Our CEO – Named among the 50 personalities who make digital Africa in 2021

Further accelerated by the pandemic, the technological revolution underway on the continent brings together an increasingly rich ecosystem. For the first time, JA, who has followed her since her beginnings, offers a list of the 50 personalities who best embody this effervescence.

If there is one industry that has always exceeded expectations in Africa, it is undoubtedly the telecoms industry. Today the continent has more than 500 million mobile phone users. Almost one in two Africans.

Far beyond what could have been imagined in 1987 the Rwandan-Congolese Miko Rwayitare, creator in the DRC of the first mobile network on the continent. At the time, the entrepreneur was targeting only a few thousand “happy few”, and his phones, which could not even send an SMS, were still the size of a brick.


In three decades, operators have weathered all the crises without trembling. Their services were too basic to be hit by the bursting of the 2001 dot-com bubble, then they became too essential to endure the 2008 financial crisis or shudder at the time of the 2014 oil price collapse. Covid will not have shaken them any more, on the contrary.

But unlike previous upheavals, the telecoms industry is no longer the only one to drive the African digital revolution. After the development of 2G, then 3 and 4G networks, submarine cables, mobile payment, the continent has embarked on a new technological leap, that of the platform economy.

In the fields of e-commerce first, for a few years, but also financial services, access to energy, agriculture, health and education. Even states have set about it with the hope of reconciling administered and administration, while improving their governance.

Around MTN, Vodacom, Orange and others, there are therefore thousands of startupers, investors, incubators, operators of fiber optic networks or data centers and influencers, who have enriched the ecosystem. This profusion of actors pushed us to establish, for the first time, the ranking of the 50 personalities who make up digital Africa, with the desire to reproduce it every year.

Start-ups turned unicorns

An ambitious company, which combines in the same list of leaders of telecom operators with hundreds of millions of subscribers, owners of specialized investment funds, the largest of which approach 100 million euros, entrepreneurs looking for financing , founders of start-ups who have become unicorns, but also  representatives of Gafam,  these sprawling companies with almost unlimited means, and finally some public decision-makers.


With great humility, we report through this selection of the place that each one occupies in our eyes in an effervescence, which has been further accentuated in favor of the health crisis, under the pressure of confined populations eager for its new digital services.

To calibrate our candidates, chosen from a list of more than 300 names, we have retained a series of criteria, which range from capacity for innovation, through financial strength, the amount of fundraising carried out, leadership and notoriety, primarily by highlighting the events that occurred during the 2020/2021 period. Of course, this list cannot claim to be absolute truth, but it presents JA’s vision of   a revolution that we have been following since its inception.

We could have immediately placed the top ten telecom operators there without which nothing would be possible, but we also wanted to highlight the adoption of e-commerce, the explosion of fintechs, especially in Nigeria, more than ever in the sight of global groups such as Visa or Mastercard, the growing interest in energy access services, the development of datacenters and the first really significant projects of Gafam, particularly in the field of infrastructure. READ  [Ranking] When telecom giants eclipse the rest of tech (2/3)

Absence of actors from Maghreb countries

Reducing the list to 50 names has also led us to exclude for this edition the large financial institutions like IFC or CDC, which nevertheless play an important role, and to note the absence of actors from the Maghreb countries among the most ambitious projects.

Finally, it should be noted that women are still few in this ecosystem to occupy the leading roles. They are, however, far from being absent.

We can cite, in addition to the personalities appearing in our selection, Odunayo Eweniyi, co  founder  of the start-up Piggyvest , Coura Carine Sene, who heads Wave Senegal,  Fatoumata Ba , whose fund is not yet fully operational or Andreatta Muforo, partner of the investment company TLCom, represented in the ranking by its founder. Female figures who, we hope, will manage to find a more important place in the next editions of our top 50.

