This year marks the fifth milestone annual FORBES AFRICA 30 under 30 list, and we have introduced a new category of game-changers. Together, they are 120 in total across four sectors: business, technology, creatives and sport. Meet the class of 2019, a stellar collection of entrepreneurs and innovators rewriting rules and taking bold new risks to take Africa to the future.
The list is in no particular order:
Karabo Poppy Moletsane, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla
1. Karabo Poppy Moletsane, 27, South Africa
Creative Illustrator, Street Artist and Graphic Designer
Not only is Karabo Poppy Moletsane an artist aiming for the skies, but you can see some of her work from there too.
In the Zoo Lake public park in Johannesburg, two basketball courts are adorned with her creativity.
From a bird’s eye-view, you can see one in blue with a crocodile on it and another in turquoise with a cheetah on it.
Together with another local artist, they designed the courts in collaboration with Nike.
Moletsane is also responsible for tagging the famous landmark in Soweto, the Soweto Towers, which can be seen miles away and has become a source of kasi (township) pride.
Moletsane’s goal has been to put black female illustrators on the map.
In 2015, she turned her passion for art into a business and founded Mother Tongue-Creative House which is now trading under her own name, Karabo Poppy.
“This was a five-year journey that started with me only having one month of work experience, living with family and friends, and chartering my own course without scripts for success,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
She has won three Loerie Awards over the course of her career, and her work has been recognized as part of a Grammy-nominated music video Makeba, by French singer and artist, Jain.
Poppy was also the first black female artist to paint the Art Wall in the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in California.
For international woman’s day in March 2018, she was also the artist behind the sequential Google doodle.
Her contribution to the world has been contemporary African aesthetics and she continues to do so.
Rophnan Nuri, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
2. Rophnan Nuri, 29, Ethiopia
Electronic Dance Music Artist
At the age of 10, Rophnan Nuri released his first mixtape, singing and playing the drums with his classmates, and he has not stopped moving to his own beat since.
He self-funded his career with the money he made as a club DJ and over the years, he learned the technical side of music and produced his own distinct sound.
“I was always fascinated by the fusion of different instruments and voices, and created a unique niche for myself by amalgamating traditional Ethiopian sounds from the past with futurist electronic music,” he says.
Nuri’s talent also saw him being one of the three African DJs chosen by South African DJ, Black Coffee, to perform in Ibiza Spain in 2017.
In 2018, he received awards in three categories at the 2018 Leza Awards in Ethiopia.
In the same year, he featured on a song titled Get To Work by Major Lazer, a popular American electronic dance music trio.
Despite his global impact, Nuri says he will always stay true to his Ethiopian roots, one of the reasons why he is most loved by his fellow Ethiopians.
“Getting recognition and support in my home country is unparalleled. My ability to engineer traditional instruments and merge them with popular sounds has earned me incredible support in the form of sold-out performances,” he says,
He continues to share his love for music through the Ethiopian DJ Association, nurturing up-and-coming talent.
Henry Amponsah, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
3. Henry Amponsah, 27, Ghana
Designer, Founder and CEO: 101 Clothing
Henry Amponsah knew he was going to be a designer from a young age.
“I remember when I told my mum I wanted to be a designer in the future, she angrily said, ‘what will be the use of gaining education only to be sitting in a container sewing clothes for chicken change?’ That got me laughing out loud and I said to myself ‘I will prove this lady wrong in the future’,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
And Amponsah did just that.
While in high school, he and four friends had a photoshoot with outfits that cost $150 and they posted the photos on social media.
“The collection went viral and clients started talking to me,” Amponsah says.
The recognition pushed him to officially start his business, 101 Clothing, in 2014, and the rest was a stitch in time.
Today, Amponsah has dressed Samira Bawumia, the wife of Ghana’s Vice President. He also runs a foundation that helps with basic school equipment and workshops.
To date, he has received over 10 local and international awards and featured in many magazines including British Vogue magazine.
In the end, Amponsah managed to fulfil his dream and that of his mom’s; he built his fashion house and his now gunning for a PhD.
Austin Malema, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
4. Austin Malema, 28, South Africa
Photographer and CEO: Pixel Kollective
While some opt to invest in shares or property, Austin Malema opted to invest in memories and everything clicked into place.
Instead of celebrating his 21st birthday with a party, he used the money to buy his first camera, which cost R18,000 ($1,200).
He began shooting at events, which led to more bookings and he realized that the lens gave him greater access to musicians, actors and prominent people.
Since then, Malema has photographed for many brands globally and for events such as the South African Music Awards, the South African Film and Television Awards and the Global Citizen Festival.
His work has also led to him photographing popular musicians such as Drake, Joey BadA$$, AKA, Casper Nyovest, Beyoncé and Jay-Z.
