Digest Africa Top 50 2021: The Most Influential people in the African Startup Ecosystem (20-11)

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. This is the fourth installment of those from 20-11.

20. Roo Rogers

Country: South Africa 

Designation: Venture Capital 

Active Since: 2018

Known For: Founders Factory Africa

Rogers is a serial entrepreneur and business leader who worked at Fuseproject, a design and innovation firm behind the SPRING accelerator that has nurtured over 75 startups in 9 countries in Africa and South Asia. He is currently the CEO of Founders Factory Africa, a Johannesburg-based acceleration program whose goal is to build and scale 140 tech-enabled startups from all 54 countries across the continent. 

FFA is backed with 20m pounds from its corporate partners Standard Bank group and Netcare. It helps startups with an aggressive growth strategy, UI/UX designs, data science, engineering, business development, marketing, strategic partnerships, and funding. FFA has amassed an impressive portfolio that includes the likes of Kenyan BNPL platform LipaLater, Ghanaian software startup Kudigo, Nigerian leasing platform EazyHire, tractor co-sharing startup HelloTractor, healthcare startup Redbird Health Tech, multi-platform logistics startup MVXChange among others.

19. Mark Essien

Country: Nigeria 

Designation: Entrepreneur

Active Since: 2012

Known For: Hotels NG

Mark is the founder of the biggest online booking platform in Nigeria in Hotels NG. It was the first startup to make online booking a reality in Nigeria at scale. His platform has over 13,000 hotels and makes billions in bookings annually. 

Mark is also the founder of HNG Internship, a remote internship for software developers in Nigeria. Thousands of coders are taken through a rigorous internship program with the finalists being rewarded with jobs in organizations like Oracle, Figma, GitHub, BlueChip Technologies as well as state governments like Akwa Ibom and the Imo States. Mark is a partner at Spark Ventures alongside Iroko founder, Jason Njoku. They invest in early-stage startups in Nigeria. Their portfolio includes; OgaVenue, an online marketplace for events venues, e-commerce startup Drinks NG, payments startup Paystack among others. 

18. Mitchell Elegbe

Country: Nigeria 

Designation: Entrepreneur 

Active Since: 2002

Known For: Interswitch

Mitchell is the founder of Interswitch, an integrated payment and transaction company headquartered in Nigeria but with operations in Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda. He came up with the idea of Interswitch after using an ATM in Scotland and it seized his card in early the 2000s. At the time, there were no ATMs in Nigeria. Interswitch is the owner of Verve, Nigeria's most used payment card with 18m of the 25m ATM cards in circulation. Interswitch was Africa's second unicorn, attaining that status in November 2019 after global payments startup, VISA, purchased a stake in it rumored to be $200m for 20%. He has been recognized as a business leader in Africa. In 2012, he was the West African Business Leader Award recipient at the All African Business Leaders Awards (AABLA) organized by CNBC Africa. He also received the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. 

17. Ziad Mokhtar

Country: Egypt 

Designation: Venture Capital 

Active Since: 2015

Known For: Algebra Ventures

After acquiring a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Alexandria University in Egypt and an MBA from the famed Stanford Graduate School of Business, Ziad started Algebra Ventures, where he remains Managing Partner up to this day. Algebra Ventures is a $50m Cairo-based VC fund that invests in early-stage tech companies in Egypt and the rest of the MENA region. However, in April this year, it launched a new $90m fund. It has invested in startups like food discovery startup elmenus, transport and logistics startup Trella, events platform Eventtus, and deep tech startup Si-Ware Systems, etc that have gone on to raise additional funding. 

16. CK Japheth

Country: Uganda 

Designation: Accelerator

Active Since: 2017

Known For: The Innovation Village, The 97 Fund 

CK is the founder of Innovation Village, Uganda’s launchpad for leading innovators and entrepreneurs creating technology-based solutions to challenges. It is the biggest technology hub in the country bringing together startups, global brands, government agencies, academic institutions, and investors. It runs the 97 fund which invests in high growth early-stage companies in Fintech, health tech, transport, and logistics among others. It also ran a $1m COVID19 Relief Fund that was a fund for startups that were addressing challenges caused by the COVID19 pandemic and solutions that prepare Uganda for a post-COVID19 future. Beneficiaries of this funding included Agribusiness marketplace Famunera, freelance marketplace Flip Africa, internship placement startup ProInterns, grocery delivery startup Minute5, online travel marketplace Tubayo, Fintech Xente among others. 

