Three Nigerian firms won nearly half a million dollars in total in funding provided by the Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, for startups that set out to solve major problems.
Releaf, a Lagos-based food processing company, took second in the contest and will receive $250,000. Two other Nigerian firms, Gricd and Publiseer, that were amongst the top 10 finalists, will each receive $100,000 in prize funding.
Additional $10,000 will be allocated to each finalist for a training program to be hosted in Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
The grand winner is Egypt-based Praxilab, which will receive $300,000.
Entrepreneurs from Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria made the top three; top 10 finalists pitched live in a virtual grand finale connecting 14 locations across the world.
The 2021 Africa’s Business Heroes winners were announced Wednesday night during a virtual live Grand Finale, with US$1.5 million in grant funding awarded to the top 10 finalists. The top 10 represent seven African countries, with 80% operating businesses in rural areas and half of the finalists are female.
Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) is a flagship philanthropic programme established by the Jack Ma Foundation to help foster an inclusive and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa. The annual competition, now in its third year, shines a spotlight on talented African entrepreneurs who are working to make a difference in their communities and helping to build a more sustainable, inclusive future. The ABH competition is grassroots oriented as well as age, gender, language and sector agnostic.
This year, over 12,000 applications were received from all 54 countries in Africa. The finalists were chosen after several rounds of rigorous evaluation conducted by over 230 judges. They were selected after demonstrating that they are visionary entrepreneurs who embodied innovation, resilience, growth potential and impact on Africa.
Hundreds of viewers from 49 countries worldwide registered to watch the live online grand finale and visit the virtual exhibition, following the finalists as they pitched their businesses to a final panel of esteemed judges: Ibukun Awosika, Founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Group; Victor Williams, NBA Africa CEO; and Joe Tsai, Executive Vice Chairman of Alibaba Group.
The top three Africa’s Business Heroes for 2021 are:
1st – winning $300,000 – Khadija Mohamed Elbedweihy – Founder, PraxiLabs (www.praxilabs.com) (Egypt)
2nd – winning $250,000 – Ikenna Nzewi – Co-founder and CEO, Releaf (www.releaf.africa) (Nigeria)
3rd – winning $150,000 – Navalayo Osembo-Ombati – Co-founder and CEO, Enda Athletic (www.EndaSportswear.com) (Kenya)
“I’m very humbled to be named Africa’s Business Hero. This competition has been an incredible journey. I have learnt important lessons from each judge and from my fellow talented entrepreneurs. I hope that this win inspires many young Africans to believe that we have what it takes to make an impact where we are. It has been a challenging year for many businesses, but challenges are key to build our resilience. PraxiLabs is solving pressing issues around education and training, and we will remain focused and determined to change how Africa learns and teaches science, one virtual lab at a time,” said the winner, Khadija Mohamed Elbedweihy, Founder at PraxiLabs.
The other finalists will each receive $100,000 in prize funding, and additional $10,000 will be allocated to each finalist for a training program to be hosted in Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
Ghirmay Abraham – Founder, Aptech Africa (aptechafrica.com) (Uganda)
Oghenetega Iortim – Founder, Gricd (Gricd.com) (Nigeria)
Yvette Ishimwe – Founder and CEO, IRIBA Water Group (www.IRIBWaterGroup.com) (Rwanda)
Charlot Magayi – Founder and CEO, Mukuru Clean Stoves (mukurustoves.org) (Kenya)
Chidi Nwaogu – Co-founder and CEO, Publiseer (Publiseer.net) (Nigeria)
Violet Amoabeng – Founder and CEO, Skin Gourmet (SkinGourmet.com) (Ghana)
Ketshephaone Jacob – Founder and CEO, The Bulb World (https://bit.ly/3Fu2nU4) (Botswana)
The finale judges were impressed with the caliber of the finalists and their businesses, commenting:
“This is the third time I have been a Grand Finale judge for the Africa’s Business Heroes competition, meeting many exceptional business women and men from across Africa. Each year, I’m struck by their sheer talent and the commitment to developing creative, innovative solutions to the challenges we face on the continent. It truly is “Africa’s time” and these outstanding entrepreneurs are the ones who embody its future of growth and relevant solution-based innovation,” said Ibukun Awosika, Founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Group.
“I want to congratulate the winners of this year’s Africa’s Business Heroes competition. Entrepreneurship – like sport – is a transformative force for positive social change and economic growth. All of the Africa’s Business Heroes are inspiring leaders who are actively pursuing their passions and helping Africa take its rightful place on the world stage. I look forward to engaging with all of them as they continue their entrepreneurial journeys on the continent,” highlighted Victor Williams, NBA Africa CEO.
“This year’s Top 10 finalists came from inspiring personal stories that is invaluable not only to their teams and communities, but to many would-be entrepreneurs across the continent who are thinking about pursuing this path. The kind of talent and passion I saw among this year’s Africa’s Business Heroes is unrivaled around the world. They are innovators and problem-solvers, but most importantly, they have a driving sense of mission and social impact. Congratulations to all of our winners and we look forward to seeing what you accomplish next,” said Joe Tsai, Executive Vice Chairman of Alibaba Group.
The Africa’s Business Heroes TV show will air in 2022. The show will follow the finalists in their exciting journey to the grand finale and features their on-stage pitches as well as behind the scenes moments from the competition. The award ceremony from the 2021 finale will soon be available to watch on ABH official YouTube (https://bit.ly/3oF8j5R).
Applications for the 2022 ABH prize will open in early 2022. For news and updates visit africabusinessheroes.org, subscribe to the newsletter and follow @africa_heroes (https://bit.ly/3DuECdZ) on Twitter.
Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition is the flagship philanthropic initiative spearheaded by the Jack Ma Foundation and sponsored by the Alibaba Foundation, aimed at supporting and inspiring the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors, building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future of the continent.
Over a 10-year period, ABH will recognize 100 African entrepreneurs and commit to allocating grant funding, training programs, and support for the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Each year, the ABH prize competition and show will feature ten finalists as they pitch their business to win a share of $1.5 million in grant money.
Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba Group and the Jack Ma Foundation, created the prize after he made his first trip to Africa in 2017 and was inspired by the energy and entrepreneurial potential of the young people he met.
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