7 African Entrepreneurs Breaking Barriers and Changing Lives

From starting major businesses to setting up nonprofits, these young role models are influencing their continent in a positive way.

Arthur Zang, inventor of Cardiopad and founder of Himore Medical Equipments. (Photo: Courtesy One.org)

Oct 28, 2015· 3 MIN READ
Joy Elliott is digital coordinator at One.org. She's a proud feminist and digital geek based in Brighton, England.

An entrepreneurial boom is taking place in Africa—a steadily rising number of young businesspeople are building successful and fast-growing companies in the fields of engineering, technology, health, and education.

Not only are these savvy innovators blazing the trail and shaping the continent’s business future, but they’re also helping to solve critical socioeconomic issues. Here are seven African entrepreneurs using their industry knowledge for positive change.

1. Arthur Zang, 27, Cameroon
Founder and CEO, Himore Medical Equipments
Inventor, Cardiopad

Arthur Zang invented Africa’s first medical tablet, the Cardiopad. This touch-screen device allows health care workers in rural areas to perform heart exams such as electrocardiograms and electronically send results to specialists in urban centers. With this quick and wireless way of getting information to doctors, patients from rural areas do not have to travel far every time they need an exam, as it can be stressful, expensive, and time-consuming.

Zhang’s company, Himore Medical Equipments, hopes to also produce medical devices such as ultrasound equipment for rural communities.

2. Alain Nteff, 22, Cameroon
Founder, Gifted Mom

As a 20-year-old engineering student, Alain Nteff was alarmed after witnessing the preventable deaths of mothers and newborns while visiting his medic friend, Conrad Tankou, in rural Cameroon. Together, they came up with Gifted Mom, an SMS service that provides expectant and new mothers with health and well-being advice. Today, the service has more than 3,400 subscribers and has led to a 20 percent increase in antenatal attendance in 21 rural communities.

3. Raindolf Owusu, 24, Ghana
Founder, Oasis Websoft

Raindolf Owusu was dubbed the Mark Zuckerberg of Accra by Forbes Africa in November 2012. He runs Oasis Websoft, which developed the Anansi Web browser—Africa’s first. His most recent projects include Anansipedia, an education platform that allows less privileged students to share educational resources, and Bisa, a mobile application that provides individuals with health information and access to doctors.

His company is focused on helping West Africa compete with the rest of the world from a technology perspective.

Owusu discusses his projects with Let’s Talk Tech in the following video.

4. Ellen Chilemba, 21, Malawi
Founder, Tiwale

Ellen Chilemba’s goal is to help women in Malawi facing low primary school completion rates, low socioeconomic status, higher-than-average rates of HIV and AIDS, and high rates of maternal mortality. At 17, she started a social enterprise that uplifts women through business education, microloans, and school grants. Tiwale trains women and helps find them jobs that suit their skills, giving them opportunities to support themselves.

Chilemba is one of five winners of the Future Forward: Youth Innovations for Employment in Africa award.

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5. Ola Orekunrin, 29, Nigeria
Medical Doctor
Founder, Flying Doctors Nigeria Ltd.

Ola Orekunrin is the founder and managing director of Flying Doctors Nigeria Ltd., an air ambulance service based in Lagos.

Tragedy led Orekunrin to set up the company after her sister, who suffered sickle cell anemia, became ill at the age of 12 while visiting relatives in Nigeria. The nearest hospital could not deal with the condition, and there was no way to transport the girl to a place for treatment, resulting in her death.

Orekunrin’s company is the first air ambulance service in West Africa to provide urgent helicopter, airplane, and evacuation services.

Watch Orekunrin’s TED Talk in the video below.

6. Best Ayiorworth, 23, Uganda
Founder, Girl Power Micro-Lending Organisation

When Best Ayiorworth had to cut her high school education short because her family could not afford to pay her tuition, she was devastated. Driven by this unfair circumstance, she went on to start an award-winning micro-credit business at the age of 19, to help hundreds of women and young girls in Uganda finish their education and become financially independent.

In Uganda, if families are struggling financially and have to choose which child to put through school, the majority will keep their daughters at home while their sons complete their education. Girl Power Micro-Lending Organisation allows mothers to take out loans to start a small business, and in return they must ensure their daughters attend school.

In 2013, Ayiorworth won the Anzisha Prize, Africa’s premier award for young entrepreneurs.

7. Sangu Delle, 28, Ghana
Cofounder, Golden Palm Investments

Sangu Delle is the cofounder of Golden Palm Investments, a holding company that invests in high-level start-ups across Africa. The company focuses on real estate, health care, agriculture, and technology. Delle argues that traditional aid and micro-finance platforms have good intentions but haven’t largely worked in Africa. He believes in investing in pan-African entrepreneurial giants—focusing on world-class companies with the ability to employ hundreds.

Delle is also the cofounder of CleanAcwa, a nonprofit that provides clean water in Ghana’s underdeveloped regions. He has worked at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Valiant Capital Partners and is an MBA candidate at Harvard.

In the video below, he discusses how young entrepreneurs are shaping Africa.

A version of this article previously appeared on One.org.