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The second edition of Africa's Business Heroes competition proceeds
Despite the ongoing health crisis, the second edition of Africa's Business Heroes competition is proceeding as planned
By Ge Lijun | VOL.12 June ·2020-06-01
Final judeges of 2019 Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition (ABH)

Audacity, courage, creativity - these are the qualities that the second edition of Africa's Business Heroes (ABH) competition is looking for. Officially relaunched on April 6 by the Jack Ma Foundation (JMF), which is based in Zhejiang Province of east China, the competition will be held despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and applications are now open to African entrepreneurs, irrespective of age, gender or industry.

"Entrepreneurs are facing incredible challenges right now, so we have decided to step up our efforts to carry out the program," Jason Pau, Senior Advisor for International Programs at the JMF, told ChinAfrica.

Applications can be submitted online from April 6 to June 9. The semi-finalists will be announced in August, and the 10 finalists will be announced in September, according to Pau. The ABH competition and the award ceremony are organized by the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), the JMF's flagship philanthropic program in Africa.

"Our mission is to create an open platform to help inspirational, talented and mission-driven African entrepreneurs realize their dreams and inspire others to action," said Pau.

Finding entrepreneurs

"Since we opened applications in April, we've seen tremendous interest and active participation from across the continent," said Pau.

According to him, the ABH will increase its prize pool from $1 million to $1.5 million and has expanded the program's reach by adding French language in the application and selection process. The ANPI has also expanded its African partnerships and hosted weekly online webinars focused on entrepreneur development.

The 10 finalists, according to ANPI's project scheme, are set to pitch their projects in a competition that is broadcast on TV across the continent and on the Internet. In this year's grand finale, they will share the prize totaling $1.5 million, and gain access to the ANPI community of business leaders, which will allow them to leverage their shared expertise, best practices, as well as training and resources.

Last year, nearly 10,000 applications from 50 African countries were received. The 10 finalists presented their business ideas to a distinguished jury during a television show on November 16, 2019, in Accra, Ghana. The finalists came from a wide range of industries, including technology, agribusiness, healthcare, pharmacy, e-commerce, consumer goods and water-supply solutions.

Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Co-Chair of the Ban Ki-moon Center for Global Citizens, sits on the advisory board of the ANPI, so does Graca Machel, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Graca Machel Trust and a well-known African social and human rights activist.

"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. With this competition, 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," said Pau.

Top 10 Winners from 2019 Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition (ABH)

Confronting coronavirus

In the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 ABH winners are leveraging their companies' business solutions and ANPI grants to contribute to Africa's fight against the pandemic.

Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and CEO of LifeBank, a Nigerian startup, was the winner of the grand prize last year. LifeBank is a medical distribution company that uses data and technology to help health workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other winners of last year have also stepped up their efforts to protect local communities. For example, Christelle Kwizera, a Rwandan winner, is providing vulnerable households with daily water supplies to help cope with a national lockdown.

"The 10 finalists from our inaugural year have joined the fight against COVID-19 in their local communities in an incredible way. They have really showcased the leadership, resilience, and vision which propelled them to win the ABH title last year. The world needs more such leaders to step up," Pau told ChinAfrica.

As the leading winner for last year, Giwa-Tubosun received a grant of $250,000. This substantial financial support from the JMF enabled her to expand her company across multiple states in Nigeria, which is now operating at greater capacity with professional backup from the ANPI community. The mentoring she received has prepared her to become an ambassador of the initiative and help inspire the next generation of business minds in Africa.

"We are happy to see that the finalists have been able to improve their business as well," said Pau. According to him, they have discovered a number of new opportunities. They have been able to make use of the program networks to expand operations through partnerships and collaborations with peers from across Africa. "This is an incredible indicator of progress for the entrepreneurial community in Africa as few entrepreneurs doing business in African countries are able to operate and expand across multiple markets on the continent," said Pau.

The ABH event has drawn great attention from the investor and donor community, as several finalists have gone on to receive multiple investments and grants from other investors, donors and partners since last year. Moreover, some of the finalists have been formally recognized by national leaders in Africa as examples and role models, and they have taken up leadership roles within their industries and local communities.

"Looking ahead, I hope our program could help spark a movement around entrepreneurship in Africa, so that the entire ecosystem of stakeholders – educators, investors, policymakers, entrepreneurs and civil society – can work hand in hand to overcome challenges and create jobs and new opportunities together," said Pau.

(Print Edition Title: Nurturing Entrepreneurs)

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