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7 Africans Who Returned Home and Built Thriving Businesses

Africa is a continent rich in business opportunities for disruptive and inventive minds’. Some Africans in the diaspora have returned home to take advantage of the market opportunities.

These entrepreneurs are reshaping the continent and expanding commerce in different sectors such as technology, beauty, and branding. This, in turn, is boosting the continent’s ecosystem. 

Here are some Africans who returned home and built successful businesses.

Ore Runsewe, founder – Arami 

Arami Essentials is one of the best beauty brands in Nigeria. The six-year-old brand was founded by Ore Runsewe, a Nigerian entrepreneur who grew up in the United Kingdom as a communication graduate.

The brand creation stems from the inability to get skin and hair products when she got to Nigeria. This led her to do it herself by missing different beauty ingredients together.

She said, “I used very commonly average products in the UK. So, I used to just use products on the shelf of stores in the UK. When I moved to Nigeria in 2014, I started looking for alternatives to these products. Some were not available while some were expensive”.

While researching the best ingredients and products in Nigeria, she discovered shea butter, black soap, coconut oil, and so on. She started making it for herself, which later developed into Arami.

In 2016, she officially launched her brand and, in late 2021, opened her first factory.

Eyitayo Ogunmola, founder – Utiva

Eyitayo Ogunmola is a Nigerian entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Utiva, a talent accelerator that assists undergraduates and graduates in Sub-Saharan Africa gain the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the global labour market.

After graduating with a degree in Medical Physiology from the University of Ilorin, Eyitayo went ahead to earn his Master of Sciences in business strategy, leadership, and transformation from Heriot-Watt University.

He is a Tony Elumelu Foundation Program mentor and a 2015 Atlas Corps fellow. In 2019, he became a Global Good Fund fellow.

Oluwaseyi Abolaji, founder – Wilson’s Lemonade

Oluwaseyi Abolaji is a Nigerian entrepreneur raised in the United States who turned a $10 business into a multi-million dollar company.

The twelve years old company, which was started at the entrance of Covenant University, Nigeria, is today sold in major retail outlets and available in over 27 states in Nigeria.

Through identifying market opportunities, Olwaseyi and his brother Oluwaseun Abolaji have been able to dominate a specific percentage of the Nigerian drink and beverage industry.

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Bimbo Alashe Arawole, founder – Leatherworld

Bimbo Alashe, a Nigerian business magnate and billionaire, returned to Nigeria after earning a postgraduate degree in interior design from Pitman College in London and the Regent Academy of Design and Fine Arts.

Upon returning to the country, she opened Glamour, a mini-gift shop and beauty salon in Apapa.

She also founded Leatherworld after spotting an opportunity in the furniture sector. She became the driving force behind Leatherworld, a well-known luxury furniture firm. Leatherworld is now a pioneer and household name in high-quality furniture and interior décor.

Demi Samande, founder – Majeurs Chesterfield

Demi Samande returned to Nigeria after 30 years in the United Kingdom and established one of the best furniture businesses in the country.

After earning her degree in Architecture from London Metropolitan University in 2010, she could not secure employment. During this period, she discovered her entrepreneurial side.

She says, “While at home, I started playing with the furniture as a hobby. I would keep myself busy in the living room by fixing worn-out furniture”. In 2011, she started her furniture business “Majeurs Chesterfield”.

In 2016, Demi took her firm to Nigeria and set up her shop in Surulere, Lagos. Today, Demi’s furniture pieces are used in corporate and formal situations.

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, founder – Flutterwave

Iyinoluwa Aboyeji is a serial entrepreneur who has founded several startups. His first startup was Bookneto, which was later sold to the Canadian Innovation Centre.

Aboyeji subsequently returned to Nigeria led to the creation of his second business, Flora. Following that, he co-founded Andela, which obtained a $24 million investment from Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. He also co-founded Flutterwave, a financial technology startup.

Chris Folayan, founder – Mall for Africa

The founder and CEO of Mall for Africa, an eCommerce platform, recognised the high demand for commodities unavailable in Africa. 

This was evident whenever he visited his Nigerian relatives and acquaintances. They would give him a list of things to buy from America on his next visit because they couldn’t travel.

The market gap made him create a “Mall for Africa” to fill the space. Today, the startup connects Africans with their commodities in different countries. It provided access to shop from over 200 online outlets in the United States and the United Kingdom.

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