10 Great Business Minds

Movers, shakers and big money-makers, by Dinfin Mulupi

Fred Swaniker

Fred Swaniker

1 Michael Joseph
MD of Mobile Money, Vodafone PLC
Described as the father of mobile money, Michael Joseph knows the perfect ingredients for deploying a successful mobile money system. As CEO of Kenyan telecommunications firm Safaricom, Joseph spearheaded the birth of the revolutionary mobile money transfer service M-Pesa, which has helped Kenya and Africa leapfrog innovation. Today the service has 78,856 agents, 18 million users and its in-phone banking service moves about US$1.3bn a month in Kenya. It has become a popular phenomenon across Africa and beyond, with a 2012 industry report showing that 150 mobile money services such as M-Pesa serve more than 81 million customers in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. His accomplishments as CEO are just as stellar. In a decade, Joseph transformed Safaricom from a small entity with a team of five to become Kenyas dominant telecommunications company, at one point controlling 80% of the market. After retiring at Safaricom, Joseph was tapped by Vodafone to oversee global roll-out of its own m-payments business.

2 Tony Elumelu
Chairman, Heirs Holdings
Nigerian Tony Elumelu is one of Africa’s most revered bankers for his role in reshaping the continents financial services industry. He led a group of investors in 1997 to take over a floundering bank, was appointed CEO of the bank at 34 and orchestrated a turn- around. He then shepherded one of the biggest mergers witnessed in corporate Nigeria, culminating in the present day UBA Group. By the time he stepped down as CEO, UBA Group was worth over US$2bn, had more than 10,000 employees and operations in 20 African countries as well as in the US and Britain. Today he runs Heirs Holdings, an African-focused investment company with interests in the financial services, energy, real estate, agribusiness and healthcare sectors. Heirs Holdings has committed US$2.5bn to drive investments throughout Africa. Elumelu coined the word Africapitalism, a philosophy claiming that the African private sector has the power to transform the continent through long-term investments, creating both economic prosperity and social wealth. Elumelu hopes to nurture a new crop of African business leaders and entrepreneurs through his Tony Elumelu Foundation.

3 Jason Njoku
Founder and CEO, IROKO Partners
Internet entrepreneur Jason Njoku is on a mission to disrupt the chaotic and illegal distribution of entertainment content in Africa. While living in London, Njoku and his family struggled to get access to Nigerian movies, beloved by many Africans.
Njoku started iROKO Partners in 2010 with a US$150,000 investment from his friend Bastian Gotter, hoping to make it easier for Africans abroad to access Nigerian flicks online. By the end of 2011 its subsidiary iROKO TV, described as the ‘Netflix of Africa’ posted US$1.3m in annual revenues and has to date a library of over 5000 Nollywood films.
iROKO Partners is today the world’s largest online distributor of African entertainment with subsidiaries in music and film and offices in Nigeria, South Africa, London and New York. It has raised a total of US$21 million from US-based fund Tiger Global, Swedish investment company Kinnevik and a third unspecified investor – no mean feat for a man whose first job was selling fruit and vegetables at a market in London.

4 Andrew Rugasira
CEO, Good African Coffee
Ugandan entrepreneur Andrew Rugasira’s dream a decade ago was to become the first African to collect, roast, market and sell quality coffee direct to British supermarkets. He achieved this in 2005 when Waitrose became the first UK chain to list Good African roast and ground coffees. Rugasira works with 14,000 coffee farmers in Uganda to produce and process Good African Coffee sold in Europe, Africa and the US. Uganda produces 3.4m bags of coffee beans annually, which are exported as raw beans to the West. Rugasira believes moving from low-value agriculture into high-value processing will help African economies, create jobs and improve the lives of African farmers. He advocates trade not aid as a means to sustainable growth and prosperity.

5 Ashish Thakkar
MD, Mara Group
When Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight to space goes live (possibly later this year) Ashish Thakkar will be the only African aboard, making him the second African astronaut.
Africa’s youngest billionaire runs Mara Group, a conglomerate with interests in IT, packaging, glass manufacturing, agriculture, real estate and hospitality.     Headquartered in Dubai, Mara employs over 4500 people in more than 20 countries worldwide. Mara recently joined international corporations like Amazon and Apple on the list of business cases studied at Harvard Business School.
Born in the UK, Thakkar went to live in Rwanda in 1992, two years before the genocide. He and his family managed to flee the troubles and became refugees in Uganda, where they settled. At 15 he started selling computers to friends in Kampala and established a small IT business, “… with US$6000, high levels of positivity and a big vision.”

