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Jack Ma Foundation seeks more of Africa’s Business Heroes

Read time 2min 50sec
Competition judges Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet Group; Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba; Ibukun Awosika, chairman of First Bank of Nigeria; and Joe Tsai, executive vice-chairman of Alibaba.
Competition judges Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet Group; Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba; Ibukun Awosika, chairman of First Bank of Nigeria; and Joe Tsai, executive vice-chairman of Alibaba.

The second annual Jack Ma Foundation “Africa’s Business Heroes” (ABH) competition has kick-started and winners will be unveiled later in the year.

The Jack Ma Foundation hosted the inaugural pitch competition last year, with 10 finalists selected from across the continent after showcasing their business acumen.

Every year, 10 finalists will be selected to compete in a finale pitch competition show that will be broadcast online and across the continent.

The ABH competition is organised by the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), the Jack Ma Foundation’s flagship philanthropic programme in Africa.

ABH made its debut last year, and aims to identify, support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs “who are making a difference in their local communities, working to solve the most pressing problems, and building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future”.

Yesterday, the Jack Ma Foundation announced in Ethiopia that at this year’s grand finale, all 10 finalists will share a prize pool of $1.5 million, up from $1 million last year.

Those selected will also gain access to the ANPI community of business leaders “to leverage the community’s shared expertise, best practice, training and resources”.

In a statement, the foundation says the competition is open to African entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries, as well as every sector, age group and gender.

Applications are available in French and English.

The Jack Ma Foundation said last year, nearly 10 000 applications were received from 50 African countries.

The 2019 top 10 finalists pitched their business ideas to a prominent judging panel during a televised grand-finale show in Accra, Ghana. The finalists were drawn from diverse industries, including cloud kitchens, tech agribusiness, healthcare and pharma, e-commerce, consumer goods, and water supply solutions.

Jason Pau, senior advisor for international programmes at the Jack Ma Foundation, says: “We find ourselves in unprecedented and extraordinary times. Now, more than ever, we need entrepreneurs with courage, initiative and vision to do what they do best – solve problems for society. With this prize competition, we are looking to inspire and reward African business heroes in all sectors and encourage any aspiring applicants to seize this opportunity to break through barriers and create hope for the future.”

Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and CEO of LifeBank, says: “It was an incredible honour to be named Africa’s Business Hero last year. The prize enabled me to expand to multiple states in Nigeria and become a truly pan-Nigerian business, and I was truly inspired by my experience and by all my fellow winners.

“I am looking forward to serving as an ambassador for this year’s prize and to seeing the next group of entrepreneurs come forward to showcase the best of Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit and strength.”

Global leaders Graça Machel and Ban Ki-moon, former UN secretary-general, serve on the ANPI advisory board. The Jack Ma Foundation said over a 10-year period, the ANPI will recognise 100 African entrepreneurs and commit to allocating $100 million in grant funding, training programmes and support for the broad African entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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