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There’s no money like young money. While African millionaires and billionaires like Onsi Sawiris, Raymond Ackerman, Aliko Dangote and Deinde Fernandez may have more money than most of us can ever dream of, there’s one thing they can never buy: Youth. Even money has its limits.
But there are a handful of young Africans in their 20s and 30s who have built businesses and amassed enviable million-dollar fortunes. Call them million-dollar babies. While some are corporate animals; others are empire builders- like Ladi Delano, the restless 30 year-old Nigerian entrepreneur who founded Solid XS, a hugely successful premium Vodka business in China when he was barely 23 years old. He subsequently flipped his vodka company for millions of dollars. Today, he is a co-founder and CEO of Bakrie Delano Africa, a $1 billion investment vehicle committed to making acquisitions in Nigeria’s mining, energy and agriculture sectors.
There are thousands of young and immensely successful entrepreneurs across the African continent. There’s a growing number of Africans aged 40 and under who are legitimately amassing multi-million dollar fortunes. They don’t inherit stuff; they build it themselves.
Here are ten you need to know:
Mark Shuttleworth, South African
Founder, Knife Capital
When Shuttleworth was 22, he founded Thawte, a digital certificate and internet security company which he sold to VeriSign for $575 million in 1999, when he was 26. Shuttleworth used a fraction of his proceeds to start HBD Capital (now called Knife Capital), a Cape Town-based emerging markets investment fund. HBD has made a series of successful exits including Fundamo, a mobile financial services company which was acquired byVisa for $110 million in 2011; and csense, which was acquired by GE Intelligent Platforms the same year. Shuttleworth also founded and funds Ubuntu, a computer operating system which he distributes as free open source software. Shuttleworth has a net worth north of $500 million.
Ashish Thakkar, Ugandan
Co-Founder and CEO, Mara Group
Thakkar, 29 is a co-founder and CEO of Mara Group – a Ugandan conglomerate with tentacles in financial services, hotels, renewable energy, technology and manufacturing. Annual revenues are approximately $100 million and the group has an active presence in 16 countries on four continents. Devoted philanthropist: Through his Mara Foundation, Thakkar provides mentorship and seed funding to young East African entrepreneurs. Also funds Next Generation Schools, an independent charity focused on improving education quality in disadvantaged secondary schools in Uganda. The Mara Group recently signed a $300 million deal with the Tanzanian government to develop a 3.5 million square foot state of the art mini-city.
Ladi Delano, Nigerian
Founder and CEO, Bakrie Delano Africa
The jet-setting Nigerian serial entrepreneur made his first millions as a liquor entrepreneur while living in China. In 2004, at age 22, he founded Solidarnosc Asia, a Chinese alcoholic beverage company that made Solid XS, a premium brand of vodka. Solid XS went on to achieve over 50% market share in China and was distributed across over 30 cities in China, and pulled in $20 million in annual revenue. Delano subsequently sold the company to a rival liquor company for over $15 million and ploughed his funds into his next venture-The Delano Reid Group, a real estate investment holding company focused on mainland China. Today, Delano is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bakrie Delano Africa (BDA) – a $1 billion joint venture with the $15 billion (market cap) Bakrie Group of Indonesia. Bakrie Delano Africa serves as the investment partner of the Bakrie Group in Nigeria. The Indonesian conglomerate has provided over $900 million worth of funds to invest in Nigeria and Bakrie Delano Africa is responsible for identifying investment opportunities in mining, agriculture and oil & gas and executing them.
Justin Stanford, South African
Founder & CEO, 4Di Group
South African-born Stanford is a software entrepreneur and venture capitalist. After dropping out off high school, Stanford set out to launch an internet security company which flopped. When he came across ESET, a Slovakian anti-virus software package, he negotiated with its manufacturers and cornered the exclusive, lucrative Southern African distribution for the product. Today, Stanford’s ESET Southern Africa operates the ESET brand in the region and sells ESET’s range of internet security products in about 20 sub-Saharan countries, leveraging on an extremely successful internet business platform and digital distribution model for online software sales and service. Today, Stanford’s ESET brand records over $10 million in annual turnover and controls 5% of the anti-virus market in Southern Africa. Stanford is also the founding partner of 4Di Capital, a Cape Town-based venture capital fund. Stanford is also a co-founder of theSilicon Cape Initiative, a non-profit movement that aims to turn the Cape into Africa’s own Silicon Valley.