In 2018, when FORBES AFRICA 2018 30 Under 30 alumni, Thuso Mbedu, was nominated for an International Emmy, he was her official photographer in New York.
Apart from his exposure, Malema has turned his passion for photography into a business.
Last year, he founded his first company, Pixel Kollective, with his two partners, Kelly Leuuw and Sivuyile Matsiliza.
“My biggest dream is for the company to represent young black photographers around South Africa,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
Harmony Katulondi, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
5. Harmony Katulondi, 29, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Presenter, Model, Actor and Voice Over Artist
Harmony Katulondi is a jack of all trades, and definitely a name to remember.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo-born presenter first fell in love with acting and presenting when he moved to South Africa as a toddler.
“I remember going over lines with my parents and stepping into new worlds every time I got on to the stage. I loved the smiles, joy and awe it brought into people’s eyes when they saw me,” he says.
However, when he was in university, it was nothing close to that feeling.
One day, while studying, a friend told him of a casting gig where they needed tall people.
He applied and it turned out to be African Fashion International.
“I got there, walked, and they loved it, but I needed an agent. They told me to go upstairs and I signed with my current agency and so the casting life began. Commercial here, fashion week and catalogues there. That lead to TV shows, stints on Generations: The Legacy, and Skeem Saam,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
However, there was one goal he aimed to achieve; being a Top Billing presenter. Katulondi auditioned for the Top Billing presenter search three times and didn’t make it.
Disappointed, this prompted him to start his own company in 2016, Harmony Katulondi Pty Ltd, a creative consultancy company.
Two years later, the presenter search came around again but Katulondi was not eager until his friends pushed him to.
In the end, Katulondi got the part. His talent saw him doing voice-overs for the Black Panther movie campaign. He is also the founder of a non-profit called Just Love to help those in need by doing outreaches such as feeding schemes, fundraising, skills development and environmental clean-ups.
Kapasa Musonda, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
6. Kapasa Musonda, 29, Zambia
In 2011, Kapasa Musonda returned to a non-existent fashion industry in her home country, Zambia, after living in the US for six years.
She had just obtained her Associate of Arts Advanced Study degree with a Magna Cum Laude, but had nowhere to use it.
“I had no choice but to open my own design business if I was to survive and make a living at what I knew best,” she says.
This birthed her business and fashion house, Mangishi Doll, that same year.
It is a Zambian ‘Afro-Eclectic’ clothing brand inspired by bold prints and an artistic expression of design and style.
Along the way, Musonda has made enough money to hire two permanent tailors and train five women in advanced fashion design.
In 2017, her garments were retailing at a boutique in Los Angeles and that caught the eyes of many US celebrities.
Among them was iconic actor Angela Bassett, who wore her garments to the American Black Film Festival Honours in Hollywood.
“We were elated and honored and after Angela Bassett wore our piece, we had the biggest growth spurt we had ever experienced,” she says.
It was not long before the BET Awards 2018 invited her for an exclusive fashion event where she presented a 24-piece collection.
From a three-year-old armed with a sewing machine, to taking on the world with couture and elegance, Musonda continues to put African print on the map.
Richard Akuson, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
7. Richard Akuson, 26, Nigeria
Founder and Editor: A Nasty Boy
Richard Akuson’s activism for LGBTQ+ and challenging gender norms resulted in him being named one of the 40 most powerful people in Nigeria under the age of 40 in the 2017 YNaijaPower List.
He founded A Nasty Boy, a magazine that is a fashion platform celebrating alternative and creative ideas, forms of expression and lifestyles, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community.
It was named one of Vogue’s ‘What to Read This Fall’ in 2017.
“That’s pretty radical, given the political climate and culture there,” Vogue said. Akuson is a lawyer by profession, but dove into this creative activism after experiencing a brutal homophobic attack.
He sought asylum in the US and grew his platform into a global brand.
A Nasty Boy has since created a safe space to have meaningful conversations for people persecuted for being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
But Akuson plans to take it a step further. “Through collaborations with American institutions, I’d like to focus my time as a licensed American lawyer on pro-LGBTQ+ rights policy advocacy in Africa,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
He is currently writing a memoir about his journey to the US and co-producing as well as co-directing a documentary series about the lived experiences of African asylum-seekers in the US.
Menzi Mcunu, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
8. Menzi Mcunu, 22, South Africa
Founder: Afrocentric Gentlemvn
Menzi Mcunu is one of South Africa’s best-dressed young men, and he gets paid for it.
His notable look is a well-tailored suit, tie, top hat and a swag oozing elegance and grace.
Not bad for a 22-year-old.
He has graced the covers of, not one, but two magazines and his biggest highlight was being part of GQ South Africa’s Best Dressed Men for 2017.
