After seven months and nearly 10,000 applications, the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative has chosen the 10 finalists for the competition‘s grand finale event in Accra, Ghana, next month.
The remaining 10 contestants – hailing from Egypt, Nigeria, Liberia, Rwanda and Cote D’Ivoire – will make their final pitches during the Nov. 16 taping of “Africa’s Business Heroes,” a televised event scheduled to air Nov. 29 in countries across Africa.
Just how much of the $1 million prize pool they receive will depend on four judges: Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma, Econet Group founder and Executive Chairman Strive Masiyiwa, First Bank of Nigeria Chairman and The Chair Centre Group founder Ibukun Awosika and Alibaba Group Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai.
“We launched the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative to identify top entrepreneurs from across the continent, not only to reward them but to inspire a whole new generation of potential game-changers for Africa,” Ma said in a release.
“I have been inspired by the entrepreneurs I met in Africa, many of whom are dealing with the same challenges we faced when we started Alibaba years ago. I truly believe the potential of Africa’s business heroes is limitless,” he said.
The Jack Ma Foundation, which leads Ma’s philanthropic efforts, will also host a full-day, invitation-only conference on Nov. 16 – the Africa Netpreneur Summit – where African and global entrepreneurs, investors, educators, and leaders will convene to discuss how best to enable entrepreneurship and the digital economy across the continent. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to speak at the summit.
Kicking off in March, the Netpreneur Prize fielded applications from 50 of Africa’s 54 countries. Those thousands of applicants were eventually cut to just 20, with a panel of semifinal judges composed of entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists tasked with choosing the final 10 who will appear in Accra. The finalists (pictured above) are:
Waleed Abd El Rahman, CEO, Mumm (Egypt)
Mumm is a virtual cafeteria for businesses, harnessing the power of the sharing economy through technology, cloud kitchens and an online marketplace for home-based entrepreneurial cooks. Waleed is a seasoned entrepreneur with more than 12 years in food tech. He’s the former founding managing director of MIT Technology Review-Middle East and a member of the Advisory Committee of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. (Waleed is in the bottom row, far right.)
Ayodeji Arikawe, co-founder, Thrive Agric (Nigeria)
Thrive Agric is an agricultural technology-enabled company that works with smallholder farmers to provide them with greater access to finance, as well as improve their income and harvest distribution. Today, Thrive Agric works with 22,000 farmers in Nigeria, but is aiming to build the largest network of farmers in Africa. The company is on a mission to “build an Africa that feeds the world and Itself.” Ayodeji is a software engineer and serves as both co-founder and CTO for Thrive Agric. (Ayodeji is in the top row, second from the left.)
Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and CEO, LifeBank (Nigeria)
LifeBank is a medical distribution company that uses data and technology to help health workers discover critical medical products, saying it has saved over 5,300 lives in Nigeria. Founder Temie has over 10 years of health-management experience with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the World Health Organization, United Nations Development Program and Nigeria’s Lagos State. In 2014, BBC listed her as one of the 100 women changing the world. She was also recognized by Quartz and World Economic Forum. (Temie is in the bottom row, center.)
Mahmud Johnson, founder and CEO, J-Palm (Liberia)
J-Palm Liberia was founded with the goal to make premium consumer goods while creating income-earning and employment opportunities through sustainable palm-oil production. When JPL was first founded, palm-oil kernels had been going to waste in Liberia, but founder and CEO Mahmud Johnson found a way to innovate productive uses for them. Today, JPL has created a range of beauty and clean-energy products, built a robust network of partnerships across the country and helped to create jobs for hundreds of Liberians, the company says. Mahmud holds a degree in economics from Dartmouth College and is a 2017 recipient of the Order of the Star of Africa, conferred by the president of Liberia. (Mahmud is in the top row, far right.)
Kevine Kagirimpundu, co-founder and CEO, UZURI K&Y (Rwanda)
UZURI K&Y is an African-inspired ecofriendly shoe brand established in Rwanda. Kevine is the co-founder and CEO of UZURI K&Y, and she is passionate about ending global waste while also creating employment opportunities for her community. UZURI has made a direct impact on more than 750 people through employment and skills training, she says. In addition to obtaining her degree in creative design, she has also participated in numerous entrepreneurship programs to enhance her skills in business development. In 2017, she was recognized as the winner of the Made in Rwanda enterprise of the year. (Kevine is in the top row, second from the right.)
Christelle Kwizera, founder, Water Access Rwanda (Rwanda)
Water Access Rwanda pioneered INUMA, a Safe Water Microgrid that reclaims broken boreholes and transforms them into state-of-the-art solar-powered water kiosks and pipelines. The water is sold for $1/1000 liters and creates off-farm jobs for youth. Currently, Water Access Rwanda employs 68 people and allows 47,612 customers to access water daily across 86 stations. Christelle is a mechanical engineer and was named INCO’s woman entrepreneur of the year in 2019, among other awards. (Christelle is in the top row, center.)
Dr. Tosan J. Mogbeyi Teren, founder, Black Swan (Nigeria)
WeMUNIZE by Black Swan Tech Ltd. is helping to solve Nigeria’s public-health challenges by deploying an automated scheduling, GPS-enabled software-as-a-service that uses a combination of digital record keeping and community engagement to increase birth registration and early-childhood immunizations. Black Swan is working with USAID Nigeria to expand WeMUNIZE coverage in northern Nigeria. Tosan is a public-health specialist with more than 13 years of experience in deploying technology to solve development challenges in Nigeria. (Tosan in is in the bottom row, second from the right.)
Chibuzo Opara, co-founder, DrugStoc (Nigeria)
DrugStoc is a cloud-based pharmaceutical IT and logistics platform focused on eliminating counterfeit drugs, expanding access to pharmaceutical products and improving transparency in pricing for healthcare providers and the product supply chain. Chibuzo is a health economist and medical doctor with over 12 years of experience in the health sector. He has worked with the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. (Chibuzo is in the bottom row, far left.)
Dr. Omar Sakr, founder and CEO, Nawah-Scientific (Egypt)
Nawah-Scientific is the first private research center in the MENA region that focuses on natural and biomedical sciences and offers analytical and scientific services online and on-demand. Dr. Sakr has 13 years of pharmaceutical experience, has worked as an adjunct assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Zewail City of Science and Technology and holds scientific and business awards for innovative product design. (Omar is in the bottom row, second from the left.)
Moulaye Taboure, co-founder and CEO, Afrikrea (Cote D’Ivoire)
Afrikrea.com is the leading “Made of Africa” fashion, art and handicraft online marketplace. The marketplace has processed more than $4 million in sales across 101 countries and supports merchants from all over the world. He grew up in Mali and worked for companies such as PricewwaterhouseCoopers and Alstom before moving to entrepreneurship. (Moulaye is in the top row, far left.)
Jack Ma first announcedthe prize during a trip to Africa last year. His foundation will work with partners in Africa to host an annual pitch competition for 10 years, with 10 finalists receiving a portion of $1 million each year to fund their businesses as well as access to the Netpreneur community of African business leaders for mentorship and other resources. The goal is to identify 100 African “business heroes” who are building a more-sustainable and inclusive future to help lead Africa to the next stage of development. The competition is open to entrepreneurs who are nationals from any of the 54 African countries, all industry sectors are eligible, and small enterprises, female entrepreneurs and those doing work to improve local communities are especially encouraged to apply.
WATCH: Jack Ma’s Call for Applicants to Africa Netrepneur Prize