Africa means serious business and the past decade has seen a huge number of mega-corporations emerge from the continent. However, a vast number of these African businesses are run by foreigners. For example, SABMiller which is the world’s second largest beverages maker is led by CEO Graham Mackay who happens to be an American. The head of AngloGold Ashanti (AU), the world’s largest gold producer is Mark Cutifani, an Australian national. Safaricom, East Africa’s largest telecoms provider, is run by Bob Collymore who is a Guyanese.

However, a new league of African businessmen are emerging. They are bold and fearlessly ambitious, building pan-African companies with regional and even global presences. They are influencers and change-makers. Their voices are never ignored within Africa’s business and political circles, and through their resolutions and actions, they shape the economic future of the continent. Here are the 20 most powerful men in African business according to Forbes

1. Marius Kloppers

Nationality: South African

Job: C.E.O BHP Billiton

The world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton (BBL) has ridden the crest of the biggest commodities boom in recent times. The company is set to announce a pre-tax profit of $30 billion in June, the largest  in recent British corporate history. Kloppers spearheaded it all. His biggest problem: How to spend the money. Possible solutions: Massive share buy-back, strategic acquisitions, or increased dividend payout to shareholders.

Kloppers earned his MBA at INSEAD; worked at Sasol (SSL), Mintek and McKinsey & Co before joining Billiton in 1993. He became C.E.O in 2007.

2. Jacko Maree

Nationality: South African

Job: C.E.O, Standard Bank Group

The former Rhodes Scholar sits at the helm of affairs at Standard Bank Group, Africa’s largest financial services conglomerate. The $26 billion (market cap) group operates in 33 countries (17 are in Africa). He led the bank through its aggressive global expansion, making key acquisitions in Turkey, Russia, Argentina and Jersey.

Maree currently serves as chairman of The Banking Association (S.A.) and is a former director of the International Monetary Conference.

3. Patrick Davies

Nationality: South African

Job: CEO, Sasol

Patrick Davies is CEO of Sasol (SSL), Africa’s largest energy company, headquartered in South Africa. The $34 billion (market cap) company is the continent’s leader in the commercial production and marketing of chemicals and liquid fuels. It is rapidly expanding into oil and gas exploration.

Davies is credited with driving the internationalization of Sasol’s gas-to-liquids technology. He has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Natal, South Africa.

See Also: Top 10 African Business Ideas That Could Make You Very Rich

4. Nicky Oppenheimer

Nationality: South African

Job: Chairman, De Beers Group

Oppenheimer, an Oxford grad and South Africa’s richest man, chairs De Beers Group, the world’s largest diamond producer, as well as its subsidiary, The Diamond Trading Company. He sold nearly 8% of his stake in AngloAmerican, the mining giant founded by his grandfather Ernest Oppenheimer in 1917. Now owns 2%. The passionate environmental conservationist owns the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, the largest private game reserve in South Africa. Avid cricketer.

5. Sifiso Dabengwa

Nationality: Zimbabwe

Job: CEO, MTN Group

Big job ahead: Sifiso Dabengwa was recently appointed the Group Chief Executive of MTN, Africa’s largest telecommunications firm. The company boasts 118 million subscribers in 21 countries. He has held several strategic managerial posts in the company, at one point manning the company’s Nigerian operations, its most profitable market. Prior to joining MTN, Dabengwa worked at South African electricity generator Eskom. The trained electrical engineer has an MBA from the University of Witwatersrand.

6. Cyril Ramaphosa

Nationality: South African

Job: Chairman, Shanduka Group, MTN

One of South Africa’s most respected business and political figures. In 2007, he was named by Time Magazine as one of the world’s most influential people. A renowned boardroom guru, he chairs the board of telecoms giant MTN and serves on the board of Standard Chartered Bank. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of Shanduka Group, a pioneering Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Investment Holding company with substantial interests in energy, financial services, natural resources and property. Recently acquired the South African operations of American fast food giant, McDonald’s (MCD).

See Also: Top 10 Angel Investors in African Businesses

7. Aliko Dangote

Nationality: Nigerian

Job: President, Dangote Group

The former commodities trader is now a  billionaire who heads the Dangote Group, a conglomerate with interests in sugar, flour and cement. Dangote Group is Africa’s largest cement manufacturer, as well as a major financier of Nigeria’s major political party -People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

8. Koos Bekker

Nationality: South African

Job: CEO, Naspers (since 1997)

South African media mogul is CEO of Naspers, Africa’s largest media conglomerate; also its biggest individual shareholder. The $12 billion (market capitalization) company owns stake in pay-TV giant DSTV; Russian Internet company Mail.ru; Brazilian publisher Abril and Chinese Internet service provider Tencent. He was also a founding director of MTN and served on the local organizing committee for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. Also serves on the council of Stellenbosch University, his alma mater.

9. Abdeslam Ahizoune

Nationality: Moroccan

Job: Chairman & CEO, Maroc Telecom

The Moroccan is the chief executive of Maroc Telecoms, one of the continent’s largest telecommunication companies (owned by French media giant Vivendi). Prior to the appointment, he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Medi1Sat, the Moroccan television channel now called Medi 1 TV. Ahizoune holds an engineering degree from Telecom ParisTech (1977) and was appointed the chairman of the Moroccan Association of Telecom Professionals (MATI) in 2008. He also serves as the President of the Royal Moroccan Athletic Federation.