Internationally, he has attended Milan Fashion Week in 2018 and has been featured on Vogue Italia, GQ Russia and GQ Australia.
It all started when he visited Mumbai, India, in 2013.
He was inspired by the Indian culture and its attention to detail in fashion.
As a result, he founded Afrocentric Gentlemvn, an African lifestyle brand that merges European aesthetics and African elegance with suit measurement and creative consultancy services.
“I knew nothing about the technical side or production side of selling garments but I wanted to depict suits differently. I didn’t want them to just be suits like the ones I saw at many retailers but I wanted them to represent a lifestyle,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
Mcunu plans to grow his platform, Afrocentric Gentlemvn, globally.
He has also been interested in the development of African luxury and African fashion on the continent.
Trevor Stuurman, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
9. Trevor Stuurman, 26, South Africa
Photographer and Creative Director
CNN describes Trevor Stuurman as a cultural force, and indeed he has illustrated that.
Living up to these titles, he has had the opportunity to document former US President, Barack Obama, The Carters (Beyoncé and Jay Z) as well his mentor and someone he considers a sister, Naomi Campbell.
He was born and raised in the diamond city of Kimberley in South Africa’s Northern Cape.
After studying film, he was drawn to a different medium of visual arts – photography.
As a result, he became a self-taught photographer; in fact, one of South Africa’s most sought-after photographers.
“The more I leave home, the more I realize the power and currency that home has. And I think that it makes me a better story-teller because I am able to find pieces of home wherever I go and then create tangible products,” he says.
This essence of belonging inspired him to host his first solo exhibition titled Home, a love letter to the Himba women of Namibia, at the HAZARD Gallery in Johannesburg.
He has received recognition such as being on GQ South Africa’s Most Connected and Most Influential Man list 2018, Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans 2015, and Destiny Magazine’s Power of 40 List. Stuurman is also a contributor to British Vogue.
He plans to have his work live in museums and art galleries around the world and ultimately, to cultivate a space for more young story-tellers on the continent to share their lived African experiences through their own lenses.
Burna Boy, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
10. Burna Boy, 28, Nigeria
Early this year, Burna Boy took his Nigerian music fire to the US and ended up selling out the iconic Apollo Theatre in New York City where previous African legends like Fela Kuti, Miriam Makeba and Black Coffee were once hosted.
He was also one of the major artists to perform this year at Coachella, one of the world’s biggest music and arts festival.
Born Damini Ogulu, he is undoubtedly one of the hottest African recording artists right now and a name to remember.
The Afro-fusion singer and songwriter rose to fame after his lead single Like to Party was released in 2012.
Since then, he has moved to his own beat, releasing hit after hit each year.
Some of the world’s favorites include Dangote, Ye, On the Low, Soke, and Hallelujah, each reaching over three million views on YouTube.
Of the many accolades, he has won Best Album of the Year, Best Pop Artist of the Year at the Nigerian Entertainment Awards in 2015, and recently received four awards at the Soundcity MVP Awards Festival.
His third studio album Outside was hailed by Pulse Nigeria and Nigerian Entertainment Today as the best Nigerian album of 2018.
Kim Jayde, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
11. Kim Jayde, 28, Zimbabwe
TV Presenter, Model and MC
It’s not every day that one gets to meet the world’s biggest names such as Charlize Theron, Naomi Campbell, Major Lazer, Ciara, Paris Hilton, Tyler Perry and Trevor Noah.
But Harare-born Kim Jayde has.
Since she moved to South Africa, she has been landing major gigs, making her undoubtedly one of Zimbabwe’s ‘it girls’ at the moment.
You may have seen her on your screens on MTV Base Africa as a presenter, but she has also worked with brands like Revlon, Coca-Cola, Ackermans, Accessorize (London) and more.
“My story of being discovered by MTV Africa on Instagram and then going on to become the face of the channel is proof that anything is possible, with hard work, dedication and passion,” she says.
Among the many awards was the Media Personality of The Year at the 2018 Zimbabwe Achievers Awards.
She was also listed as one of the 40 Under 30 class of Emerging Zimbabwe Leaders by Gumiguru and not to mention took home her first international award for Woman in Media at the fifth annual Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards.
However, when the cameras aren’t rolling, Jayde still uses her degree in social work contributing to the Home of Hope For Girls; something she has always been passionate about.
Petite Noir member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla
12. Petite Noir, 28, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Singer, Songwriter and Producer
From the African soil to some of the world’s greatest stages, Petite Noir embodies a modern African renaissance through his music and art.
He once opened for American Grammy award-winning singer Solange Knowles while she was on her 2013 US tour and performed at the South by Southwest festival in Texas.
