16 Young Africans to Watch
By Nomali Cele
Welcome to Youth Month. For every “millennials are ill-prepared to cope with life/work/retirement/home-owning” there are at least five young afropolitans not only proving the stereotype wrong but actively working to make Africa, and the world, a better place. What these 16 young Africans to watch are doing makes us feel hopeful about the future. If this is them right now, we cannot wait to see how they change the world for the better in a few years.
Dr Ncumisa Jilata – South African Neurologist
Dr Ncumisa Jilita (29), who hails from Mthatha, is the youngest African to acquire her doctorate in neurology. In May, Dr Jilita was among the latest fellows to join the Council of Neurosurgeons of South Africa. The youngest neurosurgeon in Africa is 29 and the youngest neurosurgeon in Africa is a black woman from Mthatha.
Akwaeke Emezi – Nigerian Author and filmmaker
photographed by Eloghosa Osunde
Akwaeke Emezi (30) is a writer and filmmaker based in liminal spaces. She is of Igbo and Tamil heritage and grew up between Aba, Nigeria and New Mexico and New York in the United States. In 2015, Emezi was awarded the Morland Scholarship for writing to spend 2016 pursuing a project of her choosing. Her debut novel, FreshWater is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic later in 2018.
Chris Kwekowe – Nigerian Innovator
Chis Kwekowe (24) is one of the brains behind Slatecube, one of the more innovative businesses that are addressing youth unemployment. Slatecube offers users a chance to complete skills programmes after which they are able to move to the next level which is a virtual internship with real-world organisations. If the virtual internship is a success, companies are free to hire the interns. In 2016, Slatecube had an 80% employment rate.
Hellen Dausen – Tanzania Beauty Brand Owner
Hellen Dausen (30) is a former beauty queen who saw the beauty industry up-close for many years. After leaving pageants, she founded Nuya’s Essence, a beauty company committed to using natural ingredients in all its products. With all the pollution out there in the world, Nuya’s Essence offer bath and body products for the conscious consumer that wants to know (and be able to pronounce) the ingredients in their beauty products.
Takunda Chingonzo – Zimbabwean Innovator
Chingonzo interviewing Barack Obama during an African business summit in Washington
Takunda Chingonzo (23) is a Mandela-Washington Fellow. In 2015, he was one of 30 Africans under 30 in Forbes Magazine’s list of “future billionaires” and is one of the most active young people in Africa’s technology and innovation sector. He co-founded Tech Village, a hub that helps start-ups grow, and is currently busy on his current start-up, Saisai Wireless, which could see data fall in Zimbabwe.
Passionate about the future of the internet, giving more Zimbabweans access to the medium as well as youth entrepreneurship, Chingonzo’s work is one to watch.
Nancy Abu-Bonsrah – Ghanaian Neurosurgeon
Nancy Abu-Bonsrah (26) is a Ghanaian brain surgeon who’s made history this year. Having studied in the United States since she was 15 years old, Abu-Bonsrah was this year announced as the first black woman to ever train at the prestigious John Hopkins School of Medicine. From July, she’ll be joining the institution as a resident.
Kagiso Rabada South African Cricketer
Kagiso Rabada (22) is the most exciting cricketer that has come out in the past decade. The young Protea made an unforgettable outing in January of 2016 against England. Not only is Rabada currently the youngest bowler in the top 10 rankings in the world, he was recently ranked as the number one bowler in the world, the youngest person to hold the honour since 1998.
Rachel Sibande Malawian Innovator
Rachel Sibande (31) is the founder of mHub, a Malawian incubator for start-ups owned by young people. mHub has over 120 members and has been actively pursuing and encouraging the development of Malawian technological solutions.
Sibande also founded Girls4Code a coding club for girls ages 9 to 18. At Girls4Code the students are introduced to computer sciences and taught to code for such things as website and apps.
Zim Ugochukwu – Nigerian Founder of Travel Noire
Zim Ugochukwu (28) did something that most Afropolitans have on their wishlists: she travelled. She booked a trip to India in 2011 and the travel bug bit. Soon after, Ugochukwu founded Travel Noire – a website and app geared toward black travellers. Through the platform, the travellers share destinations, tips and inspiration with others in the Travel Noire community.
Yasmin Belo-Osagie – Nigerian Innovator
Yasim Beloe-Osigie (27) is a Nigerian young woman whose Afropolitan story is following a growing narrative: she studied in the United States but instead of staying once receiving her qualification, she returned home.
She (along with Afua Osei) founded She Leads Africa, which is part incubator and part global networking forum for businesswomen in the African diaspora.
Winnifred Selby – Ghanaian Social entrepreneur
Winnifred Selby (21) co-founded the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative in Accra in 2012. In Ghana, bamboo is abundant, which gave Selby the idea to turn it into a product that could create job opportunities in her community while being friendly to the environment. Over the years, Selby has worked as an advocate for such causes as sanitary wear for girls in poorer regions of Ghana. The Educational Empowerment Initiative, which she founded, provides school shoes and scholarships for girls.
She’s been nominated and won several awards and prizes.
Sibu Mpanza – South African Digital Content Creator
Sibu Mpanza (22) is leading a pack of young Afropolitans. As a nod to the times, Mpanza’s job description is blogger, photographer and content creator. He is making a living through sharing his ideas online, which is a decidedly 2010s thing. In 2016 Mpanza was a finalist in the Cell C Break The Internet competition and was named one of 100 Young Leaders under 25 by the Faces of Impact network in the innovative and socially-minded category.
Afua Osei – Nigerian Innovator
Afua Osei (29) – with Yasmin Belo-Osagie – founded She Leads Africa. With their platform, the young women of She Leads Africa are bringing young African women in the business world together. They are starting conversations about business, upliftment and growth through this platform.
Osei is a business graduate and was previously a Fullbright Scholar.
Michelle Nkamankeng – South African-Cameroonian Author
For most of 2016’s spring book activities, there was a cute presence. The bubbly seven-year-old girl could be seen on TV chatting to hosts about a children’s book about a girl who’s scared of the waves when she goes to the beach for the first time. This little force is 8-year-old Michelle Nkamankeng. Not only had she read the book she was talking about but she’d written it!
Nkamankeng’s book, Waiting for the Waves, is the fist instalment in a series of four books.
Siyanda Mohutsiwa – Motswana Writer and thought leader
Photo: Bret Hartman / TED
Siyanda Mohutsiwa (24) is a writer, speaker, pan-Africanist. She’s a mathematics graduate from the University of Botswana and is currently studying fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Over the years, with the platform’s growth, Mohitsiwa has built her profile up as one of the most outspoken young Africans on Twitter. Her hashtag, #IfAfricaWasABar, sparked a conversation across the continent. The hashtag’s popularity led to Mohutsiwa giving a talk at Ted Talk in Amsterdam.
Yodit Eklund – Ethiopian Designer
Yodit Eklund, (32) is the founder of Bantu Wax, a swimwear and surfing company that’s turned surfing on its head. Ankara printed surfboards, Massai print beach towels, bikinis and swim trunk that have distinctly African prints and patterns are the order of the day at Bantu Wax. Africa has beautiful beaches and no longer is it that surfing and swimming in Africa look anything but like us. The brand is made on the continent and uses sustainable means of production.