YPIA’s 2014 Top 35 Africans Under 35

Editor’s note: In a partnership with Young People in International Affairs we are pleased to share this list with our readers.

In early 2014, Young People in International Affairs (YPIA) put out a worldwide call for nominations to find Africans under 35 years of age making an impact “in their respective countries, on the continent and in the wider world.” To qualify, they needed to have met the following conditions: Under the age of 35 at the time of call for applications; A citizen of an African country; Excelling in their respective field and area of expertise; Making a substantial impact on critical African issues and international affairs; Recognized among colleagues and the broader community as a leader/future leader (and); Values ethics and human rights.


Madalitso Phiri, 31, Malawi – Madalitso is a PhD Candidate in International Politics at the University of South Africa in the DST/NRF Research Chair in Social Policy housed at the Archie Mafeje Research Institute (AMRI). He was previously a Researcher at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in Cape Town, South Africa, where he completed a two year research tenure. He has been published in journals such as the South African International Affairs and Urban Forum, as well as contributed a book chapter in the recently published Africa and the Responsibility to Protect: Article 4(h) of the African Union Constitutive Act.

In July 2012 Phiri’s work on South Africa and Brazil’s comparative political economy was awarded the internationally recognized Stein Rokkan Award for academic excellence at the 22nd International Political Science Association (IPSA) Congress, Madrid, Spain. He was also awarded the Young African Scholars Programme (YASP) by the World Bank to present a paper on Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Inequality in South Africa at the 17th International Economic Association (IEA) World Congress in Amman, Jordan, June 2014. He was also awarded the Next Generation of Social Science in Africa Fellowship (2014-2015) by the US (New York) based Social Science Research Council (SSRC). University of Oxford’s St. Anthony’s College awarded him a scholarship to attend a Summer School in International Politics in August 2014.

Landry Signé, 31, Cameroon – Dr. Signé is an exceptional and multiple international award-winning expert, social entrepreneur, and advocate for good governance and economic development who is bringing transformational changes in Africa. He is a Fellow and Lecturer at the world-leading Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, directing a research project on the evolution of 48 Sub-Saharan African economies, democracies and governance, explaining successful trajectories to help African leaders implement accountable and growth-friendly policies. He is the Founder and CEO of the Global Network for Africa’s Prosperity (GNAP), the first technological social innovation developed to foster Africa’s prosperity, integrate the continent into the globalized world and build a stronger future for all Africans by engaging civil society, academic, political, business, media and international actors.

GNAP is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization with more than 3000 organizations from 54 countries contributing to advance the cause of hundreds of millions.He has won 22 awards and distinctions including the 2012 Outstanding Visionary Leadership Award in recognition of his pioneering role in promoting entrepreneurial opportunities, accountable governance, and economic development for Africa; 2012 Jury’s Favorite Award for Vision and Inspiration for advancing democratic values and community leadership; Award for the Best International PhD Dissertation; 2011 Banting Award for the best and brightest researchers in the world.


Ashish J. Thakkar, 32, Uganda – Mr. Thakkar is the founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation. The company focuses on multi-sector investment and operates in nearly 20 countries around Africa. He notes that an important aspect of the group is to have a positive social impact for the country and its people where they are operating. The group is also solely focused on pan-African growth with a “game changing” attitude towards business and investment. Some notable projects involve Africa’s largest IT services company, Africa’s best glass manufacturer, and East and west Africa’s largest corrugated packaging manufacturer. Recently, he has partnered with former Barclays executive, Bob Diamond, to initiate a project called Atlas Mara Co-Nvest which is aimed at pursuing the prospects of the African banking industry and looking for opportunities to grow the sector throughout the continent.