In the 70s, an Angolan woman and Congolese man fell in love.
But due to the political instability in both countries, they fled to Belgium in search of a new start.
That new start birthed Yannick Ilunga, now popularly known as Petite Noir.
In 1993 they then moved to Cape Town where his love for music was awakened.
“I really started to fall in love with music at the age of 15. It was something that I automatically felt drawn to, so much so that I immersed myself in various music projects as much as I could,” Noir tells FORBES AFRICA.
In 2012, he released his first single Till We Ghosts, which caught the eye of a music manager in the UK and wasting no time, Noir moved there.
The next year was his big break.
He signed a £80,000 ($103,305) deal and embarked on his first world tour, which spanned Africa, the UK, Europe and America.
“I toured with Solange and Foals [British rock band]; I played at festivals with line-ups that included the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Angélique Kidjo and many more,” he says.
Since then, his career has been nothing short of greatness.
Together with his wife, Rochelle ‘RhaRha’ Nembhard, he has been working on a charity called the Noirwave foundation.
Noir is currently working on his own festival called ‘No Borders’, a celebration of the journey of immigrants through art and music.
Among some of his accolades is the South African Music Award 2016 for Best Alternative Album for La Vie Est Belle/Life is Beautiful.
The same year, he also received recognition for the album artwork and the video Best exhibited in the African art gallery at Harvard University.
With Solange inviting him to play in the US and American musician Mos Def being one of his advisors, Petite Noir is a name to remember and a wave to catch on to.
Aisha Baker, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
13. Aisha Baker, 29, South Africa
Businesswoman, Influencer and Style Icon
There are a few names that have become synonymous with South Africa’s authority in the digital beauty industry and Aisha Baker is one of them.
Baker founded BakedOnline in 2009 when the blogging trend was fledgling in South Africa.
“I loved fashion, since I was introduced to Vogue Pattern books by my seamstress grandmother; I also loved literature and writing. It was a natural progression for me,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
At the age of 20, she began monetizing it.
“I had accidentally formed a media company without knowing. Having one employee at the time, my photographer Tegan Smith, who worked only for petrol money and great images,” she says.
For one year, Baker worked a nine-to-five job at an embroidery factory to fund her business and would shoot content for her blog on weekends.
It was a stressful time.
“I got admitted to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack. Turns out it was an ulcer caused by stress,” she says.
Ten years later, her brand has since stayed relevant and picked up some awards along the way.
She graced the cover of the 2018 influencer issue of Cosmopolitan South Africa.
She has worked with brands such as Estée Lauder, Mercedes-Benz, Cotton, Mac, Woolworths and Microsoft to name a few.
Most recently, she was awarded the E! Africa Social Media Award at their Pop of Culture awards.
Karun, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
14. Karun, 24, Kenya
You might know Karun from the pop trio Kenyan group Camp Mulla, nominated for a BET Award in the US in 2012.
But this alternative R&B pop artist is now taking on the world solo and is one of Kenya’s rising new wave artists.
Born Karungari Mungai, she started her music career at 14 and went on to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in the US.
Since then, she has had the opportunity to perform at live festivals and shows across the globe such as the SXSW 2015 (Austin TX) as part of the collective Cosmic Homies.
Karun also performed at the Madaraka Festival (Seattle), Blankets & Wine in Kenya and most recently, the Africa Nouveau Festival, Kenya’s most forward-thinking electric three-day music festival.
She has been covered by publications such as The Fader and OkayAfrica and local Kenyan publications such as The Daily Nation.
The young artist is currently working on a full-length project, and is in the process of planning a pan-African and northern hemisphere tour.
“The goal is to be the biggest female R&B act out of Africa. Watch this space,” she tells us.
Gilmore Moyo, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
15. Gilmore Moyo, 29, Zimbabwe
Creative Director, Fashion Facilitator, Former TV & Radio Host and Founder: Paper Bag Africa
Gilmore Moyo was named one of the 100 Most influential Zimbabweans Under 40 for 2018, alongside politician Nelson Chamisa and Minister of Sports, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry.
Moyo is known for his contribution to the Zimbabwean media and art scene.
He hosted and produced a radio show on Cliff Central, and also Thatha Wena, a conversational pan-African TV show.
Apart from his on-air talent, he also founded Paper Bag Africa, a content creation, public relations and management company.
His biggest highlight in the business was attaining a contract to manage the European Union Film Festival 2018 and 2019, which ran over five days and showcased 10 films.
“Being an entrepreneur in Zimbabwe is the most difficult thing one has to go through. Funding is not available for you to grow your business and opportunities to attain money aren’t easily visible,” he reflects.
Despite the challenges, he is optimistic about the future.
