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Five Fellows in The Africa Report's Top 50 Disruptors list


Five Tutu Fellows are named in the annually released Top 50 Disruptors by The Africa Report.  The report names the top 50 firebrands making waves on the continent, who are 'shaking up the status quo, asking uncomfortable questions, upending business models and fighting preconceptions' and who are 'transforming the African continent. The Fellows are Mitchell Elegbe, Oluseun Onigbinde, Bibi Bakare, Edwin Macharia and Ahmed Zahran. Of the exclusive list, 10% are Tutu Fellows. 

The publication ranks these exclusive 50 individuals based on three factors: innovation, disruption and heft.   According to The Africa Report, these criteria take into account how new the idea is, how big the change is and how many people are impacted.

Of these exclusive top 50 African disruptors, 10% are Tutu Fellows. This is a testament to the Fellowship and the calibre of candidates it attracts. In order of appearance, the named Fellows are Mitchell Elegbe, Oluseun Onigbinde, Bibi Bakare, Edwin Macharia and Ahmed Zahran.

2008 Tutu Fellow Mitchell Elegbe is the founder, MD and CEO of Interswitch, an integrated payment and transaction company, which pioneered the infrastructure to digitise the mainly paper-ledger and cash-based economy in Nigeria. Today Interswitch’s technology processes over 500 million transactions a month; its Verve payment card is the largest domestic debit card scheme in Africa and it is expanding outside Nigeria in August 2019. The Africa Report says: “Elegbe always saw this as an innovation that could facilitate the electronic circulation of money anywhere in Africa. Visa saw it too, and in November 2019 acquired a minority equity stake in Interswitch that took the company to unicorn status – valuation of $1bn. Interswitch could be Africa’s sole tech unicorn for some time as Jumia’s worth has dropped; an Interswitch IPO is still on the cards.”

Another Fellow from the Class of 2008, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, is the co-founder and director of Cassava Press, a leading African book publishing company that focuses on affordability;  the need to find and develop local talent; and which publishes African writers too often celebrated only in Europe and America. The Africa Report describes her work like this: 'Cassava Press attempts to challenge stereotypes of what African literature ‘should’ be. Strong recent books include The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah, a historical fiction about the intrigues in pre-colonial Ghana; and Elnathan John’s Born on a Tuesday, a coming-of-age story set in the sectarian religious violence of northern Nigeria.” In 2019, Bibi’s Cassava Press also published Making Futures: Young Entrepreneurs in a Dynamic Africa written by Sangu Delle, a 2019 Tutu Fellow.

2018 Fellow Oluseun Onigbinde is a fiscal transparency advocate and firm believer in the power of open data. He is the CEO of budgIT, a tool that enables Nigerians to fight bad governance, with proof. The Africa Report says: 'Having co-founded the company in 2011, Onigbinde continues to encourage citizens to hold the government accountable. He was appointed as Technical Adviser in the Ministry of Budget and National Planning on 13 September 2019, but came under fire on social media due to his open and long-term criticism of the same government that appointed him. This caused him to resign three days later.' On his LinkedIn profile, Oluseun states: 'I believe in a just, transparent and fair society where every citizen within a community has equal access to information about the fiscal position of their society and uses such opportunity to demand accountability as well as efficient service delivery.'

2010 Fellow Edwin Macharia was recently appointed as the Global Managing Partner of Dalberg Advisors, a leading global consulting firm. The Africa Report says that rather than sit in headquarters in New York, Edwin tilted the whole company towards Africa, doing much of his work from Nairobi. Dalberg founder Henrik Skovby says that Edwin is responsible for innovating across the the whole group. Edwin is a former McKinsey employee who also worked at the Clinton Foundation and set up the Kenya office in 2008. The Africa Report says: 'Don’t bet on him staying in consulting forever. He has already run once to be an MP.'

2017 Fellow Ahmed Zahran is the co-founder and CEO of KarmSolar, a solar technology and integration company that has been instrumental in Egypt’s energy sustainability transformation. The Africa Report says, “KarmSolar was the first private solar company in the country to obtain licences to generate, sell, and distribute electricity to consumers, and to operate a feed-in tariff station selling power to the national grid. French group EDF announced in late 2019 that it would invest up to $25m in Zahran’s Cairo start-up, making it a leading supplier of solar power in Egypt, which has set a target to generate 42% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2035. Zahran has worked in renewable energy for more than a decade in Tunisia, the UK and Egypt with Shell International and Tri Ocean Energy. He is also co-founder of Nahdet El Mahrousa, a socialchange incubator.”

You can read the full report of all fifty disruptors on a PDF.

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