15. Fred Swaniker

Country: Ghana 

Designation: Entrepreneur 

Active Since: 2013

Known For: Africa Leadership Academy

 Swaniker is a Ghanaian entrepreneur and leadership development expert. He is the chairman and founder of the African leadership Academy, an institution in Johannesburg South Africa which has the goal of developing 6,000 transformative leaders in Africa over 50 years. He is also the founder of the African Leadership University (ALU) which plans to build multiple universities across Africa with branches in Mauritius and Rwanda already opened. He has raised $55.8m from Omidyar Network and Anders Holch Povlsen to fund this goal. Swaniker was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2019. 

14. Bosun Tijani

Country: Nigeria 

Designation: Accelerator 

Active Since: 2010

Known For: Co-Creation Hub, Growth Capital

Bosun is the founder of Co-Creation Hub, a chain of tech hubs in Lagos, Abuja, Nairobi, Kigali, and Ijebu Ode. These hubs bring together different stakeholders in the startup ecosystem to identify and nurture startups building solutions to challenges in Africa. He runs Growth Capital, which is a social innovation fund that invests in early-stage businesses with a social change in mind. 

13. Idris Ayodeji Bello

Country: Nigeria 

Designation: Venture Capital 

Active Since: 2018

Known For: LoftyInc Capital Management

Idris is the Founding Partner and Portfolio Manager at LoftyInc Capital Management, an early-stage African-focused technology fund. It has so far raised three funds, dubbed Afropreneur I, II, and III. Afropreneur I and II were very successful and achieved double-digit returns with startups like Andela, Flutterwave, Reliance HMO going on to raise over $220m in follow-on funding. LoftyInc then raised $10m for its Afropreneur III fund. Its initial checks are usually between $50,000- $250,000 with follow-on funding of up to $1m. Other startups in the LoftyInc Capital Management portfolio include printing startup Printivo, identification startup YouVerify, B2B e-commerce startup Omnibiz Africa, online car parts and services platform Odiggo

12. Rebecca Enonchong 

Country: Cameroon 

Designation: Entrepreneur 

Active Since: 2011

Known For: Apps Tech, AfriLabs, African Business Angel Network 

Without a doubt, one of the most powerful women in the African Startup Ecosystem, Rebecca is the founder and CEO of Apps Tech, a provider of enterprise application solutions. She is the Board Chair of AfriLabs, a powerful Pan-African network of over 250 innovation centers in 49 African countries that serve about 1m entrepreneurs. She also chairs ActivSpaces, a collection of n3 tech hubs in her native Cameroon. She is also on the board of Venture Capital 4 Africa (VC4A) and co-founder of the Cameroon Angel Network and the African Business Angel Network. She was recognized as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum(WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, and by Forbes as one of the Most Powerful Women in 2020.

11. Mostafa Kandil 

Country: Egypt 

Designation: Entrepreneur 

Active Since: 2015

Known For: SWVL

Mostafa began his career in the startup world working with Rocket Internet. He launched a car sales platform, Carmudi, in the Philippines and within 6 months, it was the largest car classifieds startup there. He then joined Careem, a ride-sharing company, and helped it launch into new markets. Careem eventually became the first unicorn in the Middle East and was acquired by Uber. 

In 2018, he launched SWVL, a tech-driven, affordable, and convenient transportation service. It has created a parallel mass transit system offering intercity, intracity, B2B, and B2C transportation in 10 mega cities across Africa and the Middle east. Users can book a ride on the app and access high-quality private buses and vans that operate according to fixed routes, times, and prices. On 28th July 2021, it announced it was going public via a merger with a SPAC, Queen's Gambit Growth Capital in a deal that was valued at $1.5bn becoming Africa's 6th unicorn. 


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