2011: 100 Most Influential Africans – Business & Finance

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2009, this financial nonconformist put his life at risk as he unsettled some of Nigeria’s most feared businessmen when he oversaw a radical reform of the banking sector. An intellectual and a deep thinker, this highly principled scholar is deeply rooted in his […]


Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria since 2009, this financial nonconformist put his life at risk as he unsettled some of Nigeria’s most feared businessmen when he oversaw a radical reform of the banking sector. An intellectual and a deep thinker, this highly principled scholar is deeply rooted in his cultural heritage. The has the respect of his counterparts around the world and can move markets with his statements. Sanusi has been instrumental in upholding the true values of banking, which lie in honesty and trust.


Aliko Dangote, Nigeria

He is reportedly “the richest black person in the world”, coming ahead of Oprah Winfrey and worth an estimated US$14bn. Dangote is impressive for his persistence and his great sense of business. In 1977, he got a loan of $3,500 from his uncle to start his business. Now he controls about 45% of Nigeria’s cement market and has large interests in sugar, flour and other consumables.

Dangote is a modest family man. His understated and gentle appearance hides a sharp mind and strong business acumen. He is undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s most influential business leaders and is chairman of a national committee to tackle unemployment. He has recently set his eyes on becoming the most important cement producer across Sub-Saharan Africa. Dangote is also spending more time on philanthropic activities of Afro-centric initiatives over the past year. He is determined to leave as much of a mark with his philanthropic heritage as he has done in business.


Tokyo Sexwale, South Africa

An ANC activist and political prisoner, Sexwale is today one of the country’s most successful business leaders and a popular politician. Despite stepping down as chairman of Mvelaphanda Holdings in 2009 to focus on politics, he is still a large shareholder and his company’s interests in oil and mining across Africa have continued to expand. Sexwale is a no-nonsense leader, a straight talker and tough negotiator and a firm believer in economic patriotism.


Donald Kaberuka, Rwanda

Having led Rwanda’s post-war economic reconstruction, he is today President of the African Development Bank. Kaberuka has embarked on a series of reforms and has successfully positioned the bank as a leading institution in Africa. He is a proponent of home-grown solutions to African problems, making Africans responsible and accountable for their own development. He is also leading the way in making sure that Africa has a voice and is suitably represented at the highest tables in international discussions.


Mohamed El-Erian, Egypt

CEO of asset managers PIMCO, the world’s largest bond investor with over US$1 trillion of assets. With an impeccable academic record, having studied at both Oxford and Cambridge universities, Dr Mohamed El-Erian also served as a member of the faculty at Harvard Business School. Highly respected and well-known n the fields of economics and finance, when not investing and moving markets, this brilliant man can often be found writing (he has published books and numerous articles), teaching or at various speaking engagements.


Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria

Ngozi can be considered an African stateswoman. This impressive lady was Nigeria’s finance minister and then, briefly, foreign affairs minister, the first woman to hold either position. She is held in great esteem for transforming her ministerial department and successfully negotiating the elimination of Nigeria’s external foreign debt. She continuously champions the African cause and is indefatigable in making sure the continent is seen as a land with plenty of opportunities and talent. This dynamic woman is an eloquent speaker, and when she talks, the rest do listen.


Naguib Sawiris, Egypt

One of the continent’s great business leaders, he is also one of the wealthiest, with a net worth of US$2.5 billion. He belongs to one of the largest business families in Egypt and although Orascom Telecoms has sold many of its valuable assets, Naguib remains on of the country’s shrewdest and most capable businessmen. He has been an active participant in Egyptian affairs since the fall of the Mubarak government and is setting up a political party, the Free Egyptians, to mobilise the liberal and secular vote.


Arnold Ekpe, Nigeria

Arnold Ekpe is renowned throughout the baking world. He has over 28 years of African and international banking experience. His real success has been transforming Ecobank into Africa’s first pan-African multinational, with a footprint in over 30 countries, helping to realise the dream of the bank’s founding fathers. By creating a pan-African giant, Ekpe has helped set a benchmark as well as a blueprint for other institutions to follow. This modest and understated gentleman has the ear of many leaders across Africa.


