Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein
The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get anywhere if you are willing to work. This is a popular quote from Oprah Winfrey. I agree with with her. What do you think?
We’ve seen different lists about people who have amassed wealth out of ideas, but this article highlights those who have succeeded without formal education. You may call them dropouts, we call them visionaries, inventors, innovators, and ultimately billionaires. Here is a list, in no respective order, of 7 African CEOs who have displayed immense courage and drive to overcome their seeming lack of formal education to build reputable businesses.
Anas Sefrioui, Morocco
Anas Sefrioui is considered Morocco’s third richest person. This real estate magnate’s worth is estimated at $1.3 billion. Anas is also the CEO Addoha Group. At a young age, he opted out of college to work with his father on a project to create a popular clay for washing a person’s body and hair. Producing this substance would allow Sefrioui to accumulate the knowledge and basic business skills needed to run his business empire in later years. He was able to gather the money needed to form a real estate development group in 1988. Building on that venture, he earned his first billions in 1995 when he was asked to build more than 2000 geared-to-income homes that received subsidization by the government of the late King Hassan II of Morocco. Today, his affordable housing stint has become a guide to real estate development in the United Arab Emirates.
Ashish J. Thakkar, Uganda
Ashish is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Mara Group. He started his first company at the age of 15. In 1996, Ashish borrowed $6,000 to start his first IT Company where he bought and sold computers. Brimming with confidence, he chose to drop out of school and concentrate on his business which at that point, merely constituted of buying and selling computers and floppy disks; from Dubai to Uganda. In an interview with Arabic [email protected], Ashish stated concerning those early days, “I didn’t have enough working capital to do cargoes and shipments. I would travel to Dubai every weekend. Fill my suitcase with IT stuff. Pay my taxes on Monday. Sell Tuesday through Friday. Get my cash on Friday…That was my cycle for six months. And then I was thinking, “There are so many people coming to Dubai to do exactly the same thing. Why don’t I set up a base to help them? We then set up an office in Dubai when I was 15 in 1996 to actually supply IT hardware into African countries. And the rest is history.”
His company, Mara Group, a 16 year-old pan-African multi-sector business conglomerate with operations in 26 countries spans four continents. Mara’s current businesses operate in a broad range of sectors including information technology (IT) services, business process outsourcing (BPO), a multi-faceted mobile-enabled online platform, agriculture, real estate, hospitality, packaging and asset management.
Mara Group has received global recognition for its achievements and contributions not only in Africa but also worldwide. In 2010, he was also appointed as a World Economic Forum Global Young Leader by the World Economic Forum.
Johann Rupert, South Africa
Billionaire tycoon Johann Rupert is the chairman of Swiss-based luxury-goods company Richemont, as well as of the South Africa-based company Remgro. He grew up in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He gained admission to study Economics and Company Law at the University of Stellenbosch, but dropped out of the university to follow the money. The rest is history. Rupert served his business apprenticeship in New York, where he worked for two years. He then returned to South Africa in 1979 and founded Rand Merchant Bank of which he was CEO. He started the Small Business Development Corporation in same year (over 600, 000) jobs created since inception.
Described as “reclusive” by the Financial Times and Barron’s, Rupert rarely grants interviews and shuns public events. Without getting any glamorous education, he was able to predict a world economic crisis in 2006 earning him the name, “Rupert the Bear” by the Financial Times. In 2004, Stellenbosch University awarded him an honorary doctorate in economics and in 2008 he was awarded another honorary doctorate in commerce from Nelson Mandela University.
Cosmos Maduka, Nigeria
Cosmos is Chairman/CEO of Coscharis Group of Companies and sole distributor for BMW in Nigeria. At age 4, he lost his father, which took him into poverty. However, it marked his sojourn into business. Young Cosmos reportedly hawked bean cake (akara) to make ends meet. Like Bill Gates, he was not a dullard, but had to withdrawn from elementary school because he could not afford to pay fees. Cosmos was sent to his uncle, where he served as automobile apprentice. He didn’t bother to go back to school and decided to fully go into enterprise. His first major business venture went from 300, 000 to millions within a year. In the early 80’s, humble Cosmos incorporated Coscharis Motors and he was fortunate that his company was the seventh company, among 10 motor companies, that were granted import license by the Ministry of Trade in the 80’s because, ‘Coscharis’ sounded like a Greek name. The company is now a multimillion dollar venture and has continued to grow.