Magatte Wade, Senegalese
In 2004 Magatte Wade founded Adina World Beat Beverages, a San Franciscobeverage company that manufactures coffee, tea and fruit juices using traditional beverage recipes across Africa and organic ingredients sourced from smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia. Within five years of launching, Adina raised over $30 million in venture capital from institutional investors and the products began being sold by Whole Foods and United Natural Foods. Magatte stepped down from her position as CEO to grow her second company,Tiossan, a manufacturer of luxury skin care products based on indigenous Senegalese recipes.
Mike Macharia, Kenyan
Founder & CEO, Seven Seas Technologies
When he was 25, Macharia, a Kenyan national, founded Seven Seas Technology, now easily East Africa’s most reputable IT services firm. The $50 million (annual sales) company is a leading provider of integrated business and technology solutions across Africa in the telecom, financial, Real Estate, service industry and government. Seven Seas is gearing up to get listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange next year.
Vinny Lingham, South African
Founder, Yola Inc
Lingham, a South African national, is the founder ofYola Inc, a San Francisco-based Web 2.0 outfit that provides free website building, publishing and hosting services to over 3 million active users across the globe. Yola has attracted over $30 million in venture capital financing from institutional investors such as Columbus Venture Capital, a subsidiary of South African billionaire Johann Rupert’s Richemont Group. Prior to Yola, Lingham founded Click2Customers, a hugely successful search engine marketing company with offices in London, Cape Town, and Los Angeles. Click2Customers rakes in about $100 million in annual revenues. Lingham is a co-founder of the Silicon Cape Initiative along with fellow South African entrepreneur Justin Stanford.
Kamal Budhabatti, Kenyan
CEO, Craft Silicon
Kamal is the founder and CEO of Craft Silicon, a $50 million (market value) Kenyan software company which provides software in core banking, microfinance, mobile, switch solutions and electronic payments for over 200 institutional clients in 40 countries spread across four continents.
Yolanda Cuba, South African
Executive Director, South African Breweries
One of just two women to make it to this list. When Yolanda Cuba was 29 she was appointed CEO of Mvelaphanda Holdings, a Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed investment holding company. She was awarded stock options worth over $10 millionwhich she exercised before stepping down as CEO last year. She subsequently took up a job as an Executive Director at South African Breweries. Cuba still serves on the boards of South African blue chips such as Steinhoff International Holdings and Absa Group.
Jason Njoku, Nigerian
Founder & CEO Iroko TV
The maverick Nigerian Internet entrepreneur is founder of Iroko TV, the world’s largest digital distributor of African movies. Iroko TV has been dubbed the ‘Netflix of Africa’. Earlier this year, Iroko TV raised $8 million in venture capital from Tiger Global Management, a New York-based private equity and hedge fund run by billionaire Chase Coleman. IrokoTV enjoys lucrative content distribution deals with Dailymotion, iTunes, Amazon and Vimeo. Njoku is unwilling to divulge figures, but analysts believe IrokoTV could be worth as much as $30 million. Njoku is the company’s largest individual shareholder.
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Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Yolanda Cuba is not the only woman on the list, but one of two women. The other woman is Magatte Wade of Senegal.
By Mfonobong Nsehe, Contributor
L’Oreal, the world’s leading cosmetic company has acquired the healthand beauty division ofInterconsumer Products, one ofKenya’s largest manufacturers of personal care and beauty products. The dealwas closed on Friday April 12 and was announced only today by Wang’ombe Kariuki, the Director General ofKenya’s Competition Authority. Meanwhile, the Kenyan founder of Interconsumer Products, Kenyan businessman Paul Kinuthia, is expected to earn tens of millions of dollars from the acquisition.
The entire details of the deal still remain sketchy, but according to a transaction adviser on the deal who spoke to Business Daily, Kenya’s largest business newspaper, the transaction is worth billions of shillings. The shilling currently trades at Ksh 84.5 to the dollar, so a deal in the multi-billion shilling bracket would be worth at the very least, Ksh 3billion ($35.3 million).
