Forget IT Startups, Here are 11 Amazing non-IT Startups Founders to Watch in Africa

Eighteen year old Nadege Iradukunda, from Rwanda, led a team to deploy innovative biogas solutions in schools serving over 15,000 students. In Uganda, twenty year old Andrew Mupuya launched a paper bag production company that employs 14 people, ranging up to 53 years old. And in a village in Tanzania, 16-year old Faisal Burhan saw that his school was short on funds for gas for bunsen burners. His response was to design and build a bio-digester that produced gas from the school’s organic waste.

They are all finalists of the for the 2012 Anzisha Prize. The Prize identifies and celebrates Africa’s young entrepreneurial leaders between the ages 16 to 22, who have identified opportunities in their communities and launched innovative ventures, which this year range from agriculture and consumer projects to energy and technology solutions.

The finalists were selected from a competitive pool of 270 young entrepreneurs from 23 African countries.

Three grand prize winners will be announced today, 29th August 2012, and will share $75,000 in prize money.

Here are the profiles of 11 of the finalists:

  • Andrew Mupuya of Uganda, 20, founder of YELI, a paper bag production company that produces custom solutions for local hospitals and vendors and employs 14 persons, the oldest of whom is 53.


Andrew Mupuya is a 19 year old Makerere University student. He manages his own company called YELI- Youth Entreprenual Link Investments, which makes quality paper bags, envelopes, T-shirt printing and recently started writing business proposals for clients. The business is only two years old but Mupuya says the annual turnover is 1,800,000. He employs about 18 people especially when he has big orders for paper bags. His business is located in Kamwokya 3 off Mawanda road, where he pays monthly rent of 100,000 shillings.

Mupuya says he started his business two years ago after gaining experience from the JA company program that was in their school at that time. In the JA company called Quapack where they were taught how to make envelopes and paper bags at school, he was a finance manager. So after high school, he used some of the dividends he got from the JA and added on some more money and with a capital of 30,000, he started his own paper bag business.

Mupuya says that one thing that makes his business to stand out is his level of creativity, and his proudest achievement is this acquisition of business skill which he utilizes to earn a living. Although his major challenge is limited time, he says he has learned to multi-task like any other business man and he has learned to start his day early in the morning in order to accomplish his days’ routine. His vision is to contribute to employing Ugandans and trading beyond Ugandan boarders.

  • David Mwendele of Tanzania, 22, founder of Let God Be You Foundation, an initiative that trains youth to launch their own ventures in book manufacturing, baking, and photography.

David Mwendele, 2012 Anzisha Prize Finalist

When David observed many youth in his community succumb to truancy, delinquency, joblessness, and drugs he resolved to make a difference. From his spiritual motivation, David founded the Let God Be You Foundation. The mission of the organization is to provide quality education and life skills to youth and children to help them overcome challenges they face in life and become leaders of positive change in their society.David started out by securing a loan from a friend to begin training youth on how to make hard cover exercise books, a skill he learned after working long hours at a factory in his teens. These books were sold to generate revenues, which then funded the transportation, and food needs for these youth, and the class’s operational costs. David also taught local youth the art of embroidery, t-shirt printing, baking, and photography. In two years, he has trained over 100 local youth with skills that have spawned 4 other profitable ventures.

David is a serial entrepreneur who is very mission-oriented. He sees himself as a part of a larger whole and this is why he was not able to sit idly by while watching his fellow youth decay.

  • Diana Kerubo Mong’are of Kenya, 16, founder of Planet Green, a local recycling initiative that mobilizes farmers, carpenters, households, and a local recycling company to reduce waste build up, at a profit.


Diana Kerubo Mong’are, 2012 Anzisha Prize FinalistAs she and her younger brother played outside, the trash piles in her community seemed to grow larger and larger with each passing day. Diana wanted to make a change and took the initiative. Diana considered that simply removing the trash once was not a permanent solution. Instead she created a clever sustainable system for keeping her community free of trash and improving the environment.