Christian Ngan, 30, Cameroon – With experience at French investment bank Quilvest Group, and also being a former associate at Findercord, Christian went back to Cameroon to put his skills to use in Africa. In 2012 he started Madlyn Cazalis which is an African hand-made bio cosmetic company that produces body oils, natural lotions, creams, scrubs, masks, and soaps. With clients in over 30 chemist stores, beauty institutes and retail shops throughout the country, it has also begun to venture further into Central Africa. Christian is also the founder of a small financial advisory firm called GoldskyPartners.

Senai Wolderafuel, 27, Ethiopia – The young Ethiopian is the founder of Feed Green Ethiopia Exports Company that focuses on producing and exporting Ethiopian spice blends such as Shiro, Mitmita, Korarima and Berbere. The company was started in 2012 with a primary aim to serve the needs of the Ethiopian diaspora in the US and Europe. As the company grew greater focus was also given to exporting to other African markets. One key thing which defines the company from many others is the fact that it employs only women in the production and exporting process.

Issam Chleuh, 27, Mali – A former Ernst & Young Senior Associate, Issam is now the founder of the Africa Impact Group. The organisation focuses on directing investment to socially and environmentally beneficial projects; more commonly terms Impact Investing. Some services which the company provides include data and research, news, advisory services, and start-up incubation.

Patrick Ngowi, 29, Tanzania – The Tanzanian is the founder of the Helvenic Group, one of the few and pioneering companies that focuses on the supply, installation and maintenance of solar systems in Tanzania. In 2013 the company reported over US$5 million in revenues while KPMG East Africa recently valuated the company at a substantial US$15 million. More recently the company has begun expanding in the South African region with an aim to also take the company to Tanzania’s capital markets.

Sangu Delle, 27, Ghana – With work experience in global heavyweights Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Valiant Capital, the young Ghanaian stood well poised to take on the world of financing. At present, Delle is the co-founder of Golden Palm Investments, a holding company that seeks to invest in infant venture and growth financing across Africa. The company is primarily focused on real estate, healthcare, agribusiness and technology. Some notable startups which the company has supported include Solo Mobile in Nigeria, mPharma in Ghana and Zamsolar in Zambia. Alongside his success with Golden Palm, Delle is also the co-founder of cleancwa, an NPO which focuses on providing access to clean water in underdeveloped regions throughout Ghana.

Julie Alexander Fourie, 26, South Africa – Julie is the founder of iFix. The company focuses on repairs and services of all Apple products and Samsung Smartphones. Since starting the business in 2006 out of his dorm room at Stellenbosch University, Julie now employs 40 people across branches in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, and services over 4,000 clients each month.


Tebogo Ditshego, 29, South Africa – This young South African is the founder of Ditshego Media which is a PR firm that specialises in Media Relations, Investor Relations, Reputation Management and Corporate Communications. Amongst other things Tebogo is also the Chairman of the South African Reading Foundation.

Uche Pedro, 29, Nigeria – Uche is the founder of BellaNaija. The company focuses on new media that develops online media content for Africa (primarily Nigerian) audiences. BellaNaija.com is one of the top premier lifestyle, entertainment and fashion websites in Nigeria, and attracts an average 10 million views per month.

Isaac Oboth, 24, Uganda – The young Ugandan is the founder and CEO of Media 256, a film and television production company in East Africa. The media house began operation in 2011 and has since then attracted big names such as Coca Cola, USAID, the African Leadership Academy, Marie Stopes International, and the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange. At present it employs 7 full-time videographers and editors. Among his many accolades Isaac is also the recipient of a pan-African award that celebrates innovative and young African entrepreneurs, the Anzisha Prize Fellow.

Zaheer Cassim, 29, South Africa – A Colombia University Journalism graduate who returned home to South Africa, Zaheer is the founder of One Way Up Productions. The company focuses on television production with some substantial clients including Ogilvy South Africa, Hollard Insurance, the African leadership Academy and Hackett.

Mike Muthiga, 26, Kenya – Mike is the founder of Fatboy Animation, a 2 and 3 dimensional animation company for both film and commercial use. A number of animated commercials which have had substantial exposure have garnered the company Kenyan blue chip like brands including Safaricom, Telkom Orange, Barclays Bank and Jamii Telecommunications.


