by Toby Nwazor – Published in Entrepreneur
In almost any discussion of business leaders, a lack of diversity prevails. Ask someone to list 10 wildly successful entrepreneurs, and no doubt that person can do that — and quickly.
But, how many on that list will be women? How many will be people of color? How many, disabled? How many from emerging nations? And, specifically, how many will come from the entrepreneurial hotspot of Africa?
That’s the motivation behind the following profiles: In short . . . consider this an introduction to 10 top African Internet entrepreneurs who are leading the pack in 2017. From founders of million-dollar internet companies to celebrated social media superstars, these entrepreneurs walk the walk.
They’ve used the internet to build wildly thriving businesses and are impacting millions of lives across the African continent, inspiring many to pursue their dreams
Maybe you already know some of them, since they all use the Internet to do great stuff (and make good money). In any case, they deserve your attention, because these are the guys (and gals) I’m personally watching closely, and hoping to learn from over the next year. Perhaps you can, too.
1. Adii Pienaar (South Africa)
Adii Pienaar is a bit of a serial entrepreneur. Two of his best-known ventures are WooThemes and Conversio. Clearly, this man knows how to grow a business. WooThemes, which was initially a developer of WordPress themes, eventually gave birth to WooCommerce — one of the most widely used ecommerce platforms today.
His current venture is Receiptful, which began as a simple email tracker. Now, it has evolved into a full marketing dashboard for ecommerce businesses.
2. Abdullah Muhammed (Nigeria)
Abdullahi Muhammed is a writer and marketer and the founder of Oxygenmat, one of Nigeria’s most popular content-marketing companies. However, that accomplishment is only part of his successful record as an entrepreneur and business leader: He is a lawyer, a World Economic Forum agenda contributor and a respected thought leader in the business and global marketing community.
He is also frequent contributor to publications like Entrepreneur, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and USA TODAY.
3. Njeri Rionge (Kenya)
Njeri Rionge is widely regarded as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Africa. In her tenure as an entrepreneur, she has quickly built and grown several multi-million dollar companies. Her flagship business is Wananchi Group. The company began as an ISP and has expanded to become East Africa’s largest cable, phone and internet provider.
Ronge has a strong belief that Africa will become a powerful startup ecosystem. In fact, she is so dedicated to the success of African entrepreneurs that she once founded a startup incubator, based in Kenya.
4. Japheth Omojuwa (Nigeria)
Japheth Omojuwa (JJ) is an award-winning media personality, social media influencer and activist. He is the founder ofOmojuwa.com and a powerful leader when it comes to Nigerian socio-economic issues.
He has spoken at universities in the United States, Germany and Nigeria. You might have heard Omojuwa on a radio show or seen him on television.
5. Clarisse Iribagiza (Rwanda)
Clarisse Iribagiza is the CEO of HeHe labs, a leading mobile technology company. She has also formed Rwanda’s startup network, “The Hills,” and helped found Safe Boda — an innovative local startup that helps people connect with safe transportation options in Rwanda.
6. Gary Levitt (South Africa)
Gary Levitt has a diverse resume. This former pro skater began his career producing music for the Oprah show. He then took a winding and compelling road to success. This included leaving Oprah’s employ to become a busboy. He also created Mad Mimi, an email app that was later acquired by GoDaddy.
His most recent enterprise is Yala, a bot that can gauge the best time to post on social media feeds and conversations.
7. Rebecca Enonchong (Cameroon)
Rebecca Enonchong is the founder of AppsTech. This is a mobile solutions company that has evolved in an oracle solutions platform. However, Enonchong shouldn’t be defined by one enterprise alone. She is a strong participant in the growth of the African economy and sits on the board of several venture capital and angel investor companies in Cameroon.
8. Linda Ikeji (Nigeria)
Linda Ikeji is a former model and television personality. Yet, she is better known as the business leader behind Lindaikejisblog.com, the most visited online magazine in Nigeria. She has managed to successfully monetize that blog by attracting dozens of ads from big-name Nigerian brands.
While she has occasionally created controversy with her coverage and endorsements, she is someone whose influence is without question. She might even be considered the Kim Kardashian of African media.
9. Gareth Pon (South Africa)
Gareth Pon is an Instagram photographer-extraordinaire. He is also a filmmaker and boasts massive influence on social media, through his half-million followers. You might have seen his witty series of snaps, where he hides a rocket in each pic. Pon is living the influencer dream and travels extensively.
10. Xtian Dela (Kenya)
Arthur Mandela is the given name of Xtian Dela — one of the brightest and most popular media personalities in Kenya. Dela is a blogger and radio show host. Yet, apart from merely sharing fun staff, Dela tries to force change within the country. Since 2014, he’s been promoting the #BringBackOurKDFSolders initiative on Twitter, which has pressured the local government to bring Kenya Defence Forces back from Somalia.
Hopefully, these 10 African internet entrepreneurs will serve to influence others from their various homelands to form their own enterprises. Clearly, today’s Africa is as much a locale for the growth of business leaders as those longtime sources of America and Europe.