Jack Ma Foundation Launches Africa’s Business Heroes 2021 Prize Competition

–  $1.5 Million In Grants For Ten Change-Making Entrepreneurs

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

The third edition of Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) Prize Competition, the flagship philanthropic program of the Jack Ma Foundation spotlighting and celebrating Africa’s entrepreneurs has been launched.  

After having two successful editions, the launch of the third annual edition opens up applications to all aspiring participants in 2021.  

Entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries, across every sector, age group, and gender are now able to submit their applications, in either French or English, for a chance to compete for a spot among the Top 10 finalists.

The central theme of this year’s competition, “It’s African Time“, is a bold call to action for all talented African entrepreneurs who are challenging stereotypes associated with “African time” through their businesses, to leverage the ABH prize to scale their efforts as well as share their stories of how they’ve driven change and solutions.

At the grand finale later this year, ten finalists will take the stage to present their businesses and share their visions to an esteemed panel of judges, to win a share of the US$1.5 million grant. The journey to the Finale will include several rounds of rigorous evaluation panels, as well as access to a community of international leaders and innovators, industry experts, investors and accelerators, through several multi-disciplinary boot camps and training sessions, ABH media release read in part.

The mission of the Africa’s Business Heroes is to strengthen the African entrepreneur ecosystem by identifying, telling the stories of, training and awarding grant-funding to 100 Heroes across Africa over the next ten years.

The launch which took place through the Zoom platform involved Four speakers such as Jason Pau, Executive Director (International), Jack Ma Foundation; Zahra Baitie, Head of Partnership and Programs, Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition; Anita Erskine, Official Host, Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition; ABH finalists from 2019 to 2020: Christelle Kwizera, Founder and CEO at Water Access Rwanda and Chebet Lesan, Founder and CEO at BrightGreen Renewable Energy.

In 2020, the ten outstanding finalists – half of whom were female – were selected from over 22,000 applicants across all 54 African nations. They represented eight African countries – Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, and Zimbabwe – and various industries including agriculture, fashion, education, healthcare, renewable energy, and financial services, ABH’s media release indicated.

“I am proud to have been named the winner of the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes prize. The competition was an incredible journey. 2020 was a challenging year that made us refocus from profitability to survival. I hope my win inspires Africans to believe that we have what it takes to make an impact, no matter where we are. The Prize is helping us scale our energy solution across East Africa, and we remain focused to change how Africa cooks, one kitchen at a time,” said Chebet Lesan, Founder and CEO at BrightGreen Renewable Energy.

“As we open our third annual pitch competition, we want to recognize Africa’s extraordinary entrepreneurs, whose business ventures not only are successful and profitable but are generating positive impact on their local communities,” said Jason Pau, Executive Director of International, Jack Ma Foundation.

“Despite the incredibly difficult conditions faced by entrepreneurs and small businesses around the world over the past year, Africa’s entrepreneurship has been experiencing an incredible upward trajectory, showing the magnitude of its potential and the opportunities yet to be seized. Therefore, Africa’s Business Heroes is excited to join forces with our partners to identify, spotlight and support even more passionate, innovative, and determined entrepreneurs across Africa.”

About Africa’s Business Heroes

Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition is the flagship philanthropic initiative spearheaded by the Jack Ma Foundation aimed at supporting and inspiring the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors, who are building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future of the continent. Over ten years, 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 the show will feature ten finalists as they pitch their business to win a share of $1.5 million in grant money.

Global leaders Graca Machel, Chair of the Graca Machel Trust Board and Ban Ki-moon, Former UN Secretary-General and Co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens serve on the ABH advisory board. Also, Anita Erskine, UN SDG Advocate and Founder of the STEM Woman Project will continue to serve as the official host of the “Africa’s Business Heroes” program. This year, ABH will continue to work with strong Anchor Partners African Leadership Group, Ashesi, Dalberg, Janngo, and RiseUp, and more.

Applications will be open online from March 29 to June 7,2021, with semi-finalists announced in August, and the top ten finalists for 2021 unveiled in September. For more information about the ABH and how to apply, please visit: africabusinessheroes.org  and follow ABH on Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram and Facebook .

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