“Our ultimate goal is to become the ‘go to’ establishment for authentic African content,” he says.
Boitumelo ‘Boity’ Thulo, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
16. Boitumelo ‘Boity’ Thulo, 29, South Africa
TV Host, Entrepreneur and Musician
Boitumelo ‘Boity’ Thulo wanted to pursue a career in criminology and psychology, but instead, has become one of the most recognized stars in South Africa’s entertainment industry.
To think that her career started almost 10 years ago when she was cast in a lead role in an advert for an international restaurant chain, Thulo has since dabbled in various parts of the entertainment industry including TV hosting, acting, and music.
“There are so many highlights and standout moments in my career. But the one that always gives me goosebumps is my lead role on the Fergusons’ Rockville [in 2013]. That role is what paved the way to ‘Boity’ becoming a household name. I will forever be grateful to Connie and Shona Ferguson for believing in and trusting me with such a big role,” she says.
Today, she also wears the entrepreneurial hat after founding Boity Toning Support, a weight loss supplement.
Last year, Thulo recorded her debut single Wuz Dat featuring Nasty C, also a former FORBES AFRICA 30 under 30 list-maker.
The song was nominated for best collaboration at the SA Hip Hop awards.
Thulo stays right on script as she further pursues acting, music, as well as developing more health products and nutritional supplements.
Hermann Kamte, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
17. Hermann Kamte, 27, Cameroon
Architect, Founder and CEO: Hermann Kamte & Associates
At 26, Hermann Kamte delivered a keynote speech alongside Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, during the Africa 2018 Forum at Sharm el Sheikh, in Egypt.
He was invited to speak about the future of African cities from the perspective of a creative architect.
This has been one of his biggest highlights to date and this is the only beginning.
Kamte is an award-winning Cameroonian architect with flair.
He founded Hermann Kamte & Associates, an architectural firm that provides design, landscape, education, research and development services.
One of his most notable works is the ‘Lagos’ Wooden Tower’ that won him the American Architecture Award as well as the World Architecture Festival and Awards’ inaugural WAFX Prize in 2017, known as the world’s most forward-looking concept.
“I think the desire to be an entrepreneur was very important alongside the fear to fail,” he says.
“Being able to offer a useful service to the community is the first thing that drives my passion for architecture. I have to be a model for younger generations; I want to create a safe and secure environment for people, with sustainable projects,” he adds.
Kamte is well on his way to building a better tomorrow.
Helen Chukwu, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
18. Helen Chukwu, 25, Nigeria
Fashion Designer, Founder and CEO: Helen Couture
Helen Chukwu is cut from a different cloth and it is no surprise that her designs have featured on Vogue Arabia.
She started dressing up dolls as a child, and now dresses up brides for a living.
At the age of 18, she became the founder and CEO of her design house, Helen Couture, which currently has operations in Nigeria, London and Dubai.
One of her memorable highlights was a private showcase in London and having her dress worn by Katie Cleary, America’s Next Top Model Cycle 1 contestant, at the 2013 Oscar Party. She is currently in the process of stocking her products in two stores each in the US, France and Italy.
She and her team have started drawing up plans to raise capital and build a 10,000 garment-production-per-day garment manufacturing factory in Nigeria by 2021.
Luis Munana, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
19. Luis Munana, 27, Namibia Creative Director, Model, TV
Host and Founder: Voigush Africa
You might remember his face from the ninth season of the reality television series Big Brother Africa, in 2014.
Since then, Luis Munana has been able to use his reality TV star status to good use.
Munana is a creative director of a children’s TV show he founded in 2017 called Waka Waka Moo.
The original animated cartoon and puppet program became one of the first in Namibia.
“I was baby-sitting my niece and nephew and I saw them recite every single word from cartoons created in the western world. So, I decided to create Namibia’s own cartoon and puppet show translated in all 11 Namibian languages. So, Waka Waka Moo was created,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
The animations educate children about Namibia’s history, culture and heritage.
He has managed to expand Waka Waka Moo from being on TV to a tour reaching 44 rural primary schools in the country.
As for the hosting side of his career, Munana founded Voigush Africa, a lifestyle, fashion and entertainment TV show in 2014 inspired by the South African entertainment market.
“While studying in South Africa, I would go to auditions to shows like V Entertainment, Top Billing and MTV Base Africa but they would always tell me I am not South African. So, I came home and created my own show,” he says.
Voigush has since covered music, lifestyle and fashion events across Africa which Munana produces, directs, scripts and edits himself.
As a jack of all trades, Munana proves that one can be talented both on and off screen.
Upile Chisala, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
20. Upile Chisala, 24, Malawi
Author and Poet
Upile Chisala started writing at the age of four.
