I believe the word entrepreneur should just loosely translate to fascinating, inspiring, larger-than-life beings. Intrinsic in practically every African mindset is a focus on our varied governments and the things that they may be doing wrong. This mindset leads to the creation of a vast number of uninspired, complacent people who even further slow down the development of any particular economy.
Standing out from the crowd however in every generation and country are people who defy the seeming odds, who rise above questions of social negligence and go on to provide answers and make a better life not only for themselves but a portion of the people that surround them. These type of persons are called entrepreneurs and we are grateful for them.
Below, we are going to share 10 inspiring Entrepreneur stories that we hope will get your back straight and have you running about looking for problems to solve and new markets to conquer.
Mark Essien is the C.E.O of Hotels.Ng a company that has set the pace for digital hotel booking in Nigeria. Recently raising $1.2 million dollars in funding from Echo VC and Omidyar Network, this young C.E.O is more than ever at the top of his game. After juggling night shifts taking care of a paralyzed man with learning programming prior to his University education, all in Germany, Mark Essien decided to come home and apply his wealth of knowledge to finding an appropriate market to dominate. With a dogged mindset already in place, he studied his environment and decided on hotel bookings. He subsequently built Hotel.ng from a simple listing of hotels to what it is currently. With business practices like making the first five bookings for any newly listed hotel free and prioritizing intelligence over experience in almost all hiring for the company, Mark Essien shows that when you have the right market, anything is indeed possible.
Herman Chinery-Hesse was born in Ireland, he studied in America and worked in Britain. Lucky for us however when he decided to start a software company, he decided on Africa. He attributes this decision to the availability of opportunities in Ghana as compared to America and a need for development in Africa, the mantle for which falls on any African entrepreneur much like himself. Moving to Ghana in the 1990’s with nothing but a laptop to his name, he wrote and sold programs with a friend and steadily moved up the ranks. His company SOFTribe is the leading software company in Ghana providing management systems to dozens of companies in the area.
Divine Ndhlukula after identifying a need in the market for a quality oriented security company, she founded African startup SECURICO. Motivated by a need to heighten the service delivery and quality of private security outfits and provide job opportunities for disadvantaged Zimbabwe women, she built a new type of security company. SECURICO provides services like employee vetting, uniformed armed security officers, armored vehicles for transportation of valuable items, electronic security systems and a host of others. Divine Ndhlukula should serve as a model to young African girls everywhere who even now dream of becoming an entrepreneur, it is achievable.
JASON CHUKWUMA NJOKU
Jason Njoku is the founder and C.E.O of Iroko Partners an African startup that is a media distribution company which in no small feat, challenged piracy by licensing 1,600 Nollywood movies directly from their production houses. After a number of initial failed startup attempts, the success of Iroko Tv is no small beacon of hope to any aspiring entrepreneur who has ever tasted defeat. Iroko Tv has become a favorite companion in almost every African household stretching its reach even to Africans in diaspora and uniting us under a common love for local productions. Jason Njoku could just be attributed with giving a new lease of life to African media and we’re thankful that he never gave up.
DR. VICTORIA KISYOMBE
Dr. Victoria Kisyombe, entrepreneur and founder of SELFINA an African startup company in Tanzania that focuses on micro-leasing to young girls and widows. Inspired and motivated by a personal tragedy when she lost her husband in 1991 and had to single-handedly raise three children with the varied social and economic challenges. SELFINA has gone on to empower 25,000 women with a total credit worth 25 billion Tanzanian shillings (approximately 16 million U.S dollars).
Uche Pedro is the founder of BellaNaija.com, a leading online media company that showcases an uncanny understanding of media trends by providing consistent quality content for Africans. BellaNaija.com has become the go-to lifestyle, fashion and entertainment portal in the continent. BellaNaija was founded in 2006 and began as a simple hobby. Uche Pedro is the entrepreneur to be, an encouragement to Africans to add flair and give our best even while furnishing our hobbies.
DR. OLA OREKUNRIN
Dr. Ola Orekunrin is a medical doctor, helicopter pilot and healthcare entrepreneur, founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria. Flying Doctors Nigeria is West Africa’s premier Air Ambulance service. With a dedication to carrying trauma care to the most remote parts of Western Africa she established the company following the tragic death of her younger sister who died whilst traveling in Nigeria because there was no medical air service available to transport her to a hospital. Dr. Ola Orekunrin’s effort, working past her grief to provide better odds in the future is a laudable one.
Julian Kyula, celebrated entrepreneur from Kenya is the CEO of technology company Mobile Decisioning. After an initial slew of failed attempts, first in the U.S, before relocating to Kenya, Julian Kyula has made a specific point of getting back up. MODE which was founded five years ago now has operations in 26 companies globally and is in the process of launching more. The company provides a wide array of micro-credit solutions, enabling users to access cash and airtime via mobile money and secure credit to settle utility bills which MODE pays directly to the utility provider on behalf of the subscriber.
Justin Stanford is the founder and CEO; 4Di Group/Co-founder Silicon Cape Initiative, South Africa. He dropped out of high school and set up an internet security company which failed, before he came across ESET, which is a Slovakian anti-virus software package, that he negotiated with its manufacturers for exclusive distribution rights in South Africa. This entrepreneur subsequently co-founded the Silicon Cape Initiative with Vinny Lingham, which is likewise an IT business NGO that assists individuals with ICT and startup entrepreneur ideas.
Lydia Hackizimana who is known fondly as the bookseller of Rwanda, returned home after the genocide and sought for a means to provide a different story and a kind of escapism for her people through books. She opened a second hand bookstore and began selling books to her people, soon enough, her entrepreneural instinct saw her building relationships with various publishing companies. Today this entrepreneur employs 45 people and has 30 part time distributors.