What is influence and how do you measure it? It will always be hard to agree on a common understanding and meaning of influence. Understandably, this always generates wide debate.
How do we determine these people’s influence? And why does it matter that we assemble this list, you may ask. One yardstick we used was to emphasise that influence is not about popularity and popularity is not always influential. The influencer’s impact on public, social and political discourse, however, is what largely helps us determine their influence. They contributed in redefining the African narrative in 2013 and we feel they will play a big role in 2014 – hopefully, for Africa’s good.
Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwe
Surprisingly this is the first time Masiyiwa has been included on our list. One of Africa’s elite business leaders and one of the continent’s most successful entrepreneurs – thanks to his multi-billion-dollar telecoms company, Econet Wireless – he is also known for his integrity, campaigning to stamp out corruption in Africa, which has given him a seat on a number of boards of international institutions. Masiyiwa is one of the business stars of the moment and he was invited last year by President Obama to speak on solutions to African hunger at the G8 summit. He is worth an estimated $285 million, much of which goes towards his philanthropic projects.
Aliko Dangote, Nigeria
Aliko Dangote, Africa’s top billionaire for three years running, according to Forbes, continues to push the boundaries and break records with his astronomical wealth. As impressive is his continuous drive to achieve more and to continue to grow his business. He is reportedly almost $5 billion richer than he was in 2012, with his worth standing at an estimated $16 billion, although his mission seems to have moved on from pure wealth acquisition to truly transforming the industrial scene of his country. With a career spanning three decades, Dangote is reaping the rewards of his hard work. And he is unashamedly close to the powers that be. The Nigerian businessman has investments and companies in 14 countries of Africa, which include Dangote Cement, Dangote Sugar and the National Salt Company of Nigeria. His business philosophy is based on a belief in entering markets that have critical need and maintaining a fiscal discipline that will allow for re-investment. Dangote inherited his entrepreneurial skills from his grandfather, who gave him his first loan at a very young age. He describes his grandfather as the man who mentored him to become the successful businessman he is today. This year Dangote has embarked on an ambitious oil refinery project worth $8 billion. You won’t see Africa’s foremost industrialist retiring any time soon.
Othman Benjelloun, Morocco
Othman Benjelloun is one of Morocco’s most respected and liked businessmen. He took over his father’s insurance business in 1988 and diversified it into banking, aviation, information technology and other sectors. At the ripe age of 81, Benjelloun is still very much a man on top of his game. In March 2013 Forbes named him the 7th richest man in Africa, with a net worth of just over $3 billion. Benjelloun was one of the few who pioneered and believed in the African dream long before it became fashionable, and his bank BMCE is expanding rapidly across West and East Africa, with a large stake in Bank of Africa. Passionate about developing Africa, he has embarked on a number of philanthropic ventures that focus on education in his homeland of Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa. Benjelloun, who incidently was the first recipient of our sister magazine African Banker’s Lifetime Achievement Award, is a voice of wisdom well worth heeding.
Johann Rupert, South Africa
After 25 years at the helm of the billion-dollar luxury conglomerate, Richemont, Johann Rupert announced in 2013 that he has taken a break from the business. For 12 months he will hand over the company to senior veterans and will be taking pleasure in having his time free of control from other people and events. Johann Rupert is the eldest son of South African tycoon Anton Rupert. The company controls brands that include watchmakers IWC, Vacheron Constantin SA, Piaget and Montblanc. Despite his so-called sabbatical, his wealth continues to grow becoming South Africa’s richest man. He is among the top ten most influential men in the world of luxury, an industry which continues to confound any global slowdown.
Tidjane Thiam, Côte d’Ivoire
The Ivorian Tidjane Thiam was the first black person to lead an FTSE 100 listed company. This diehard Arsenal fan was appointed CEO of insurance giant Prudential in 2009. Despite leading one of the world’s largest insurance firms, which has seen considerable growth under his helm, he remains vocal about the struggles he continues to go through to earn the respect of his peers. Thiam was also Minister of Planning & Development in Côte d’Ivoire at the tender age of 35. Last year, Thiam was appointed to the UK Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group, and he is a member of the European Financial Round Table (EFR). He also sits on the board of a number of African initiatives such as Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel.