After organizing her neighbors and building consensus around her solution, Diana raised 10,000 Kenyan shillings to purchase the first batch of black and clear plastic bags. She convinced the households in her community to use the bags to separate their trash into biodegradable waste and recyclables. Diana then hired a worker to gather the community recyclables and negotiated their sale to a local recycling company. Proceeds from recycling helped fund regular waste collection in the community. Since February 2012 she has recruited 50 households into the Planet Green program.

Not stopping there, Diana implemented a financially sustainable system to collect woodchips from the local furniture factory, and rotting vegetables from the market and provide them to local poultry and vegetable farmers. Diana is building a movement by educating local school children on the importance of and methods for community and environmental conservation. At just 18, Diana is well on her way to becoming a leading advocate for environmental conservation and sustainability in Africa.

  • Faisal Burhan of Tanzania, 17, inventor extraordinaire, who designed and built a gas-producing bio-digester and also a microscope his school’s science classes.

Faisal Burhan, 2012 Anzisha Prize Finalist

Born in Mwanza, on the shores of Lake Victoria, Faisal Burhan had a modest upbringing. After his parent’s divorce, Faisal continued to receive some support while he remained at boarding school in a village called Katoro in northwestern Tanzania. Faisal’s prodigious curiosity propelled him to explore science with a great intensity. Faisal first feat was building a bio-digester machine.

Faisal endured skepticism and opposition to his idea at the school, but he persisted and built a coalition with his physics instructor. After convincing the school to grant him scarce funds he bought the sheet metal and other basic materials to construct a bio-digester. It produces gas that is now used in the school’s chemistry lab for Bunsen burners. He has impacted hundreds of his schoolmates and teachers.

Next, Faisal designed and built a microscope for his school’s science labs. He built it from lenses, mirrors, wood, cardboard, thread, a light bulb, and PVC plastic pipes. Faisal’s mind is always working and he hopes to follow through with one of his designs for a jet pack that runs on liquid hydrogen and oxygen. At 17, Faisal is a change agent whose tools are his mind and his hands. He learns keenly, dreams, and builds.

  • Isaac Nekemiah Oboth of Uganda, 22, founder of Media 256, a rising media production company that creates innovative videos for a wide range of NGO and corporate clients.
Isaac Nekemiah Oboth, Anzisha Prize FinalistOrphaned at a young age, Isaac learned early on the importance of making a living by creating opportunities. After being disappointed by the work of a local videographer contracted by his classmates, he decided to “do it better” and go into film production. Completely self-taught, he started by watching online video tutorials for hours on end at a local internet café and ultimately founded Media 256, a film and video production company. Through hard work and pavement pounding marketing, Isaac got his first big break when he was chosen by the Ethiopian commodities exchange to produce a short film.

That break earned him enough to buy his own video equipment, rather than rent. He then lobbied Coca-Cola to produce video for them after seeing the low quality of their existing videos by an established agency. He offered them free work in exchange for being evaluated. They agreed. When they saw his finished work, they ultimately contracted him for future work.  That was his second big break. In between he has also produced videos for weddings, music, NGO documentaries, and others.

In December 2011, Isaac won the Young Achievers Award for Film and Television, presented by the President of Uganda, President of Rwanda, and Queen of Buganda. At 22, Isaac currently lectures at the Ugandan School of Design and employs two exceptional student interns from his class. He is very passionate about financial literacy and has started producing the script for “Business League” a financial literacy reality show for young entrepreneurs in the local Ugandan market.

  • Laetitia Mukungu of Kenya, 16, founder of Women’s Rabbit Association, a cooperative organization that farms rabbits profitably to help women pay for their childrens’ educational needs.


