Six African businesses make it to TIME’s 50 ‘Most Genius’ Companies of 2018

TIME Magazine released its first annual list of Genius Companies, nominated by a global network of editors and correspondents and evaluated based on key factors, including originality, influence, success and ambition. Six African businesses were listed last week among 50 companies that are driving progress and “inventing the future”.

Since having its ownership change hands in September, TIME appears to have been putting in efforts towards compiling a list of enterprises for its annual list of individuals and establishments around the world who are making waves in the global ecosystem.

Kenya’s BRCK, Ghana’s Bitland, Kenya’s Ona, South Africa’s AgriProtein, Nigeria’s Babymigo and South Africa’s Wonderbag were selected for their achievements in their various communities in TIME’s 50 Genuis Companies 2018, alongside companies like Airbnb, WeWork, Apple, and SpaceX.

Meet the African companies inventing the future:

South Africa’s AgriProtein:

Established in 2008, this Cape Town-based company specializes in creating sustainable sources of protein for the monogastric animal feed industry by recycling nutrients. According to TIME, AgriProtein founder Jason Drew, a South African who calls himself an “environmental capitalist,” came up with a solution while walking past a food waste dump swarming with flies. Insects have long been used as bait, so why not purposely grow a supply of flies that could serve to feed fish? Drew’s flagship fly farm in Cape Town turns some 276 tons of organic waste into 26 tons of pure insect protein a day, which is sold as food to fish farmers as well as the local poultry industry as well. The company has also raised $105 million to break ground on three new farms within the next 12 months, in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Nigeria’s Babymigo:

This Nigerian company came into existence in 2017 as the brainchild of Adeloye Olanrewaju and Cletus Ajibade who wanted to solve often preventable pregnancy related deaths. With a $10,000 grant and mentoring from Google’s Africa Launchpad Accelerator platform earlier this year, Olanrewaju co-founded, an online community that connects mothers-to-be with information, medical experts, services and other parents. Babymigo also serves up chat groups which enable both mothers and expectant mothers to talk to experts, find mothers in the same age group and city, and also find books and reviews of hyperlocal maternity and child care services. Babymigo offers access to some 7,000 local service providers, from gynecologists to lactation consultants. The company gets a small commission for every referral, but most revenue comes from advertising.

Babymigo’s app has been downloaded 30,000 times and its mobile-friendly website has 90,000 registered users—most from Nigeria, with the rest from Sub-Saharan Africa.


Ghana’s Bitland:

With a presence in seven African countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, and Mauritius, this startup wants to eliminate some of the problems associated with land registry in parts of Africa by leveraging the provisions of blockchain technology.  The startup, which also operates in India, uses blockchain technology—which can create tamper-proof digital public records—to help people prove their land belongs to them. It also works with Native Americans in the U.S. “Land rights are the foundation of a country,” says company COO Elliot Hedman according to TIME. “The biggest thing that’s holding back developing countries from jumping onto the world stage economically and socioeconomically is insecure land.” —Billy Perrigo

Kenya’s BRCK:

This Nairobi-based company was established in 2014 as the result of concerted efforts between Erik Hersman, Jon Shuler, Reg Orton, and Philip Walton. Connecting to the Internet is slower and more expensive in Africa than anywhere else. BRCK, a company based in Nairobi, Kenya has changed that by developing a portable modem that uses phone SIM cards to beam wifi connectivity to multiple devices. The BRCK, which is actually smaller, lighter and more robust than its namesake, was designed in 2013 with developing world conditions in mind: it’s weatherproof, shockproof and battery powered. Last year co-founder Erik Hersmann launched Moja, a public wifi system that uses the SupaBRCK hardware to provide free internet access across Kenya and Rwanda. Some 250,000 users a month can now go online at no cost, once they sign in and watch an ad.

Wonderbag, a genius invention. Courtesy: TIME/Wonderbag

Kenya’s Ona:

The duo of Matt Berg and Peter Lubell-Doughtie brought this company into existence in 2013. The Kenya-based software company Ona uses satellite imagery and information from NGOs to create a simple digital mapping system that helps health workers locate remote dwellings and identify what health services they need, in real time, in the field—vital in interventions like malaria spraying and vaccine distribution. 

South Africa’s Wonderbag:

Boasting offices, factories and distribution centers in Ghana, South Africa, U.S., U.K, and The Netherlands, Wonderbag is empowering homes one appliance at a time. The company’s creation is a heavily-insulated appliance of the same name which is basically a slow cooker that continues to cook food for up to 12 hours without power, provided it has already been brought to boil using conventional methods. 

According to TIME, Wonderbag has also helped increase the income of over 500,000 women across 20 countries, many of whom sell or make the bag, or use it as part of their catering businesses. “Food is the one thing that unites the world,” founder Sarah Collins says. “Often we need to look out of the box to look at change.”