They are the movers and shakers, people who continue to influence and impact the broader African Information and Communications Technology industry in a big way. Their actions have made others sit up and take notice. These are the ‘headline grabbers,’ and the people, and companies that show that an African Silicon Valley may be very near. This is the list of people who continue to exert their influence on the direction of the ICT industry at large, particularly within emerging markets throughout Africa. These individuals have been singled out for the relevance of their words and actions, and the impact this has had on the growth of the broader industry, as well as on the standing of their respective businesses in the market.
Jason Njoku, founder and CEO of iROKO Partners (Nigeria)
The rising influence of ‘Nollywood’ within the global cinema industry is a topic of much discussion in the media. The African Report has identified Jason Njoku, founder and CEO of iROKO Partners, as one of the 50 most influential Africans. Njoku is widely acknowledged for bringing Nigerian entertainment to the world, via the Net. In iROKO Partners, Njoku has helped to raise the profile of ‘Nollywood’ and Afrobeats within the international film and performing arts industry. The company is marketed as the world’s largest online distributor of African movies and music. iROKO Partners was launched in December 2010 and according to its website, the company has built a global audience of over 6 million unique users from 178 countries.
In October this year the company emerged victorious in a domain name infringement case regarding one of its trademarks.
iROKOtv, one of the company’s brands, recently celebrated its first anniversary and reportedly owns licenses to over 5 000 Nollywood movie titles.
Elon Musk, entrepreneur and creator of SpaceX (South Africa)
Africa’s own engineer, entrepreneur and creator of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), Elon Musk has proven what can be achieved when innovation and creativity are expertly blended. The company’s SpaceX Dragon recently successfully completed its first commercial cargo mission to the International Space Station. In May the company’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule grabbed international headlines by successfully launching from Cape Canaveral in the US and becoming the first space launch by a private company in the history of space flight.
Stafford Masie, founder of Thumbzup (South Africa)
38-year-old Stafford Masie has been in the technology industry for many years and recently made headlines after establishing Thumbzup, a local payment innovations company. A noted speaker and renowned entrepreneur, Masie is passionate about the development of local technology that will address local needs.
The business grabbed the attention of the domestic market when it struck a deal with South African bank Absa based on the integration and application of the Payment Pebble, a world-first, plug-in mobile payment device. Under the agreement, Absa is set to provide its Payment Pebble as a value added service to all small business owners and merchants on-the-go with availability scheduled for early 2013.
Alan Knott-Craig, CEO of Cell C (South Africa)
Few would debate the influence that Cell C’s CEO has had on the South African telecommunications industry in 2012. Alan Knott-Craig made headlines in April when he moved from his position as CEO of Vodacom Group Ltd. to take up his current position at competitor Cell C. Since his appointment, the company has aggressively marketed a number of consumer services, including contract pricing, international call tariffs, amongst others.
Knott-Craig was named this year’s Africa Com Industry personality of the Year.
Nombulelo Moholi, outgoing Group CEO, Telkom SA (South Africa)
In September 2012, Nombulelo Moholi, then Group CEO of Telkom SA, opened the company’s 15thannual SATNAC conference to underline the relevance of ubiquitous technology and the need for connectivity. A great deal has happened at the company since the event and Moholi made headlines when she announced her intention to step down before the end of her contract period. Speculation exists over the direction Telkom SA will take after experiencing a tumultuous period in the development and entrenchment of its leadership.
Sifiso Dabengwa, CEO, MTN Group (South Africa)
Sifiso Dabengwa is MTN Group CEO. Dabengwa previously served as CEO of the Nigerian business, where he is now director, after a stint as MD of MTN SA. Before joining the telecom company in 1999, Dabengwa headed Eskom’s distribution division, where he controlled a multibillion-rand budget in a division employing 17 000 people and generating revenues of more than R20bn/year (about US $ 2.5 bn).
Dabengwa is the former chairman of the Dawn Suite Hotel Group. He previously served on the boards of Peermont Global and Impala Platinum Holdings. Dabengwa and MTN secured extensive press coverage following the much publicised allegations of wrongdoing made by Turkish mobile phone operator, Turkcell, regarding a mobile phone licence in Iran.
Naguib Sawiris, founder of Orascom Telecom Holding SAE (Egypt)
Naguib Sawiris is the founder of Orascom Telecom Holding SAE and is reported to have a net worth of $2.5 billion. Most recently, Sawiris made headlines following media reports announcing a deal between himself and a Tunisian businessman over the sale of Egyptian satellite news channel ONTV. It was reported that Tarek Ben Ammar and Sawiris agreed on the deal, although neither side has announced the financial value of the agreement.
According to a statement from Ben Ammar, the aim with the purchase is to create “the first independent pan-Arab TV group” across North African and the Middle East.
Michael Jordaan, CEO of FNB (South Africa)
South Africa’s First National Bank (FNB) has achieved industry-wide acclaim for its approach to innovation and technology to extend its services to the consumer.
The company’s CEO, Michael Jordaan, announced in February that over 30 000 Apple i-Pad 2 Tablets had been sold since the offer was first made available to customers.
At the time Jordaan confirmed that the company was allocating more than 115 Terabytes of free data to over 86 000 cheque account customers on a monthly basis.
Verone Mankou, Congo DRC
Verone Mankou’s company VMK’s devices run Google’s Android software. They will retail at $170 (£105) for the smartphone and $300 (£185) for the tablet. Speaking at the Tech4Africa conference, Mankou said “only Africans can know what Africa needs.” He went on to explain that “Apple is huge in the US, Samsung is huge in Asia, and we want VMK to be huge in Africa.” Technology blog Smartplanet reports that the tablet offers wi-fi connectivity and four gigabytes of internal storage. Its name, Way-C, means “the light of the stars” in the local Lingala language.
Deon Liebenberg, (South Africa)
Liebenberg has been in the local news for his movements within the industry. Most recently, the former Research in Motion (RIM) regional director and former Samsung Electronics South Africa MD bid farewell to Telkom as the company’s head of Telkom Business Mobile and is reportedly scheduled to join Vodacom SA in February of 2013.
When Liebenberg took up the position as the new Head of Telkom Business Mobile, he said at the time that for the company the future is seamless fixed mobile convergence and ultimately unified communications.
Well done to all the individuals and companies that have made tremendous strides in the Tech field. However, what is alarming is that the list is dominated by South Africa although that has been changing of late. Countries such as Nigeria and Congo DRC as well as Rwanda and Kenya are coming up as giants in technological innovation. The 2013 list will surely be more diverse.