Justin Stanford, South Africa
Justin is tech-genius who at 29 is deemed one of South Africa’s leading entrepreneurs and investors. At age 13, Justin’s started his first business by selling apple juice to his classmates. A few years later he decided to totally “depart high-school early” because he found the classroom boring. He made his way to the top by starting his first company at 18.
Inspired by Bill Gates, the lad set out to launch an internet security company which didn’t thrive. This nonetheless didn’t deter his resolve to succeed. For years, he forged on and continued to grow his 100 percent-Internet based company from a garage in the suburbs of Cape Town. Justin started dealing in anti-virus software ESET and he became the exclusive distributor for the product in South Africa. Today the brand, which operates in about 20 sub-Saharan countries records over $10 million in annual turnover and controls 5 percent of the anti-virus market in Southern Africa.
In 2011, Justin was listed in the Mail & Guardian ‘Top 200 Young South Africans’ for the year. A college dropout, and in just his late 20’s, Stanford now sits atop an information technology empire.
Said Salim Bakhresa, Egypt
Said is an extremely reclusive business tycoon with a net worth of $520 million. He is the founder and the chairperson of the Bakhresa Group Of Companies. A man of humble beginning, he dropped out of school to become a potato mix salesperson after which he got involved as a restaurant operator in the 1970.
Now, his group employs more than 2000 people and is Tanzania’s largest conglomerate. Other specialties produced through Bakhresa’s conglomerate includes: confectioneries, frozen foods, various kinds of drinks, and packaging. His Azam brand is considered Tanzania’s most successful chocolate and ice cream manufacturing venture. Its daily capacity alone is 2100 metric tons and made sales of $800 million in 2011. Bakhresa’s Azam Marine division is providing international tourists with quick ferry services as more people discover Tanzania.
This particular ‘ex dropout’ created a business empire within a span of three decades. He is the mastermind behind the success of all the businesses. His vision and excellent managerial skills contributed to the growth of this group to great heights in a short spate. His Group is now a conglomerate of various companies and is the largest milling company in East Africa with operations in Tanzania and five other countries.
Orji Uzor Kalu, Nigeria
Kalu was once suspended from the University of Maiduguri for participating in a riot against the then Education Minister. He is now an entrepreneur and chairman of SLOK Holding and Daily Sun Publishing, to mention a few. He once served as Governor of Abia State for 8 years. The assiduous politician when later pardoned by the school, refused on grounds of solidarity with his comrades that were not pardoned, sticking to his guns. With about $35 to his name, which he borrowed from his mother, he began trading palm oil, buying the oil from Nigerian Eastern parts and reselling it in the Northern regions. His business continued to grow rapidly. Kalu established Slok Holdings, a conglomerate that would consist of a number of successful companies, such as the Ojialex furniture co., Slok Nigeria Ltd., Slok United Kingdom and others. Kalu also later got a degree from Harvard University and the University of Maiduguri presented him with an Honorary Doctorate.
Samsung CEO embarrassed by the Galaxy Fold fiasco, he “pushed it through before it was ready”
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is perpetually coming soon. The Korean company issues a new press release or has an exec do an interview every few weeks reiterating in vague language that the launch is still on, and it will happen sooner rather than later. But time keeps passing and the Fold is still nowhere to be seen in stores.
Samsung co-CEO DJ Koh has now told The Independent that he admits he “missed something on the foldable phone”, but the company is in the process of recovery. At the moment more than 2,000 prototypes are being extensively tested so that no new issues will arise.
DJ Koh, Samsung Electronics co-CEO
Koh earnestly confesses that “it was embarrassing. I pushed it through before it was ready”. He didn’t go into more detail – like whether Huawei announcing the Mate X had anything to do with the rushing of the Fold to the market, but we can of course infer that. Then again, seeing what happened to the Fold, Huawei has also decided to push back the release of the Mate X by around three months, which should be coming in September.
Koh is adamant that the Galaxy Fold hasn’t been canceled and will indeed launch… at some point. He didn’t reveal a specific release date, only saying it will be out “in due course.” “Give us a bit more time,” he continued. “The last couple of weeks I think we defined all of the issues and all of the problems we couldn’t find [before sending to reviewers].”
Russian Gamer Brothers Are the Newest Hidden Billionaires
Russian-born Igor and Dmitry Bukhman are seeking growth to challenge Tencent and Activision.