Babatunde Fagbayibo, 33, Nigeria – Dr. Babatunde is an ardent scholar of supra-national integration in the African context that presently holds the position of Senior Lecturer at the University of South Africa. His research output has made an important contribution to issues related to Africa’s political integration in the present day where emphasis on Africa’s development solutions is being sought through notions of regional integration. Dr. Babatunde’s contributions in this regard have served to increase knowledge in this strategic area, that has the potential to capacitate efforts aimed at the consolidation of regional integration on the African continent at large. Dr. Babatunde has a scholarly blog that expresses his ideas of regional integration in Africa as well as other pertinent issues that concern Africa’s socio-political and economic development. Lastly, not only has Dr. Babatunde written extensively about regional integration issues, he is a regular writer of poems with a variety of themes about Africa. These poems have appeared on the online website: www.kalaharireview.com.

Marcel van der Watt, 34, South Africa – Marcel has over 10 years of experience in the field of law enforcement, criminal justice research and training. He specialises in counter-human trafficking and facilitates grass roots interventions on national level. Throughout his career he has amassed numerous awards including from the National Police Commissioner, Rotary International, ADT Security, as well as being nominated as a finalist in the 2008 Police Star of the Year competition. For all his contributions in the field of counter-human trafficking he has also received an endorsement from Harvard Kennedy School fellow and “A Crime So Monsterous” author, E. Benjamin Skinner. Marcel presently holds the position of Lecturer and Researcher at the University of South Africa. In late 2011 he also began volunteering as the National Freedom Network case manager in South Africa and used his knowledge and expertise in statistical modelling to identify patterns in reported cases of crime at grassroots level. In 2013, this initiative of the NFN (titled Tshireletso) became registeres as a community engagement project with UNISA and allocated over R560,000 in budget with an additional R490,000 for 2014 requested.

Science and Technology

Tandokazi Nquma, 27, South Africa – Tando started a unique foundation for Young People in the National System of Innovation (NSI) called SAYSTIF, that focuses on young people who need training and coaching on their ideas, products, and businesses. The foundation gives a voice to a community of young innovators, especially in rural areas, and experts who believe in taking risks, changing mind-sets for innovation, and the value of shared ideas and professional mentorship. She is already mentoring a number of Science learners and students from disadvantaged and more advantaged areas, while also giving motivational talks and workshops around South Africa on Education, Innovation and Commercialisation of Technologies from youth to large companies. Some notable SAYSTIF objectives include changing youth mindsets towards innovation; assisting with support for idea development; promoting entrepreneurship; and executing young ideas.

Bankole Cardoso, 25, Nigeria – With work experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Carlyle Group, the young Nigerian was well positioned to take off into the global business world. With this experience Bankole founded the Nigerian operations of EasyTaxi, a mobile app service which began in Brazil in 2012 by German technology startup, Rocket Internet GmBH. The EasyTaxi app serves to make the connection between cab drivers and possible passengers. By using the application passengers are able to confirm their pickup point and the n be able to call a cab through their mobile phone. The application then sends the passenger confirmation with the name and phone number of the driver while also allowing passengers to track their driver and the vehicle in real-time.

Seth Akumani, 30, Ghana – Seth is the co-founder of ClaimSync, a claims processing software which allows various sectors of healthcare such as hospitals, clinics and other facilities throughout the globe, to make patient’s medical records automated and to give them the ability to process them electronically. By using the software healthcare providers are able to easily prepare medical claims and send them to health insurance companies electronically. In 2013 the company was the only African representative at a high-profile Accelerator program sponsored by IBM, Novartis, and GSK. The company was recently incorporated into GenKey, a Dutch-based biometrics company.

