Meet Africa’s top young entrepreneurs for 2014

Noah Walakira, 21, Uganda – supplying schools with uniform sweaters

When Noah Walakira was just 14 he started Namirembe Sweater Makers, a community-based organisation that provides knitted school uniform sweaters to over 40 schools across Uganda. The organisation has provided employment and vocational skills to members of his community. In addition, he has managed to put himself and other employees through school with the earnings.

Today Namirembe Sweater Makers has 20 members, has partnered with 43 schools countrywide and is now also working with uniform companies. Walakira’s goal is to purchase equipment to enable the organisation to better cater for large scale contracts, as well as set up similar projects in other communities in Uganda.

Thato Kgatlhanye, 21, South Africa – manufacturing solar powered schoolbags

Thato Kgatlhanye is the co-founder of Repurpose Schoolbags, an initiative that designs school bags from ‘upcycled’ plastic shopping bags which, imbedded with solar technology, are able to charge up during the day and transform into light for underprivileged learners to study after dark. The bags are also designed with reflective material to increase child visibility and pedestrian safety for children walking to and from school.

The company has eight full-time employees and is looking to target companies with corporate social investment budgets. They are also looking at diversifying the offering to cater for other needs of economically disadvantaged schoolchildren, such as raincoats.

Kgatlhanye was selected for an elite internship in New York with marketing guru and American best-selling author Seth Godin, and was also picked as one of 18 South African social entrepreneurs to attend the 10 day RedBull Amaphiko Academy this year.

Martha Chumo, 19, Kenya – providing youth with computer programming skills

When IT enthusiast, Martha Chumo, was denied a US visa – twice – to attend a hacking school, she decided to open up her own. In 2013, at the age of 18, she started the Nairobi Developer School, an institution that provides youth with computer programming knowledge and skills to build sustainable solutions to the problems in the country using technology.

Chumo managed to raise funds to kick-start the organisation’s pilot programme and train the first batch of learners last year. She has also found strategic partners, such as technology company ThoughtWorks, which donated computers and provided trainers for students.

Tom Osborn, 18, Kenya – introducing a safer, cleaner way of cooking

Tom Osborn founded Greenchar last year, a clean energy startup that produces smokeless charcoal briquettes and distributes clean cook stoves throughout Kenya.

Not only do the smokeless charcoal briquettes reduce harmful smoke inhalation that many face when cooking on wood and charcoal fuelled stoves, but they are also more environmentally friendly. The company has partnered with Envirofit, a global cook stove producer, to distribute their stoves which ensure optimum efficiency of the charcoal briquettes.

Osborn’s expansion plans include developing distribution channels to enable monthly subscriptions for home deliveries, and building a production plant to reach an estimated 6.8m potential customers.

Chukwuwezam Obanor, 22, Nigeria – providing an e-learning platform for students

Chukwuwezam Obanor is the co-founder of Prepclass, an online platform that provides study content for local Nigerian schools in preparation for national exams.

The tech startup has partnered with the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) in Nigeria and provides a database of past tests with detailed answers, class notes and other relevant content to help prepare prospective university students for exams.

The company plans to make revenue off an advertising model and by charging users a fee to access premium material. Prepclass already has over 1,000 users and a growing number of paid users.

Chineye Okoro Onu, 19, Ghana – turning recycled material into art

Nigerian Chineye Okoro Onu founded the Mosaicpiration Project while studying in Accra, Ghana. The initiative uses recycled material, such as plastic waste, to create art and provides entrepreneurial skills to young people through training and mentorship.

Onu has a passion for art, the environment, and inspiring change through employment. Within a year she has been able to empower young artists with entrepreneurial skills, and generate monthly income off the sale of art and exhibitions. Some of the signature artwork her project produces is paintings and mosaics of people who have positively brought change to the world.

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