10. Onsi Sawiris

Nationality: Egyptian

Job: founder, Orascom Group

Legendary patriarch of Egypt’s most powerful business dynasty. The Orascom Group which he founded has interests in telecoms, hotels and construction. The companies are all run by his three sons – Naguib, Samih and Nassef; all billionaires like Onsi.

See Also: 10 Richest People in South Africa

11. Naguib Sawiris

Nationality: Egyptian

Job: CEO, Orascom Telecom Holding

Call him the ‘Peacemaker’. After being a vocal critic of Mubarak regime, the Egyptian telecoms billionaire and eldest son of Onsi Sawiris offered to act as mediators between the government and the opposition in implementing political reforms after Hosni Mubarak stepped down. Naguib heads Orascom Telecom Holding, which owns massive stakes mobile service operators across the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Europe and Canada.

12. Patrice Motsepe

Nationality: South African

Job: Chairman, African Rainbow Minerals

South Africa’s first black billionaire is Executive Chairman at African Rainbow Minerals Limited (ARM), a leading diversified mining and minerals company, based in Johannesburg. He is also the non-executive Chairman of Harmony and the Deputy Chairman of listed financial services firm, Sanlam. Motsepe who is an ardent soccer fan owns South-Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club.

13. Wale Tinubu

Nationality: Nigerian

Job: C.E.O Oando

Tinubu is a trained lawyer who bought up Unipetrol, a floundering government-owned petroleum marketing company; transformed into Oando, Nigeria’s largest indigenous integrated energy services provider; active in various West African countries. Oando was the first Nigerian company to achieve a cross-listing on the Nigerian and Johannesburg stock exchanges and is looking to create Africa’s first oil major. Tinubu is an alumnus of the London School of Economics and serves as co-chair of the World Economic Forum in Africa.

14. Naushad Merali


Job: Chairman, Sameer Group

The reclusive Indian-Kenyan is one of East Africa’s most revered businessmen and dealmakers. He heads the Sameer Group – a $2 billion privately held conglomerate with interests in construction, engineering, energy, finance, transportation and software. Also chairs Bharti Airtel’s operations in Kenya. He has close links with the country’s former president, Mwai Kibaki.

15. Strive Masiyiwa

Nationality: Zimbabwe

Job: Chairman, Econet Group

The Zimbabwean telecoms visionary founded Econet Wireless, one of the pioneering providers of mobile phone services in Africa. Now seeking expansion outside Africa, the company owns a 3G license in New Zealand. He also serves on the Board of Trustees at the Rockefeller foundation.

See Also: 10 Wealthiest Men in Africa

16. Reginald Mengi

Nationality: Tanzania

Job: Chairman, IPP Group

Mengi is one of Africa’s most powerful media barons. Started out as an accountant; made first millions manufacturing ballpoint pens and selling them to big retailers. Today, he heads IPP Group, a diversified media conglomerate active in East Africa whose assets include 9 newspapers, 2 television stations and 3 radio stations. He also owns a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Dar-es Salaam.

17. James Mwangi

Nationality: Kenyan

Job: CEO, Equity Bank

Charismatic Kenyan banker turned around a moribund microfinance company into East Africa’s largest financial services provider. Equity bank now serves millions of customers all over East Africa. He remains largest individual shareholder and represents Africa in the presidency of the Global Economic Network. He also serves as an advisor to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) on commercialization of microfinance in Africa. He is as well, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

18. Sam Jonah

Nationality: Ghanaian

Job: Executive Chairman, Jonah Capital

The former president of AngloGold Ashanti was instrumental in transforming the mining company into a multinational corporation; increased gold production from 240,000 ounces per annum to over 1.6 million ounces in ten years. Also spearheaded company’s listing as the first African company on the New York Stock Exchange. Currently serves as CEO of Jonah Capital, a South African based investment holding company. Jonah, a prominent boardroom guru seats on the board of several companies including Transnet, ArcelorMittal SA (MT), and the Standard Bank Group.

19. Chris Kirubi

Nationality: Kenya

Designation: Chairman, Haco Tiger Industries

One of the most vocal advocates for trade and economic reforms in East-Africa, Chris Kirubi founded privately-held Haco Tiger Industries, the region’s largest manufacturer of household consumer goods. Other assets include Kenya’s landmark International House building; largest shareholding in Centum, a Nairobi Stock Exchange-listed investment firm with interests in everything from insurance to Coca-Cola bottling plants, telecoms and energy. He is an INSEAD alumnus.

20. Donald Kaberuka

Nationality: Rwandan

Job: President, African Development Bank

The Rwandese economist is the current President of the African Development Bank. The 78 country-member financial institution provides loans and grants to African governments and private companies operating within the regional member countries in Africa. ADB commits at least $3 billion to African governments annually. Kaberuka has a PhD in economics from Glasgow University, Scotland.

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