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.
11 – Joseph Kabila & Félix Tshisekedi
Democratic Republic of Congo
When Joseph Kabila finally agreed to step down as president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after 18 years in power things didn’t quite work out as he had planned. Instead of Kabila’s chosen dauphin, Ramazani Shadary, slipping into his still-warm seat the election result was disputed between oppositionists Martin Fayulu and Félix Tshisekedi. Kabila is widely thought
to have done a backroom deal with Tshisekedi, to whom he handed the keys to the palace on 24 January 2019. Kabila is now a senator for life, in accordance with the country’s constitution. Since then, it has been a competition between the two to see who can disrupt whose networks. The spoils are clear. The DRC has the richest subsoil of any nation on the continent, including the lion’s share of the mineral for all our future electric battery needs: cobalt. Tshisekedi has railed about Kabila’s corruption to Western donors and is now taking steps to neutralise key Kabila allies. Kabila and his allies control a majority in the legislature, giving them considerable power to stymie Tshisekedi. That has not prevented Tshisekedi from raising the ante: his government and security services are going after mining boss Albert Yuma, spy chief Kalev Mutond and Kabila’s sister Jaynet. Frustrated by Kabila trying to block many of his initiatives, Tshisekedi threatened to dissolve the National Assembly earlier this year, although this was later retracted.
13 – Bolaji Akinboro & Ken Njoroge
The duo behind fintech Cellulant scribbled their first business plan on a napkin. With many a pivot later, they have transformed into a fintech company helping to build payment architectures that everyone from smallholder farmers to government agencies can trust. Cellulant now works in 33 African countries, with 94% of the customer base never having used banking before. Their biggest hit in Nigeria has been working to disrupt the corrupt networks that interfered with the distribution of agricultural subsidies. The Growth Enhancement Support Scheme creates an e-wallet system to put the fertiliser subsidy in the phone of the
farmer, for them to cash out at a shop. They are even bringing in a second phase to help connect farmers with banks, and fix the financing gap in African farming. Their technology is being used as far away as Afghanistan and leans on distributed ledger technology to create trust right the way through the tangled web that makes up the agricultural value chain, from banks, agribusiness, exporters, government agencies, input-sellers, and, of course, the farmers themselves. They are not stopping there, either: the energy sector may well feel their attention before long.
15 – Mitchell Elegbe
Weaning Nigerians off cash is not easy, but Mitchell Elegbe is an optimist and he thinks big. The founder, MD and CEO of Interswitch, he pioneered the infrastructure to digitise the mainly paper-ledger and cash-based economy in Nigeria. Today Interswitch’s technology processes over 500 million transactions a month; its Verve payment card is the largest domestic debit card scheme in Africa and it is expanding outside Nigeria in August 2019. Elegbe always saw his as an innovation that could facilitate the electronic circulation of money anywhere in Africa. Visa saw it too, and in November 2019 acquired a minority equity stake in Interswitch that took the company to unicorn status – valuation of $1bn. Interswitch could be Africa’s sole tech unicorn for some time as Jumia’s worth has dropped; an Interswitch IPO is still on the cards.
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We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.View subscription options