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Vice President Dr Beth Dunford

 Zahra Baitie-Boateng 

….As ABH Prize 2021 nominations open and competition gears up! 

 Interview Story: Mohammed Abu, ADM, Accra

Prior to Covid 19 add-on,one of the already existing  many challenges facing African small and medium scale enterprises(SMEs) had not only been the easy access  to capital, but more so,at most affordable cost.

The Jack Ma Foundation’s  sponsored Africa Business Heroes(ABH) Prize Competition seeks to change the narrative as nominations for the 3rd edition of the event having been since  opened and due to close on June 7,2021.

The prize competition which is the Jack Ma Foundation’s flagship philanthropic program for spotlighting and celebrating Africa’s entrepreneurs also serves as a Special Purpose Vehicle for grant funding of $1.5 million intended to boost entrepreneurship across Africa. The funding opportunity is open to all 54 African countries.

After initial rounds of judging, the Top 50 finalists will be announced in July while in  August, the Top 20 will be identified and begin preparing for the Semi-Finale round in September. At the semi-finale round, the Top 10 heroes are selected to go on to the Grand Finale in November.

The competition is open to all African entrepreneurs, no matter their sector, age or gender. The organizers are looking for passionate, resilient, innovative, and mission-driven entrepreneurs who are solving pressing challenges and creating jobs and opportunities. They are also encouraging most especially, female entrepreneurs to apply for the competition.

Entrepreneurs who are mostly encouraged to apply are those who have market traction and at least 3 years of revenue and operational history.

Held under the theme, “It’s African Time”, the event organisers want to challenge stereotypes typically associated with “African Time” by issuing a bold call to action to all of the immensely talented African entrepreneurs who are unlocking innovation and change with their businesses.

This was disclosed by Zahra Baitie, Head of Partnerships & Programs, Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition during an e-interview with  your favourite, the African Development.

“We hope they are able to tap into the ABH competition as their chance to grow their companies and share their stories with the world.

Zahra intimated “We know first-hand how impactful SMEs and entrepreneurs can be in driving positive growth”, adding, “Our mission with the Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize competition is to spotlight and support these talented African entrepreneurs from across the continents who are working to solve critical problems, uplift their local communities, and build a more inclusive digital economy for the future”.

“Every year, ten finalists will come together to compete in the ABH finale pitch competition. These ten finalists are all winners in that they will be walking away with a share of a US $1.5 million prize pool in grant money. But we also want to provide these entrepreneurs with a platform where they can fully showcase their business ideas and talent.

“The finale is broadcast in a television show and online where we hope to inspire others to action. Some of our 2019 Finalists have cited how the ABH Show supported them in raising their profile, attracting investors and closing funding rounds.

“Beyond this, we also aim to provide our finalists with access to investors and provide them with investment readiness training to support them as they raise funds. Lastly, we aim to facilitate an ABH Community of various stakeholders – investors, entrepreneurs and various organizations who can collaborate and also work together to tackle some of the challenges that entrepreneurs on the continent face

 On whether the ABH Prize Competition has come to stay or has an exit period, Zahra said, they have a long-term mission to help foster a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa. One, she noted, where entrepreneurs, government, civil society, and academia work together to remove barriers to entrepreneurship.

“Over a ten-year period, ABH will recognize 100 African entrepreneurs – allocating grant funding, training, mentorship, and access to a community of like-minded African business leaders ‘Zahra disclosed.

 “It’s been incredible to see the response we’ve had to the first and second editions. We had great momentum after hosting our first competition in 2019 but when the pandemic hit last year, we knew we had to double-down on our mission to enable African entrepreneurs.

“ It was the right decision. Last year, we received more than 22,000 applications from all 54 countries in Africa, which was more than twice what we had in 2019.

“We are also gratified and proud to see our past finalists go on to even greater success after going through our prize competition. Our past two grand prize winners for example, Temie Giwa-Tobosun of LifeBank and Chebet Lesan from BrightGreen Renewable Energy have scaled their operations into new markets and new geographies, a hugely difficult task given the challenging year we faced.”

 On what she has to say to those applicants who may not be able to make it to the grand finale, “I would say to never give up. Entrepreneurs are born problem-solvers so this will just be another problem to solve.

“We saw many past applicants who were previously unsuccessful come back and go further than before. Additionally, although not all entrepreneurs are able to make it to the finale, applicants are able to receive invaluable feedback, find new ways to grow their businesses, and gain access to an incredible community of like-minded business leaders throughout the selection process. So, there is still tremendous value in applying even if you do not make it to the finale”

“What helps set our competition apart is our focus on mentorship and community. We provide training and learning throughout the process and applicants will also be able to make invaluable connections through our program. As I mentioned, each year the grand finale is also aired in a television show and online to showcase how our top 10 finalists pitch to legendary business figures.

“There is immense educational value in seeing how Africa’s top entrepreneurs articulate their businesses and visions to a world-class panel of business legends. We hope that the show can serve as a master class in entrepreneurship for aspiring entrepreneurs”.

 

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