Digest Africa Top 50 2021: The Most Influential people in the African Startup Ecosystem (10-1)

At Digest Africa, we set out to compile, list, and profile the most influential people in the African ecosystem. You can read about our methodology and overview of our research here. In a five-part series, we will profile all 50 with 10 being profiled in each publication. You can read up on our first publication of 50-41 here. The second publication of those from 40-31 can be found here. The third installment of our publication of those from 30-21 that made our list can be found here. The fourth publication of those from 20-11 can be found here. This is the final publication of those that made our top 10.

10. Jason Njoku 

Country: Nigeria

Designation: Entrepreneur

Active Since: 2010

Known For: iROKO TV

A graduate of the University of Manchester, Njoku is the founder of iROKO TV, one of Africa’s first mainstream online movie streaming platforms. It was founded in December 2011. iROKO TV has over 5,000 Nollywood movies which are about 10,000 hours of content. One can watch the movies on the iROKO TV app or their website in Europe and America. 

iROKO TV has global offline distribution deals with multiple airlines that it supplies with Nollywood content e.g British Airways, South African Airways, Emirates, Kenya Airways, and United Airlines. It also maintains content distribution deals with YouTube, Daily Motion, iTunes, and Amazon Videos. It established television stations, iROKO Play, and iROKO Plus that are available on StarTimes Africa.  It has offices in London, New York, Johannesburg, and Lagos. 

9. Ham Serunjoogi

Country: Uganda 

Designation: Entrepreneur

Active Since: 2018

Known For: Chipper Cash

 Ham graduated from Grinnell College in 2016 and worked as a Client Manager at Facebook at their Dublin office in Ireland for the next two years. In 2018. He started Chipper Cash, a fintech platform that offers mobile, cross-border money transfer services across African countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa, and Kenya. 

A user can send money to another user in another African country, sell, buy and transfer Bitcoin, Ethereum and USD Coin, buy discounted airtime and data. Domestic transfers are free, but charges are levied for all the other services. Chipper Cash has over 200 employees and over 4m users. 

8. Sam Gichuru

Country: Kenya 

Designation: Accelerator 

Active Since: 2010

Known For: Kidato, NaiLab, KuHustle

Sam is a Kenyan serial entrepreneur. He is the founder of Kidato, a Y Combinator-backed edTech startup in Kenya. Kidato is a live online academic and after school program for kids, ages 4 to 18. Over 2000 students use the platform for academics and fun or interactive after school classes like coding, chess, art, music, sport and languages. It has students from Kenya, Canada, Malawi, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uk, the USA and UAE who pay $5 per lesson. It trains its teachers and offers them higher pay than traditional schools. 

Kidato was Sam Gichuru’s second run at Y Combinator after his other startup, Kuhustle, a recruitment platform, was accepted into the program in 2016. He is also the founder of the well known NaiLab, Kenya’s and arguably East Africa’s most popular incubator. 

7. Sangu Delle

Country: Ghana

Designation: Venture Capital 

Active Since: 2006

Known For: Golden Palm Investments

Sangu Delle is the CEO of Africa Health Holdings, a company that is building Africa’s healthcare future. He also serves as Chairman of one of Africa’s big investors, Golden Palm Investments based in Accra, Ghana. Golden Palm Investments invests in startups building world-class technology solutions in Africa. Its portfolio includes the likes of recruitment startup Andela, health tech mPharma, payments provider Flutterwave and internet service provider Tizeti among others. Its portfolio companies have gone on to raise over $900m in follow-on venture financing. 

He was named among the Top 30 Most Promising Entrepreneurs in Africa by Forbes for two consecutive years in 2014 and 2015. He was also a finalist at the Africa CEO Forum for the Young CEO of the Year Award. 

6. Sim Shagaya

Country: Nigeria 

Designation: Entrepreneur

Active Since: 2012

Known For: DealDey, Konga,uLesson

Sim Shagaya worked as a banker at Rand Merchant Bank in South Africa before returning to Nigeria as Google's Head of Africa. In 2011, he started DealDey, an e-commerce platform that brought deals on products and services offering unimaginable discounts. It officially shut down in 2019. 

In 2012, Shagaya started Konga, an e-commerce platform to create an Amazon for Africa. It was started after an investment from a Swedish investment firm Kinnevik AB. It has various categories ranging from consumer electronics, fashion to home appliances and books. By 2015, it was Nigeria’s most visited website according to Alexa.  Konga also has a logistics service, KXPRESS and KongaPay, its in house cashless payments facilitator.

In 2019, Shagaya started an edtech startup called uLesson that sells digital curriculum to students through SD cards at just $50 annually. It grew exponentially during COVID19 lockdowns and has already been downloaded over 1m times with a 70% month over month growth. 