“We closed the deal on Friday at 11am and all I can a say for now is that the transaction is worth billions of shillings. All the details will be made public on Monday (today) and it’s a great Kenyan story for a man who started the business in Kariobangi and has now joined the billionaires’ club,” said the advisers in the transaction who asked for anonymity because L’ Oreal is yet to clear the acquisition with regulators in France and London where it is listed.
According to the terms of the deal, L’Oreal would acquire only the health and beauty business of Interconsumer Products from Paul Kinuthia. Kinuthia will still continue to own and run the non-health and beauty businesses of the group like the diapers and sanitary division.
Interconsumer Products is a Kenyan persona care and beauty products company, which manufactures everything from baby lotions to powder, Shampoos, Hair gels, body and facial creams and relaxers. The company was founded in 1995 as a sole proprietorship by Paul Kinuthia, a relatively unknown Kenyan businessman.
Kinuthia has a remarkable story. In 1995, he started off manufacturing shampoos and conditioners from a makeshift apartment in Nairobi with start-up capital of Ksh 3,000 ($40). He made these products manually using plastic drums and a huge mixing stick and heating oils, delivering his products by handcart to local salons and hairdressers. In the beginning, commercial banks refused to fund his venture while mainstream salons, beauty parlours and large retail outlets refused to stock his product because it was too native.
As the demand for his products grew, Kinuthia moved the business into bigger premises in downtown Nairobi and expanded his product range to include hair gels and pomades. While the bigger, sophisticated salons and supermarkets snubbed his products, they were very popular with street side local hairdressers because of their availability and significantly lower prices in comparison to the products on the shelves of the big retail outlets. As the products became more popular with local hairdressers, Kinuthia ploughed back his profits into moving into an even bigger place, financing growth, increasing his production capacity and extending his product range. In 1996, he incorporated a limited liability company and went on to produce body lotions and hair treatments. The new company set up better operational strategies, laying emphasis on quality and improving its packaging. By the late 90s, the company’s products were commercially available across Kenya’s mainstream retail and wholesale chains and were already commanding a sizable market share. By 2001, the company was already exporting its products to neighbouring Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.
As revenues shot through the roof, Kinuthia and his team continued to innovate, diversifying their product range to include diapers, soaps and baby jelly. It is now East Africa’s dominant manufacturer of personal care and beauty products and owns some of Kenya’s most revered brands like Nice & Lovely, Queen Elizabeth, Clarion and Bouncy. In Kenya, Interconsumer Brands is rivalled only by Tiger Haco Industries, a leading manufacturer of body lotions, hair products, ballpoint pens and food products.
In 2011, L’Oreal opened up a regional office in Nairobi to get a slice of the country’s burgeoning low-end cosmetic market. Analysts believe the French cosmetics giant has faced stiff competition from local players like Interconsumer Products and that it had targeted Interconsumer for a takeover since 2011.
Speaking on the deal, Patricia Ithau, L’Oreal East Africa’s managing director said to Kenya’s Business Daily: “A big opportunity presented itself and we cannot ignore it. There is a developed personal care market here that we are looking to further tap into. We have been in the market mainly through traders and a structured distribution network had been lacking.”
The writer put a call through to Interconsumer to speak to Paul Kinuthia. He was not available.
Martin Luther King III is the eldest son of Mrs Coretta Scott King and the great African-American civil rights icon, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Like his father, Luther King III is a human rights campaigner and community activist. The 55-year-old is currently involved in global humanitarian work and was in Liverpool in October to participate in the annual Slavery Remembrance Day where he gave a rousing speech.
Mercy Eze interviewed him.
A: Well, I have been living my life promoting the message of non-violence. While continuing to play my part in building on the good causes my father started, I never pretend or see myself as a replacement of him. My task has always been to further the work of my father and my mother in services to humanity. I do that through public speaking, teaching, and spreading the message of non-violence; and making the necessary efforts towards communicating the message of peace and unity all over the world. I believe that the more people understand this message, the more they embrace it.
Q: You appear to differ from the views of the leaders of the African Diaspora who are agitating for reparations for slavery. Why?
