Digest Africa Top 50 2021: The Most influential People in the African Startup Ecosystem (50-41)

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. Here is the first publication of those from 50-41 that made our list.

50. Wilson Ganga

Country: Angola

Designation: Entrepreneur 

Active Since; 2016

Known For; Tupuca T’Leva, PayPay Africa

Born, bred, and buttered in Angola, Wilson Ganga received a business degree from the University of Saint-Francis, Fort Wayne in the USA before returning to the Lusophone country. In 2016, he started Tupuca as a food delivery service that connected its clients with hundreds of restaurants alongside another member on this list, Erickson Mvezi. The client would order food from a variety of restaurants and it would be delivered to them. 

Tupuca has since grown into an all-in-one delivery platform that allows users to order almost anything on demand. It is one of Angola’s most funded and successful startups having raised $520,000. Wilson still serves as the startup’s Chief Marketing Officer. He also started PayPay Africa in 2020, a fintech that is committed to providing inclusive and fast mobile payment solutions for e-commerce in Angola.

49. Peter Njonjo 

Country; Kenya 

Designation: Entrepreneur 

Active Since: 2017

Known for: Twiga Foods

Peter is a very accomplished leader with over 20 years of experience in business management across Africa. He was chosen as one of Forbes Afrique’s 100 Young Leaders and has been voted 3 times in a row as one of Kenya’s Top 40 under 40 by the Business Daily newspaper. He spent 18 years with Coca-Cola across various positions before starting his startup, Twiga Foods in 2015. He still serves as the startup’s CEO. 

Twiga Foods is a food distribution startup that operates a platform that aggregates food demand from informal retailers and sources products directly from farmers. This quickens delivery and reduces post-harvest losses on fresh produce. Twiga Foods has raised $55m to date in debt financing and equity deals from investors like Goldman Sachs and the International Finance Corporation. It currently has over 33,000 vendors who average at least 7 orders per week per vendor. 

48. Fisho Patrick Mwale

Country: Zambia 

Designation: Entrepreneur

Active Since: 2010

Known For: Yalelo

In the 1980s, Fisho owned Mutende Investments which was one of Zambia’s largest indigenous companies with a diversified portfolio of steel manufacturing, trade, and road construction. The company suffered insolvency which forced him to work as a waiter at his wife’s restaurant.  

In 2010, he started Yalelo, an aquaculture startup in Zambia. It is one of Zambia’s most funded startups after it raised $16.5m in two rounds in 2019: a $10.5M debt financing round in April 2019 from FMO and a $6m private equity round from FinnFund in September 2019. Yalelo now operates in Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, South Africa, Kenya, and DRC. He also served as Mayor of the Zambian capital, Lusaka from 1994-98. 

47. Zubair Naeem Paracha 

Designation: Media

Active Since: 2017

Known For: MENABytes

Zubair is the founder of MENABytes, a leading publication that covers technology and startup news from the Middle East and North Africa. MENABytes has a following of over 70,000 on its social media platforms and has been a source of breaking news especially about startups in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco like SWVL’s $1.5bn SPAC deal with  Queen’s Gambit Growth Capital, Emerging Market Property Group’s acquisition of Moroccan prop-tech startup, Mubawab among others.

46. Amir Barsoum 

Country: Egypt 

Designation: Entreprenuer

Active Since: 2012

Known For: Vezeeta

After acquiring a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmaceutical Studies from Ain Shams University in 2004  and a Masters Degree from the American University in Cairo in 2008, Amir Barsoum joined McKinsey and Company where he worked for two years. He then joined Astra Zeneca where he worked as its MENA Strategy Manager. 

In 2012, he started Vezeeta, a digital healthcare platform, where millions of patients in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kenya can search, book, and review the best doctors and medical centers. It also provides SaaS solutions to thousands of health care providers listed on its platform. Vezeeta is Egypt’s third most funded startup having raised $63m only behind SWVL ($80.5m) and Alfa Medical Group ($100m). 

45. Benjamin Fernandes 

Country: Tanzania

Designation: Entrepreneur

Active Since: 2017

Known For: Nala Money

Born in Dar Es Salaam in 1992, Benjamin Fernandes is a man of many firsts. He is the first Tanzanian to attend Stanford Graduate School of Business as an Africa MBA Fellow. He is also the youngest African to ever be accepted into the program. In 2016, he worked at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Washington before returning to Tanzania, a move that stunned the East African nation and made major news headlines there. 