5. Jorn Lyseggen

Country: Ghana

Designation: Accelerator 

Active Since: 2001

Known For: Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology(MEST) 

Born in Korea and adopted/raised in Norway, Jorn is a serial entrepreneur, patent inventor and founder of Meltwater School of Entrepreneurship and Technology (MEST) in Accra, Ghana. MEST has a 12 month Pan African training program, seed fund and incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs. They are taught how to code, essential business, communication and leadership skills. On the last day of the program, entrepreneurs pitch their startups in front of global investors. MEST typically funds half of them. Alumni from this program include proptech Meqasa, eCommerce SaaS startup Kudobuzz, agribusiness startup Complete Farmer, tractor hire platform Trotro Tractor, Rwanda’s Ampersand Electric Motorcycles, customer retention platform NestMetric, truck services marketplace Truckr etc.

4. Juliet Annamah

Country: Nigeria

Designation: Executive 

Active Since: 2015

Known For: JUMIA Group

Juliet is a senior executive with over 28 years of professional experience cutting across Pharmaceutical Sales and Marketing, Management Consulting, eCommerce and digital platforms. She is the former CEO of Jumia Nigeria and led the startup’s to its famous IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. She is currently the Jumia Group Chief Sustainability Officer and Chairwoman, Jumia Nigeria. She is also an advisor and board member of various publicly listed companies. 

3. Bob Van Dijk

Country: South Africa 

Designation: Executive 

Active Since: 2014

Known For: Naspers

Van Dijk is the CEO of Naspers, Africa’s biggest company by market capitalization and one of the continent’s biggest investors. Naspers invest in companies that empower people and enrich communities. It has invested in/acquired some of the world’s leading platforms in consumer internet like OLX, Letgo, Delivery Hero, Swiggy, Udemy, Tencent, Mail.ru. In Africa, it has invested in Nigerian e-commerce giant Konga, South African eCommerce giant Takealot, cleaning services app SweepSouth, data analytics startup Aerobotics, public transport data startup WhereIsMyTransport, insur-techs Naked Insurance and Ctrl among others. 

2. Hany Al Sonbaty

Country: Egypt 

Designation: Venture Capital 

Active Since: 2010

Known For: Sawari Ventures, Flat6Labs

Hany is a pioneer of Venture Capital in the Middle East. He headed TMT Investments at EFG-Hermes Private Equity from 1997 to 2009 before becoming a Managing Partner at Sawari Ventures, one of the biggest VC firms in the MENA region. In 2021, it closed a $71m fund to invest in North Africa startups. It has been backed by international financiers like CDC Group, European Investment Bank, PROPARCO and Dutch Good Growth Fund.  Sawari Ventures has invested in startups like SWVL, MoneyFellows, Goodsmart, Elves, Almentor, Si-Ware Systems etc.

He is also the co-founder of Flat6Labs, Sawari Ventures’ dedicated accelerator for seed investments. It is organized in conjunction with the American University in Cairo. Online simple services marketplace Taskty, bug detection software startup Instabug, online pharmacy Chefaa, retail tech Brimore, online travel marketplace Wantotrip, Tunisian edTech Study. tn and Nigerian transport and logistics startup WeMove. In May this year, it raised $10m for its fund for early-stage startups bringing the value of its fund to $13m. Flat6Labs has a presence in Cairo, Tunis, Abu Dhabi, Amman, Jeddah, Beirut and Bahrain. 

1. Iyinoluwa Aboyeji

Country: Nigeria 

Designation: Venture Capital 

Active Since: 2014

Known For: Andela, Flutterwave, Future Africa

Aboyeji was born in 1991 and went to high school in Nigeria at the prestigious Loyola Jesuit College. He earned a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from the University of Waterloo, a public research university in Ontario, Canada. His love affair with the African startup ecosystem began in 2014 when he co-founded Andela, a startup that identifies and develops software developers in emerging markets and connects them to jobs with North American companies. Andela works with software developers in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.  Andela is a heavily funded startup raising a total of $181m across 5 rounds which included a $100m Series D in January 2019 from Generation Investment Management, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Spark Capital and CRE Venture Capital that valued the startup between $600m- $700m. 

In 2016, he co-founded the fintech, Flutterwave alongside Olugbenga Agboola. Flutterwave is a payments technology company that builds infrastructure which enables people and businesses in Africa to accept online payments from anyone, anywhere using one API. It has operations in over 33 African countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa among others. In March 2021, Flutterwave became Africa’s 4th unicorn after it raised $170m in its Series C at a valuation of over $1bn in an investment round led by Tiger Global Management and Avenir Growth Capital. It currently has over 290,000 merchants that include the likes of Uber, Flywire and Booking.com, over 500,000 registered barter users and has processed over 140m transactions worth over $9bn. He left his role as Flutterwave CEO in 2018.

He is currently the founder and General Partner at Future Africa, a VC firm that provides capital, coaching and a community for mission-driven innovators building an African future. It invests in the idea stage, seed-stage and early growth stage startups in Africa. Its impressive portfolio of startups includes Kenyan medical technology software and services startup Tambua Health, Nigerian digital media startup Stears, eCommerce startup Releaf, online credit marketplace Evolve Credit, home chores platform Eden Life, investment platform Bamboo, KYC enrollment and authentication startup Smile Identity among others.  He is a World Economic Forum Global Young Leader and a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree.  


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