The African entrepreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), a philanthropic initiative spearheaded by the Jack Ma Foundation (JMF), has selected ten entrepreneurs as finalists for its 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize competition. The top ten finalists, averaging 34 years of age, are from eight African countries: Nigeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda and Zimbabwe, according to a statement released on Monday.
Founded by Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba Group, the ANPI seeks to create a community of 100 young African entrepreneurs who will receive a total of $100 million in grant funding and training programmes over a ten-year period. The ABH is a prize competition and show in which ten finalists have the opportunity to pitch their businesses to win a share of $1.5 million in prize money.
The 2020 ABH competition commenced in April when the application process opened. The process closed in June with over 22,000 applications received from all 54 African nations. Following a rigorous selection process, the judges identified the top 50 finalists in July and the top 20 were announced in August. The businesses of the 10 finalists – which include five female entrepreneurs – span six industries, including healthcare, agriculture and renewable energy.
The ABH finalists will have an opportunity to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges, including Jack Ma; Ibukun Awosika, Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria and Founder/CEO of The Chair Centre Group; Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Group; and Joe Tsai, Executive Vice Chairman of the Alibaba Group during the grand finale on November 13-14. According to the statement, the winners of the 2020 ABH prize will be announced on November 14.
"I continue to be amazed by the passion, resilience, and vision of Africa's entrepreneurs, and I look forward to meeting these ten extraordinary businesswomen and businessmen at the finale,” said Jack Ma. “I am excited to learn more about how they are driving positive change and progress across the continent.”
Among the finalists is Nigerian entrepreneur and MIT-trained system engineer, Oluwasoga Oni. He is the CEO and Co-Founder of MDaaS Global, a company that builds and operates a network of modern, tech-enabled diagnostic and primary care facilities in clinically-underserved communities. The company said it aims to provide convenient, high-quality, and affordable healthcare for Africa's next billion.
“I am extremely excited to follow the rest of the competition and see who will come on top as the 2020 African Business Hero!,” said Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder of soleRebels, an Addis Ababa, Ethiopia-based footwear company, and ABH semi-final judge.
The other ABH finalists are Ghanaian Abdulai A. Dasana, CEO and COO of Amaati Company Limited, a social enterprise whose mission is to build sustainable communities through the use of an extinct and neglected crop, called Fonio; and Chebet Lesan, Founder and CEO of Bright Green R. Energy, a Kenyan firm that produces and distributes affordable and eco-friendly charcoal briquettes.
The others are 25-year-old Ivorian agro-economist and Founder of agritech firm, INVESTIV, Aboubakar Karim; and his compatriot, Axel Emmanuel Gbaou, who is CEO and Founder of Le Chocolatier Ivorien, a manufacturer of handcrafted chocolate.
Cameroonian, Cyrille Nkontchou, Founder and Chairman of Enko Education, a company that operates the largest single network of African private schools teaching the International Baccalaureate curriculum, is also a 2020 ABH finalist. Also selected is Ethel Mupambwa, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Moneymart, a Zimbabwean microfinance institution that offers tailor-made business loans to MSMEs and underserved individuals.
Two Ugandans, Emma Naluyima Mugerwa, Founder of MST Junior School; and Joan Rukundo Nalubega, CEO and Founder of Uganics, are also this year’s ABH finalists, together with Mame Diarra Bousso Gueye, CEO and Founder of Diarrablu, a Senegalese fashion tech company.
The Jack Ma Foundation’s initiative said the ABH televised show featuring this year’s competition will air in November and December.