The Jack Ma Foundation on Monday opened the application process for its Africa’s Business Heroes competition.
ABH is organized by the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative, established in 2019 to cultivate and empower young African entrepreneurs by giving equal opportunities to those who harnessed the power of small businesses and technologies. Through its associated activities and training, business leaders of all genders, age groups, and industries are able to form a support community to share industry expertise, best practice, and resources.
This year, winners of the pan-African business competition will split $1.5 million in grant funding to help accelerate their own businesses, up from $1 million in 2019.
Close to 10,000 people applied when ABH launched last year. Semifinalists had multiple interviews for a chance to pitch their businesses in front a panel of investors, business leaders and distinguished professionals, including Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma.
The annual competition selects 10 finalists every year and spotlights them in a special finale broadcast online and across Africa. Winners from the competition’s inaugural year hailed from five countries and represented a wide range of industries, from fashion to farms and water solutions.
Time Giwa-Tubosun, founder and CEO of LifeBank, was among the winners last year. Her startup is committed to delivering much-needed medical equipment to local hospitals across Africa. The grant from the Jack Ma Foundation enabled her to expand her company across multiple states in Nigeria. It is now operating at an accelerated speed with professional support offered by the ANPI community. The mentorship she received has prepared her to become an ambassador of the initiative and to inspire the next generation of business minds.
LifeBank recently started a national online registry to locate ventilators, respirators and ICU beds for hospitals combating Covid-19. Other past-year winners and their companies have also stepped up efforts to protect local communities during the health crisis. For example, Chibuzo Opara and his company, DrugStoc, are leveraging their transparent supply chain capabilities to deliver more than 100,000 kits of personal protective equipment to 40,000 frontline healthcare workers in Nigeria. Others, such as Christelle Kwizera, are providing vulnerable Rwandan households with daily water supplies while the country is coping with a national lockdown.
“We find ourselves in unprecedented and extraordinary times. Now, more than ever, we need entrepreneurs with courage, initiative, and vision to do what they do best – solve problems for society,” said Jason Pau, senior advisor for international programs at the Jack Ma Foundation. “We are looking to inspire and reward African business heroes in all sectors and encourage any aspiring applicants to seize this opportunity to break through barriers and create hope for the future.”
The initiative is also working with other regional partners such as Ashesi, Dalberg, Janngo, and RiseUp to identify more grassroots leaders and companies. Over a 10-year period, ANPI aims to nurture and fund 100 African entrepreneurs to drive economic growth and accelerate digital transformations on the continent.
To apply or find out more about the competition, go to africabusinessheroes.org.