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The top 50 African disruptors (21-25)

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: The top 50 African disruptors

By 'Tofe Ayeni, Erin Conroy, Alison Culliford, Nicholas Norbrook, Honoré Banda
Posted on Friday, 21 August 2020 12:53, updated on Wednesday, 26 August 2020 12:46

The Africa Report’s inaugural ranking of the top Africans who are disrupting the status quo in politics, business and the arts: from investigative journalists to world-class athletes and Nobel Peace Prize winners.

21 – Herbert Wigwe
The bigger banker
Nigeria

The cosy top three of Nigeria’s banking world was shattered in 2019 when Access Bank snapped up Diamond Bank. Access Bank’s CEO, Herbert Wigwe, admits that he is “still learning how to navigate such a massive institution”. When Wigwe and his business partner, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, acquired Access Bank in 2002, it was ranked 65th out of 89 banks in the country. It now has just under 30 million customers. Bigger, of course, may not be better. Investors raised eyebrows when he sold off nearly 7% of his bank stake.

Wigwe is also a philanthropist. Under the aegis of the bank, he created the “W” Initiative to accelerate female entrepreneurs and NollyFund to help Nollywood stakeholders with the production and distribution of films. Although not opposed to entering the political realm, he says that his years in the finance industry are not nearly over yet.

22 – Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi
Terrorist take-over
Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger

States across West Africa are being shaken to their core by the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Al-Sahrawi is at the forefront of terrorist activity in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. He previously was active in Gao, during the brief period in which the Malian city was under Islamist control. The $5m offer from the US government for information on his whereabouts makes it clear that he is seen as a global threat and the noted geographical expanse of his group’s activities is met with fear. Similarly, it was in 2019 that the organisation began to receive regular attention from formal Islamic State (IS) media outlets.

When the group is not participating in militant activities, it is building relationships with local communities and taking advantage of tensions. It then uses these relationships to recruit supporters. Al-Sahrawi learned from IS’s errors in the Middle East, where too much emphasis was put on gaining territory and not enough on communities’ needs.

23 – Strive Masiyiwa
From Zimbabwe to the world
Zimbabwe

Strive Masiyiwa claims that in 1978 a senior officer in Zimbabwe guerilla forces told him he wasn’t needed as a fighter but he would be needed to rebuild the country. That’s what he’s been doing ever since. After winning a protracted legal battle to remove the state monopoly on telecoms he founded Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, parent company of the Econet Group, which has operations in more than 15 countries worldwide. Masiyiwa also wanted to get into mobile money, so his firm bought a bank rather than wait for changes in legislation. Not all his gambles work out, however: in February he placed Econet Media under administration. Zimbabwe’s (legitimately) richest man is also Africa’s most prolific philanthropist. His various foundations educate children, fight disease, invest in rural entrepreneurs and militate against climate change.

24 – Onyeka Akumah
Agri-fin-tech
Nigeria

What if you could invest in Nigerian agriculture from the relative comfort of your own sitting room in Lagos? Onyeka Akumah is making that possible and reshaping agricultural value chains as he does it.

The technology entrepreneur is the co-founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy, an agricultural platform connecting small-scale farmers to investors with the goal of boosting local food production. The company took off fast, receiving its first angel investment of $60,000 just a month after launching. Farmcrowdy and the Oyo State government announced a partnership in August 2019 that will involve 50,000 farmers. Farmcrowdy bought Best Foods in February to grow its footprint in livestock and processing. Akumah is a mentor and investor, sitting on the boards
of start-ups from New York to Lagos.

25 – Peter Njonjo
Success in food supplying
Kenya

Retailers of Kenya beware. Peter Njonjo is the CEO of Twiga Foods, one of Kenya’s most successful start-ups, created in 2014 as a solution to inefficiency in Africa’s large, but highly fragmented, informal fruit and vegetable market. The company uses a technology-enabled B2B platform to source products from 17,000 farmers across 20 Kenyan counties and deliver them directly to
2,500 vendors per day in Nairobi and its environs. It is now expanding into fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), and targets continental expansion by the third quarter of 2020, starting with French-speaking West Africa, and then Nigeria.

The company has been credited with raising farmers’ yields while stabilising consumer prices, and is building a new distribution centre that will have state-of-the-art cold rooms, conveyors and sorting equipment, enabling Twiga Foods to offer supply-chain services for both agricultural and FMCG products.

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The top 50 African disruptors (46-50)

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