Alibaba-Backed Africa’s Business Heroes Competition Unveils 2023 Winners

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Alibaba-Backed Africa’s Business Heroes Competition Unveils 2023 Winners

  • This year’s three winners received between $150k and $300k to develop their businesses
  • ABH grant recipients have created over 123,000 jobs through their entrepreneurial activities since 2019

From left to right: Chair Centre Group Founder Ibukun Awosika, Thomas Njeru, Alibaba Group Chairman Joe Tsai, Ikpeme Neto, Ayman Bazaraa, Bank of Kigali CEO Diane Karusisi. Photo credit: Alibaba Group

Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) entrepreneurship contest has crowned the continent’s top start-ups for 2023 from Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt.

The program, sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy, is halfway through its 10-year commitment to support innovation in Africa by challenging entrepreneurs to pitch creative business ideas that address problems in their communities.

Out of more than 27,000 applicants in 2023, judges selected Ikpeme Neto from Nigeria as the Grand Prize winner, followed by Kenyan Thomas Njeru and Egypt’s Ayman Bazaraa in second and third place, respectively.

The winners were announced during an AR-powered Grand Finale broadcast in Kigali, Rwanda, on Saturday before a panel of judges including Alibaba Group Chairman Joe Tsai.

“I extend heartfelt gratitude to ABH for empowering entrepreneurs like me, and I am dedicated to shaping a brighter future for our continent through entrepreneurship,” Neto, CEO and Founder of healthcare startup Wellahealth Technologies, said in a statement.

He won $300,000 for his low-cost and accessible health insurance products which provide coverage for high-occurrence diseases like malaria.

Njeru and his agricultural insurance provider Pula Advisors received $250,000, while Bazaraa’s tech education start-up Sprints was awarded $150,000.

2023 Africa Business Heroes
The top 10 finalists from the 2023 ABH competition. Photo credit: Alibaba Group

Apart from the three final winners, the top 10 contestants will each receive $100,000 in funding and an additional $10,000 for post-competition training programs.

The top three winners were selected through multiple stages of interviews and evaluations from 27,267 applications spanning all 54 African nations.

“The judges recognized them for their remarkable ability to turn challenges into opportunities, unwavering commitment to community betterment, and innovative approaches to solving pressing issues,” said Jason Pau, Executive Director of International Programs, Jack Ma Foundation, in the same release.

Marking a Milestone

This year, ABH celebrated its fifth anniversary with a special report highlighting the competition’s contribution to supporting entrepreneurs from Morocco to South Africa.

Since launching in 2019, the initiative has awarded over $7 million in prize money to a diverse group of recipients from almost every corner of the continent and a wide range of sectors.

153 M

Investment raised by ABH winners since 2019 (US$)

“Africa’s Business Heroes is giving inspiration and courage to all entrepreneurs in Africa. This award is for all industries in Africa, to all men and all women, of different ages,” Jack Ma, Founder of the Jack Ma Foundation, said in the report.

Despite their different backgrounds, all the award-winners are united in a shared vision to celebrate and grow innovation across Africa.

Today, the companies of ABH grant recipients have operations in 52 African countries and have directly and indirectly led to creating over 123,000 jobs since 2019.

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AfricaAfrica's Business HeroesEntrepreneurshipJoe Tsai
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