As 2020 ushers in a new decade and a new set of daunting challenges for the world – climate change, the coronavirus – it’s all the more imperative that the world’s youngest continent rises to the crises and sees opportunities where there seem to be none. These are the men and women forging ahead with credible, creative and profound strategies to shape our tomorrow. Celebrating six years of the FORBES AFRICA 30 Under 30 list, they are the continent’s revolutionary thinkers revitalizing ideas and industries with fresh business models and innovative leadership.
Over 3,000 nominations flooded into our inboxes and landed on our desks from the start of 2020 for this Under 30 list. And the mammoth task? Whittling it down to 30 names.
Scilla Owusu, 23, Ghana
Video Director, Producer, Screenwriter, and Founder of Youngtrepreneurs
What do Davido, Burna Boy, Sarkodie, Mr Eazi, Patoranking, Diamond Platnumz, Morgan Heritage, Wande Coal and Maleek Berry all have in common?
Apart from directing many of Africa’s top music hits, they can attribute the creative success of some of their videos to 23-year-old Ghanaian video director, Scilla Owusu.
It all started in the summer of 2015, after Owusu graduated from college with a business studies degree in London and she felt lost and did not know what her life’s purpose was.
Putting pen to paper, Scilla eventually found her passion in screenwriting which led her to launch her first six-part series titled A Lesson Learnt that she wrote and produced.
This led her to win an award at the Screen Nation Film & Television Awards in 2016.
Following this success, Owusu dove into the world of music video production at the age of 19.
“Being in such a male-dominated industry as a music video producer, especially a young black female video producer, felt like being black twice because I had to work twice as hard to prove I was worthy of being in the room, despite my great talents,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.
Within a year, Scilla’s drive led her to direct popular music videos such as Tomorrow by M.anifest featuring Burna Boy, Love coming down by Don EE featuring Davido and Odo Bi by Stonebwoy featuring Sarkodie.
Her love for the entertainment industry led her to launch her own social youth organization in Ghana called Youngtrepreneurs to help young Ghanaian creatives improve their business knowledge, gain work skills and provide career opportunities. Owusu has been featured by different media outlets including the BBC and OkayAfrica.
Patoranking, 29, Nigeria
A quick Google search for the best dancehall artists in Africa, and Patoranking’s name is sure to pop up.
His beats are a unique blend of dancehall, reggae and Afrobeats combined, recognizable both on the continent and the global music scene.
In 2016 and 2017, he was a judge on the internationally-acclaimed reality singing competition, The Voice Nigeria.
He was also awarded MTV Africa’s Song of the Year for hit song My Woman, My Everything in 2016.
The following year, he was crowned Best African Artist at the South African Music Awards (SAMA).
Internationally, he was featured on Major Lazer’s Particula hit song alongside Nasty C, Jidenna and Ice Prince in 2018.
In the same year, he traveled with American singer and songwriter Lauryn Hill for The Miseducation for Lauryn Hill album’s 20th anniversary tour across North America as a special guest.
To date, Patoranking has been nominated for over 40 awards including Male Artist of the Year and Best Dancehall Artist, taking home more than 20 awards for these categories.
Mr Eazi, 28, Nigeria
Musician and Founder, emPawa Africa
Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and raised in Lagos, Oluwatosin Ajibade would sit at the breakfast table with his dad, listening to old records his father used to play.
This was the key moment that inspired Ajibade to become ‘Mr Eazi’, one of Africa’s notable music stars.
He began his music career while attending college in Ghana, where his side hustles included promoting concerts and running a concierge service shuttling wealthy kids to parties.
“I began my career with a small cash gift from friends, which enabled me to pay for my first professional-quality video for Skintight,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.
This later led him to producing more African favorites in 2017 such as Leg Over and Pour Me Water, both sitting at over 74 million views on YouTube.
But the music did not stop there.
His success has also seen him performing on global stages in the UK and the US including being one of only two African artists to play the world’s most prestigious music festival, Coachella in 2019.
Mr Eazi’s ascent to global stardom has seen him clock over 280 million YouTube views and more than 4.1 million Spotify streams per month, making him one of the most streamed African artists worldwide.
But now, Mr Eazi is establishing himself as an entrepreneur as well.
After founding emPawa in 2018, he has been on a global campaign to mentor and fund African artists.
The entity has provided marketing and business support for established acts like Nigeria’s Simi and Ghana’s King Promise.
emPawa also had a notable hand in Beyonce’s Grammy-nominated The Lion King: The Gift album, helping the pop megastar’s US-based team assemble leading African talent for this landmark project.
“It’s something I wish someone had created when I first started making music. Sometimes, all it takes is that one person to believe in you,” he says.
DJ Cuppy, 27, Nigeria
DJ, Founder and Director, Red Velvet Music Group
Many had high expectations for Florence Ifeoluwa Otedola to follow in her family’s oil business and become an oil trader.
Her life was a set stage from the day she was born.
Dancing to the tune, she pursued a degree in economics and management.
“I was convinced my plan was to make lots of money and be the next Femi Otedola!” she tells FORBES AFRICA
But the young Nigerian longed to pursue the arts.
As a teen, she performed at local parties, events and in front of crowds filled with youthful energy.
It was one gig here and another there, honing her skills until she became the reputed DJ she is now.
Otedola now goes by the name ‘DJ Cuppy’ and has become one of Nigeria’s most accomplished DJs, always identified by her trademark pink hair style.
In 2015, she had the opportunity to perform for her country and president Muhammadu Buhari at his inauguration. Since then, she had both her hands on-deck performing all over the world from Senegal and Ghana to the UK, playing in front of more country presidents.
In 2015, she founded The Cuppy Foundation, an NGO aimed at uplifting women, children, and people living with disabilities and tackling issues such as education, malnourishment and poverty.
DJ Cuppy also holds a master’s degree in Music Business from New York University.
She has won a number of awards including Best Female DJ at the Beatz Awards in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019. This year, she has been nominated for a Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Award.
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