The concept of the Future of Work is with us in a big way, and it might be all we discuss until we figure out the next normal. The pandemic definitely has been a catalyst in accelerating the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).
This revolution is characterized by the growing utilization of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Computing, Robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as Advanced Wireless Technologies.
With the whole world taking a pause to fight the pandemic, it has given us the chance to experiment with these technologies ensuring that the implantation stage of the 4IR is well underway.
The exciting part about the 4IR is that, unlike in previous ones, Africa is not likely to get left behind. The ICT sector in Africa has continued to grow, with mobile technologies and services having generated 1.7 million direct jobs (both formal and informal), contributed to $144 billion of economic value (8.5 percent of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa), and contributed $15.6 billion to the public sector through taxation.
The exponential growth in Africa’s ICT sector has been mainly attributed to mobile digital financial services. However, AI, IoTs and Blockchain are also attracting strong interest and in some cases investments.
There is definitely a real case for African Leaders, Entrepreneurs and Organizations to recognize and capitalize on 4IR opportunities. There is also a strong push to move beyond existing models of innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital growth on the continent.
In today’s Think Piece we shall aim to highlight individuals and organizations that are putting Africa on the Map in regards to the inception of 4IR on the continent and/or inspiring the next generation to act.
The latter taking cue from this quote: “Will our children ask us why we didn’t act? Or will they ask us how we found the courage and rallied the resources to rise up and change?” by Nobel Laureate and former US Vice President Al Gore at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Oslo.
Ciiru describes herself as an innovator, manufacturer, educator, and mentor who is head over heels In love with Africa! Her areas of interest include the circular economy, nature and investing in the youth.
She is the founder of Funkidz Limited, a children’s brand that designs and manufactures products targeting children up to age 16. Funkidz is impacting the future of Africa through Kidz Go Tech, a program focused on transforming and leapfrogging education on the African continent experientially using 21st century learning by way of using storytelling, tech sensory learning, and animation.
In March 2017, Wanjiru and her company received a global award in Barcelona from GSMA , Women 4 Tech award ,for being a business that uses mobile technology to teach children experientially
In 2016 Ciiru was invited to attend the United State of Women Summit at the White House (USA), where Michelle Obama – the then 1st Lady – recognised her as a woman who was helping other women, and families to follow her lead.
Last year, while the world shut down over the pandemic, Ciiru was hard at work pivoting, and pivoting she did. She launched FunHomes where she incorporated her love for Africa and home, where we were all spending a lot of our time.
Her inspirational words as she launched her new project, “This season has been a reminder for / to me that everything we need is around us and within us if only we dig deep enough. If only we trust each other, support each other, if only we try.”
Catherine Shipushu – Namibia
Catherine is a powerhouse coming out of Windhoek as an entrepreneur helping clients build strong sustainable brands.
“I started my business in order to create a space in which young female entrepreneurs can access assistance and mentorship to build strong businesses that will enable them to gain economic emancipation, improve their standard of living and become role models for the future generation of entrepreneurs,” said Catherine.
Her company Azania Communications offers brand development, PR & Media, Social Media Management, Strategy, Event Management and Training Workshops. Her brand portfolio is made up of brands coming out of the African continent worth watching.
Darshan Chandaria – Kenya
Darshan is a Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Chandaria Capital. The entity is one of the largest privately owned business groups in Africa and describe themselves as creators of What’s Next In Africa.
Chandaria Capital is an early-stage, sector agnostic fund investing in scalable, high impact organizations that have unique competitive advantages, and are backed by committed, innovative entrepreneurs.
Their portfolio is diverse as it is interesting. With brands like Mobius, which manufactures and sells vehicles built specifically for the African mass market. As well as Savannah Brands the creators of Kenyan Originals – an alcoholic fruit cider and iced tea range blended with 100% real Kenyan fruit and tea; and Nairobi Nibbles a range of delicious guilt-free snacks made with 100% real fruit.
