanthropy, and is considered one of Africa’s most generous humanitarians. The 58-year-old who resides in London, United Kingdom has a net worth of $2.8 billion (Sh287 billion).

Masiyiwa is a member of the Africa Progress Panel, a group of 10 distinguished individuals who advocate at the highest levels for equitable and sustainable development in Africa. As a panel member, he facilitates coalition building to leverage and broker knowledge and convenes decision-makers to influence policy for lasting change in Africa. He is considered one of Africa’s most generous humanitarians.

5. Mo Ibrahim

A Sudanese-British billionaire businessman, Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim,73, worked for several telecommunications companies, before founding Celtel, which when sold had over 24 million mobile phone subscribers in 14 African countries.

After selling Celtel in 2005 for $3.4 billion (Sh348 billion), he set up the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to encourage better governance in Africa, as well as creating the Mo Ibrahim Index, to evaluate nations’ performance.

He initiated the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in 2017. The Forbes 2018 Billionaire List shows that Mo Ibrahim is worth $1.8 billion (Sh185 billion) and in 2008 Mo Ibrahim was also selected for the TIME “Top 100” list.

6. Tony Elumelu

The Nigerian economist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist is the chairman of United Bank for Africa and founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation, famous for its $5,000 (Sh5 million) Entrepreneurship grants given to upcoming startups across the continent.

Launched in 2015, Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme is the largest African philanthropic initiative devoted to entrepreneurship. Elumelu has attained enormous success with a current net worth of $700 million (Sh72 billion).The 56-year-old attended University of Lagos then later on at the prestigious Harvard Business School.

7. Patrick Awuah

He is a Ghanaian entrepreneur, engineer, educator and founder of Ashesi University, one of the leading universities on the continent. In 2012, Ashesi University was ranked as one of the top 10 Most Respected Companies in Ghana, and was the first educational institution to win the award.

In the same survey, Awuah was named the 4th Most Respected CEO in Ghana. His knack for education led him to leave his job at Microsoft to found Ashesi in 2002. The 54-year-old was awarded the prestigious World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) prize, a major global education award in 2017.

8. Fred Swanikah

Ghanaian entrepreneur and leadership development expert, Swaniker is deeply passionate about Africa and believes that the missing ingredient on the continent is good leadership.

In line with this, he has founded two organisations that aim to catalyse a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial African leaders: African Leadership Academy and the African Leadership Network. In recognition of his work in developing Africa’s future leaders, Swanikah,43, was selected as one of 115 young leaders to meet US President Obama at the first-ever President’s Forum for Young African Leaders held at the White House in 2010. He has been recognised as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

9. Ali-Shah Jivraj

A 32-year-old third generation Asian-Ugandan entrepreneur, Jivraj is one of Africa’s most successful young entrepreneurs. He has founded Royal Electronics, a company that assembles electronics products. It was recorded that the company generated $15 million (Sh1.5 billion) in 2015.

Forbes says in 2010, the company was ranked seventh in KPMG’s annual ranking of the top 100 mid-sized companies in Uganda. On the heels of his success in the electronics business, Jivraj has further expanded his business endeavours to launch another brand – Ugacell batteries.

He also owns a real estate firm which is developing high-end residential apartments in two of Kampala’s toniest (stylish and expensive) residential areas each valued at $17 million (Sh1.7 billion), and is also setting up a battery manufacturing plant in Burundi. 

10. Teresa Mbagaya

Listed as the “30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa” by Forbes and a nominee for the Future Awards Africa “Young Person of the Year”, Mbagaya a young enterprising woman from Zimbabwe and an activist born in Kenya.

In 2012, she was one of the youngest of 15 Google Reach participant selected from over 250 global participants to take part in a leadership development assignment in India. In 2006, Mbagaya Co-founded Bidii Children Foundation. Bidii is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting education in the rural area of Bungoma county.

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