30 Most Notable Africans of 2014: Part I
28 Jan 2015
7. Priscilla Sitienei, Kenya
How many of us have promised ourselves that, at some point, we’ll eventually go back to school? After reading Priscilla Sitienei’s story on BBC News Africa, I can emphatically say “You’re never too old to learn.” Gogo (meaning “grandmother” in Kalenjin, the local language), as she is lovingly called by her classmates, is a Kenyan midwife who refused to let age stop her from accomplishing something she had always dreamed of: going back to school. At 90, this grandmother is the oldest primary school student in the world. In fact, she attends school with some of the same children she helped to bring into the world. As seen in this video by Kenya Citizen TV, she is still quite energetic and conscious of the importance of education, as well as the example she is setting for her young classmates. She explains that one of the reasons for wanting to go to school and learn was so she would be able to read her Bible. She is truly a testament to the value of education.
Why she’s inspiring: In her interview with BBC, Mrs. Sitienei stated, "I'd like to be able to read the Bible; I also want to inspire children to get an education…I see children who are lost, children who are without fathers, just going round and round, hopeless. I want to inspire them to go to school." And indeed she’s doing just that. A sign outside of her dormitory which she shares with one of her great-grandchildren reads: “Welcome to Priscilla’s Dormitory. Education has no age limit.” So what’s stopping you? (Photo from YouTube)
8. Meck Khalfan, Tanzania
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and Meck Khalfan’s creation of the Puku—a stylish portable charger that is revolutionizing the mobile industry—is no exception. Khalfan came up with the idea for the charger during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy when all power was lost in New York. With a young family at home and no electricity, he found himself having to go in search of places where he could charge his electronic devices. Frustrated, he knew that there had to be a better way. He decided to create something beautiful that was of superior quality (he used Apple’s brand as inspiration and even bought supplies from the same factory). And the Puku was born. The company is named after a breed of antelope found Tanzania. Puku’s are beautiful, fast and the strongest among the existing members of the antelope family. Those same attributes have been incorporated into the Puku charger’s design and brand. As a branding enthusiast myself, I have to give Puku’s brand an A+! Apparently, I’m not the only one: currently if you visit their web site, this stylish charger—which has been featured at the Victoria’s Secret London Fashion Show—is on backorder.
Why he’s inspiring: Besides being a bold innovator, Khlafan is also involved with the Touch Foundation, a nonprofit which works to improve the health of Tanzanians by strengthening the healthcare system. As a businessman, Khalfan has not only brought a product to market that has mass appeal; he’s also done it while staying true to his roots and infusing the principles of his culture into, what is fast becoming, a successful brand. He states, “I think to be [an] innovator you need to be unreasonable … You need to be bold and … Have the gut[s] to think about and follow through [on] your vision.” I have a feeling we have many more great things to look out for from this changemaker.
Follow Meck on Twitter. (Photo from Twitter)
9. Viola Llewellyn, Cameroon
If you’ve never met Viola Llewellyn, you’re missing out. Part brilliant businesswoman, part comedienne, she takes work just as seriously as play. From starting her investment firm with a partner more than 15 years ago, to launching an innovative platform—Ovamba—for investing in African businesses, Llewellyn is a woman on the move. Ovamba was created to support African economies by improving access to credit for the small and medium enterprise (SME) market. It’s the first peer-to-business lending platform in Francophone Africa, and also one of the first market lending platforms to offer investment opportunities to individuals and institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. The investment vehicle was created to address the issue of Africa’s small and medium sized businesses limited or no access to credit—severely limiting their ability to grow. Business owners often wait weeks, even months for a credit decision from their bank – often missing out on potential business due to long delays. Llewellyn worked with co-founder, Marvin R. R. Cole, to change all that through their innovative online platform. Since its launch in 2013, Ovamba has done so well servicing a neglected, but profitable market, that it recently landed a $1.28 million investment from GLI Finance Limited to expand and grow the company.
Why she’s inspiring: In an interview on Homestrings, Llewellyn stated, “Ovamba SME Lending Fund is an opportunity to do well by doing good! I boldly believe in profit for Africa! I am not the greatest fan of charitable solutions as they are often unsustainable. Entrepreneurship and innovation are the backbone of all successful economies and women play a vital role in this particular ecosystem. At a fundamental level, nearly all women are natural entrepreneurs—they capitalize on daily opportunities, anticipate and respond to challenges, and make decisions that maximize resources, meet objectives and provide for the growth and sustainability of the people they are responsible for. The exact same thing happens at Google, General Motors, Toyota or any other blue chip entity.” And now, Ovamba.
Follow Ovamba on Twitter. (Photo from LinkedIn)
10. Adamu Waziri, Nigeria
Many African children know their parents don’t think much of the creative arts. More often than not, the arts are considered a hobby without any real potential for developing into a lucrative or prestigious career. That may explain why Adamu Waziri decided to pursue architecture as a career before returning to his first love: drawing and animation. And thank God he did. In 2012, Waziri became the mastermind behind Nigeria’s first animated show for kids called Bino and Fino. Although there a few other animated shows produced on the continent and plenty of imported children's programs (i.e. Dora the Explorer), Bino and Fino lays claim to being the only one which portrays the everyday life of young African children and their families—versus the standard “safari and wild animals” narrative that is far from the norm for the typical African family. Really, there’s more to Africa than The Lion King.
Why he’s inspiring: In an interview with CNN, Waziri stated: "People complain that Africa is not represented well in the media. I understand that, but my point is Nigeria and other parts of Africa aren't poor. You have businessmen, the infrastructure, the ability to link up and make studios, finance it and sponsor it and make the market—stop waiting for Disney to do it, do it yourself." His ultimate goal is to one day launch an African network for children which will continue to showcase, the history, science, culture and commonalities amongst Black people as demonstrated by his first venture. As a pioneer in a very new industry in Africa, we have no doubt Waziri is on to something transformational.
Follow Bino and Fino on Twitter.
And this rounds up Part I of our Most Notable Africans of 2014 series. We hope these stories inspire you to do something great and be the change you want to see in the world. Check back next week for more inspiration in Part II of our popular series. You can check out last year’s phenomenal list here: Part I, Part II, Part III.
In the meantime, stay Bold & Fearless!