Africans are often poorly mentioned in the media, but there’s so much more to Africans than the negative stereotype often put forward.
They have consistently contributed to the growth and development of society, and to celebrate the International Day for People of African Descent, here are 10 Africans doing the continent proud in tech.
Chinedu Echeruo is a Nigerian-born serial entrepreneur who came to the limelight in 2013 following Apple’s $1b acquisition of his travel app, HopStop.
After struggling with finding directions while moving around in the US, Echeruo built HopStop, an app that offered real-time directions when using the bus, train, hiking, or biking. The hugely popular service was present in over 600 US cities until Apple shut it down.
After HopStop, he had a stint as a partner at investment banking firm Constant Capital Partners before launching MindMeet and Tripology. He is also the holder of US patent #7,957,871, for Methods and Apparatuses for navigation in urban environments.
There are only a handful of founders who can lay claim to having built a unicorn. That number only gets smaller when you talk of black unicorn founders, and Tope Awotona, Founder of scheduling tool, Calendly, is in this elite group.
Despite repeatedly running into roadblocks in building Calendly, including flying to Ukraine in the middle of a war, the Nigerian showed remarkable resilience to build a company valued at over $1 billion.
Rediet Abebe is an Ethiopian computer scientist and an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Abebe is also the Co-founder of Blacks in AI, a community of Black researchers working in artificial intelligence and Mechanism Design for Social Good — an organisation that brings researchers from different disciplines to solve various problems.
Her research focuses on using AI and algorithms to improve access to opportunities for historically marginalised groups. This has seen her work with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education to match high school seniors to public universities.
Resilience is one word that comes to mind when you think of Nigerian-born Sam Udotong, CTO and Co-founder of Fireflies, a meeting transcription service. After graduating from MIT, Udotong turned down six-figure job offers and graduate school to build the startup, often living on pizza.
Success did not come easy, and after several iterations, including a brief stint as a delivery service, Fireflies began gaining traction as a transcription service. Since its launch in 2017, the startup has raised over $15 million from investors.
Yonas Beshawred is the Founder and CEO of StackShare, a platform that allows software developers and tech companies to share the tools they are using and how they are being used.
Before StackShare, the Ethiopian entrepreneur worked in IT consulting at Accenture, also having a stint at Cube. From a side project on a WordPress blog, StackShare now boasts over 500,000 developers on its platform and has raised above $5 million from investors.
Beshawred’s work with StackShare is impressive when you consider how difficult it is for black founders to get funding and is proof that with a great idea, it is only a matter of time before you get recognised.
As a child visiting Nigeria, Jessica Matthews experienced a power outage while at a relative’s wedding. Several years later, as a student at Harvard University, she remembered inventing something for an engineering class project.
Her invention, Soccket, is a soccer ball that generates energy when in play for use as a portable power source. Matthews is the Founder and CEO of Uncharted, which helps cities and developers reduce the cost of deploying and managing last-mile infrastructure.
Munashe Mugonda is a Technical Product Lead and Data Engineer at Cummins Inc. She is also the Co-founder of Ruzhowa, a Zimbabwean community bank that uses fintech to allow Zimbabweans in the diaspora to invest in their communities. Currently studying for an MBA at Purdue University, Mugonda has come a long way from her home country of Zimbabwe.
Omolabake Adenle is a Nigerian-American investment strategist, engineer, and founder of the app development studio, Aja.la Studios, a startup that builds voice solutions for African languages.
Adenle holds a PhD in Bayesian Signal Processing from Cambridge University and previously built SpeakYoruba, a defunct app that helped children learn how to speak the Yoruba language. Only recently, she won the DEI In Voice award from Women in Voice (WiV) for her outstanding contributions to the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion in voice.
Women, especially black ones, have been historically underrepresented in the workplace, and the technology space is no different. In a world where less than 100 black women have raised $1 million in funding from investors, Asmau Ahmed, Founder of Plum Perfect, is an inspiration for women.
After facing difficulties finding a lipstick that matched her skin colour, she built Plum Perfect. With only a selfie, the app uses proprietary technology to help users determine the perfect makeup for them based on their complexion by analysing the colours of their skin, eyes, lips, and hair before making result-based recommendations.
In addition to this, the company has BeauTV, a product that lets users view makeup tutorials and get recommendations based on their skin tones. The Nigerian-American has also worked with the Bank of America and Deloitte.
While numerous Silicon Valley companies claim to have programmes aimed at increasing workplace diversity and recruiting more software engineers, the racial disparities remain. Various estimates put the representation of black software engineers between 1 to 2%
Born in Nigeria, Makinde Adeagbo is a software engineer who has worked at Facebook, Microsoft, and Pinterest. In 2015, he founded dev/color, one of the first non-profit startups to make it into Y Combinator. dev/color is a career accelerator for black software engineers, technologists, and executives. Since its founding, dev/color claims to have helped over 600 black software engineers make career moves, learn new technologies, and start new companies.
Accidental writer, covering Africa’s startup landscape and its heroes.