Almost two decades ago, in a remote Russian city best known for its butter and linen, two brothers shared a bedroom and a Pentium 100-powered computer they used to code their first game.
Wall Street wants a piece of what they’ve built since.
Playrix has met with some of the biggest banks “and visited their skyscrapers,” said Dmitry Bukhman, 34, citing meetings with dealmakers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. For now, though, “we are focused on growing the business.”
He and Igor Bukhman, 37, are the brains behind Playrix Holding Ltd., the creator of popular games similar to Candy Crush, including Fishdom and Gardenscapes, with more than 30 million daily users from China to the U.S. and annual sales of $1.2 billion, according to Newzoo. That makes the company one of the top 10 iOS and Google Play app developers by revenue, data from researcher AppAnnie show, putting Playrix in the same league as Tencent Holdings Ltd., NetEase Inc. and Activision Blizzard Inc.
Today, each brother is worth about $1.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. They haven’t previously appeared in a global wealth ranking.
Their road to riches started in 2001 in the city of Vologda, almost 300 miles (483 kilometers) north of Moscow, where Igor learned from a university professor that he could sell software online. He decided to try with Dmitry, who was still in high school at the time.
“We had no experience, no business understanding whatsoever—everything we could imagine was writing games,” Igor said.
The U.S. is Playrix’s biggest market, followed by China and Japan, the brothers said in a recent interview in Tel Aviv, where they spend some of their time. The two remotely manage about 1,100 employees, including personnel at its Ireland headquarters and developers in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
“For $3 billion we won’t sell”
The brothers’ first product was a game akin to Xonix in which players must use a cursor to open pieces of a hidden picture before being struck by flying balls. They wrote it during a summer break and generated $60 in the first month and later $100 a month, about half of the average salary in Vologda.
“We thought, ‘If one game makes $100, we can write several dozen of them and make a lot of money,”’ Igor said.
Their second game, featuring an animated character designed by an outsourced artist, brought in $200 a month. Their copycat of Tetris brought in $700 a month, but the brothers shut that down after learning that the game was protected by a license. In 2004, when the business reached $10,000 of monthly revenue, they registered a legal entity, rented space for an office in the basement of a book warehouse and hired other staff to accelerate production.
In the early years, they sold casual games through sites such as majorgeeks.com or download.com, before moving to bigger platforms like Yahoo! and AOL. Then, within the past decade, games started moving first to Facebook and then smartphones. Many of them were available for free, with users paying only for certain in-game features.
Playrix makes most of its money from in-app purchases and the brothers mostly shun advertising, which detracts from the user experience. Ads generate less than 3 percent of revenue, Dmitry said.
“It was a major challenge for us to switch to developing free-to-play games—that’s totally different DNA,” Dmitry said. “Free-to-play games aren’t games that you develop, release and move on to making another one. They are services that need to be supported constantly as users are waiting for regular updates.”
Playrix succeeded in this transition, achieving worldwide recognition over the past three years with Gardenscapes and its sequel, Homescapes, a new variety of match-3 puzzle in which a player completes rows of at least three elements to pass levels and progress through an animated storyline—in this case, helping a butler named Austin renovate a house with a garden.
“Austin engages in dialog with you, you help him to select ways to decorate the mansion, you dive into the history of this character and become related with him,” Dmitry said. “This genre variety we introduced—match-3 with meta game—became very successful, and other companies started copying us.”
“Playrix is certainly responsible for the first major innovation in the match-3 genre since King Digital Entertainment Plc seemingly had the market locked down with Candy Crush,” said Newzoo analyst Tom Wijman. “Playrix managed to add a layer of complexity and ‘meta game’ to the match-3 genre without driving away casual mobile players.”
The company employs several full-time script writers who work on Austin’s dialog, and it’s always improving the games, Dmitry said.
“It’s like apps, like Spotify—people can use them for years,” he said. “More and more people are getting accustomed that it’s perfectly normal. Why not pay $5 to get pleasure from playing a game on a smartphone rather than watching videos or listening to music?”
While Playrix hasn’t introduced a new title since 2017, the company recently acquired several gaming studios to expand into new genres, Igor said, declining to disclose which studios until it releases games developed by them later this year.
Successful titles attract whales. Activision Blizzard acquired King Digital in 2015 for $5.9 billion, and a year later Tencent led investors in an $8.6 billion deal to acquire a majority stake in “Clash of Clans” maker Supercell Oy.
