With more access to opportunities, African entrepreneurs are finally getting the means to exploit their potential to the fullest. Yet, we should not look at these entrepreneurs strictly from this perspective.
Their achievements are remarkable regardless of their come from. Working to better your community should be a constant concern for all of us. These five remarkable entrepreneurs prove that if you truly want to leave your mark within your community nothing can stop you.
There are a lot of young entrepreneurs that have done some pretty remarkable things with limited resources and a lot of ingenuity and dedication. Their stories should be an inspiration to us all. Not just because they managed to succeed despite the daunting task ahead of them.
Cephas Nshimyumuremyi was a humble science teacher living in Rwanda, specialized in chemistry. At first glance, Nshimyumuremyi seemed to have nothing in common with the profile of a typical entrepreneur.
His country has suffered through a turbulent history. For a long time, it had been a Belgian colony. It gained its independence in 1962. From there on, its economy started picking up. Until 1994, when the Rwandan genocide occurred. This violent event, during which millions of people died, dealt a severe blow to the country’s economy.
Nshimyumuremyi was inspired by his people’s ability to make do with the resources they had at their disposal. Specifically, he noticed Rwandans using local plants and herbs to treat minor infections and injuries.
As he was trying to explain to his students how they could apply his chemistry lessons in the real world, he came up with an idea.
This idea went on to become Uburanga. The company, founded in 2013, produces gels and soaps using these local plants and herbs with medicinal properties. When he first started out, Nshimyumuremyi had the equivalent of $10 in his pocket.
Now, the company is worth $300.000 and has 12 employees. Nshimyumuremyi has high hopes for his company. He wants to create products that can deal with some of he more common skin afflictions in his country.
Uburanga found the perfect niche to fill. The plants used were already well-known by most Rwandans and readily available. Nshimyumuremyi created a series of products that were easier to use and store, and had a much wider reach.
Divine Ndhlukula is perhaps one of the most well-known African entrepreneurs. And for good reason. Not only is she brilliant at spotting business opportunities and making the most out of these opportunities. She managed to be a successful in a traditionally male-oriented field with a company specialized in a traditionally male occupation.
From a very early age, Ndhlukula knew that she wanted to become an entrepreneur and she did everything in her power to achieve that goal. Her first business ventures involved selling clothes to colleagues and renting out trucks for construction projects.
Unfortunately, she was forced to cease these endeavors when her brother fell on hard times. She focused on maintaining her brother’s farm during this period. She nearly lost her house as a result, but that did not deter her in any way.
Once the farm was secured, she returned to her own work. In 1998, she discovered the opportunity she was looking for. She noticed her native country of Zimbabwe could benefit from high-quality security services. She went on to found Securico, which has since become Zimbabwe’s largest security company. The company provides security detail, armored vehicles, and other security-related services.
In 2005, Securico opened a subsidiary company, CANINE Dog services, which provides clients with well-trained security dogs. Three years later, in 2008 Ndhlukula established an electronic security system company. This investment is even more impressive when you consider the fact that in 2008 the economic crisis was at its peak in Zimbabwe.
Like many countries, Kenya has a major problem with plastic waste. Despite the fact that in 2007 authorities banned the use of plastic bags, some 48 million are still being produced. The capital of Kenya, Nairobi produces around 3000 tons of waste a day. And nearly a quarter of this waste was plastic.
Often times, this waste was dumped illegally, affecting the environment. But where others saw an environmental problem, Lorna Rutto saw an opportunity. At first, she was just frustrated at the sight of this plastic waste. She would collect this litter and turn it into earrings. However, Rutto said that the point was not to make plastic jewelry but to find some ways of reusing and reducing plastic waste.
For a while, it seemed she was ready to set down on a comfortable, but unexciting career path. She graduated with a degree in commerce and accounting and worked in a bank.
But she still had a nagging concern. And she felt like her work didn’t satisfy her passion for the environment and science in general. She also felt the need to work more with people.