Evelyn Oputu, Nigeria

Renowned for her professional banking expertise and vast experience in national enterprise incubation, growth and development. Oputu was appointed the first female and second managing director and CEO of the Bank of Industry in 2005. Combining outstanding brilliance with beauty, she is one of the great women achievers and icons of Nigeria. Even if she modestly declares that she is very lucky, no one can deny that she is a gifted, insightful and smart woman, with a much sought-after little black book.


Tony Elumelu, Nigeria

Tony Elumelu founded the United Bank of Africa (UBA) and evolved it into a leading African financial services institution, transforming it into a pan-African institution. Tony is one of Africa’s most influential business leaders. He is today the chairman of Heirs Holdings, a private investment vehicle. Driven by his entrepreneurial vocation and passion for philanthropy, he created the Tony Elumelu Foundation in 2010, whose objective is the promotion of excellence in business management, entrepreneurship and leadership.


Jim Ovia, Nigeria

Despite his quiet approach, the founder of Zenith Bank is one of Nigeria’s most driven and determined business leaders. He founded Zenith Bank in 1990 and in his own image set about and aggressive programme, putting it amongst the country’s top two banks today. He has turned his attention to building his telecoms business and promoting education through the use of IT. His financial clout and business acumen mean his amongst the most influential business leaders in Nigeria.


Wale Tinubu, Nigeria

As the CEO of the diversified oil and gas giant Oando, Wale Tinubu is one of Nigeria’s most powerful young business leaders. Representing the new breed of ambitious and relentless African leaders, Tinubu has grown Oando into a $3bn company, making it one of Africa’s most successful indigenous companies today. Tinubu is amongst the crop of young business people who are turning African companies into world-beaters.


Tidjane Thiam, Cote d’Ivoire

As he puts it himself, he is “black, African and six foot four”. But he is also a great and brilliant businessman. He is the first black chief executive of a UK FTSE 100 company – though he hates people dwelling on that. His room-mate at INSEAD described him as “a great combination of a first-class mind with a really passionate interest in people.” He remains one of Africa’s key international business leaders, and a figure that international statesman, policy makers and investors turn to for advice on African affairs.


Vincent Le Guennou, Cote d’Ivoire

With an enviable academic record (HEC, Dauphine, Harvard) Vincent is co-CEO and a founding partner of one of the largest private equity groups looking into Africa. The group managers some $1.8bn across the whole continent and Vincent is one of the driving forces behind this.


Phuthuma Nheko, Swaziland

The MTN Group grew substantially under Phuthuma Nheko’s leadership to become Africa’s best-known brand and biggest telecoms provider. Despite stepping down from the group last year, Nhleko commands much respect and influence in business and political circles in South Africa and across the countries in which MTN operates.


Fred Swaniker, Ghana

This serial social entrepreneur has a keen interest in developing education and science in Africa. He co-founded and is the CEO of the African Leadership Academy, which he launched last year and which has become and influential network of young African leaders from all walks of life. Like many in his generation he knows that his continent has underperformed in the last 50 years and is conscious that it can only be developed by efficient and ethical leadership.


Mike Adenuga, Nigeria

Nicknamed “the Guru” in his native Nigeria, Adenuga is the founder of a highly innovative telecoms giant, Globacom Nigeria, Consolidated Oil and Gas (Conoil) and a niche market banking leader, Equatorial Trust Bank. His story shows extraordinary determination to achieve success; he lost 2 telecoms licences, lost a bank, fled into exile under political prosecution but has always climbed back to the top as a businessman and philanthropist. Next in his sights: African dominance.


Arunma Oteh, Nigeria

Having made a name at the African Development Bank, Mrs Oteh was last year named the DG of the Securities Exchange Commission of Nigeria. This dynamic and gifted lady, in similar fashion to her counterparts at the Central Bank, is leading a transformation to modernise and clean up Nigeria’s capital market and help it realise its true potential.


Mo Ibrahim, Sudan

This down-to-earth, straight-talking telecoms engineer founded one of the biggest telcos in Africa, Celtel, which he subsequently sold for over $3bn. Today he is a champion of good governance and is contributing to shaping the African growth agenda. One of Africa’s first “philanthropists”, he launched the world’ largest prize money in monetary terms to recognise outstanding leadership among African heads of state. The is restless entrepreneur continues to use his money and influence to encourage clean politics and help foster African growth.