The investment interest in these brands is better explained by Bruce Lule the Investment Principle Chandaria Capital: “Investors in the Kenyan ecosystem have a preference for tech businesses. As the ecosystem evolves, investors understand the need to diversify their investments as there is great potential & returns in investing in non-tech businesses.”
You would want to follow Darshan to learn what’s next in Africa worth investing in.
Dr Dixon Chibanda – Zimbabwe
Dr. Dixon Chibanda, a renowned psychiatrist from Zimbabwe, who started a Friendship Bench approach to mental health care. It was necessary as his home country at the time had only 13 psychiatrists catering for a population of about 16 million citizens.
This led to Dr. Chibanda bringing about a radically different solution to train community members – and in particular grandmothers – on problem-solving therapy to make mental health more accessible.
After starting off in Zimbabwe, Dr. Chibanda had to find a way to make mental health support more widely available via a digital platform. Not only in Zimbabwe, but everywhere since in countries like Kenya, the statistics were not any better, for about 11.4 million Kenyans struggling with mental health there are only 88 psychiatrists and the numbers go on.
In Zimbabwe, they followed the one-on-one bench session, but to reach a wider audience, they had to find a better solution.
Dixon Chibanda is also Director of the African Mental Health Research Initiative (AMARI) and the CEO and Founder of Inuka.io who are our members at Karen. Inuka is a digital platform that trains life coaches in a proven method and connects them with people seeking support.
Inuka CEO Ankiza Gakuru shared her thoughts on why the platform was necessary in our #ZoomIn interview with her: “1 in 5 people every year suffer from depression, burnout and anxiety – and with the world fighting a pandemic, probably the numbers went up-the majority don’t seek help. Making more affordable, non-stigmatized support accessible anytime, anywhere could make a massive difference for everyone and that’s what our platform offers.”
Edward Mungai – Kenya
Edward Mungai is the founder of Inspire Leadership which focuses on unlocking people’s potential, a published author, and one of the most influential leaders in personal growth and leadership in Africa. He is a 2016 Eisenhower Fellow and has been recognized as one of the most inspirational CEOs of 2019.
He has a multifaceted background in business advisory, entrepreneurship, sustainability and investment management. However, Edward Mungai has huge interest in Corporate sustainability and has been involved in high level discussion of the topic in the Africa region.
He calls himself a sustainability expert and comes with receipts. Edward sits on the board of the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre, Kenya Climate Ventures and is an author at Africa Sustainability Matters – a platform for all matters of sustainability, innovation, and leadership.
You definitely want to follow Edward on issues related to unlocking the potential of leadership in the sustainability discussion.
Fred Swaniker – Ghana
Fred Swaniker is an entrepreneur, and leadership development expert. He has launched four organizations as he seeks to educate and inspire the youth of Africa, who make up 60% of the continent’s population.
He is an MBA recipient from Stanford Business School, Swaniker has been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Fred is the chairman and a co-founder and trustee of the African Leadership Academy, an institution is located outside Johannesburg in South Africa.
Fred is also the founder of African Leadership Network, and African Leadership University (ALU), an organization working toward developing 3 million ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in the coming decades. ALU is an alumnus of Nairobi Garage.
At the 2019 TIME 100 Gala in New York Fred was quoted as saying “All of us who are privileged enough to be healthy, to be alive, to have education and to have influence, our role is not to do small things and to solve small problems. The only way that we can justify privilege is by solving the world’s biggest problems, and by doing hard things.” Read the full toast here.
Meshack Alloys – Kenya
Meshack is the Co-founder and CEO of Sendy, a company that connects customers with drivers to help deliver goods from one place to another.
Sendy dispatches orders in real time to its available drivers and empowers them to make money by connecting them to delivery opportunities.
“We wanted to solve this problem using existing assets and people… we didn’t want them to buy fancy gadgets, expensive gadgets to do that,” says Mr Alloys in an interview with BBC News in 2016.
Last year the company raised a $20 million Series B led by Atlantica Ventures.Toyota Tsusho Corporation, a trade and investment arm of Japanese automotive company Toyota, also joined the round.