Laetitia Mukungu, 2012 Anzisha Prize Finalist

Laetitia lives with her mother in the remote village of Bukura in Kenya and has never known her father. Despite her own challenges and responsibilities as the eldest of three sisters, Laetitia still made time to tutor fellow students when she was not studying. For as long as she can remember, she has sought to help women who are the primary breadwinners for their families, knowing that slightly growing means could allow their daughters to stay in school. Out of Laetitia’s extraordinary strength and generosity, the Women’s Rabbit Association sprung to life.

Laetitia found that rabbit-farming was a great enterprise to undertake. From research, Laetitia learned that rabbits were easy to breed and that every part of the rabbit had value. The fur, the meat, the waste as manure, and even the urine could be used as an organic pesticide in farming. She convinced a local school to invest 40,000 Kenyan shillings to help purchase the first set of rabbits. Soon, Laetitia and others formed a local women’s association to manage the blossoming rabbits project that had rapidly grown to dozens of rabbits.

The enterprise and association that Laetitia birthed has now expanded to plant a farm and also sell rabbit meat. The proceeds funds a small salary for the association’s 15 members, as well as a micro-finance bank to cover their children’s educational needs and personal micro-business ventures.

  • Lindokuhle Mdluli, of Swaziland, 18, is the founder of Eco-Eagle. His company produces high- yield organic produce on non-arable land, using hydrophonic and other low-cost methods.


Lindokuhle Mdluli, 2012 Anzisha Prize FinalistBorn in a rural area in Swaziland, Lindokuhle lost his father at the age of 12 and moved in with his uncle, an agriculture teacher. While enrolled in Lusothi High School, Lindo became inspired to address two major issues in Swaziland: the environment and food production. Together with 15 classmates Lindo established Eco-Eagle.

Under Lindo’s leadership as CEO, their team used hydroponic methods to grow organic produce. Using this and other low-cost methods, Eco-Eagle produced vegetables on otherwise non-arable land with high yields. This helped address food shortages and high food prices simultaneously. Lindo and his team sold 160 shares in the company at 5 rand, invested that capital to purchase seeds, and negotiated permission to plant on their school’s campus.

In a three month growing season, his team generated 5,000 items of produce, including broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce, which they sold to major grocery chains – Pick ‘n’ Pay and Boxers, a local country club, and local residents. Low-cost methods allowed Eco Eagle solid profits despite selling at below-market rates. Lindo’s team earned a 10X return on investment and invested the profits in uniforms for needy schoolmates, growing the business, and a dividend for their shareholders. Eco-Eagle went on to win the top prize in both the Swaziland Junior Achievement competition and International Junior Achievement competition in Ghana

  • Mohamed Aldesouky Ismail of Egypt, 20, founder of Bara Co. Educational Toys, which designs and manufactures scientific toys for children.


Mohamed Aldesouky Ismail, 2012 Anzisha Prize FinalistThe team’s first design is a mini excavator that is complete with working hydraulic systems. The excavator comes disassembled in the box with an illustrated guide that a child (age 9 and up in this case) can use to assemble it.The toys are dynamic and well composed, and so is the Bara’s Co. team.  They are well organized by function, including Mohamed who leads marketing, and others who head up product design, production, and research. The dual-gender team not only has the passion, but also the academic training from university and the functional focus within their company to deliver on their promise. Classmates turned co-owners, the Bara’s Co. team divide their time between studying for exams and power drilling blocks of wood into functional toys.

Bara’s Co. has been receiving due recognition for their innovation including winning a prize at the Injaz Misr Egypt competition of 25,000 Egyptian pounds (US$3,000). The team is focused on their skills, outsourcing things like packaging of the toys to other firms. Currently Bara’s Co. is actively pursuing partnerships with schools to get their toys to their target audience of children, starting in Egypt.

  • Nadege Iradukunda of Rwanda, 18, founding member of the United Youth for Rwandan Development, which spearheads the deployment of biogas solutions in schools serving over 15,000 students.


