Nigerians in diaspora featured prominently on the 2024 Forbes 30 under 30 list, which the global media firm publishes annually.
Nigerians are among the most successful immigrants anywhere. In the US, Nigerians are the most highly educated with 61 percent holding at least a Bachelor’s degree. The same success is reflected in the UK, where many highly educated Nigerians in the diaspora work in financial services, IT, legal, and medical professions.
Every year, Forbes releases a 30 under 30 list that features trailblazers who cut across all industries and span from the United States of America down to Africa. The global media company lists 600 honorees every year. The list highlights revolutionaries and innovators changing the world in media, art & style, food & drink, education, science, music, sports, healthcare, and other industries.
Nigerians, home and abroad, have been mainstays on the list for a while, and this year was no different. Nigerians in the diaspora were among the change-makers and rising stars defining the next decade in the 2024 edition.
Fola is a Nigerian arts professional who grew up in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and the United States. Working in the art world exposed Adefolakunmi Adenugba to the need for an art advisory focused on the cultural stewardship of contemporary black art.
She launched ISE-DA in 2018 to cultivate a generation of Black art collectors. ISE-DA has worked with collectors and gallerists globally for advisory support since it was founded. The company was selected as a cultural partner for Carnegie Hall’s city-wide Afrofuturism festival in 2022. Adenugba herself has been a panelist in Miami Art Week. Furthermore, she has been featured on PBS to explore the definition and activism of Afrofuturism.
From Nigeria, raised in London, and now based in New York, TIA ADEOLA founder and designer Teni “Tia” Adeola graduated in May 2019 from The New School with a degree in Culture and Media. Adeola created the brand from her dorm room using her Art history background and passion for the Renaissance period as inspiration. She aims to rewrite history through fashion, particularly for people of color.
Adeola designed face masks for people to use when commuting when she was stuck in Nigeria during the lockdown. In that same year, she debuted at New York Fashion Week. Adeola developed a distinctive brand voice and global customer base, which includes powerful women like SZA, Gigi Hadid, Flo Milli, by harnessing her designs, creative vision, and voice as a young Black woman.
Another influential Nigerian in the diaspora to feature on the Forbes 30 under 30 list is Temilayo Butler. Butler is a Vice President of Business Development and Strategy at HarbourView Equity Partners. She brings 4+ years of experience at Goldman Sachs working in their Investment Banking and Global Markets divisions. Most recently, she was an Associate in Investment Banking focused on the firm’s corporate board diversity initiative.
Butler serves as the chairperson for The Osborne Association’s Young Professionals Board and serves on the Acquisitions Committee of the Guggenheim Museum’s Young Collectors Council. Butler holds a board position for NFT marketplace Mueshi. She is also a Young Leaders Circle of the Milken Institute think tank member.
As a private equity investment strategist for Churchill Asset Management, Onifade’s role involves capital raising, strategy, and engagement with limited partners. She recently moved from parent company Nuveen Asset Management where, as a managing director, she helped close a $1 billion fundraise for the firm’s private equity business.
At 16 years old, Onifade immigrated from Nigeria to the United States to attend the University of Georgia. She networked her way to a summer analyst position on Citi’s debt capital markets desk. After graduation, she joined Goldman Sachs as an analyst where she stayed for three years before moving to KKR. In 2021, she joined Nuveen as a vice president of alternative investments.
At Churchill Asset Management, Onifade is responsible for investor coverage and new capital formation across private equity and junior capital strategies. These include primary fund commitments, co-investments, secondaries, and junior lending.
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At Nigeria’s University of Calabar, Ekezie was the youngest-ever student to graduate at 19 years old. He did stints in consulting at Accenture and marketing and growth at TikTok before starting Kippa two years ago. The company aims to be a QuickBooks for Sub-Saharan Africa, offering bookkeeping software and payment services to businesses with small te.
Kippa has onboarded 800,000 businesses (250,000 are monthly active users) and is processing about $400 million annually. It brought in $1.5 million in revenue in the first 9 months of 2023 and has blended gross margins of 68%, says Ekezie, who splits his time between San Francisco and Lagos.
Oluseun Taiwo started Solideon (formerly Additive Space Technologies) to change aerospace manufacturing with machine learning, collaborative robots, and 3D welding. A first-generation Nigerian-American, Taiwo was previously an engineer at Virgin Orbit and 3D Systems.
He started Additive Space Technologies (now Solideon) under the premise that humanity would soon be multi-planetary and a company needed to make it possible. As a result, Solideon was started in 2022 to design, build, and fly 70% quicker than anyone else. The startup, an alum of the Techstars accelerator, has raised $8 million.
Chinonye Vanessa Mbonu
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Ms. Mbonu emigrated to the United States at a young age. Mbonu is the Vice President of Digital Marketing and Communications of the NAACP, headquartered in Baltimore, MD. Since her time at NAACP, she has primarily communicated the historic organization’s federal advocacy and policy initiatives through digital campaigns, media relations, and integrated marketing.
Before joining NAACP, Mbonu was an Account Executive at one of the Washington, D.C. metro area’s fastest-growing PR firms. Before that, she was a health reporter for AARP and AARP the magazine, the widest circulated magazine in North America. She also co-produced “UNPCKD,” a co-branded series with The Webby Awards that explored the most pressing issues facing communities of color online.
Amala Okpala led Meta’s first BIPOC brand audit to assess the number of multicultural brands the company manages. She provides economic opportunities for companies with diverse owners:
Okpala manages over 65 BIPOC-owned brands, including Telfar, Topicals, and Tower28, consulting them on building their social content strategy. She also grows audiences and increases revenue through commerce solutions like Shop ads and Instagram Checkout. Okpala has sourced over 500 diverse-owned businesses and has driven her clients’ revenue on Instagram by 300% year-over-year.
Drea Okeke was another Nigerian in the diaspora to feature on the Forbes 30 list. DreaKnowsBest is a Nigerian-American content creator widely known for her relatable comedic skills and videos that amplify Nigerian culture.
She stars on Fuse’s “We Need To Talk About America,” where comedians and commentators poke fun at social media and pop culture trends. Okeke also teaches her online class for TikTok creators on how to grow their audience and understand the app’s algorithm. Last year, she was a red-carpet host for the BET Awards. Okeke was named one of The Cut’s Best TikTokers to Follow in 2021.
Great Okonkwo is a Co-founder at WishRoll Inc., a social camera roll and search engine for reaction memes. He is also the Chief Technology Officer of Kiwi (made by WishRoll), a music-sharing app that has 2 million downloads across the world.
WishRoll underwent Y-Combinator’s Winter 2022 batch. They raised a $2.9M seed round from notable investment firms such as General Catalyst, Lightshed Ventures, and Blueprint Ventures.
The sibling of Great Okonkwo, Blossom was also a Co-founder at WishRoll. She led marketing and growth at the “BeReal of music ” startup and grew the number of users on Kiwi to 2 million in under a year. She moved to Status, a chat app in August 2023 and grew the number of downloads to 100,000 in 3 months while generating 2.5 million impressions on TikTok. Great and Blossom Okonkwo made the Forbes 30 list for co-founding WishRoll, with Fai Nur, under the Consumer Technology category. Read more about the 2024 Forbes “30 Under 30” honorees here.
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