Elon Musk, South Africa
Though as one of the co-founders of Paypal he is no newcomer to the scene, this is the year Elon Musk has been catapulted to stardom, as the creator of the must-have next generation car in Hollywood, the Tesla. As Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer of SpaceX and CEO and Chief Product Architect of Tesla Motors he has achieved billionaire status. Today he is worth around $7 billion. Although for Musk, it’s not really about the money. He may be one of the leading global businessmen, really he is one of his generation’s innovators. Musk is also the largest shareholder in SolarCity, a company that supplies solar energy to the US. Musk’s philanthropic work includes a multi-million-dollar programme, through his Musk Foundation, to donate solar-power systems for those in critical need in the aftermath of disaster. Though he is a naturalised American, Elon Musk’s roots are still in South Africa, where he was raised until the age of 17. Though he has been described as a real-life Tony Stark, the Marvel Comics fictional character who doubles up as Iron Man, there is nothing fictional about Musk’s success.
Iqbal Survé, South Africa
Campaigner for freedom, medical doctor and entrepreneur: this is the unique composition of Dr Iqbal Survé’s achievements. He is the founder of the Sekunjalo Group in South Africa, which earlier this year purchased Independent News & Media South Africa. Having grown up in an environment of poverty that did not support the progression of non-white South Africans, Survé has dedicated his work and life to fostering business ideas that will not only serve the bottom line of the investor, but will also create opportunities for the improvement of working-class lives. Survé is one of the most influential players in South African business circles, as well as someone who is both well-respected and liked within the business community. A family man, Survé was known in his early days for his activism, and today, he is also chair of the University of Cape Town.
Mark Shuttleworth, South Africa
Shuttleworth is the closest Africa has to a Silicon valley whizzkid. Having made his fortune when he sold his internet certification company to VeriSign in 1999, Shuttleworth has continued to innovate and try his hand at different projects. Shuttleworth gained fame in 2002 when he made his self-funded trip into space aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, taking the first trip by an African into space. Earlier this year, he managed to raise the largest sum ever on a crowd funding platform (over $12m) although not the target he had set ($32m) for his Ubuntu Edge smartphone.Recently, Shuttleworth has bought an island off São Tomé & Príncipe, where he has plans to develop an eco resort. Shuttleworth remains one of Africa’s foremost innovators.
Jim Ovia, Nigeria
African entrepreneurs and business leaders are learning that staying power means diversifying your portfolio. After Jim Ovia was required to step down as head of the bank he founded, Zenith, he focused on building his other businesses, while still keeping a close eye on Zenith as its largest shareholder. He now concentrates on developing Visafone, a telecom company, and Quantum, a private equity fund focused on Africa. Zenith Bank is the second-largest retail banking institution in West Africa. Ovia is known as the godfather of African banking and his wealth stands at an estimated $825 million. Quieter than some of his peers, his business acumen and no-nonsense style are still feared and respected alike.
Mostafa Terrab, Morocco
The name Mostafa Terrab brings to mind a humble man whose commitment to adding value to Morocco has become more famous than his equally commendable work for OCP, which extracts, markets and sells phosphates and is a stalwart of the Moroccan economy. The environmentally aware and astute business leader has used his depth and skill to diversify the group’s activities. More than just a CEO, Terrab is a visionary. He is a strong proponent of South-South co-operation between Africa and India, which he executes through a number of forums. He is also an Americophile, and an Anglo-Saxon style of doing business prevails in his management. Despite some medical troubles earlier this year, he is firmly back in the driving seat and is currently pushing through his pet project to launch Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, which is intended as a world-class institution of higher learning to be built in the new Mohammed VI Green City in Benguerir, 50 miles north of Marrakech.
Tutu Agyare, Ghana
Tutu Agyare is the straight-talking Ghanaian who “baptised” the floor of the London Stock Exchange by being the first African to trade on it in his early 20s. He later pursued a successful career at UBS investment bank for two decades, where he became head of Europe, Middle East and African investment. In 2007 he set up Nubuke Investments, a company solely focused on African investment opportunities. Today, he is a much sought-after business leader and investor, and one of a handful of Africans who sit on the board of a FTSE 100 company. He is known for confronting critics of the African investment trajectory and challenges them to “wake up and smell the coffee” and realise that the rest of the world is making a beeline for Africa. Having experienced the best of the South and the West, Agyare uses his experience to navigate his way through what he describes as a rich environment for opportunity.