Adii Pienaar, 28, South Africa – Adii is the founder of Woothemes. The company focuses on building and designing customisable commercial themes and plugins for WordPress. The company also develops and sells themes for various content management systems including global blog media network Tumblr. Apart from being involved in Woothemes, Adii also runs PublicBeta, a service which allows those that have become successful entrepreneurs to share their knowledge to new startups.

Kaled Shady, 22, Egypt – Kaled is the founder of Mubser, a new and innovative tool which is aimed at assisting the blind. The tool was officially launched in early 2014 and comes in the form of a wearable belt that has a Bluetooth-connected headset. The device leverages RGB imaging and infrared dept data which is captured by a 3D depth camera. Once the images are fed back into the device it allows blind and visually impaired people to move around in a safe way as it recognises objects and obstacles such as stairs and chairs.

Ashley Uys, 30, South Africa – Ashley is the founder of Medical Diagnostech. The company develops and markets well priced and reliable medical test kits for various diseases such as malaria, pregnancy, syphilis, and HIV/AIDS for the rural poor in South Africa. South African Breweries commended her work by making her the recipient of the Annual Social Innovation Award worth US$100,000.

Ronak Shah, 26, Kenya – The young Asian-Kenyan is the founder of Kronex Chemical Ltd. The company is a fast growing manufacturer of low-cost household cleaning products. Since its inception in 2013 the company has pushed out 2 products to the Kenyan market – a dishwashing liquid and a multi-purpose detergent. Both products are starting to gain major popularity among the Kenyan lower-middle class due to their competitiveness and lower cost.

Community and Development

Nde Ndifonka, 33, Cameroon – Currently Nde is Africa Media Manager for the ONE Campaign, and is working on the continent’s largest ever campaign to promote agriculture and rebrand it among youths as a trendy means of job creation. Nde was named by American magazine, Ladybrille as ‘Man of the Month’ in May 2010, for the use of music in spreading social awareness among African youths. He is a social activist, writer, tv producer and musician, who has worked with organizations such as UNHCR, Save the Children, International Organization for Migration, and now the ONE Campaign in fighting social ills such as human trafficking, xenophobia and poverty across the continent.

He has also stirred an entertainment revolution in his home country Cameroon, by leading previously underrated Anglophone artists to take over the entertainment scene in the francophone economic capital Douala. In 2013, he introduced Number One Girl, Cameroon’s first original reality TV show, and the first Anglophone show to broadcast on Canal 2, the biggest (and markedly francophone) television station in Cameroon. He initiated and organized South Africa’s first Human Trafficking Awareness Week, an annual event that was named ‘Best Global Practice’ in combatting human trafficking, by the US State Department. His first book, ‘The Chosen One’ was used to teach Grade 11 English in public schools in South Africa.

Lebogang Maruapula, 29, Botswana – Lebogang is Co-Founder of The GODDESS Foundation which began in 2011 with a focus on the empowerment of girls through mentorship and activities that promote dialogue and shed light on their struggles. She is a Global Shaper, an initiative of the World Economic Forum which selects young people who show leadership potential and are committed to making positive socio-economic impacts in their community. Lebogang is also a Regional Ambassador of ‘Girl Rising’ which is an international movement that brings awareness of equal opportunities for girls. She is also a United Nations Online Volunteer and a Social Media coordinator for the Grace Foundation, Nigeria under UN Volunteers. Contributing to that she is UNICEF Pacific’s Youth Media Activist. Lebogang believes that youth should be actively involved in bringing about positive change through focusing on International Development issues as well as International Affairs. She is currently and MA student of International Policy and Diplomacy and intends to specialize in Public Policy in her further studies.

Erasmus Mweene, 26, Zambia – Erasmus has been named a global shaper by the World Economic Forum, engaging youth in social and economic issues ranging from development and sustainability to HIV/AIDS. He is a passionate activist for the disease, being a part of the Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS; attending a number of forums in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Greece and the USA to name a few. He is also a founding director of Youth Activism for Change, a social platform implemented in Zambia bringing together other youth fighting to spark social change. He has recently returned from Dakar, Senegal where he attended the UN Pan African Leadership Summit. He is also the current Regional President of the Kairos Society.