He started NALA Money in 2017. NALA is a money transfer for Africans worldwide to make safe, affordable, and reliable international payments to Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda without data connectivity. It also enables its users to access mobile banking.  The app grew to 250,000 users within its first year and is the first East African startup to be accepted into Y Combinator, as part of its 2019 cohort. 

44. Babs Ogundeyi 

Country: Nigeria

Designation: Entrepreneur

Active Since: 2018

Known For: KudaBank

Babs Ogundeyi’s long relationship with entrepreneurship started in 2002 when he launched his first startup, Mortortrader Nigeria, which was Nigeria’s first classified ad car magazine. He sold it to a major newspaper just a year later. Having received a business Studies and Accounting Degree from Brunei University in London, he secured a job with global accounting powerhouse PWC where he worked for almost 8 years up to 2010. He was also a special advisor to the governor of Oyo State on finance from 2011-2015. 

In 2017, Babs returned to the entrepreneurship world through KudiMoney, Nigeria’s first online lending and savings platform. In 2018, he teamed up with Musty Mustapha to start KudaBank, a mobile-first challenger bank for consumers and businesses. Kudabank has raised over $92m across 5 investment deals, Its latest round was a $55m Series B at a $500m valuation from Valar Ventures and Target Global. It currently has 1.4m users in Nigeria with plans to expand to other countries soon. 

43. Jumanne Rajabu 

Country: Tanzania

Designation: Accelerator

Active Since: 2016

Known For: Sahara Ventures, Tanzania Startup Association

Jumanne is an innovator and technology enthusiast who is active in youth initiatives in areas of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. He is arguably the most powerful man in the Tanzanian startup ecosystem.  He is the CEO of Sahara Ventures, a consultancy and investment firm whose mission is to build a stable innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Tanzania and Africa at large. 

Sahara Ventures is behind Sahara Sparks, East Africa’s largest innovation and startup event. It is also behind Sahara Accelerator, a corporate and Venture-backed accelerator that offers startups co-working spaces, technical support, and access to investors. It partners with leading investors on the continent like Seedstars, Future Africa, EchoVC Partners, and Startupbootcamp AfriTech. Sahara Ventures has organized 10 events, reached 443 startups and 4000 entrepreneurs. 

Jumanne is also the founding and board member of the Tanzania Startup Association, which is an umbrella membership-based organization that brings together stakeholders in the Tanzanian startup ecosystem to lobby and drive agenda for growth. 

42. Eloho Omame 

Country: Nigeria

Designation: Venture Capital 

Active Since: 2018

Known For: Endeavour Capital, FirstCheck Africa

A former investment banker and private equity investor, Eloho Omame now identifies as an entrepreneur, angel investor, ecosystem-builder, and gender inclusion advocate for technology and entrepreneurship in Africa. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics and received an MBA from the London School of Business.  She was the Managing Director of Endeavour, a non-profit organization that is a leading global community of, by and for high impact entrepreneurs. 

In 2021, she launched FirstCheck Africa, an early-stage VC fund alongside Odunayo Ewiniyi (another member of our Top 50 List) to advance equity, capital, and leadership for a generation of women in Africa through technology and entrepreneurship. FirstCheck Africa writes checks of $25,000 into very early startups led by women. It has so far invested in South African Edtech startup, Foondamate, health tech startups Healthtrecka(Nigeria) and Zoie Health(South Africa), and Kenyan e-commerce startup Tushop. 

41. Zachariah George 

Country: South Africa

Designation: Venture Capital 

Active Since: 2019

Known For: Launch Africa Ventures, Startupbootcamp AfriTech

Zachariah George is the partner and Chief Investment Officer of Startupbootcamp AfriTech accelerator, a leading multi-corporate-backed venture accelerator program based in Cape Town, South Africa. It is focused on startups in blockchain, payment solutions, insurtech, e-commerce, and retail tech. It is anchored by leading corporate sponsors like Naspers, Old Mutual, Nedbank, BNP Paribas, and PWC with Amazon Web Services as a partner.  10 companies are selected to take part in a 3-month accelerator program every year. 

He is also the Managing Partner and founder of Mauritius-based Launch Africa Ventures, a Pan-African Venture Capital fund that invests time, capital, and expertise into leading B2B /B2B2C early-stage and tech-driven startups in Africa. Its portfolio includes startups like Chekkit, PayHippo, KudaBank, Omnibiz Africa, and MVX Change.

 

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