Wided Bouchamaoui, Tunisia
Bouchamaoui is one of Tunisia’s leading entrepreneurs and businesswomen. Having already received several awards for her business acumen, Bouchamaoui is the head of UTICA, the main confederation of Tunisian Industry and business leaders. During the recent period of political and economical turmoil in Tunisia, this is an achievement in its own right. However Bouchamaoui’s influence is much more than this. She is one of the power brokers in the ongoing discussions regarding the formation of a new government. Alongside the country’s biggest union the UGTT, Bouchamaoui is at the origin of the quartet that drafted a road map presented to the political parties for them to exit this crisis. It is not too much to say that this mother of two will play an instrumental role in deciding on the country’s future.
James Mwangi, Kenya
James Mwangi continues to be one of Africa’s most successful bankers. His ambition was seen as excessive when he first proposed a new path for Equity Bank; though the plan was unconventional, the failing bank was losing money so it was decided that Equity Bank would take the chance. They have never looked back. With Mwangi at the helm, Equity Bank has become one of the top banks in Kenya. It may not be the biggest bank by its capital, but it is one of the most far-reaching in East and Central Africa, with over eight million bank accounts. Mwangi credits all his success to his mother, whom he says brought his siblings and him up despite hardship, and always instilled in them the value of hard work. Even with his children, who have all had the privilege to attend Ivy League schools, Mwangi names his mother as the reason for their success. Mwangi has won many prizes, but he is more recognised for his humility and his principled approach to business.
Adebayo Ogunlesi, Nigeria
Adebayo Ogunlesi holds the high- profile office of Chairman and Managing Partner of Global Infrastructure Partners, a $15 billion joint venture whose initial investors included Credit Suisse and General Electric. The venture is an independent infrastructure fund manager with investments in the energy and transport sectors in Asia, Europe, the UK and the US. Prior to his current role, he was Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Client Officer of Credit Suisse, based in New York. Ogunlesi comes from a privileged background: he attended some of the best schools in Nigeria, as well as Harvard Business School and Oxford University. A critic of the “Africa rising” euphoria, he is one of the most respected bankers on Wall Street.
Algboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Nigeria
Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede recently won Banker of the Year at the African Banker Awards held by our sister publication, African Banker magazine. This was a fitting end to his tenure at the helm of Access Bank, which he has taken to the top tier of Nigerian and African banking. With the Central Bank’s tenure limits, he has had to step down as the bank’s CEO, although he will not be away from the limelight for long. One of the names being touted to become Governor of the Central Bank, Aig-Imoukhuede already sits on the board of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and is a close adviser to the president as part of the Nigerian Economic Intelligent Management Team. He is known for his drive, and still in his mid-forties, he is someone with big ambitions. One of his generation’s most successful leaders, he is recognised both at home and internationally for his brilliance.
Momar Nguer, Senegal
Arguably Momar Nguer holds one of the most important jobs out there, as Senior Vice President of Supply and Marketing for French oil and gas giant Total, holding huge amounts of influence in Africa given Total’s strategic operations across the continent. This affable and understated Senegalese has also been an important ambassador for Africa at the company’s headquarters, a company very close to the powers that be in France. Possibly more importantly, he has changed Total’s outlook for the continent and has instilled a culture within the organisation to recruit and train locals and strengthen the capacity of the youth in the 40+ countries it operates in across Africa. As the first African to hold such a senior position in the group, he is driving an African-driven agenda across the activities he supervises. One of his ambitions is to supply 3m rural Africans with low cost lighting using Total’s wide distribution network.
Isabel dos Santos, Angola
Isabel dos Santos, businesswoman and daughter to the president of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, is worth an estimated $3 billion. With businesses in key sectors such as mining, telecoms, retail and oil, Dos Santos is the youngest female billionaire in Africa. She insists her business dealings are independent of her father, attributing her success to hard work. Those close to her insist she’s as bright and as tough as they come. With an engineering degree from King’s College in London, she shuns the limelight. Married to Congolese art collector Sindika Dokolo, and with her growing business interests, this is a couple we will see much more of in the coming years.
Jean Louis Billon, Côte d’Ivoire
You would never accuse this Ivorian of not being part of his “community”. He is heavily involved in the economic, political and social life of Côte d’Ivoire. Jean Louis Billon was Managing Director of the family business SIFCA, the country’s leading private sector group with 17,000 employees. He was Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He joined the government last year and as minister of commerce, he launched a $400 million initiative (financing, capacity building) to double the number of SMEs in his country and as a result create half a million jobs.
Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, Angola
Jean Claude Bastos de Morais spends his time between Angola and Switzerland. Bastos de Morais is present in so many different areas that it is difficult to define him in one particular sector, although he is passionate about development and wealth creation. His Swiss-based fund Quantum recently launched Africa’s two biggest specialised funds, a $1.1bn fund to invest in African infrastructure and also a $1.2bn pan-African hotel fund. Bastos de Morais is trusted amongst Angolan business circles and his fund will be managing some of the assets of that country’s sovereign wealth fund, which he helped set up. He is highly respected in Angola and is also widely consulted on a wide range of investment and financial issues. Amongst his other passions is driving development through transformational change. That is one of the reasons he recently founded the African Innovation Foundation and the Africa Innovation Prize.
Patrick Ngowi, Tanzania
More often than not the story you hear of African youth is one of despair, struggle and unemployment. That is starting to change rapidly. There is a formidable collective of “young guns” who are re-writing their story. Probably first on the list would be Patrick Ngowi, the 28-year-old CEO of the Helvetic Solar Contractors – a Tanzanian solar company that supplies, installs and maintains solar panel systems throughout the northern circuit of Tanzania. The company sells everything solar from photovoltaic (a.k.a. “solar”) panels and water heaters to battery banks, generators and back-up units and generates revenues of about $8 million a year. Combining the abundant natural energy that the African sky provides and the high demand for power, this young man has positioned his business to ensure that demand and supply will have a continuous flow. The interesting story is that Ngowi started his business at the age of 15!
Thebe Ikalafeng, South Africa
For this African, branding fuels his passion and runs through his veins. Thebe Ikalafeng, CEO of pan-African advisory firm, Brand Leadership Group, and founder of Brand Africa, is the foremost branding and reputation authority in Africa. Born in South Africa, Ikalafeng is a global African who has been involved in the transformation of over 100 commercial, nation and political brands, including the successful political branding campaigns for both the late President Atta Mills and President John Mahama of Ghana. Brand Africa, with a bold vision to drive Africa’s image, reputation and competitive standing, has just launched a seminal survey, valuing and listing Africa’s best brands. Ikalafeng is due to publish a number of books, including Made in Africa on building brands in Africa and the continent’s great leaders. He is a globally sought-after speaker, writer and commentator on related branding and reputation matters.
Andrew Alli, Nigeria
Andrew Alli’s career as an investment banker and management consultant has taken him around the world but all the experience and knowledge he has gathered has led him back to his country of birth, where he was brought up by his Nigerian father and English mother. As Chief Executive Officer of the Africa Finance Corporation, the investment bank and development finance institution is quickly establishing itself as the bank of choice for private sector-led infrastructure projects. The portfolio boasts major infrastructural developments that include an undersea fibre-optic cable, an energy development project in Cape Verde and many others. Known to be something of a workaholic, Alli has been a proponent of creating simple investment models which can be quickly scaled up and replicated continent-wide. Alli’s consistent drive has ensured that he has become one of the top players on issues of African infrastructure.
Acha Leke, Cameroon
McKinsey & Co.’s golden boy Acha Leke continues to set the standard in African business. He has been a key force in McKinsey’s growing influence in Africa. This young Cameroonian is determined to be part of the transformation that he dreams of for Africa. Alongside his good friend Fred Swaniker he is co-founder of the African Leadership Academy and also the African Leadership Network, a community of young, dynamic and influential leaders whose aim is to catalyse prosperity in Africa. He is married to one of Africa’s up and coming businesswomen in luxury brands, Swaady Martin-Leke.
Kola Aluko, Nigeria
Race car drivers are known to be fearless and to possess an unstoppable desire to succeed. Kola Aluko is both a racecar driver and someone who is good at succeeding. One of the Nigerian oil magnate’s most significant successes this year was participating in the launch of the Africa50 Infrastructure Fund, initiated by the African Development Bank. Like many other Africans, Aluko believes the key to solving Africa’s development challenges lies in addressing infrastructural gaps, and in doing so fuelling growth. Aluko is co-founder of the Made In Africa Foundation, which is working in partnership with the AfDB to raise $500 million for the Africa50 project’s large-scale infrastructural programmes. The fund was recently launched on the NASDAQ, and the ceremony was attended by co-founder of the project, Ghanaian-British Savile Row designer Ozwald Boateng, and also Academy Award-winning star Jamie Foxx.