RankFirst nameLast nameNationalityFunctionCompany or organization
2Jeremy / SachaHodara / PoigonnecFrenchFounders and CEOJumia
3Shola / EzraAkinlade / OlubiNigerianFounders and CEOPaystack
4OlugbengaAgboolaNigerianFounder and CEO Flutterwave
5AshrafSabryEgyptian Founder and CEOFawry
6MitchellElegbeNigerianFounder and Managing DirectorInterswitch
7ArifChowdhuryBengaliDirector and member of the board of directorsTranssion Holdings
8SitoyoLopokoiyitKenyanGeneral managerM-Pesa
9KimReidSouth AfricanFounder and CEO Takealot
10Ralph MupitaZimbabweanCEO MTN
11PaulKagameRwandanPresidentRepublic of Rwanda
12LacinaKonéIvorianGeneral managerSmart Africa
13ShameelJoosubSouth AfricanCEO Vodacom
14AliouneNdiayeSenegalese CEO Orange Middle East and Africa
15AlphaBarrySenegaleseCEOAtos Africa
16HassaneinHiridjeeFranco-Malagasy CEOAxian
17JonSteverAmericanCo-founder and Managing Directori4policy
18MostafaKandilEgyptian Founder and CEO Swvl
19MansoorHamayumPakistano-SwedishFounder and CEO BBOX
20Bill LenihanAmericanCEO Zola Electric
21Michael D.FrancoisAmericanEMEA infrastructure managerGoogle
22IbrahimaBaMauritanianDirector of Emerging Countries InfrastructuresFacebook
23Tidjane / CyrilDeme / CollonSenegalese / FrenchGeneral PartnersPartech Africa
24BosunTijaniNigerianCEOCo-Creation Hub / iHub
25MaurizioCaioItalianFounder and Managing DirectorTLcom Capital
26HanyAl-SonbatyEgyptianCo-founder and Managing DirectorSawari Ventures
27Ham / MaijidSerunjogi / MoujaledUgandan / GhanaianCo-founder and CEO / Co-founder and presidentChipper Cash
28JanHnizdoSouth AfricanCEOTeraco Data Environments
29MustaphaCisseSenegaleseDirector of the Center on Artificial Intelligence at Accra Director of the Center on Artificial Intelligence at Accra Director of the Center on Artificial Intelligence at AccraGoogle
30ErikHersmanAmericanFounder and CEOBRCK
31RemyFékétéFrenchAssociateJones Day
32RyosukeYamawakiJapaneseGeneral PartnerKepple Africa Ventures
33AbasiEne-ObongNigerianFounder and CEO54gene
34Grant / KikandeBrooke / MwatelaBritish / KenyanCo-founder and CEO / Co-founder and CEOTwiga Foods
35PhuthiMahanyele-DabengwaSouth AfricanCEONaspers SA
36Nolan WolffSouth AfricanCEO Ayoba 
37Mesh / MalaikaAlloys / JuddKenyan / AmericanCofounder and CEO / Cofounder and CFO Founder and CEO / Cofounder and CFOSendy
38SimShagayaNigerianFounder and CEOuLesson Education
39JasonNjokuNigerianFounder and CEOiROKOtv
40RebeccaEnonchongCameroonianCEOTech Apps
41CinaLawsonTogoleseMinisterMinistry of Digital Economy
42Ndèye TickedNdiaye DiopSenegaleseEx-MinisterMinistry of Digital Economy
43NnennaNwakanmaNigerianChief Web AdvocateWorld Wide Web Foundation
44IyinoluwaAboyejiNigerian Founder & General PartnerFounder & General PartnerFuture Africa
46MichaelSeibelAmericanGeneral manager Y combinator
47KizitoOkechukwuSouth AfricanDirector22 on Sloane
48MarièmeJammeSenegalFounder and PresidentiamtheCODE
49Wimvan der BeekDutchFounder and Managing DirectorGoodwell investment
50ClementDomingo (SaxX)Franco-SenegaleseCo-founderHexpresso
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