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9 African change makers you need to follow on twitter

African change makers

The destiny of our continent is shaped by the greatness of our people.  

We have been saying this from day one since Rise Africa Rise started because it is true. Africa is blessed with great people.

That is why we are honoured to present to you African change makers you need to follow on twitter, because it is leaders like them that create an exciting destiny for our continent. Change makers like them that make the African Union's vision of agenda 2063 a realistic possibility.

Learn from our African change makers, be inspired by them and engage with them. We live in an age where it is easier than at any time before in history to connect with these inspirational leaders given the technological capabilities at our disposal. Use them.

Without further ado here are the inspirational African change makers:

1) Fred Swaniker

A former McKinsey consultant, Swaniker co-founded the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2006 with the objective to educate the future leaders of our continent. 

The academy is a secondary institution for students between 15-18 years old from all African countries. As part of its two-year curriculum, the academy puts a special emphasis on African studies and entrepreneurship. The objective is to develop 6000 leaders who are going to transform Africa.

If you want to learn more about his groundbreaking work read our article on 4 inspirational African social innovators. This Ghanian serial entrepreneur has been selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2012.

2) Juliana Rotich

Rotich co-founded Ushahidi, an open-source software for collecting and mapping information. Ushahidi builds tools for democratizing information, increasing transparency and lowering the barriers for individuals to share their stories.

Ushahidi crowdsources information about crisis areas, collating it into live, online maps. The tool rose to prominence during the violence which erupted in connection with the Kenyan presidential election in 2007. It allowed the media to cover the violence more effectively and put pressure on the regime to stop.

She has been selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2016. In 2011, she was named Social Entrepreneur of the Year in Africa also by Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

In addition, she is also the founder of iHub, a Nairobi tech space which is "part co-working space, part vector for investors and VCs and part incubator.

3) Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

This inspirational Tanzanian social entrepreneur founded soleRebels in 2004 with five employees and seed capital from her family. Shortly after graduating from University she wanted to create jobs in her community where she grew up through manufacturing authentic Ethiopian shoes.

In the spirit of a true change maker, Alemu saw opportunity in adversity and used this to create a thriving business. Today, her company is known as Africa's fastest growing footwear brand globally.

In comparison to the famous American social enterprise Toms shoes Alemu decided from the start that her eco-friendly shoes should be produced by the local community to create jobs instead of outsourcing production to China to maximize profits.

Today her company turns around $15 million annually and the products are being sold in 55 countries around the globe. Alemu has also been recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011.

Alemu is a truly inspirational African changemaker. It is well worth to learn as much as possible from her.

4) Ashifi Gogo

Ghanian Ashifi Dogo is the founder and CEO of Sproxil which he launched in 2009. The company has developed a Mobile Product Authentication™ (MPA™) solution that enables consumers to verify the pharmaceutical product they are buying is genuine.

Up to 30% of medicines sold in developing countries are counterfeit or substandard. The global counterfeit drug market is estimated to be USD $200 billion. Counterfeit drugs have led to a significant number of deaths globally – annually, 700,000 deaths have resulted from inauthentic drugs for malaria and tuberculosis alone.

In 2015, the company verified over 14 million drugs. Although the company headquarters are in the US, it operates across the globe in countries like Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan and India.

Gogo is an inspirational and accomplished entrepreneur. Sproxil was selected amongst the world’s most innovative company in health care by Fast Company and the seventh most innovative worldwide in 2013. He has also been named as a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the year.

5) Dr Victoria Kisyombe

After her husband died in 1991, Dr Kisyombe launched the Sero Women’s Business Association (renamed SELFINA in 2002) with five other widows in 1992. Local customs and traditions in Tanzania normally make it difficult for women to own land and assets.

For women with low incomes, and in particular widows, this is an extremely challenging situation. Widows must single-handedly care for their families and are marginalized in decision-making at the family and community level.

SELFINA created a solution by pioneering micro-leasing as an effective and practical way to provide credit exclusively to women entrepreneurs in Tanzania. This facilitated the growth of their businesses and brought social change to their communities.

Today SELFINA leases equipment such as small tractors, water pumps, irrigation equipment and sewing machines among many other devices. Cumulatively, SELFINA has issued credit worth US$ 22 million to women in Tanzania. It has trained more than 46,000 women in business management skills, HIV/AIDS awareness and legal rights.

6) Dr Ola Orekunrin

Flying Doctors Nigeria is West Africa's first air ambulance service which provides urgent air ambulances services to leading health institutions, insurance and private companies in Lagos, Nigeria. The company's founder is Dr Ola Orekunrin who started studying Medicine at the University of York at the age of 15 and became a medical doctor at 21.

