2020 was quite the year for the world, but in Africa, it was even more special.
From a global pandemic to economic troubles occasioned by the former, to protests in different parts of the continent, notably Nigeria, Namibia and Congo that only led to more socioeconomic challenges, it was an especially tough year for Africans.
Through it all, a crop of exceptional young men and women stand out. In this special edition, we turn on the spotlight on ten of these individuals – most below 30 and others just slightly above this age – who made remarkable strides in their professions and are poised to go even further.
If you are active on social media, you would have probably noticed ‘the lipgloss boy’ who makes some of the funniest videos you’ll ever see on this side of the divide. But the funny content creator, social media influencer and lifestyle enthusiast is more than just fun and vibes.
Enioluwa graduated with a first-class from Ekiti State University at 19. He went on to join fintech company Bamboo where he worked until October 2020 which was the month he officially began his masters at Pan-Atlantic University.
Although he blogs about beauty on his social media pages, he also uses his platform as a tool for change, commenting on social issues, taking a stance against societal ills, and, encouraging acceptance of metrosexual and effeminate men, as well as other vulnerable groups that the Nigerian society continues to marginalise. The best part is that brands have noticed.
His ever-growing social media following and engaging content have earned him collaborations with major brands like TMBeauty by Toke Makinwa, First Bank and Samsung. However, he makes it a point to highlight small brands whose products or values he finds good enough for his followers.
Enioluwa is currently combining his degree with writing and social media influencing, but he is definitely open to bigger opportunities.
Have you heard of Street Souk? If you haven’t, then a good way to familiarise yourself with its origins and goal is to know its founder, Iretidayo Zaccheaus.
In 2020, the Nigerian fashion community took a closer look at a young and very talented events planner and entrepreneur when the news of her collaboration with founder of design label, Off White and creative director for Menswear at Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh, broke.
Iretidayo Zaccheaus, since 2018 has been organising a streetwear convention known as Street Souk. The annual event is a creative mix of fashion, music, and culture that surrounds the display of streetwear fashion from established and buorgeoning brands.
In an interview with Native Magazine, Iretidayo confessed that she knew from the beginning that she was a better organiser than creative, and when she realised that she could bring people together over a shared love for streetwear and pop culture, she jumped at it.
Now, more than two years after it all began, and with an international collaboration as well as other success stories, Iretidayo is looking to take Street Souk to the ends of Africa. With everything that she has achieved in such a short period of time, it appears that we would be seeing this dream come true rather sooner than later.
Tems’ artistry is like a seductive blend of Lauryn Hill, Beyonce and the unique, passionate and powerful sound that could only belong to the Nigerian alternative R&B artist.
Born Temilade Openiyi, Tems’ earliest recollection of making music was when, at 6 years, she found a phrase in her mother’s poem book and wrote a chorus to it. But even then, she had no idea that this was something she wanted to make a career of. It wasn’t until she turned 11 that she had an inkling.
With the support of her family and her music teacher, she started to build her voice into the strong yet warm, catchy sound that we, including Barack Obama, have come to fall in love with.
At the start of her career, Tems was performing solo. She produced, released and promoted her first major song, Mr. Rebel, on her own. It was not a decision she made from the beginning, but one that became imperative if she was going to stick to her style and remain original. In an interview with The Fader, she shared her reason:
“One holiday I came back and I wanted to work with a producer and all the producers I tried to talk to had a lot of conditions. It’s either you have to give something, and I didn’t have money, and anything else is disgusting to me. I was just like ‘Na wa’, should I be struggling because I want to make one beat. Since I knew what I was looking for, I decided to learn how to myself. I started watching videos on YouTube and got onto it pretty quickly. I’m still not like the best but I know what I want and I know the vibe, I know the secret formula to myself which other people don’t know. I’ve heard beats made by other producers but I always need it to have a Tems factor in it, which I can’t explain but it’s a thing — this feeling I get when I’m creating a song.”
Today, Tems has several hit singles and collaborations under her belt, as well as 2 EPs (For Broken Ears  and Time Swap ) and a beats-only album (Illumination ) to her name. Clearly, we have not heard the last of her.
Chef Obehi might be the typical epicurean, but it was not until January 2015 that she decided it was time to make a career out of what she has described as her ‘alchemy.’ She enrolled in the Capsicum Cooking School located in Pretoria South Africa, and the rest is history.
Chef Obehi is the Director of NYS Atelier Culinaire, a delivery-only and catering brand, and more recently – in 2020 to be exact – she became the executive chef and partner of the revamped and rechristened BLD by Play (now The Observatory). Her meteoric rise in the culinary world is impressive, and to date, she continues to dazzle with her aesthetically-pleasing and tasty dishes.
Like Chef Obehi, Vanessa did not originally start out in the beauty industry. Her first degree is in Politics and International Relations and even when she went for a second one, it was a Masters of Law in International Law. It was only after this that she went on to do some short makeup courses with the AMF Academy in the United Kingdom while building experience with Josie Maran’s consulting department for about three months.