By the time she started primary school, there were piles of paper with little stories scattered around her house, in Zomba, Malawi, which was already chock-a-block with books.
But it took her years to embrace her talent.
After moving to the US, she studied sociology and graduated in 2015 but struggled to find a steady job.
She turned to poetry for comfort and self-published her first book at the age of 21.
It was her first collection of poetry called Soft Magic.
She continued her studies and enrolled for an MSc in African studies at the University of Oxford.
She revisited her writing and published a book called Nectar in 2017.
This brought the opportunity to travel and do readings, but it was when she traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, that her talent was reaffirmed.
“The room was filled with over 200 people who didn’t mind that there were no seats left for them. They were happy to stand and listen to me read from both books,” she says.
Next, she received an email from two Folio Literary Management agents in New York City.
In no time, Chisala signed a three-book deal with Andrews McMeel Publishing worth ‘hundreds of thousands US dollars’.
Since then, she founded Khala Series, a monthly mentorship program for writers in Johannesburg.
All profits from this series are donated.
“Khala is my way of giving back to the community,” she says.
Joseph Awuah-Darko, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
21. Joseph Awuah-Darko, 22, Ghana
In a dump site in Ghana near its capital Accra, Joseph Awuah-Darko stands holding a laptop in one hand and a face mask in another, like something out of an apocalypse movie.
He is dressed in orange overalls and there is e-waste as far as the eye can see; and the burning of the contents creates arid smoke in the background.
Darko is a contemporary artist, art collector and dealer and co-founder of the NGO, Agbogblo.Shine Initiative. The organization, which started in 2017, encourages people working at the dump to turn waste into high-end furniture.
His aim was to highlight the importance of the, “circular economy in the face of electronic waste degradation”.
While enrolled at Ashesi University in Ghana, he began educating himself about the obscure art market.
His first major sale was a 3D-printed Ife Head he sold privately to a buyer for $11,000 in 2017. Since then, more clients kept coming, trading the value of trash wish cash and this resulted in him becoming the Managing Director of Africa Modern Art Fund at the young age of 22.
He presented a solo exhibition at Gallery1957; making him the youngest African contemporary artist to do so.
Prior to his contemporary art collector days, Darko was a musician under the alias ‘Okuntakinte’.
Darko is well on his way to getting a piece of the estimated $60 billion global contemporary art industry.
Joe ‘Human’ Nawaya, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
22. Joe ‘Human’ Nawaya, 25, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Graphic designer and Co-founder: Creative Mind Space
Joe ‘Human’ Nawaya was once enrolled for a degree in design at Pearson Institute in South Africa.
However, due to lack of finances, he had to drop out.
“At this point, I concluded that my life had stopped, I wasn’t going to be able to be anybody or make something of myself,” he tells FORBES AFRICA. However, this is not the design of his life as he was named Fast Company SA’s Top 20 Under 25 thanks to his passion and determination to pursue his first love, graphics and design.
His creative journey started when he was a child.
When his parents bought him a computer, the first application he used was paint.
Taking his passion to another level, he co-founded Creative Mind Space, together with his business partner Elliot Sithole.
It is an agency that focuses on creating content, designs, strategies, animation, and websites for brands.
Nawaya has been featured by Destiny Man as part of their Bold and Distinguished edition, positioning him as one of the most creative content creators in South Africa. Additionally, Nawaya went on to become a lifestyle ambassador for Bespoken Man, a gentleman grooming brand focused on lifestyle and experience.
While there, he worked with brands like Jameson Irish Whiskey, MINI Cooper and Savanna Dry.
Nawaya currently co-hosts #TheThreadedExchange with Siya Beyile, a former FORBES AFRICA 30 UNDER 30 list-maker, on CliffCentral.
He has also recently launched a podcast called Pioneers vs Pretenders on Lutcha, a digital podcasting company, which hosts a variety of podcasts online.
Thando Thabethe, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla
23. Thando Thabethe, 29, South Africa
Actress, TV Presenter, and Radio DJ
Thando Thabethe is a jack of all trades.
She’s a prominent name in South Africa’s entertainment industry and has come to take it all.
Her acting career rose to prominence in early 2014 after her role on the South African soapie, Generations: The Legacy.
Her radio career dates back to the early days of 2008, having presented on the radio station of the University of Johannesburg.
But today, both her radio and acting careers have blossomed.
She currently has her own weekday radio show called The Thabooty Drive.
As for her acting, she moved from the small screen to the big screen, starring in the 2016 film Mrs Right Guy, the 2018 film Housekeepers and most recently, the lead role in 2019’s box office hit Love Lives Here.
This year, she was nominated for best TV host and best talk show for Thando Bares All, which aired on TLC, and she walked away with the award for Best Talk show.