Nadege Iradukunda, 2012 Anzisha Prize FinalistNadege’s story is a remarkable transformation of waste to food. As a student in southern Rwanda, Nadege noticed that many students struggled to pay the additional fees that schools required to cover the high costs of cooking food for students. Schools spent a significant proportion of their budgets on firewood for cooking meals. Wood stoves also increased deforestation, soil erosion, and respiratory illnesses among kitchen workers. To meet this acute need, Nadege developed a solution that used a proven technology.

Nadege found that Rwanda’s prisons used biogas to use instead of wood in cooking and saved 40% in energy costs. Armed with this knowledge and a desire to make a difference, she joined forces with others in the United Youth for Rwandan Development to get more schools to adopt biogas energy. The team developed the Biogas Digester Plants (BDP) project that buys, assembles, and deploys biodigesters in secondary schools.  An additional advantage of using this renewable energy source was decreased deforestation and soil erosion.

The BDP project has deployed 15 bio-digester plants, each 10 – 15 cubic meters. This has inspired other schools to follow suit to reduce their operating costs. These reduced costs have also made school more affordable to students who may not otherwise have been able to attend school. Nadege and her team aim to cover all the schools in Rwanda

  • Naledi Mosweu of Botswana, 18, founder of Guardian Angels Co., an award-winning company that produces a line of solid, alcohol-free perfumes.


Naledi Mosweu, 2012 Anzisha Prize FinalistNaledi Mosweu knows what ‘Hope’ smells like. It is one of her top-selling solid perfumes, made from almond and other organic oils. Naledi and her four-woman team have been perfumers since 2010, making organic and alcohol-free solid scents for women and men.

Naledi and her team at Guardian Angels Company have been producing and selling these solid scents since 2010. Guardian Angels Company’s alcohol-free perfumes are particularly helpful for albinos and asthmatic individuals who are sensitive to alcohol-based perfumes. Free of synthetic chemicals and aerosols, the perfumes do not emit chlouroflurocarbons (CFCs) that damage the ozone layer. These solid perfumes are made from bees wax, almond oil, petroleum jelly, and essential perfume oils. Their products also function as all-natural, organic skin moisturizers.

Naledi’s company has received its fair share of international and local acclaim. Last year, Guardian Angels Company represented Botswana and took 2nd place at the International Junior Achievement Competition in Accra, Ghana. This past June, Naledi and her team were honored by the former president of Botswana Festus Mogae at a youth dinner. To Naledi and her team, ‘Hope’ smells like success.

  • Yaw Duffour Awuah of Ghana, 19, founder of Student Aid Plus, a financial services company that offers financial literacy education and a savings and loan program to help students pay school fees.


You may have known someone like Yaw in high school, with a knack for understanding risk and the fortitude to take it. At the Accra Academy, Yaw noticed several high school classmates regularly unable to travel home for holidays. While the obvious possibility of giving schoolmates money to go home for the holidays was there, Yaw thought differently and saw an opportunity to create a more sustainable system that would benefit more of his peers. Yaw launched his company, Apex Loans, to assist these fellow students. Apex loans extended loans from capital borrowed by fellow partners and provided its lenders a return through earnings from the interest it charged borrowers. Yaw was 16.

Since then, Apex has been renamed to Student Aid Plus and now has a savings plan, financial literacy sessions led by invited professionals, and almost a hundred student volunteers. Student Aid Plus also has 55 shareholders that receive dividends. Its loan default rate is 0%. Yaw’s goals are to continue to grow the business horizontally into other schools that might benefit from their services and to also expand vertically in offering more services as students might need.

Yaw’s team ultimately aims to launch a business he calls the African Business Capital fund, whose focus will be financing promising startup business ventures across Africa

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About Mawuna KOUTONIN

Mawuna Koutonin is a world peace activist who relentlessly works to empower people to express their full potential and pursue their dreams, regardless of their background. He is the Editior of, Founder of, and Social activist for Africa Renaissance. Koutonin’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class human potential development school in Africa in 2017. If you are interested in learning more about this venture or Koutonin’s other projects, you can reach him directly by emailing at