MIT’s Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship recently presented the first cohort of Legatum Foundry Fellows. Hailing from eight countries, these 13 entrepreneurs have developed businesses operating in nine different markets across Africa. Having pioneered innovations in healthcare, fintech, education, and more, Foundry Fellows are dedicated to transforming systems and improving life on the continent.
Launched earlier this year, the Foundry Fellowship is a one-of-a-kind scholarship focused on African entrepreneurs who have successfully developed businesses on the continent and have reached an inflection point in their entrepreneurial journey. Building on MIT’s ‘mens et manus’ (‘mind and hand’) philosophy, the Legatum Center Foundry is a place where entrepreneurs come together to reflect on their accomplishments and shape their future as leaders in business, investment and governance. Collectively, the fellows will explore the future of innovation ecosystems in Africa and demonstrate how Africa can be a hub for innovation on a global scale.
Several fellows have ties to MIT, including an alumnus of MIT. Chinedu Azodoh MF ’15 co-founded MAX while studying at MIT. After six years of building and scaling the technology mobility business, Azodoh plans to use his experience at the Foundry Fellowship to explore his role as a thought leader and advocate for the growth of small companies in Africa. In 2010, Clarisse Iribagiza was studying computer engineering at the College of Science and Technology of the University of Rwanda when she participated in an MIT Global Startup Labs (GSL) program learning the fundamentals of technological entrepreneurship. Inspired by this experience, Iribagiza founded one of the largest e-commerce companies in Rwanda. Iribagiza joins the Foundry Fellowship to highlight the lack of venture capital funding for African startups and advocate for new innovative funding models. Dare Okoudjou, founder of MFS Africa, was a 2015 finalist for the Zambezi Prize, a $ 200,000 prize established by MIT’s Legatum Center in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation to discover, inspire and celebrate the most promising and innovative startups in the world. Africa that help advance financial inclusion.
Reflecting on the new class of Foundry Fellows, Dina Sherif, Executive Director of the Legatum Center at MIT, says, “Their unique perspective on innovation, inclusion and excitement. We look forward to welcoming Foundry Fellows to the Legatum Center community and sharing their stories and lessons with MIT and the rest of the world. ”
Professor Fiona Murray, Faculty Director at MIT’s Legatum Center, adds: “Foundry Fellows exemplify how entrepreneurs contribute to growth and drive change in their regional innovation ecosystems. With the Foundry Fellowship, we aim to amplify the voices and influence of these leaders and learn from their experiences at MIT Sloan School of Management.
“Innovation and entrepreneurial solutions are essential for continued growth and the creation of shared prosperity across Africa. The Foundry Fellowship elevates the role of entrepreneurs and provides a platform for these accomplished leaders to advance and expand their impact in their local ecosystems and beyond, ”said Kofi Appenteng, President and CEO of Africa-America Institute and Legatum Center of the MIT Advisory Board. member.
The 2021 cohort of Legatum Foundry Fellows includes:
Adebayo Alonge from RxAll in Nigeria. After encountering health problems as a result of receiving counterfeit drugs, Adebayo founded RxAll in Nigeria. RxAll provides a trusted marketplace where select vendors use its RxScanner and Rx hardware and software technologies to research and certify quality drugs for hospitals, pharmacies and patients. Adebayo is currently expanding RxAll to new African markets.
Opeyemi Awoyemi from WhoGoHost, Jobberman and Moneymie in Nigeria. Awoyemi founded WhoGoHost, Jobberman and Moneymie in Nigeria, three pioneering technology-driven companies that solve the challenges he faced as a young entrepreneur. Today, Whogohost provides more than 50,000 small businesses with affordable website hosting, Jobberman is the largest job website in Sub-Saharan Africa with 5 million users, and Moneymie builds tailor-made financial services for migrants Africans. As a seasoned founder, Awoyemi is now accelerating the growth of entrepreneur-led ecosystems by partnering with development banks and multilateral organizations.
Chinedu Azodoh from MAX in Nigeria. Originally from Nigeria, Azodoh co-founded MAX.ng, a technology company that is transforming mobility across Africa by making it safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable. As he continues to evolve MAX.ng, Azodoh focuses on the role of governance and policy in driving innovation and entrepreneurship in Nigeria and beyond.
Sylvia Banda from Sylva Food Solutions in Zambia. Banda founded Sylva Food Solutions in Zambia to provide an effective and viable avenue to strengthen the economic empowerment of rural smallholder farmers. Under Banda’s leadership, SFS is creating jobs and expanding markets for local fresh, dried and preserved produce across Zambia. Banda is embarking on an expansion strategy to bring SFS to Kenya and Tanzania, among other African countries, to improve access to nutritious food and create jobs.
