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Africa’s most influential leaders and entrepreneurs in 2023

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Africa’s most influential leaders and entrepreneurs in 2023

From the African Union joining the G20 to the inaugural African climate summit, 2023 is a year of pivotal events. In the business world, several key figures are making notable contributions to the continent’s progress.

Capmad profiles African leaders steering multinational corporations, financial institutions, and promising start-ups.

Didier Acouetey : Job-opportunity for a flourishing private sector

Didier Acouetey is the President of AfricSearch, a premier recruitment and human resources consulting group in Africa. Partnering with the Alexander Hughes Group, the company operates in over 50 countries. For Acouetey, his role extends beyond recruitment, mentoring, and consulting. Recognizing Africa’s vast human capital potential, he actively engages in various think tanks.

Acouetey is also a founder of the Youth Excellence program, dedicated to training young African leaders, and the Africa SME Champions Forum. As a passionate advocate for Africa’s first SME financing forum, he supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem to spur the continent’s economic growth.

Bahija Jallal : Remarkable turnaround in biotechnology

Moroccan-born Bahija Jallal has worked with international organizations like AstraZeneca, overseeing cancer treatments. In 2019, she became CEO of Immunocore, a struggling biotech company in Oxford, UK. After restructuring the company and raising necessary funds, Dr. Jallal secured approval for its leading drug in 2023. This breakthrough treatment addresses complex diseases such as cancer, HIV, and other infectious and autoimmune disorders. Today, Immunocore is listed on the stock exchange and continues developing several other vital medical treatments.

André de Ruyter : Revelation on Eskom management

André de Ruyter was appointed CEO of Eskom at the end of 2019 to revitalize South Africa’s national electricity company, which had suffered from poor management. Frequent power cuts, a major issue in South Africa, severely impact private companies’ production and households’ daily lives. During de Ruyter’s tenure, he uncovered deep-seated malaise and systemic corruption rooted in the post-apartheid state.

A year after his resignation, de Ruyter published his memoirs, « Truth to Power: My Three Years in Eskom », revealing disturbing details such as monthly bribes costing Eskom 55 million USD and an attempted cyanide poisoning. The long-term impact of his revelations on government corruption and the struggling energy sector remains uncertain.

Mohamed Kande : PwC’s first African chairman

Mohamed Kande, originally from Côte d’Ivoire, has been appointed Vice President at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) US, one of the world’s top four audit and advisory firms. He co-leads consulting solutions in the US, oversees international consulting, and serves as CEO of consulting activities for the US and Japan. His success stems from exceptional dedication to self-education and breaking down barriers.

Kande defies stereotypes at PwC as a Black, immigrant, English-speaking man with a French accent and the first name Mohamed. His swift ascent in the American business world was far from predestined.

Benedict Okey Oramah : Innovative pan-African banker

Benedict Okey Oramah, an idealist, answered the call to build a pan-African institution thirty years ago. Since 2015, he has led the Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), which has become highly influential, engaging in almost every sector of the African economy. The bank’s balance sheet now exceeds 30 billion USD.

Afreximbank addresses continental challenges through initiatives like the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Trade Guarantee System, the African Quality Assurance Centre, and the African Medical Centre of Excellence in Abuja. Oramah’s faith in African solutions inspires confidence and could signify a turning point for the continent.

Riham ElGizy : Carbon market promoter

Riham ElGizy, CEO of the Regional Voluntary Carbon Market Company (RVCMC) in Saudi Arabia, is a key player in the carbon credit market in Africa and the Middle East. In 2022, RVCMC’s first auction in Africa included sixteen companies, with Aramco and Saudi Electricity Company as the largest buyers. The company also sold a record 2.2 million tonnes of Kenyan credits to Saudi firms.

ElGizy, a global leader in impact investing with over 20 years of experience, champions sustainable practices to combat climate change. Holding an MBA from MIT, she spearheads projects that promote sustainable economic growth in emerging markets.

Samaila Zubairu : African solutions for the energy transition

Samaila Zubairu, who has led the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) since July 2018, advocates for African-driven solutions to the continent’s challenges. Under his stewardship, AFC has become known for innovative infrastructure financing, demonstrating Africa’s potential for lucrative investments. In November 2023, the corporation successfully sold its stake in Atlantic Terminal Services in Ghana to Yilport Holding, attracting significant international capital.

AFC is also committed to advancing the energy transition, evident in projects like the development of a 60 MW wind turbine in Djibouti and the acquisition of Lekela Power. Zubairu prioritizes local mineral processing, which not only benefits the environment but also enhances financial sustainability, positioning AFC as a pivotal partner in pan-African climate solutions.

Simon Tiemtoré : Pan-African banking expansion

Simon Tiemtoré is the founder and CEO of Lilium Capital, an international investment firm focused on Africa. With expertise in law, tax, banking, and finance, he has spearheaded numerous significant transactions in investment banking and debt markets across the continent.

At the helm of Vista Group, a subsidiary of Lilium Capital, Tiemtoré has been instrumental in transforming the group into a leading pan-African banking entity. He orchestrated the acquisition of Oragroup, expanding Lilium Capital’s footprint from three to sixteen countries and boosting its banking assets to over 10 billion USD. This strategic move is particularly noteworthy amidst the backdrop of several French banks exiting West Africa.

Ham Serunjogi : Leader in FinTech

Ham Serunjogi, co-founder and CEO of Chipper Cash, found inspiration in the challenges of money transfer across Africa. In 2018, armed with 30,000 USD in savings and a determined partner, he launched the company despite initial rejections. Their perseverance paid off as they secured over 300 million USD in financing.

Today, Chipper Cash is valued at 2.2 billion USD with a user base exceeding 5 million across multiple countries. Beyond money transfers, the company offers services in cryptocurrency exchange and bill payments. Serunjogi’s appointment to President Biden’s Advisory Board underscores his resilience and innovative spirit, highlighting his impact in Africa.

Karim Beguir : Pioneer in artificial intelligence

Karim Beguir, co-founder of InstaDeep, a startup specializing in artificial intelligence (AI), achieved a significant milestone when BioNTech acquired the company in 2023 for 562 million pounds (683.5 million USD). InstaDeep now serves as a pivotal subsidiary in AI-driven drug and vaccine discovery.

Beguir underscores InstaDeep’s mission to showcase AI’s potential in Africa and inspire other deep tech startups across the continent. His global influence is evident through participation in the inaugural AI Security Summit and membership on the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of AI.

Ralph Mupita : Tracing the digital future

Ralph Mupita, previously Chief Financial Officer, now serves as Chairman and CEO of MTN Group. A prominent figure in finance and telecommunications, he is committed to shaping Africa’s digital future by prioritizing investments to address the continent’s connectivity challenges.

Under Mupita’s leadership, MTN is undergoing a transformation into a nimble and efficient organization poised for accelerated growth. Known for his adept negotiation skills, he successfully resolved a 773 million USD tax dispute with the Ghanaian government. Before joining MTN, Mupita led Old Mutual Emerging Markets and currently contributes to global discussions on AI’s future as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Council on the Future of AI.

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