Building a million-dollar business is hard enough. Building a million dollar fortune is even harder. But building a million-dollar fortune in Africa while in your twenties or thirties is deserving of applause. Each year since 2012, I have scouted for 10 remarkable, unsung African entrepreneurs who are aged 39 and under, who have built well-structured multi-million dollar businesses and earned 7-figure fortunes in the process.
Unfortunately, there are very few of these sort of entrepreneurs in Africa, so quite a number of the names on this year’s list were featured last year. There are a few new names nevertheless.
Ally Edha Awadh, Tanzania
Source: Energy distribution & transportation
Tanzanian oil trader Ally Edha Awadh is the founder and CEO of Lake Oil Group, one of East Africa’s fastest-growing energy trading and transportation conglomerates. Awadh founded the company in 2006 at age 23, when he received a highly coveted license from the Tanzanian government to import and market petroleum products in the domestic market. Success has been swift for Awadh. Lake Oil Group is now one of the 5 largest distributors of petroleum products in Tanzania and exports to neighboring countries including D.R.Congo, Zambia, Burundi and Rwanda. The company also has a 35 million-liter storage depot at Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam and another depot in Mbeya, a commercial city in the country’s southwest region. The transport/haulage arm of the company, Lake Trans, owns and operates close to 500 trucks and serves as a regional contractor for commodities giants like Trafigura and Augusta. Lake Oil Group’s revenues for 2013 were $600 million. (Awadh recently granted me an interview in Dar es Salaam and I’ll be writing a detailed story on him in the near future).
Alexander Amosu, Nigeria
Source: Luxury Accessories
Alexander Amosu is Africa’s foremost high-end luxury designer. He is the founder of Amosu Couture, a company that custom-designs and sells diamond-encrusted mobile phones, iPads, headphones and other accessories. Amosu made his first million at age 24 by informally selling ring-tones to mobile phone subscribers in the United Kingdom. Buoyed by the success of this venture, he founded RnB ringtones, a company which grossed over $1.5 million in its first year of operations. He sold the company in 2004 for $15 million to a British mobile value added services provider and used the funds to setup Amosu Couture. His wholly-owned Kamson Luxury Group publishes the Nigerian edition of British celebrity magazine, Ok!
Mohammed Dewji, Tanzania
Mohammed Dewji is the CEO of METL Group, one of the largest industrial conglomerates in East Africa. Dewji’s father, Gulam Dewji founded the company as a trading concern about three decades ago, but ‘Mo’ as he is popularly known, is widely credited with transforming the company into a manufacturing behemoth in Tanzania. Subsidiaries under the METL group manufacture everything from textiles, soap and edible oils to bicycles and fizzy cola drinks. The company has an annual turnover of more than $1.5 billion and employs over 24,000 employees. Mo Dewji, who FORBES ranks as the 38th richest person in Africa with a fortune estimated at $500 million, owns 50% of the company. In July, the young multi-millionaire mogul will officially launch his Mo Dewji Foundation which supports initiatives in healthcare delivery and education for Tanzania’s poor.
Sim Shagaya, Nigeria
The Harvard MBA and serial entrepreneur is the founder is Konga.com, Nigeria’s largest e-commerce company. Konga, which Shagaya founded in July 2012, has raised more than $38 million from investors such as Kinnevik and South African media giant, Naspers . Prior to founding Konga, Shagaya founded Dealdey, Nigeria’s leading group-buying e-commerce site, and E-Motion, an outdoor advertising company.
Dennis Makori, Kenya
Source: Telecom Services
Dennis Makori is the founder of Onfon Media, one of the most successful value added telecoms service providers in Kenya. Onfon, which Makori founded in 2007, develops voice and data applications for mobile devices. The company has more than 60 employees, operations in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana and annual revenues of $3 million.
Adii Pienaar, South Africa
Source: WordPress Themes
Pienaar’s company, Woothemes, designs and develops customizable commercial themes and plugins for WordPress. The company, which Adii founded in 2007 with a bootstrap budget, generates over $3 million in annual revenues from the sale of its themes. Woothemes also develops and sells themes for other content management systems, including Tumblr. He is also the founder of PublicBeta, a service that allows very successful entrepreneurs to transfer knowledge to new startups.
Colin Thornton, South Africa
Source: Computer Services
Thornton is the founder of Dial-A-Nerd, a company that provides computer support services to homes and businesses. Thornton founded the company in 1998 after dropping out of an undergraduate program in Computer Science at the University of Witwatersrand. The company now has annual revenues of more than $10 million, 14 branches across South Africa and a workforce of 150 people.
Mike Macharia, Kenyan
Source: Seven Seas Technologies
Macharia’s company, Seven Seas Technology, which he founded more than a decade ago, is a leading East African provider of integrated business and technology solutions for institutional clients in the telecom, financial, Real Estate, service industry and government sectors. Annual revenues exceed $50 million and the company is gearing up for a listing on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. Private equity firm Abraaj Capital is an equity investor in the company.
Ken Njoroge, Kenya
Source: Mobile technology
In 2004, Ken Njoroge and his Nigerian partner, Goke Akinboro founded Cellulant, a $120 million (revenues) mobile commerce company that manages, delivers and bills for content and commerce services over mobile networks in Africa. Its clients are spread across 8 African countries and include clients like MTN, Standard Chartered bank and Barclays. Velocity Capital, a Dutch-based private equity firm is an investor in the company.
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Ethiopia
The Ethiopian-born entrepreneur is the founder of SoleRebels, a successful eco-sensitive footwear brand. SoleRebels produces sandals, slip-ons and lace-up shoes that are hand-crafted from recycled tires. All SoleRebel shoes are redesigns and reimaginations of the famous Selate and Barabasso shoe, a traditional recycled tire sole shoe which has been worn by Ethiopians for a very long time. Alemu founded the company in 2004. It now has close to 100 employees and $5 million in revenue.