Taos Beauty was birthed in the UK in 2014, and a few months after, it made its debut in Nigeria. In the last 6 years, it has gradually risen in popularity, offering everything from lipliners to glow kits, lip stains, setting sprays and even accessories like sponge blenders and brush sets. But Vanessa is not one to rest on her laurels.
In 2017, she launched Malichaluxury, a skincare solutions brand and buoyed by her success, veered into loungewear and lingerie with Laceyxness in 2020, possibly in response to the trend that picked up when we were all forced to live out our lives within the concrete confines of our home.
Vanessa continues to push forward products that are quick to become lifestyle necessities, and she has so much more to achieve.
Nigeria, like any developing nation, battles with many challenges, not least amongst them being poor healthcare. The problem with this sector is multifaceted with one of them being the way we collect, curate and convert data. It is this particular challenge that Helium Health, co-founded by Tito Ovia, is working hard to overcome.
Armed with a BSc in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Manchester and an insight into how problematic the documentation process in the Nigerian healthcare system is (gotten from her time with the Lagos State AIDS Control Agency (LSACA) as an assistant project manager), Tito Ovia has found her calling in the messy world of healthcare data.
She had always known that this industry was in trouble, and she wanted to help. So she tried to become a doctor. And failed after two attempts at medical school, undeterred she went on to study Biomedical Sciences where she developed a love for public health which was in line with her initial dream.
Helium Health started in 2015 and was incorporated in 2016 as One Global Medical Technology. After getting into Y Combinator, it changed to its present name, and has so far worked with the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Health, merged with MedicPlus, bought SmartDoctor, and raised $10m in a Series A funding round.
The goal Tito Ovia has for Helium Health, along with her co-founders is simple: digitise the entire health data process through Electronic Management Records (EMR) solutions to optimise time management in the sector and pave the way for further, much-needed solutions. With all it has achieved so far, Helium Health, along with Tito Ovia and her team are well on their way to doing just that.
Kunle Balogun is a flipper. Just give him any space and he’ll flip it around. From offices to stores, clubs, restaurants; if you brought your school or religious house to him and his interior design firm, House of Assembles – he would transform it into a space you would want to be in forever. What makes his design firm even more impressive is that he tries to ensure that every piece he uses in his work is sourced from, and designed in Nigeria.
Kunle graduated from the Florence Institute of Design International in Italy and came back to Nigeria to set up House of Assembles in 2017. His plan is to contribute immensely to the growth of interior design in Nigeria while providing exclusive design concepts to commercial, retail and residential end-users. To date, he has been hugely successful, and it wouldn’t come as any surprise to us if he becomes one of the most sought-after interior designers on the continent and beyond.
If you are looking for someone who knows a little (or maybe a lot!) of everything about fine dining on the African continent, you should speak to Aida Bamba, better known as the Serial Foodie.
Aida is an Ivorien who started writing restaurant reviews after a breakup in 2015. Her background in Agro-food engineering helped to form the foundation of her analyses, and soon after, she became one of the most sought-after food critiques in Côte d’Ivoire. In fact, she became so popular that Nespresso sought her out for a project in her country.
Today, Aida is extending her expertise to hotels, spas as well as the hospitality and wellness industry in Côte d’Ivoire and other African countries. She is touring the continent to show the delicious side of Africa to the world, while keeping the aforementioned industries on their toes so that they put their best foot forward each and every time.
Or Toby, as he is known professionally.
Do you remember the Heritage Bank advert which aired during the 2019 edition of the BB Naija reality show, where the spoken word artiste said “Burger no fit tell Eba how Banga soup dey be,” then you have already met Toby. As with most creatives, the 26-year-old poet started way before the advert brought him to a larger audience, and he has continued to grow exponentially since then.
Toby has featured in many poetry competitions locally and regionally where he has gathered awards and even more fame. He has described himself as one who “come(s) from the bloodline of sorcerers and priests, lords and keepers of the altars of poetry… a bloodline of musicians and scribes, a people whose lips rise with the pressure of calling the revolution by its name…” but it is apparent that it is he who is in fact birthing and creating this bloodline with the events and classes he continues to attend and hold, offline, but more recently online in keeping with recent trends.
Toby continues to speak his way to the limelight, using his words as a tool for change, justice and entertainment. With all he has achieved so far, we know we are definitely going to be seeing, and hearing, a lot of him in the future.
Abdul Abdulrahim, Preston Ideh, Michael Famoroti & Foluso Ogunlana
The ‘information company’ focused on business and finance was co-founded in London in 2017 by the quartet of Abdul Abdulrahim, Preston Ideh, Michael Famoroti and Foluso Ogunlana.
In the last 3+ years, Stears – consisting of its media publication, Stears Business, as well as its data collection, research, and analytics division, Stears Data – has striven to consistently provide high-quality, data-driven information, a feature that was sadly lacking in an industry forced to rely heavily on advertising to survive.
Last year, Stears took its goals a step higher. It raised a seed investment of $600,000 and introduced a subscription model to continue its promise of delivering high-quality content in Nigeria. It is slowly but surely rising up in the ranks as the media house to trust for accurate information in the country, and the sky seems to be only but the proverbial stepping stone for this ambitious quartet and the information house that they run.