According to UN statistics, Africa has the youngest population in the world. Almost 200 million people living on the continent are aged between 15 and 24. It’s no wonder, then, that there’s an expanding culture of young entrepreneurs contributing to both the social and economic development of the continent. Here’s a list of some of the most exciting emerging African social entrepreneurs at present:
Ugandan entrepreneur Andrew Mupuya displayed a knack for entrepreneurship at an early age. Back in 2008, when Uganda’s government proposed a ban on plastic bags in order to curb pollution, Mupuya (then 16-years-old) saw an opportunity. He started producing environmentally friendly paper bags to meet the demand that the impending ban would bring while also doing his bit to save the environment. Mupuya raised his business’ starting capital by collecting plastic bags and selling them to a local recycling plant. His venture has since paid dividends. In 2010, he registered Youth Entrepreneurial Investments (YELI) – Uganda’s first registered paper bag and envelope production company – and employs 19 people.
Where many see discarded plastic bags as refuse, South African entrepreneur Thato Kgatlhanyse sees them as building blocks for social change. Kgatlhanye is the co-founder of Rethaka; a social enterprise that produces durable schoolbags from plastic bags. That’s not even the best part. Each bag is fitted with a solar panel that can be used as a light come night-time to ensure that schoolkids always have their homework up to date. It’s an idea that has since won Thato a number of accolades – she came second in last year’s Anzisha Prize while grabbing top honours at last year’s Inventors Garage competition during the Innovation Summit. She also recently gave a talk at TEDxDonauinsel in Austria and, along with Rethaka cofounder Rea Ngwane, is a finalist at this year’s Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.
Kenyan social entrepreneur Joel Mwale is a serial social innovator. After contracting a water-borne disease in his teens, Mwale had a desire to fulfil his community’s need for clean drinking water. So, at just 16 years of age, he founded SkyDrop Enterprises – a business which produced affordable, purified drinking water for his community of Kitale, Kenya. Three years later, he sold 60% of the company to international investors for over $500 000. But that hasn’t stopped his entrepreneurial adventures. The award-winning entrepreneur has since founded Gigavia – an online learning platform for university students. The platform works as a social media platform that allows students to share learning material among each other while also connecting them with mentors.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Benedicte Mundele is the founder of Surprise Tropicale – a catering company that serves organic food made from local produce. Founded when she was 16, the company initially began as a canteen that served breakfast to a local youth development centre and has since grown into a fully-fledged business. Mundele’s motivations for starting the company are simple enough: using local produce makes her food more affordable while growing it organically promotes healthy living. For her efforts, Mundele was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers last year.
In 2012, while visiting a hospital in rural Cameroon, Alain Nteff was shaken by the number of maternal and infant deaths he witnessed. To combat this, he developed GiftedMom – a mobile app that provides healthcare advice to pregnant women in rural communities. The SMS-based service also provides alerts that recommend when to vaccinate new-borns. The result? GiftedMom currently boasts over 2000 members and the idea won Nteff top honours at last year’s Anzisha Prize award ceremony and this year he held the distinction of being the youngest participant at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. If his and the above-mentioned social entrepreneurs are anything to go by, the kids of Africa are doing just fine.