Jason Njoku, Nigeria
Jason Njoku saw a huge gap in the Nollywood industry, so in 2010 he took the plunge and founded what has been dubbed as the “Netflix of Africa”: iROKO, a digital distribution platform for African films. The innovative concept saw US and Swedish-based startup funds investing a total of $10 million in the venture, the largest investment of 2012 in a West African startup. This year he won the All Africa Business Award for West Africa, showcasing the creative and digital sector as breaking new ground. He says: “In the next 3 to 5 years, Africa’s tech ‘scene’ will easily have turned into a ‘revolution’. Those who choose to take on these challenges now, not tomorrow, are the ones who will make a real difference and reap the many benefits of doing business in such an exciting frontier market.”
Gina Din-Kariuki, Kenya
Arguably, Din-Kariuki has the most valuable Rolodex in East Africa and is the must-go-to person for anyone who wants to do business in Kenya. For the last 13 years she has built her Kenyan PR management firm into one of the leading companies in the industry. Din-Kariuki is a close follower of the digital sector and how this affects brand management; as the media platforms increase so does the space in which to control a brand. Din-Kariuki plays an active philanthropic role, serving in various capacities including Goodwill Ambassador of the Kenya Red Cross.
Albert Yuma Mulimbi, DR Congo
Albert Yuma Mulimbi is the CEO and chairman of the country’s largest mining company, Gecamines. As a matter of fact, it may be easier to list the organisations he is not part of in his DRC. He also happens to be the President of the Congolese Employers’ Federation, Director at the Central Bank, Chairman of the Audit Committee and director of the Chamber of Commerce between Belgium and the Congo, to name but a few of his positions. He is credited with putting Gecamines, at the verge of bankruptcy a decade ago, back on track, and overseeing an overhaul of its assets. When our sister publication African Business spoke to him during the UN General Assembly, he was very positive about the growth opportunities in his country and the role African companies need to play in this transformative change.
Tony Elumelu, Nigeria
One of the founders of UBA Bank and the chairman of Heirs Holdings, Elumelu is currently championing Africapitalism as the solution which will fast-track Africa’s trajectory. His holdings company operates across a number of industries and sectors, and 2013 has been a year of intense activity for his group. Africapitalism is an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector’s commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through investments that generate both economic and social wealth. A believer in the pan-African model, he recently invited President Kenyatta of Kenya to Nigeria to strengthen business ties between the two countries. Elumelu is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and relentless workaholic, for whom this is only the beginning.
Zemedeneh Negatu, Ethiopia
Anyone who has done business in Ethiopia will have come across Zemedeneh Negatu, founder and managing partner of Ernst & Young in Ethiopia. Recently his firm has been responsible for many of the country’s major deals, including British alcoholic beverages company Diageo’s purchase of a local brewery. A true global citizen, having lived and worked extensively in North and Latin America as well as Saudi Arabia, Zem, as he is affectionately known, is often the spokesperson for the private sector at the country’s official international roadshows. He is part of a select group of business leaders who senior members of government consult during their strategy meeting retreats.
Yerim Sow, Senegal
Yerim Sow is a Senegalese entrepreneur and a tycoon in his own right. He had a helping hand in building his fortune, being the son of a prominent businessman who gave him substantial startup capital. However, Sow, founder and chairman of the Teyliom Group, should be credited for catapulting his businesses into the big league. Having made his money in telecoms, Teyliom is now diversified across real estate, hospitality, banking, energy, agribusiness and telecoms. With a fortune estimated at $350 million, he plans to expand his hotel group across a number of West and Central African countries. Sow is becoming a key player throughout West Africa, with influence over a large business and political network.
Solomon Wifa, Nigeria
Solomon Wifa is ranked as one of the leading advisers in investment funds and finance, and is recognised for his technical knowledge and rigorous, intelligent style of execution. Wifais the head of O’Melveny’s London office and a member of the Investment Funds Practice, and was named one of the 100 Hottest Lawyers in 2013 for his deal-making prowess. China, sub-Saharan Africa, India, Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe are some of the countries where he has been consulted for high-profile billion-dollar projects in the energy, real estate, technology and infrastructure sectors.
James Mworia, Kenya
James Mworia is among the growing group of young business leaders that have started to make their mark in the last ten years. Mworia is the CEO of Centum Investment Company Limited. It is the largest quoted investment firm in East Africa, listed on the Nairobi and Uganda Stock Exchanges. At 33, he is considered one of the shrewdest Kenyan business leaders of today, and his opinion on business is sought out by anyone in the region who knows what’s good for them.