Could Playrix be next? In February, the Information reported that it could be sold for $3 billion, citing Chinese firms iDreamSky Technology Holdings and FunPlus Game Co. as potential suitors.
The brothers dismissed the report.
“For $3 billion we won’t sell,” Dmitry said with a smile, while acknowledging that Playrix had been discussing strategic options as recently as last year, noting its meetings with Wall Street banks.
Their goal, for now, is to become a “top-tier gaming company,” that rivals Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts in the West, and NetEase Inc. and Tencent in China, Igor said.
“We want to grow as big as they are, using developer talent from our region—the former USSR and Eastern Europe,” he said.
There’s no magic number that would compel the Bukhmans to sell the company, because they say money is secondary to doing what they love.
“Some may think that when you have a lot of money, everything becomes different and more interesting, you start doing different things,” Dmitry said. “But no. We just keep working.”
Boeing working on software update to boost safety, says CEO
Boeing’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dennis Muilenburg said the aircraft manufacturer is taking actions to ensure the safety of its 737 Max jets in the wake of two crashes that killed 346 people.
In an open letter addressed to airlines, passengers and the aviation community, Muilenburg said Boeing will soon release a software update and offer related pilot training for the 737 Max to “address concerns” that arose in the aftermath of October’s Lion Air flight that plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189.The planes’ new flight-control software is suspected of playing a role in the crashes.
Muilenburg said Boeing representatives are supporting investigation into the cause of last week’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 that killed 157.The United States and many other countries have grounded the Max 8s and larger Max 9s as Boeing faces the challenge of proving the jets are safe to fly amid suspicions that faulty sensors and software contributed to the two crashes in less than five months.
The letter reads: “We know lives depend on the work we do, and our teams embrace that responsibility with a deep sense of commitment every day.
“Our purpose at Boeing is to bring family, friends and loved ones together with our commercial airplanes—safely.
“The tragic losses of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 affect us all, uniting people and nations in shared grief for all those in mourning.
“Our hearts are heavy, and we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the passengers and crew on board.
“On safety measures, he said: “Safety is at the core of who we are at Boeing and ensuring safe and reliable travel on our airplanes is an enduring value and our absolute commitment to everyone.
“This overarching focus on safety spans and binds together our entire global aerospace industry and communities.
“We’re united with our airline customers, international regulators and government authorities in our efforts to support the most recent investigation, understand the facts of what happened and help prevent future tragedies.
“Based on facts from the Lion Air Flight 610 accident and emerging data as it becomes available from the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accident, we’re taking actions to fully ensure the safety of the 737 MAX. We also understand and regret the challenges for our customers and the flying public caused by the fleet’s grounding.
“Work is progressing thoroughly and rapidly to learn more about the Ethiopian Airlines accident and understand the information from the airplane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders.
“Our team is on-site with investigators to support the investigation and provide technical expertise. The Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau will determine when and how it’s appropriate to release additional details.
“Boeing has been in the business of aviation safety for more than 100 years and we’ll continue providing the best products, training and support to our global airline customers and pilots.
“This is an ongoing and relentless commitment to make safe airplanes even safer. Soon we’ll release a software update and related pilot training for the 737 MAX that will address concerns discovered in the aftermath of the Lion Air Flight 610 accident.
“We’ve been working in full cooperation with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Transportation and the National Transportation Safety Board on all issues relating to both the Lion Air and the Ethiopian Airlines accidents since the Lion Air accident occurred in October last year.
“Our entire team is devoted to the quality and safety of the aircraft we design, produce and support. I’ve dedicated my entire career to Boeing, working shoulder to shoulder with our amazing people and customers for more than three decades, and I personally share their deep sense of commitment.
“Recently, I spent time with our team members at our 737 production facility in Renton, Wash., and once again saw first-hand the pride our people feel in their work and the pain we’re all experiencing in light of these tragedies.
“The importance of our work demands the utmost integrity and excellence—that’s what I see in our team, and we’ll never rest in pursuit of it.
“Our mission is to connect people and nations, protect freedom, explore our world and the vastness of space, and inspire the next generation of aerospace dreamers and doers—and we’ll fulfill that mission only by upholding and living our values. That’s what safety means to us.
“Together, we’ll keep working to earn and keep the trust people have placed in Boeing.”
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