Refilwe Ledwaba, 35, South Africa – A BSc graduate from the University of Cape Town in microbiology and engineering, Refilwe is now an avid pilot and has founded the Southern African Women in Aviation and Aerospace (SAWIA) non-profit organisation. The organisation is a platform for information, education and networking opportunities for females, as well as providing financing support to aspiring aviators in South Africa. She won the entrepreneurship category at the inaugural South African Youth Awards and walked away with R50,000 in prize money.

Continuing to do Great Work

Jonathan Liebmann, 29, South Africa – Jonathan is the Managing Director of Propertuity, a Real Estate development company. One of the major achievements of the company is the construction of the cultural district of Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg’s CBD. Previously a run-down and dangerous neighbourhood the development which took place changed it into a vibrant urban mixed-use community which includes art galleries, artist studios, retail space and offices.

Nick Kaoma, 28, South Africa – Nick has become synonymous with Daymond John due to his success and popularity amongst South Africans. He is the creative director and founder of Head Honcho Clothing, a well known SA lifestyle brand which designs, manufacturers and markets streetwear and other clothing apparel. Among their products are t-shirts, caps, cardigans, varsity jackets, hoodies, tank tops and female dresses.

Kunmi Otitoju, 30, Nigeria – The 30 year old has been hailed as a fashion entrepreneur in Nigeria and is also the founder of Minku Design, a company which produces leather bags for men and men. The design blends Aso-oke fabric which is a hand loomed cloth made by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, into contemporary leather bag designs. The company is also diversifying into leather purses and jewellery made of the same material. While the majority of the products are made in Barcelona, Spain, they are sold on the Nigerian market through high-end stores and on the company’s website.

Lorna Rutto, 28, Kenya – In 2010 Lorna founded Ecopost, a Kenya company that collects plastic waste products including polypropylene and polyethylene. The products are then converted into more durable and long-lasting environmentally friendly plastic lumber. This is a great econ-friendly alternative to timber which is primarily used to manufacture fencing posts.

Ambitious people to look out for

Anna Lefathse Moagi, 29, South Africa – Anna is an academic at the University of South Africa and takes great interest in democracy and election observation, as well as the promotion of gender equality in South Africa. She has strong ability to contribute to national debates and continental discussions on democracy, equality and elections. She has shown strong signs of contributing to the field of Political Science in a meaningful way as well as grow the field of academia.

Mweshi Ng’andu, 23, Zambia – Mweshi is passionate about social change and empowering young women, she is constantly working towards making herself a better person and encouraging others to do great for themselves. She was recently named ambassador to Zambia of Love167 Africa, and plans on reaching out to young females who have survived the effects of abuse and violence in order to help them move forward and maximize their full potential.She is a vibrant young woman, who always has something positive to contribute to any teamwork she gets involved in. Because of this she has been involved in a student society at her university that saw her spear heading many events and initiatives aimed at helping the community around them.

Mazen Helmy, 27, Egypt – Mazen is the founder of The District in 2011. The company focuses on providing co-working spaces in Egypt and is one of the few that does this in the region. The inspiring workplace which they provide covers a total area of nearly 1000 square metres and is aimed at providing a working environment for entrepreneurs and freelancers.

Joel Mwale, 21, Kenya – Joel was a recipient of the YPIA Top 35 Under 35 award back in 2012 for his company SkyDrop Enterprises, a rainwater filtration and bottling company that produced low-cost purified drinking water, milk and other dairy products in Kenya. Since then Joel sold a 60% stake in the company for $500,000 in order to found Gigavia, an educational social networking website.

Source: http://www.internationalpolicydigest.org/2014/10/28/ypia-s-2014-top-35-africans-35/