Meshack is also an entrepreneur, passionate about open technologies with a focus on mobile emerging technologies, logistics, and mobile payments. He is also the co-founder of On Demand Mobile, Servetech Systems, and Boya LLC who are our members at Nairobi Garage.
Mostafa Kandil, Mahmoud Nouh, Ahmed Sabbah – Egypt
Mostafa, Mahmoud & Ahmed are the Co-founders of Swvl. It is a premium mass transit system that provide buses to every neighbourhood in Cairo that allows people to share a ride in a van or bus during morning and evening commutes for a fixed flat fare with no surge pricing.
Through the Swvl app, one can book a ride at an affordable rate. Last year, Careem, a ride-hailing app based in Dubai, invested $500,000 in Swvl in return for a minority stake.
Swvl, which was launched in March 2017, already has a team of more than 30 people and completes 100,000 rides per month across Cairo and Alexandria.
In Kenya SWVL operates from Nairobi Garage and we are proud to be part of the company’s growth in Kenya.
Nunu Ntshingila-Njeke – South Africa
Nunu is the regional director of Facebook Africa. During her career she built brands for global advertising agency Ogilvy, heading its South African office. Her previous board membership has included Ogilvy Worldwide, Telkom, Transnet, V&A Waterfront, and Old Mutual SA
Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world, with more than 210 million active in Africa alone as of March 2020. Nunu’s task with such numbers on her hand is to give the young and vibrant region like Africa, the opportunity to be the architects of a new narrative for the continent.
Being at the helm of the social media organization means Nunu is aware that the platform promotes economic opportunity within the continent. Facebook levels the playing field to help small businesses get off the ground and has with 140m businesses using Facebook.
“Africa is made of a variety of countries and cultures. The content that we see on our platforms reflects this unique diversity. Moreover, we are constantly connecting, listening and learning from all communities on the ground, whether it is startups, developers or advertising agencies to better serve them,” shared Nunu in her interview with African Business in 2020.
Olutunji Oluwole – Nigeria
Olutunji Oluwole is the founder of Verifyme Nigeria, a verification company that creates trusted and secure digital identities with the aim to change the status quo using innovative technology to address human capital risks in the workforce.
The Verifyme story started in September 2011, when Olutunji employed a cook who subsequently poisoned and robbed him & His entire family. A few weeks later he found out that the cook had been employed by another family with a completely altered identity and employment history.
This experience revealed the need for accessible ID verification and work history reporting services in Nigeria, and gave birth to VerifyMe in 2013. It started off by manually collecting identity and biometric details from Nigerians as the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) didn’t share this information with 3rd parties.
VerifyMe has since added other identity databases to its platform, including Bank Verification Number (BVN) – a biometric identification system implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria to curb illegal banking transactions – and driver’s licence details.
“There is no economic development in Nigeria without proper lending and there is no lending in Nigeria without KYC. We are at the crux of what needs to happen for economic development in this country.” Esigie Aguele, co-founder and CEO at VerifyMe
Ory Okolloh – Kenya
In 2020, Ory announced on Twitter that she will be leaving Omidyar Network and Luminate Group in Africa after 7 years of service.
Ory was also at the forefront of developing technology innovation as a founding member of Ushahidi. The platform has been used in places like Gaza, Afghanistan, Haiti, and now Chile.
She serves on the Board of Directors of several organisations including the Thomson Reuters Founders Share Company, Twiga Foods, Amnesty International Africa and Endeavor Kenya among several other organisations. She is also an Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN) Fellow.
Ory runs #SundayReads on Twitter, where since 2011 she has been recommending articles that she has read that she feels is worthwhile to her followers. If you are someone looking to read a diversity of articles from an African female thought leader’s perspective, this is a person to follow.
In summary, this is not an exhaustive list of African opinion leaders, but it’s a start for who you should follow in the year. If you have someone or people that you are following that you find inspirational and would like others to follow, hit us up in the comments section or on our social media pages and we’ll possibly create another list.