6 Dambisa Moyo
Economist, CEO and Founder, Mildstorm Group Investments
The renowned Zambian-born Economist and NY Times Bestselling Author is one of Africas most vocal advocates for the shift from foreign aid to trade. Moyo has penned Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working And How There Is A Better Way For Africa and How The West Was Lost: Fifty Years Of Economic Folly And The Stark Choices That Lie Ahead among other titles. Moyo believes foreign aid only hinders economic growth in Africa and perpetuates the cycle of poverty, corruption and dependency. Her controversial views have galvanised debate across Africa. Educated at Harvard and Oxford, Moyo previously worked for The World Bank and Goldman Sachs. She was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and was last year awarded the Hayek Lifetime Achievement Award. She travels the world advising leaders and speaking on global economic issues.

7 Maria Ramos
Group CEO, Barclays Africa Group
Maria Ramos is undeniably the most prominent woman in the African banking industry. In 2012 Ramos spearheaded the US$2.1billon integration of the units of Barclays and its African subsidiary Absa Group, which she then headed. This saw Absa acquire eight Barclays assets in Uganda, Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Seychelles and Mauritius and renamed Barclays Group Africa as part of “One Africa” strategy. The group’s 13 African operations serve more than 15 million customers via its 11,000 outlets across the continent.
Ramos is leading aggressive geographic expansion and product diversification that pits Barclays against other regional banks in the race for pan-African dominance.
She previously served as Group Chief Executive of Transnet Ltd, the South African freight transport and logistics service provider. She was named CNBC Africa Woman Leader of the Year (2011) and has featured in the Fortune Global annual ranking of the 50 most powerful women in business.

8 Fred Swaniker
Founder and CEO, Africa Leadership Academy
Ghanaian-born Fred Swaniker is on a mission to fix ‘Africa’s leadership crises’.  The 37 year-old believes many of Africa’s problems boil down to lack of good leadership.
Through ALA, Swaniker hopes to develop Africa’s own Steve Jobs. The South Africa-based elite pan-African secondary school admits 125 students each year aged 15 to 19, mostly from poor backgrounds, to undergo a two-year programme focusing on leadership, entrepreneurship and African studies. A spinoff of ALA, the African Leadership Network (ALN), hopes to catalyse prosperity in Africa by creating and strengthening relationships between leaders in Africa that lead to greater intra-African trade and investment. Swaniker was commended by Barack Obama during his 2013 tour.

9 Aliko Dangote
CEO, Dangote Group
Nigerian business magnate Aliko Dangote is Africa’s richest man with an estimated net worth of US$25bn. Dangote has a midas touch that inspires young entrepreneurs, charms governments seeking to attract investments and frightens competitors with equal measure.
The 23rd-richest person in the world according to Forbes magazine has built one of the largest industrial conglomerates in Africa, with interests in cement, sugar, flour, salt, pasta, beverages, real estate, oil and natural gas, telecommunications, fertiliser and steel.
The Dangote Group is out to meet the needs of African consumers and has been expanding aggressively by sector and geographical reach. It employs more than 26,000 people in Nigeria alone and its subsidiary Dangote Cement is Africa’s largest cement manufacturer.
These days Dangote is pushing for free movement of goods, services and people across the continent to boost intra-Africa trade and investments.

10 Susan Mboya
President, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and Group Director, Women’s Economic Empowerment, Eurasia and Africa
Susan Mboya was only a toddler when her father, a revered pan-Africanist, was assassinated in 1969. A decade ago she revived his dream to educate academically talented Africans.
Mboya founded the Zawadi Africa Education Fund to provide scholarships to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue higher education in the US, and has since helped more than 250 girls. The initiative was inspired by the 1960’s ‘Airlift’ programme by US Senator John F. Kennedy and Kenyan politician Tom Mboya that saw over 1000 Africans from five countries educated in the US, including President Obama’s father.
At Coca-Cola, Mboya is overseeing the actualisation of a global commitment to empower five million women entrepreneurs across its value chain by 2020 through the 5By20 programme. She previously served as Global Marketing Director for Oral B Power Brushing at Procter & Gamble.