Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) competition supports talented and promising entrepreneurs through grant funding, training, mentoring, and access to learning programmes and the dynamic ABH community. Each year the prize selects ten “business heroes” from across Africa to compete for a share of USD 1.5 million. Finalists must be individuals, “making a difference in their local communities, working to solve the most pressing problems, and building a more sustainable economy for the future,” according to the competition’s website.
This flagship philanthropic programme established by the Jack Ma Foundation aims to broaden support for the African entrepreneurial ecosystem. In a ten-year timeline, the program will recognise, highlight, and empower 100 African entrepreneurs.
Of the 21,000 applications received this year, 50 start-ups were identified before the list was cut down to 20 finalists. The latter will undergo a rigorous due diligence process, after which the remaining 15 start-ups will proceed to the next round of the competition in Kigali on the 30th of September.
Finally, 10 finalists will pitch their business to panellists on the online ABH show. The show which is broadcast in English and French and filmed in several countries, allows viewers to meet the heroes, understand their businesses and learn important lessons, before finding out who walks away with the top prize.
The top 20 this year is made up of:
- (5) Nigerian start-ups- Trove Finance, Powerstove Energy, my-Medicines, Rashak Farms and Agro Allied Limited, and D-Olivette Global Enterprise
- (4) South African start-ups- Shonaquip Social Enterprise, Memeza Shout, Nyamezela Metering, and TradeBRICS.
- (3) Egyptian start-ups- Helm, Rahet Bally, and Sprints
- And Ethiopia’s Gebeya, Ghana’s Coliba, Botswana’s Conexus Proprietary Limited, Kenya’s MarketForce, Somalia’s Hano Academy, Cameroon’s Save Our Agriculture Sarl, Rwanda’s Munyax, and Tanzania’s East Africa Fruits.
Zahra Baitie-Boateng, head of partnerships and programmes at Africa’s Business Heroes, talked about the shortlisted heroes saying, “The top 20 finalists of the ABH prize competition this year show what great potential and talent exist in Africa. We are looking forward to giving them the support they need to grow and generate a positive impact on both their businesses and the communities they serve.”
ABH’s track record thus far
Past winners of the competition include, 2021 2nd prize winner Ikenna Nzewi, co-founder and CEO of Releaf, an agriculture technology company that develops hardware and software solutions to drive the industrialisation of food processing in Africa.
Speaking on the ABH experience he said, “I have very fond memories of my time on Africa’s Business Heroes and would encourage every African entrepreneur to get involved. From the application process and the networking opportunities to the training sessions and the live finals, the entire experience challenged me in so many ways and encouraged me to explore new ways to improve what we do at Releaf. Just make sure you put your best foot forward and enter with the intention of going all the way. ABH has been a catalyst for some great new opportunities for us, and it could do the same thing for you too.”
The strides that past participants have made cannot be understated. 2019 ABH Grand Prize Winner, Temie Giwa-Tubosun, CEO, LifeBank, leveraged ABH funds to expand across Nigeria and launch in Kenya. She also diversified the business’s range of services to include AirBank, which supplies oxygen to hospitals as well as COVID-19 testing services, and StockBank, which uses collective bargaining and prediction technology to power the future of PPE and consumable distribution across care centres in Africa.