Ehi Binitie de Rancard and Clear Space Labs in Ghana and Nigeria. As one of the continent’s pioneering tech entrepreneurs, Binitie has developed several tech companies across the world. He co-founded Rancard, a digital marketing company in Ghana, to solve scale issues relevant to businesses across the continent by connecting businesses with mobile audiences. Today, as the founder of Clear Space Labs, Binitie uses his skills and experience to foster a new generation of innovators to create and launch technological innovations that improve the lives of millions of people around the world.
Audrey Cheng from the Moringa School in Kenya and Rwanda. Cheng is the founder, former CEO and current board member of Moringa School. During his seven years as head of Moringa School, Cheng built and led a team of over 100 people to train over 4,000 students in Kenya and Rwanda with an average placement rate of 85 percent; launched three high quality and proven courses; and engaged with over 100 employers. She recently stepped down as CEO of Moringa School and explores the role of organizations in systems change and spends time with heads of institutions across the continent.
Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu from ColdHubs in Nigeria. Ikegwuonu founded ColdHubs, a fruit and vegetable storage solution for smallholder women farmers in Nigeria, as a non-profit organization, and after realizing the potential for scale, converted it into a for-profit business. . Besides being an entrepreneur, Ikegwuonu is a thought leader and influencer, broadcasting a radio show for farmers and creating a market for farmers to share information. Currently, Ikegwuonu is expanding its ColdHubs beyond Nigeria and finding ways to catalyze entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector.
Clarisse Iribagiza from the Hehe Academy in Rwanda. Iribagiza is the founder of Hehe Academy in Rwanda, an award-winning reservoir of research and innovation that inspires aspiring innovators to create digital solutions for people living in Africa. Iribagiza is committed to creating vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems through his mentorship and capacity building for tech entrepreneurs, and an advocate for new funding models to bridge the funding gap for innovative start-ups.
Delila Khaled of Development Innovations Group and Global Bio Fund in Egypt. Khaled co-founded the Development Innovations Group (DIG), an international development company that designs and implements innovative and pro-poor financing solutions in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Building on his work with DIG, Khaled is pivoting in the investment space to tackle the alarming lack of venture capital funding for women entrepreneurs.
Dare Okoudjou of MFS Africa in South Africa. Okoudjou is the founder of MFS Africa, Africa’s largest payment gateway, which serves customers with mobile money transfers in over 30 countries. After spending the past 10 years building MFS Africa, Okoudjou is committed to supporting the next generation of innovation-driven African business creators. Okoudjou believes that for businesses to thrive in Africa, they must operate across borders and be pan-African. He is championing this cross-pollination by finding, funding and supporting such multinational teams to solve continental rather than local issues.
Obafemi Olayebi from Femi Handbags and Lagos Leather Fair in Nigeria. Olayebi founded Femi Handbags and made it a solid and affordable luxury leather handbag range in Nigeria. At this point in her career, Olayebi is passionate about building the capacity of local ecosystems to create jobs and create more and better opportunities for the Nigerian manufacturing industry.
Brukty Tadesse from Whiz Kids Workshop in Ethiopia. Tadesse founded Whiz Kids Workshop (WKW), a woman-led indigenous Ethiopian social enterprise with a mission to improve the lives of young Ethiopians through cost-effective, age-appropriate and culturally relevant educational media. After scaling up WKW to produce 32 innovative TV episodes focused on reading, radio episodes, story books, workbooks and a program providing schools with books, DVDs and teacher training , Tadesse is now focusing on changing the early childhood education system in Africa and scaling up WKW beyond Ethiopia.
Affiong Williams from ReelFruit in Nigeria. Williams founded ReelFruit, Nigeria’s largest dried fruit processing company, based on his quest to “solve” youth unemployment in Nigeria. ReelFruit is a for-profit agribusiness that creates jobs, builds industry, and catalyzes new suppliers and processors to add value to the supply chain. Williams is currently focused on scaling ReelFruit into new markets and exploring roles to support the next generation of founders in Nigeria.
Fellows will spend six months learning from professors at MIT, connecting with investors, and expanding their network of innovators through a personalized interactive curriculum. The fellowship will conclude with a three-week immersive session in the United States, where fellows will explore MIT’s innovation ecosystem and present their businesses and innovation lessons with faculty, staff, and students. The Legatum Center looks forward to welcoming Fellows to campus in April 2022 and creating platforms for Fellows to engage with the wider MIT innovation and entrepreneurship community.