In 2010, Rutto decided to quit her job and founded EcoPost. The company has a relatively simple objective. They collect plastic waste and turn it into posts. This might seem like a minor contribution. But the company’s production has a major impact on the Kenyan environment. Only 2% of the country is covered with forests. Wood is a very precious commodity. These plastic posts are used to replace wood fences.
In 2007, Kenya banned cutting down trees. EcoPost provides a cheap alternative to wood posts for companies and businesses. Since the company was founded, they managed to rescue around 250 acres of forests and managed to remove nearly 1 million kilograms of plastic waste from the environment.
The company now handles 20 tons of plastic waste a month. The plastic is collected by just 15 people. Rutto is now looking for funding to expand her business, to meet the demands of plastic post buyers and process a larger amount of plastic waste.
In 2013, Abiasama Idaresit made it to the Forbes Magazine’s “Ten African Internet Millionaires to Watch.” But Idaresit had a long way to go before he achieved his success.
He was born in Calabar, Nigeria. After attending secondary school, he went on to study Information Systems and Technology at the London School of Economics. He then received an MBA from the Manchester Business School.
Idaresit returned to Nigeria, hoping to transform the business environment in his native country. Specifically, he wanted to help local companies increase their revenues with digital marketing strategies.
Idaresit founded Wild Fusions and began looking for clients. But Nigerian companies were reluctant to adopt these strategies, to say the least. Digital marketing was still a relatively new field, and Nigerian companies had never used digital marketing strategies before. Idaresit’s company had absolutely no revenue during the first eight months after it was founded.
Then, after nearly one year of unsuccessfully searching for customers, Wild Fusions finally got a break. They reached out to the Baby M company with a business proposal. Baby M was a company that catered to the needs of mothers and their babies. They used sales agents to attract new clients and barely managed to stay afloat.
Idaresit guaranteed Baby M would get back its investment if Wild Fusions did not provide them with the increase in revenue they promised. Baby M offered Idaresit N40.000, the equivalent of just USD250. In just three months, Baby M’s revenue went up from just USD1000 per month to nearly USD 100,000.
Needless to say, Wild Fusions was flooded with requests after this resounding success. Now, the company is worth USD 6 million and has several international clients including Unilever, Vodafone, and Planned Parenthood.
Rachel Sibande’s story should be an inspiration for us all, not just because she is one of the youngest entrepreneurs to open a successful business in Malawi. Sibande’s achievements are a testament to the need for encouraging women to join STEM-related fields. She is the founder of mHub, the first Malawi tech incubator.
Sibande had a passion for gadgets ever since she was a child. She loved opening old radios and studying how they were constructed. This passion never waned, and she went on to receive a BA in Computer Sciences, and later an MS in Information Theory, Coding, and Cryptography.
Following the completion of her studies, Sibande got a job as a programmer. But she wanted to do more for her community. She worked at several international tech agencies, including United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Flanders International Cooperation Agency (FICA). She successfully deployed a web to SMS service for the agricultural market in her native country. The service provides nearly 400,000 smallholders with updated info related to the agricultural market via SMS.
She was also the lead technology expert during the 2014 Malawi election, tasked with monitoring the process.
In 2013, Sibande founded the first Malawi tech hub, mHub. Their mission is to prepare a new generation of Malawi techies, create a community of tech savvy young people, and reach out to companies that need technology solutions for their businesses.
These African entrepreneurs should be an inspiration to anyone who has ever dreamed of doing something for their community. Their approaches and fields differ greatly, but what they all have in common is the desire to help. Each of them found ways to use their knowledge, expertise, and educational background to improve the world around them.
Guest Blog by Amanda Wilks
Amanda Wilks is a career expert who’s always been driven and motivated to help those around her succeed. She believes self-confidence and resilience are two of the most important ingredients when it comes to building a name for yourself and that any real success needs to withstand the test of time. She is now a proud contributor for BestJobDescriptions.com, an online platform offering detailed job descriptions, company profiles, and career advice to job-seekers.