African Entrepreneurs You Should Know

I spent the last few days at the World Economic Forum Africa in Dar-es-Salaam. The larger plenary sessions mainly comprised of platitudes and a restating of the challenges facing Africa – I think the format just doesn’t allow for anything else. The smaller sessions I managed to attend were interesting, as in past WEF conferences I’ve attended, people tended to speak openly (with a few exceptions) about their experiences either in business, government, or social entrepreneurship…I and I learned new things especially when I attended sessions that didn’t automatically jive with my interests or passions. As always, the best part of the conference are the random conversations had in corridors, on the buffet line, while waiting for the shuttle, etc. One thing that struck me this year (and last) were all the young entrepreneurial Africans who’d managed to circumvent the perennial challenges we complain about when it comes to doing business in Africa, who’d managed to build strong, profitable, businesses , and who the had ambition to scale even further heights. And this are not just businesses that make money but that touch on critical sectors for the future of Africa – media/information; technology; infrastructure; agriculture.

The kind of stuff that makes you want to run back to your hotel room and start putting a business plan together instead of tweeting in my case :-)

Anyway, I thought I’d share the profiles of some of these entrepreneurs with you…always important to keep telling the success stories, no?

First is Erik Charas (@erikcharas), he is the president of @Verdade (the truth), which is Mozambique’s biggest circulation newspaper. @Verdade reaches more than 400 000 people in Mozambique and is the country’s first high-quality, free newspaper. Charas is also the founder and CEO of Charas LDA, an investment company that invests in Mozambican entrepreneurs. Erik runs a profitable *free* newspaper. How so, one wonders? Well, to hear him tell it a few days ago (and I’m sure I’m butchering the story), after realizing that most of Mozambique’s population can’t afford to spend money on a daily newspaper, he decided to offer if free to people who could not afford to buy one (his paper is literally hand-distributed), everyone else is told to go online. Because of the exclusivity of the paper as it were, advertisers scramble to get their ads in, and he also has other revenue channels through the integration of mobile and social media. Perhaps he should be advising American newspapers on alternative media models?

Next is Michael Macharia founder of Seven Seas Technology a software solutions provider. The company’s revenue in 2008 stood at $15 million. What’s always struck me about SST is the deliberate strategy to go regional – something Kenyan companies only do tentatively or when they “are big.” Mike’s goal is to go public in 2011.

Demonstrating that finding your niche and capitalizing on local knowledge is key is, Kola Karim, CEO of Shoreline Group. Doing big thing in infrastructure in Nigeria and West Africa.

Finally, it was great to reconnect with Eleni – last time I saw her was at TED Arusha (we both marveled at how monumental that conference was still). What was just an idea then – the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange – is now a reality and helping shape agricultural markets in Ethiopia.

We build…

24 comments to African Entrepreneurs You Should Know

  • I love Charas’ model, and I think there is fantastic potential for other countries to adopt it. How does he decide who gets the free hard copy? Does he only distribute in the poorer areas?

  • Hi Ory

    I saw your presentation and you mentioned Kiswahili speakers. I am Kenyan based in New York City. I have a kiswahili forum and do know swahili speakers be it here in the US or Kenya or Tanzania.

    Oh continue the good work. I posted your link on facebook and people loved it. My online names is Chifu wa Malindi.

    Cheers,
    Chifu

  • Shishi

    Wrong. wrong. wrong. Michael Macharia hardly exemplifies what an African entrepreneur has “managed to circumvent the perennial challenges we complain about when it comes to doing business in Africa”.

    What Michael has is access to power and money which other budding entrepreneurs can only dream about. Seven Seas Technology is backed by Tran-Century and we all know the that this is a club for the select few in Kenya. Did you ask him which of the Trans-Century guys is his father or uncle perhaps?

  • OfficialRenMan

    @Shishi which one of them is his father/uncle? I know Gachui is the Chairman of Seven Seas, but as an entrepreneur one of the major stumbling blocks is capital. I think Aureos and TC were the lead investors in Seven Seas, based on information on the firm’s website. He had a good idea, sourced it to some investors and Seven Seas is growing. What’s wrong with that?

  • You’ll want to add a retweet button for your blog. I just tweeted this post, although I had to do it manually. Only my $.02 :)

  • Ory

    I hope the day will come when Ushahidi will not only be used to monitor elections, but conduct a parallel sampling big enough to project out come before paper ballots are completely counted so that corruption is minimized and knowledge rules!

    All the best in your new job,

    Ahmed “the elephant”

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  • Very good blog. It shows the challenges faced in Africa.

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  • I like business model of Charas. It is good to encourage entrepreneurs all the time. Informative article
    !

  • I love the business model of Charas and it is good to encourage entrepreneurs all the time.

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  • [...] from: Kenyan Pundit: African Entrepreneurs You Should Know AKPC_IDS += "8505,";Popularity: unranked [?] Share Kenyan Blogs ethiopian, exclusivity, [...]

  • [...] Ory writes about African entrepreneurs: “Anyway, I thought I’d share the profiles of some of these entrepreneurs with you…always important to keep telling the success stories, no? First is Erik Charas (@erikcharas), he is the president of @Verdade (the truth), which is Mozambique’s biggest circulation newspaper. @Verdade reaches more than 400 000 people in Mozambique and is the country’s first high-quality, free newspaper.” [...]

  • [...] Ory Okolloh is a respectable voice on behalf of Kenyan we 2.0.  She is a prominent blogger, at Kenyan Pundit, and  a very popular Twitter User. She also helped create Ushahidi, a useful services created from [...]

  • [...] of the challenges facing Africa – I think the format just doesn’t allow for anything… [full post] Ory Okolloh Kenyan Pundit africa 0 0 0 0 0 [...]

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