Young African Entrepreneurs to Watch


Forbes recently featured 3 young African Entrepreneurs that are certainly destined to become Africa’s business titans. The young entrepreneurs won the Anzisha Prize hosted by the African Leadership Academy and The MasterCard Foundation.

Andrew Mupuya, 20 of Uganda is the Founder of YELI

In 2008 the Ugandan government announced that it was considering a ban on the use of polythene plastic bags. Andrew Mupuya, only 16 years old at the time, visualized an opportunity in paper bag production. He was still in high school, and his parents, who were both unemployed, were experiencing great difficulty in paying Mupuya’s school fees.
With his savings and small monetary gifts from family and friends, Andrew was able to raise 36,000 Ugandan Shillings ($18) in startup capital- money he used to start making paper bags on a small scale. In 2010 Andrew registered his company, Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments (YELI), which is now the first local registered paper bag and envelope-producing company in Uganda. The business has grown significantly, and today it employs 14 Ugandans, including a 53 year-old father of eight. YELI supplies paper bags and envelopes to local hospitals, small scale retail outlets, roadside sellers and local flour manufacturers. Within four years of its launch, YELI has produced more than half a million paper bags. From the company’s revenues, Mupuya has been able to pay for his business bachelor’s degree at the prestigious Makerere University of Uganda, support his family and financially support his 14 staff and their families.

But even more importantly, the young entrepreneur has given back. Through YELI’s social responsibility initiative, Andrew has trained over 500 Ugandans on how to make paper bags. Through this initiative, 16 other smaller paper bag making operations have been established. Andrew plans to employ at least 60 people by 2015 and is gearing up to set up a paper bag making plant.
Andrew was the grand prize winner of the 2012 Anzisha Awards, an award which came with $30,000 in prize money. According to organizers of the Anzisha Prize, Andrew plans to expand his production capability and also build a paper recycling operation.

Diana Mong’are, 18 of Kenya. Founder, Planet Green

When Diana Mong’are became tired of the ever-growing trash piles in her community, she decided to do something about it. She set out to raise 10,000 Kenyan Shillings (about $120) from her neighbors, family and friends and used the money to purchase large rolls of black and clear plastic bags.
With her new acquisition, Diana went around persuading her neighbors and members of her community to purchase the plastic bags and encouraged them to separate their trash into biodegradable waste and recyclables. Diana hired a worker to gather the recyclable waste from members of the community and she personally negotiated the sale of the waste to a local recycling company. With the proceeds from her recycling deals, Diana acquired more plastic bags and became an evangelist for environmental conservation in her community. But she went further still. Her next stop was collecting wood chips and sawdust from small scale furniture makers as well as rotting vegetables from market women and selling them to local poultry and vegetable farmers. In most African countries, small-scale farmers use sawdust to preserve the storage life of potatoes and other crops. Diana realized that these farmers were usually eager and excited to purchase this waste from her. She was in business.
She went on to register Planet Green, a company that mobilizes farmers, carpenters, households, and a local recycling company to reduce waste build up, at a profit. Between February 2012 and now, Diana has succeeded in recruiting 50 families into Planet Green’s recycling initiative. She is also an emerging voice in environmental conservation and sustainability in Africa and she has already started educating local school children on the importance and various methods of environmental conservation. Diana was the first runner-up of the Anzisha prize and walked away with $20,000 in prize money.

Yaw Duffour-Awuah, 19 of Ghana. Founder, Student Aid Plus

As a boarding student in a Ghanaian high school, Yaw Duffour-Awuah discovered that several of his classmates who lived several hundred miles away were regularly unable to travel home for brief holidays due to lack of funds. The young man, spotting opportunity, quickly launched his company, Apex Loans. He was only 16 at the time.
His model was simple: He gathered a small group of friends who became his business partners and pooled capital from all of them. His company would then provide small loans to student borrowers who were in dire financial need, with interest. It was a service that most students inevitably needed at some point or the other, and before long, business blossomed.
Duffour-Awuah renamed Apex Loans to Student Aid Plus, and the company has evolved from a small micro-lending organization to a financial services company which among other things offers financial literacy education to Ghanaian high school students. The company also has a savings and loan program that helps students pay school fees and provides for upkeep during school sessions. The company’s financial literacy sessions are led by invited adult professionals and about a hundred student volunteers. Student Aid Plus has 55 shareholders who receive dividends based on their shareholding in the company.
Although Duffour-Awuah and the Anzisha awards are not disclosing financials, Student Aid Plus has become a success in its own little right. The company’s default rate is 0% as the firm has adopted a system that relies heavily on adult guarantors. While his company is only based in one school at the moment, Yaw’s short term plans are to grow by launching the business into other high schools and to offer more financial services aimed at youngsters like himself. He plans to achieve this with the $10,000 prize money he won at the Anzisha awards.
The prize is gaining significant momentum in African business circles. Last year, some of the finalists included Ludwick Phofane Marishane, a 22 year-old South African entrepreneur who founded HeadBoy Industries, a company that developed and owns the patent for DryBath, a gel-like lotion that serves as a substitute for a bath or shower, and 20 year-old Antoinette Furaha from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who founded Women’s Micro-Credit, a small micro-credit services company that invests in and empowers young refugee women in Uganda.
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