Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Meet the 7 Nigerians who made the Quartz Africa Innovators 2016 list

This is very impressive and a boost for the morale of the individuals as well as for Nigerians.

Quartz Africa has identified and highlighted a new set of impressive African thinkers for their Innovators series.

As with their inaugural 2015 list the innovators have been chosen for their groundbreaking work, thought-leading initiatives, and creative approaches to problems.

If you’re in Nairobi on July 20, you can join them for the Africa Innovators Summit at the Radisson Blu Hotel. You’ll hear from some of these innovators and Quartz’s editors through on-stage interviews, performances, and presentations followed by a cocktail reception and dinner.

Out of 32 people, 7 Nigerians make this list. One of them has a health-related business. She's making money by recycling and keeping the environment cleaner.

They are all inspirational and here's to you too. You can be innovative!

Innovation is a newer and better way of doing things. You don't necessarily have to re-invent the wheel.

Check them out below:

Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola

Founder, Wecyclers

Along many streets of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, piles of waste have long been an eyesore. Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola’s recycling company, Wecyclers, saw that as an opportunity by cleaning up the city and putting some money in the pockets of those who help along the way. Using affordable tricycles to meander Lagos’ infamous traffic jams, Wecyclers collects recyclable waste from households in low income communities in exchange for points that can be redeemed for food, cash and household items. Wecyclers’ work has proven crucial in a city where only 13% of waste is recycled annually and as a result, it now works in collaboration with the Lagos state waste management agency. For the 6,500 low income householdswho typically live on less than $1-a-day now signed up to the service, Wecyclers is fulfilling Adebiyi-Abiola’s dream of turning waste into a resource for those “who need it the most.” She says, “Waste is currently a big problem for people living in poor conditions, but I want to turn it into a solution” Wecyclers has received grants from the MIT Public Service Center and the Steve Case Foundation.

Iyinoluwa ‘E’ Aboyeji

Co-founder Andela

Iyinoluwa ‘E’ Aboyeji has been a serial entrepreneur since he was at university, experimenting and engaging with social enterprises wherever he’s been. Just two years ago when he wound down his distance learning startup Fora to start Andela with co-founder Jeremy Johnson it seemed liked a risky and almost foolhardy move. A training center for young Nigerians to learn how to code but would go one step further and find job placements for these students. Yet that daring vision has been proven out with arguably the highest pedigree of investors ever for an African startup. Andela’s lineup includes Silicon Valley backers like early Twitter investor Spark Capital, AOL founder Steve Case, and Omidyar Network among others. But the really big win came earlier this summer when Mark Zuckerberg’s Chan Zuckerberg Foundation chose Andela as its first key investment on the continent, leading a $24 million round.

Yet, raising funds isn’t the most impressive thing about what ‘E’ and the team have managed to achieve so far. Andela was founded on the premise that talent is “evenly distributed around the world”—but opportunities to succeed are not. So it has used the funds to also expand to Nairobi, and maintained an entry requirement for the program which has a lower acceptance rate than Harvard.

“Iyinoluwa is a relentless thinker who believes that the future of Africa lies in empowering its youthful population,” says Oluseun Onigbinde, CEO of BudgetIT and a 2015 Quartz Africa Innovator honoree. “He has set high standards for himself and Andela to me is the first stretch of that long journey. He is constantly forging alliances, seeding in youthful dreams and carving new approaches for a better Africa.”

Nnedi Okorafor


Nnedi Okorafor and and her partner (who also made the list) Wanuri Kahiu are about to usher their feature-length animation film The Camel Racer into development, with the support of South Africa’s Triggerfish Animation Studios and the Walt Disney Company.

Okorafor is a Nigerian-American professor of creative writing and literature, who counts a PhD in English amongst her many academic credentials. She has written multiple novels exploring African-based stories of science fiction, magical realism and fantasy.

Nairobi-born Kahiu has an MFA in directing from UCLA and won multiple awards for her 2008 feature film debut.

Okechukwu Ofili

Founder, Okada Books | Writer and entrepreneur

Although trained as an engineer, Ofili has dedicated much of his professional life to literature. Ofili’s advocacy for a revamped educational system are laid bare in his books which satirically highlight the rigid thought processes and systems that constrict the creativity of young Africans.

Ofili’s passion for literature saw him start Okadabooks, a book publishing and reading app which allows African writers publish their books online and sell to over 80,000 users on the app.

Given the ubiquity of mobile phones in Africa and the spiking internet penetration, Okadabooks is looking to make it “easier and cheaper” for Africans to read. Since its launch, Okadabooks has had 11,000 books listed and had over 750,000 book downloads.

Laolu Senbanjo

Artist, founder, Laolu.NYC

Over the past year, Laolu Senbanjo has broken into mainstream pop culture with his Yoruba culture-inspired art, Afromysterics, which he describes as “the mystery of the African thought pattern.” Trained as a lawyer, Senbanjo has taken up his passion and has evolved into one of the most distinctive African artists on the international stage. Unrestricted by canvass type, Senbanjo’s art appears on human bodies, clothes and sneakers. The popularity of his work has grown exponentially such that he was named by Nike, as one of the ‘Masters of Air’ at Nike Air Max Con in March. His collaboration with Nike to create African-art inspired sneakers turned out to be a sold-out success. Transcending fashion, Senbanjo’s landed arguably his biggest break working with pop star Beyonce, on a video for her groundbreaking Lemonade album. Senbanjo’s sees the growth of his art as an important contribution to helping Africans reconnect to their roots and also helping non-Africans understand Africans better. “We’re at a point in the world right now where everybody is looking towards Africa. Perceptions are changing,” he says. “All of a sudden it’s cool to have that African-ness.”

Gbenga Sesan

Executive director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria

As a child, Gbenga Sesan was denied the chance to use a computer at school because a teacher said they were not for people like him. Inspired by that rebuke, he has spent much of his life teaching and providing hundreds of young people in Nigeria’s poorest communities with IT skills and matching them opportunities through his work as executive director ofParadigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN). As an activist, Gbenga leverages technology to push projects such as the development of the first mobile application used for election monitoring in Nigeria in 2011. Sesan’s PIN also acts as a watchdog of the government’s ICT-related policies and, when necessary, is a vocal critic of questionable policies such as the infamous Frivolous Petitions bill, believed to be a pretext for regulating social media.

Kola Tubosun

Founder, | Writer and linguist

Seeing that the age of millennials, smartphones and social networks was bringing with it an erosion of local dialects with young people, Kola Tubosun has focused his efforts on preserving Yoruba, one of Nigeria’s major languages. In 2012, Tubosun started a campaign on Twitter for the inclusion of Yoruba as one of the languages into which Twitter was being translated. After two years of an annually popular “Tweet Yoruba Day” on which Twitter users tweeted only in the local language, Twitter announced it had made Yoruba the second African language, after Afrikaans, to be included in the Twitter translation center. Tubosun’s Yoruba advocacy is not only limited to tweets as over the past year, he has launched, a crowdfunded name and culture documentation project which serves as a dictionary for Yoruba names, meanings and pronunciations so that “one day in the future, Microsoft Word no longer has to draw that red wriggly line” underneath a Yoruba name. Earlier this year, Tubosun’s efforts saw him become the first African recipient of the Premio Ostana Special Prize for Mother Tongue Literature—an award reserved for individuals who engage in “notable advocacy for the defense of an indigenous language.”