Trevor Manuel, South Africa

Arguably Africa’s most fun and charismatic minister of recent times, he is also an authority on finance and economics, His name has been touted in certain circles as the next head of the IMF. As finance minister, Trevor was instrumental in giving Africa a voice on the international stage, especially as he had the ear of many of his counterparts across the world. He is still active behind the scenes, sitting on the board of a number of commissions. He is one of a rare bread who can still pick up the phone and get through to key decision-makers around the world.


Sam Jonah, Ghana

Sam Jonah is one of Africa’s most inspirational business leaders. Starting off a shovel boy, he became the Chief Executive Officer of Goldfields Co., and managed to spread this business across Africa. In 1996 Ashanti Goldfields became the first African company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Today he has an investment fund, Jonah Capital, his council is still cherished by African leaders, such as Togo’s president, who recently named him on his advisory panel of Eminent Business Leaders, and he continues to fight the African cause internationally.


Nicky Oppenheimer, South Africa

Oppenheimer is the chairman on the world’s biggest diamond producers, De Beers, and has large financial interest in the diversified mining company Anglo-American. He is a man of discretion and few public words, but nevertheless he continues to be a powerful broker and business leader, not only in Africa but around the world. There is one area he is outspoken about and it is the way Africa is often patronised and misrepresented internationally.


Oby Ezekwesili, Nigeria

This grand lady is vice president of the African section of the World Bank. She co-founded Transparency International and was also part of the dynamic ministerial team which gave a new lease of life to Nigeria. She is an authority on all things African and commands immense respect amongst business leaders and policy makers alike.


Thierry Tanoh, Cote d’Ivoire

One of the sharpest business minds on the continent, this young Ivorian heads the Africa section of the IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank, an institution he joined in 1994, where he has spent most of his professional life. Under his watch the IFC’s investments in Africa have increased from US$140m in 2003 to US$2.4bn in 2010. Bright, hard-working and determined to contribute to the continent’s much-needed “great leap forward”, Thierry represents the future of Africa.


Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa

Lawyer, trade union leader, anti-apartheid activist, politician and businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa is considered one of Africa’s most skilful negotiators and strategists. He is well-known for his role in the negotiations for a peaceful end to apartheid, and is still consulted and sought after in difficult situations. This gifted businessman founded the Shanduka Group, which has investments in the resources sector, energy sector, real estate, banking, insurance, and telecoms. He recently took over the McDonald’s franchise in South Africa.


Mehdi Houas, Tunisia

The current minister of trade and tourism in Tunisia’s transitional government, was previously one of the country’s leading businessmen, having co-founded Tala, an IT software consultancy. This first-class mind is a “serial entrepreneur” in high technology. Mehdi also has a philanthropic side, and supports a grass roots initiative in France, the “talents des cites” project.


Prof Chukwuma Soludo, Nigeria

One of the world’s most prominent economists, who rose to become chief economic adviser to President Obasanjo and later, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Having transformed the banking landscape back home, he remains an adviser to the global board of the world’s multilateral finance institutions and recently joined the board of the South-South Commission. He still manages to move financial markets and affect national ratings with his economic commentary and analysis.


Stella Kilonzo, Kenya

At the tender age of 36, Kilonzo is currently the CEO of the Capital Market Authority in Kenya. She is also a member of the National Economic and Social Council of Kenya (NESC), an advising body of eminent persons charged with the responsibility of advising the president and the cabinet on economic and social policy. She has emerged as one of Kenya’s recent glowing stars


Chris Kirubi, Kenya

An industrialist and entrepreneur, this self-made man is one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in Kenya today. Kirubi controls a large business empire and this year sold a stake in his business to South Africa’s Tiger Group. Kirubi also has some media holdings and likes to unwind in the role of DJ on his radio station.


Moise Katumbi, Congo

This Congolese businessman and politician is the governor of Katanga Province, located in the southern (and prosperous) part of DR Congo. A revered businessman in his country, he also owns a football team, the colourful TP Mazembe, which he has helped restore to its former glory. Having made his name in mining he is now turning his attention to the energy sector.


Salimo Abdula, Mozambique

Salimo heads the Mozambican Confederation of Business Associations as well as being a close associate and long-standing friend of the President. His close ties and dealings with the President and other businessmen have come under question but he remains an influential businessman with strong networks throughout the country. He is the CEO of Vodacom Mozambique and sits on the board of one of the most important diversified investment groups in the country, Intelec.

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