A: I don’t think that reparations are the ultimate way to go about it. Instead, I think there are a lot of things we have to take time to actually document properly in order to know what reparations are all about, and what necessarily should be the actual context. One form of pursuing reparations will be by cancelling all the huge debts of the African countries from where the slaves came from in the first place. Debt cancellation will also be another road to rebuilding the damage or making up for the damage that had been made. That may not cover everything in totality, but it will be a beginning of the start, and a way of reducing the gap.
Q: Nearly 45 years after your father’s tragic exit, the widely held view is that much of his dream is not fulfilled; for instance, the questions about citizenship, housing, healthcare, etc. What do you say?
A: I certainly do not believe that all my father’s dreams have been fulfilled. Yes, half of them have been fulfilled, but we still fight to eradicate racism and poverty. And we have to work along this line every day. However, I strongly believe we will make it. We will surely overcome it all. One of the most important things is for us to unite against using prejudice to oppress the people.
Q: In recent decades, many African-Americans have been eager to trace their roots back to Africa. But the core issue is that most of them do not even know where they came from, coupled with the lack of an existing “reintegration package” that facilitates their full settlement. What can the Luther King Foundation do in this regard?
A: At the moment, I don’t have a direct answer to that. Actually what I believe should happen is dialogue. As long as we have dialogue, people will be open and will engage in a peaceful process towards a solution. It is not an easy thing. There are many people who cannot understand where they came from. We are on a mission of creating a link for the black communities in the USA to strongly connect with the mother continent.
Tell me about the dinner party at which the writer James Baldwin and the cartoonist Jules Feiffer first encouraged you to write your first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Well, I don’t know if it was a dinner party! Martin Luther King had been killed, on my birthday, and I had been planning a birthday party. I had planned to join him after my birthday. [His death] shocked me so that I stopped eating, I refused to answer the phone. Finally James Baldwin came to my apartment door and he made noises, and said he wouldn’t leave until the police came. He was cursing and shouting “Open this door! Open this door!” I finally opened the door and he came in. He said, “Go and have a bath. I’ll wait and I’ll have some clothes for you.” He went to my closet and got clothes, and he said, “I’m taking you someplace.” Now I had no idea where he was taking me, but he had a car outside the driveway. We went to another house, a brownstone not too far from where I lived. When we got into the house he introduced me to Jules Feiffer and Jules’ wife at the time, Judy, and their daughter. Jules said, “You need to laugh, and you need to have somebody watch you laugh and laugh with you.” In that sparkling company, I did come out of myself. I was impressed, of course, with Mr. Feiffer, and with their friendship. Jimmy [Baldwin] and Judy and Jules all acted as if they had grown up together. Very respectful and responsive friends to each other. That pleased me, because Jimmy was a brother to me, and these famous white people were so kind and good.
You’ve led an astonishingly diverse life in terms of careers, from musician and songwriter to dancer and pimp. Is there any occupation you’ve never tried but always been curious to?
No, everything that’s crossed my mind I’ve tried a little bit.
I’ve read of some eccentric writing habits of yours, involving hotel roomswithout pictures on the walls, sherry, and headgear. How did you first come upon that cocktail for writing success, and has the routine evolved over your career?
And headgear! Ha! It was head ties, not headgear! Well, I was married a few times, and one of my husbands was jealous of me writing. When I write, I tend to twist my hair. Something for my small mind to do, I guess. When my husband would come into the room, he’d accuse me, and say, “You’ve been writing!” As if it was a bad thing. He could tell because of my hair, so I learned to hide my hair with a turban of some sort. I do still keep a hotel room in my hometown, and pay for it by the month. I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible.
Which edition of the Bible?
Uh—that’s a good question, it’s slipped my mind. Name a famous edition.
The King James?
That’s the one!
Anything else in the hotel room?
