Africa has the youngest populace worldwide, with 200 million individuals in between the ages of 15 and also 24. According to the World Bank, young people represent 60 percent of all out of work individuals on the continent, with girls birthing the sting of joblessness as boys are favoured for works.
Instead of succumbing to fear of these statistics, many young people have taken the entrepreneurship route, turning problems that they encounter in their communities into solution-orientated businesses.
Here is a list of top 10 young African leaders doing great things to transform their communities and their lives:
Twenty-four year-old Nigerian medical scientist, Haneefah Adam, gave the popular Barbie doll a makeover. Adam got the idea for the makeover after coming across the Barbie style Instagram page and thought that it would be great to see a doll in a hijab – an attire that is culturally relevant to her. Adam also hopes that Hijarbie will change the negative stereotype of the hijab as oppressive clothing for Muslim women, into a positive affirmation of female Muslim identity and culture. Hijarbie has since amassed more than 58 000 followers on Instagram. The popularity of Hijarbie ties in with the JWT 2016 Trends report that forecasted that Middle Eastern and North African style will play a bigger role in the fashion and beauty spheres particularly for women.
Sitawa Wafula is a 31-year old mental health activist, philanthropist and entrepreneur from Nairobi, Kenya. As a result of a traumatic experience at the age of 18, Wafula suffered from severe depression which resulted in a dual diagnosis of epilepsy and bipolar disorder. With no support system, rising medical bills and little access to information, Wafula faced stigma due to her condition. Out of this experience, she decided to provide a forum for Africans going through the same experiences, to not only access information about mental health issues, but also to find support. She launched her self-titled blog as well as her mental health social enterprise; My Mind, My Funk which ran Kenya’s first free mental health support line and provided support to over 11,000 Kenyans struggling with mental health issues. She has been named as a Non Communicable Disease Champion by the Kenyan Ministry of Health, recognized among the top 40 under 40 women in Kenya and has had her work featured in various media publications including BBC and Al Jazeera.
KAYLI VEE LEVITAN – SOUTH AFRICA
Kayli Vee Levitan is a South African copywriter, blogger and co-founder of the successful philanthropic initiative, The Street Store. Levitan co-founded The Street Store, which is a pop-up clothing store for the homeless, with her colleague, Max Pazak in 2014. The initiative is stocked by donations, and is now an open-source initiative that allows other philanthropists from South Africa and abroad to host their own pop-up store in collaboration with a charity of their choice. Over 200 pop-up stores have been set up globally, and over 200 000 homeless people have been assisted with clothing. She has also worked on other philanthropic projects, including work with Dementia SA and the Women’s Hope.
Mabel Suglo is a 23-year-old entrepreneur from Ghana who is the founder of the Eco-Shoes Project, which is an initiative and company that manufactures shoes and accessories from discarded tyres and recycled materials. Suglo employs disabled people who are often marginalized from society due to discrimination. In an interview, Suglo says that the initiative was inspired by her late grandmother, who suffered discrimination due to her leprosy condition, and various other people in her community who had physical disabilities. She wanted to create employment opportunities for them, as well as create comfortable shoes for her grandmother from durable materials. She then created her first pairs of shoes made from discarded tyres for her grandmother, then partnered with a local school for disabled children and two business partners to get her idea off the ground. The business now employs five artisans, and manufactured over 1000 pairs of shoes in 2014. She was the second runner up of the 2015 Anzisha Prize by the African Leadership Academy in South Africa and the MasterCard Foundation.
CHRISTOPHER ATEGEKA – UGANDA
Ugandan born Christopher Ategeka is the founder and CEO of Rides For Lives, which is a company that provides mobile healthcare to rural communities in Kampala. The mobile health units are fitted with a pharmacy, a general practitioner and a lab for conducting tests for diseases such as malaria and HIV. The idea for the company came as after Ategeka’s brother passed away due to lack of access to adequate healthcare after he fell ill. He has a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley, and has several awards under his belt for his work on Rides For Lives including the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) award and the Judith Lee Stronach award. He also made it on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work with the company in 2014.