Her sister died of anemia and because there was no air transport available that could take her to a hospital.Today Orekunrin's company has 20 charter aircrafts available 24/7 to ensure a similar scenario does not repeat itself. The company's biggest impact is when it transport people from rural areas to more urban areas for specialist treatment.

In Nigeria, road and telecommunication infrastructure is often poor while rural clinics are often unprepared to handle emergencies. Also, there are only 4 doctors for every 10,000 citizens in the country. As such, Flying Doctors provides an essential service in air-lifting people and providing treatment en route. 

Dr Ola Orekunrin has been recognized for her work by Time Magazine, CNN, TED and has also been selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.Times Magazine, CNN, TED and has also been selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

7) Misan Rewane

Misan Rewane is another inspirational and impressive change maker from Nigeria. Due to the lack of quality education available in her home country, her parents decided to send her to the US for university

There she went on to get an economics degree from Stanford University and later an MBA at Harvard Business School. While doing her MBA, Rewane was looking for ways to tackle youth-unemployment in Nigeria where 50% of young people are unemployed.

In response to this challenge, Rewane co-founded WAVE. The organizations vision is to provide a vocational training platform aimed at empowering millions of disadvantaged West African youth with employability skills that transform their mindsets and employment opportunities that enhance their social mobility.

WAVE provides motivated young people with the necessary training to succeed in their professional lives while assisting them with getting paid apprenticeship in high-growth industries. Through this WAVE makes an important contribution to the social mobility of these young people and to the economic development of our continent.

Rewane has been supported by Echoing Green, the Mulago Foundation and the Draper Richards Foundation in making her organization's vision a reality. Africa is truly blessed to have such an amazing leader using her sublime leadership skills to create better futures for the millions of unemployed youth.

8) Christopher Ategeka

Those people on our continent that doubt the power of youth should really meet Christopher Ategeka. Not because he was selected as one of the top 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs by Forbes magazine in 2014. Neither because he has just been selected as a  Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum 2016. 

There is a powerful reason why people that doubt the power of youth should meet this social entrepreneur from Uganda. Big challenges like being born into poverty in a village, becoming an orphan at 7 years old and being forced to assume responsibility to raise his siblings tried their damn hardest but luckily were unsuccessful in silencing the greatness in this young African leader.

Many young people across Africa are facing equally though challenges. Ategeka's story can serve as an inspirational story to remind us that greatness is in each one of us and that it should not be silenced by exterior circumstances.

Having grown up in Uganda, Ategeka realized early that access to health care remains a serious challenge for many across the continent, especially the poor and marginalized in rural communities. Healthcare is often many kilometers away while transport can be expensive and unreliable.

This leads to harsh consequences. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries with higher rates among rural and poor women. With proper medical attention and treatment nearly 70% of deaths for children under 5 can be prevented.

In the spirit of a true entrepreneur and leader, Ategeka took it upon himself to implement a solution to this challenge through founding Rides for Lives. Through refitting locally sourced buses and equipping them with medical capabilities including a pharmacy, a full-time general practitioner and a lab that can carry out HIV/AIDS & Malaria tests as well as cancer screenings.

9) Saran Kaba Jones

Having been born and raised in Liberia until the age of 8, Saran Kaba Jones and her family left the country due to the impending 14-year long civil war in the country. Due to her father's career as a diplomat, she has lived in Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, France and Cyprus before she moved to the US to study.

After nearly 20 years, she returned to her country of birth in 2008 and realized that her country needed her. Saran Kaba Jones decided to take action, give up her lucrative job with the government of Singapore and founded Face Africa.

In order to rebuild the country, Jones realized that access to safe drinking water was essential. In Africa over 350 million people are without access to safe water supply.  The impact on health is staggering as over 2 million people die every year from water-borne diseases. The majority of those are children under 5.

Water scarcity also prevents many young students from attending school to receive an education. In particular, this affects girls as they are often expected to help with fetching waters many kilometers away thus preventing them from going to school.

As a result, providing access water and sanitation facilities is the main focus of Face Africa. Water has an exponential effect on health, education and women empowerment. Kudos to Face Africa and Saran Kaba Jones for tackling such an important issue.


We hope you can learn from these amazing change makers and find inspiration in what they do. Creating change comes with obstacles and challenges. The key is to stay focused, as these change makers have done when confronted with problems. You can do it too, because greatness is within you. 

You owe it to yourself and the continent to express the greatness within you. Follow these amazing leaders, interact with them and see where it will take your organization. 

Which one of these exceptional African change makers inspires you the most and why? Let us know in the comment section below.

About the Author Rise Africa Rise

Rise Africa Rise is your online guide to tech entrepreneurship and (social) innovation for African entrepreneurs, startups and businesses. Our aim is to provide you with valuable digital strategies, tools and insights to support you in building a world-class and competitive business in the 21st century.

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