“Focus on your own focus. I think when you follow your heart and you follow your own passion, everything else follows and those that need recognize and follow it will,” she tells us.
Some of her achievements include being nominated for a SAFTA as the Best TV Presenter and for the Liberty Radio Awards as Best Drive Time presenter and for Best Drive Time Show.
Rich Fumani Mnisi, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
24. Rich Fumani Mnisi, 27, South Africa
When Beyoncé Knowles-Carter came to South Africa for the Global Citizen Festival in December, she was spotted wearing items of clothing by local designer Rich Mnisi.
She was adorned in the custom RICH MNISI Rhundzu blouse and crocodile half-pleat skirt.
“Growing up, all I have always wanted to do was to design clothes that reflect my own energy and the love of coloring outside the lines. I have dreamed of my favorite icons wearing my clothes like any kid dreams of meeting their icons. Protect your dreams with all you have because they have the power to define your destiny,” he said in an Instagram post after celebrating the iconic musician wearing his clothes.
In the short amount of time that Mnisi has been in the fashion industry, he has turned heads in South Africa’s fashion industry and internationally, featuring in publications like Vogue Italia, GQ, Financial Times, Marie Claire, ELLE and Vogue Russia.
Mnisi is a graduate of LISOF (Leaders in the Science of Fashion) and was awarded the Africa Fashion International Young Designer of the Year 2014.
He also owns a furniture brand consisting of a chaise and a stool titled Nwa-Mulamula, after his late great-grandmother.
He is also the designer of the red Coca-Cola outfit worn by Karabo Poppy on the cover of the 2019 FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list.
Kevin Njue, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
25. Kevin Njue 27, Kenya
Producer, Director, Writer and CEO: Rocque Pictures
At university, Kevin Njue and his partner used his student loan of $200 to direct and produce a short film that he had written in hostel. The film, Sticking Ribbons, was released in 2013 and Njue went on to win the award for Best East African Talent at the 2014 Zanzibar International Film Festival.
Njue used the monetary reward of $1,000 to invest in his next short film, Intellectual Scum, which went on to screen in 15 film festivals globally.
“I was proud to thought-provoke the audience on the unequal racial relationships in Africa’s cultural and political landscape,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
After gaining experience creating short films, Njue decided it was time to make bigger ones, a full-length feature film.
This ultimately led to him founding a business in 2016, Rocque Pictures.
With only enough money just to register the business, he knocked on doors while pitching his first feature film, 18 HOURS.
Of the $45,000 dollars needed, he managed to raise $13,000 from a university professor and an entrepreneur. In the end, the film was finished and launched in November 2017. It sold out at a cinema premiere in Nairobi.
In 2018, the film won the Best Overall Movie in Africa, Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, making history as the first Kenyan film to be nominated and win in the history of the awards.
“As the CEO of Rocque Pictures, the goal is to set up a state-of-the-art film studio with a sound stage, backlot, a film park and an underwater film stage in Nairobi by 2030,” he says.
Sho Madjozi, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
26. Sho Madjozi, 27, South Africa
Sho Majozi won the hearts of South Africans in the early days of 2017 and seemingly, everything she touches burst into a euphoric cornucopia of color in celebration her African heritage.
She introduced herself to the world as a Tsonga rapper with hits like Gqi, Huku, Kona, Wakanda Forever, and recently Idhom, bringing the XiTsonga language into the mainstream.
“I can’t believe people tried to tell us we weren’t dope for so long, now they see…” she says.
She is an artist for the people and whenever she performs, her energy is infectious.
She has played at festivals such as Afropunk, opened for artists like Travis Scott and Jidenna, and not to mention one of her highlight performances at the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa late last year.
The rising star was born Maya Wegerif in the small village of Shirley, deep in the province of the Limpopo province of South Africa.
After living in Tanzania, Senegal, and the US, Madjozi is fluent in Kiswahili, French and almost every South African language, making her pretty much a true global citizen.
Apart for her talented vocals, she also has a sense of style to match.
Her inspiration comes from the traditional Tsonga culture.
She has also teamed up with local designers to bring her first line of merchandise to fans, awakening her entrepreneurial spirit.
Her goal is to bring her culture to the world, which she continues to do so, staying true to her roots.
She was nominated for a BET Awards for Best New International Act, and recently bagged the Newcomer Of The Year and female artist of the year at the South African Music Awards.
Sarah Owusu, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Robert Binda
27. Sarah Owusu, 28, Ghana
Artist and Painter
It all started in the summer of 2012 when living in London, and Sarah Owusu was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy which left the left side of her face paralyzed.