Usually a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles. Something to occupy my little mind. I think my grandmother taught me that. She didn’t mean to, but she used to talk about her “little mind.” So when I was young, from the time I was about 3 until 13, I decided that there was a Big Mind and a Little Mind. And the Big Mind would allow you to consider deep thoughts, but the Little Mind would occupy you, so you could not be distracted. It would work crossword puzzles or play Solitaire, while the Big Mind would delve deep into the subjects I wanted to write about. So I keep the room. I have all the paintings and any decoration taken out of the room. I ask the management and house-keeping not to enter the room, just in case I’ve thrown a piece of paper on the floor, I don’t want it discarded. About every two months I get a note slipped under the door: “Dear Ms. Angelou, please let us change the linen. We think it may be moldy!” But I’ve never slept there, I’m usually out of there by 2. And then I go home and I read what I’ve written that morning, and I try to edit then. Clean it up. And that’s how I write books!
Do you still drink sherry when you write?
Not so much anymore. I stopped about two years ago.
How do you approach the distinction between straight autobiography and autobiographical fiction?
Well, I don’t think there’s such a thing as autobiographical fiction. If I say it happened, it happened, even if only in my mind. I promised myself that I would write as well as I can, tell the truth, not to tell everything I know, but to make sure that everything I tell is true, as I understand it. And to use the eloquence which my language affords me. English is a beautiful language, don’t you think? I speak a number of languages, but none are more beautiful to me than English.
What is your second-favorite language, of those you speak?
I would say Spanish, because I speak it best, I guess. I used to think French, but when I’m doing a live promotion in France, and I look for a word, like “tablecloth,” if it does not come out right away, it will snap out of my mouth in Spanish.
You have said that nothing frightens you as much as writing, but nothing satisfies you as much either. What frightens you about it?
Will I write a sentence that will just float off the page? Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it’s right, it’s easy. It’s the other way round, too. If it’s slovenly written, then it’s hard to read. It doesn’t give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.
You are a renowned public speaker. The art of rhetoric, once a standard part of one’s education, is no longer taught. What makes for a great public speaker and public speech?
It’s the same thing that makes for a good singer. The speaker must have a good ear, and a love for the language. Love and respect. And must be convinced that what she has to say is important. And don’t stay on the stage too long.
Who was the best public speaker you’ve ever heard? Since you were friends with Dr. Martin Luther King, I think I can guess the answer…
Dr. King. I don’t know who could stand up to that.
You’ve written everything from poetry to your own line of Hallmark cards. I’m not sure how many great writers could also be as concise and universal as to write good Hallmark card greetings. What was the process like for you?
That’s interesting. When Hallmark publicized the fact that I would be writing for them, someone in the Times asked the poet laureate of the time, What do you think about Maya Angelou writing for Hallmark? He said, I’m sorry that Ms. Angelou has reduced her art to writing mottos for greeting cards. That day I read that in the paper, and that afternoon I was in a bookstore in Miami called Books on Books. It’s a wonderful store, you’d love it—jam-packed with books. You’d want to live there. I walked down an aisle and came face to face with a woman who reminded me of me: my height, my age. But she was white. She says, You look just like Maya Angelou! And I said, I am! And the woman steadied herself on a bookshelf and the tears came down. She said to me, Ms. Angelou, I’ve been estranged from my daughter for five years. But this past Christmas she sent me a card which said “Mother love heals.” And she cried. I joined her. She said, My daughter and I are going to be re-established. She said, I take that card to my bed at night, I put it on the nightstand. In the morning I take it to the kitchen when I make coffee. I keep that card. My daughter and I are together again. I thank you.
That’s beautiful, wow.
It was wonderful, wonderful! [Writing the cards] was challenging. I would write down a paragraph that expressed what I wanted to say, and then try to reduce it to two sentences.
That’s tough self-editing.
[Laughs] Any one of those cards I’d send you. I loved it. I didn’t do it long, but I loved it.
What is your favorite item of clothing?
I guess my Uggs.
What is guaranteed to make you laugh?
When another person laughs at herself sincerely. I never laugh when someone is laughing at someone else.
What is guaranteed to make you cry?
A lonely child.
Do you have any superstitions?
If I did, I wouldn’t tell!
What is something you always carry with you?
I’m a child of God. I carry that with me.
What would you like carved onto your tombstone?
[Laughs] “I did my best, I hope you do the same.”
Dr. Angelou, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.
Oh, I’m so glad you called. You have a beautiful name, by the way…
This interview has been edited and condensed.