“During this very dark period of my life, I wouldn’t leave my house except for my hospital appointments, and a few weeks into my diagnosis, I got a sudden urge to paint although I hadn’t created anything for years,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
After gaining the courage to paint, she went to a cheap pound store and bought two blank canvases, cheap paint and brushes.
Owusu’s passion for art grew as she noticed the lack of black female artists in the industry.
One of the biggest highlights for the self-taught artist was last year when she was invited to present two of her paintings of the President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, at the Africa Business Summit in London Business School.
“My future plans are to have my artwork exhibited across the African continent, starting from my place of origin, Ghana,” she says.
Abisola Akintunde, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
28. Abisola Akintunde, 28, Nigeria
Founder and Creative Director: MakeupbyAshabee and Beelashes
They say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but for Abisola Akntunde, beauty is also in the brush stroke and makeup palette.
For three weeks, she worked for a dental clinic before deciding to venture into makeup full-time.
In 2012, she worked with M-Net Africa Magic doing make-up on a TV set while trying to set up her two businesses, Makeupbyashabee and Beelashes.
Soon enough, she started receiving bookings outside of her job at M-Net and had to quit and focus full-time on her entrepreneurial journey.
“It was a very bold and scary step because I was afraid I was going to leave a steady income for something not certain but like they say, ‘don’t be afraid’,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
Akintunde took the bold step, bought her own car and set up her own studio and the rest has been a transformation for the better.
Since inception, MakeupbyAshabee has made up over 200 brides across Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, Congo, South Africa and Kenya.
While with Beelashes, she says she sells over 5,000 units of beauty lashes per quarter.
Akintunde has hired a staff of 20 and has trained over 50 interns between 2017 and now.
As part of her philanthropic efforts, she has partnered with the Archbishop Vining Anglican Church in Lagos to train young women in the art of makeup.
She has also partnered with AfribeautyHub to empower young women in Ibadan in Oyo State, Nigeria, on makeup.
“The next goal at MakeupbyAshabee is to learn permanent makeup, the art of micro-blading and ombré brows,” she says.
By doing this, she plans to bring something new to the table as micro-blading is an eyebrow embroidery procedure categorized under permanent makeup lasting for up to two years.
Yaa Bonsu, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Mombo Subira
29. Yaa Bonsu, 28, Kenya
Fashion stylist and Creative
In 2017, Yaa Bonsu met international model Naomi Campbell who told her to believe in herself, and then signed a copy of her Vogue magazine.
Bonsu took her advice and has been climbing the international ladder in fashion since.
“I remember flipping through Vogue magazines when I was 15 years old and being engrossed in this glossy world. After I watched the film, The Devil Wears Prada, I knew the fashion world belonged to me,” she says.
Today, she spends her days with runway models, designers and in the thick of fashion shoots for some of those glossy magazines.
In 2016, she relocated to Dubai where her career in the fashion industry took off.
She connected with industry powerhouses such as Naomi Campbell, Zeynab El-Helw and Shashi Menon.
She has had the opportunity to style an advertorial for the luxury brand Fendi, SS19, in April 2019.
The same year, she produced a fashion editorial for Revolution magazine that featured high-end jewelry – Dior, de GRISOGONO, Bvlgari and Piaget, an achievement she says she is most proud of.
She has set her goals on becoming an internationally-renowned fashion powerhouse joining the leagues of icons Victoria Beckham, Edward Enninful and Vanessa Kingori.
Paola Audrey Ndengue, member of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 class of 2019. Picture: Supplied
30. Paola Audrey Ndengue, 29, Cote d’Ivoire
Host and Producer and Co-founder: FASHIZBLACK
Paola Audrey Ndengue is an entrepreneur and a creative with a higher calling.
Her mission has been to promote the French-speaking African creative scene to the world.
While studying in France, she became a fashion blogger and has since gained 10 years’ experience in digital media.
She is currently the co-founder and creative director of FASHIZBLACK, a magazine focused on black and African fashion, designers, beauty and lifestyle.
And her most recent venture is PANNELLE & Co, a PR creative marketing and content agency in 2013.
She has worked with several international clients and artists such as Kiff No Beat (Côte d’Ivoire), Stanley Enow (Cameroon), Boddhi Satva (Central African Republic) and Canabasse (Senegal).
Both businesses she is involved in led to her being recognized as a finalist at the CNBC Africa All Africa Business Leaders Awards for the Young Business Leader of The Year in West Africa 2014.
Her growth since has been phenomenal and she has featured in numerous publications including Teen Vogue, CNN Africa and Forbes Afrique.
She is currently working on Maybelline’s first pan-African campaign, including several celebrities and influencers from Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria.
She was recently appointed the marketing manager of the first MTV Shuga Côte d’Ivoire, an international show educating young viewers about HIV/AIDS, an opportunity that will enlarge Ndengue’s reach.