The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) Prize Competition, a philanthropic initiative sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy, has launched its fifth annual edition and now calls for participation from Africa’s entrepreneurial talent.
ABH is part of the Jack Ma Foundation’s long-term commitment to helping support and foster an inclusive and strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa. Every year since 2019, ABH conducts a continent-wide search with its partners for 10 outstanding, mission-driven entrepreneurs that are striving to make a difference in their local communities. Over a 10-year period, ABH will recognize a total of 100 African entrepreneurs.
Zahra Baitie-Boateng, Head of Partnerships & Programs of ABH, said: “At ABH, we have long recognized the potential of entrepreneurs as engines of economic and social growth. Now in the fifth year of the competition, we are encouraged to see that ABH has grown into a truly Pan-African initiative that is positively impacting the continent’s entrepreneurship landscape. We are extremely impressed with the increasing diversity of our Heroes and how they’ve been taking tangible steps to solve some of Africa’s most challenging issues. We encourage entrepreneurs from all countries, especially those from smaller countries, to seize the opportunity of ABH 2023 to tell and inspire millions more with their unique stories.”
The ABH Prize Competition is Pan-African, inclusive, sector-agnostic and grassroots-oriented. Entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries, across every sector, gender and age group and all levels of society, are encouraged to submit their applications, in either English or French, for a chance to become one of the top 10 finalists to compete for a share of US$1.5 million in grant money.
At the Grand Finale to be held later this year, the 10 finalists will take the stage to present their businesses to a panel of legendary business people. The journey to the finale will also include access to a community of international business leaders and innovators, industry experts, investors and accelerators, as well as multi-disciplinary bootcamps and training sessions to help the participating entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level.
Apart from grant, mentorship and networking opportunities, ABH creates a television show every year which follows the finalists of the previous year on their exciting journey to the Grand Finale, featuring their on-stage pitches as well as behind-the-scenes moments. The ABH Show aims to provide a masterclass in entrepreneurship, as audiences can see first-hand how Africa’s top entrepreneurs refined their final pitches and faced challenging questions from the judges. The upcoming edition of the ABH Show will be in shorter episodes, and released on ABH’s official YouTube channel and ABH’s social media platforms from March 2023 onwards. A combined longer version will be launched at CNBC, StarTimes and Vox Africa later this year.
To date, over 72,000 entrepreneurs across the continent have participated in the ABH Prize Competition. The 10 outstanding finalists for 2022 were chosen from over 21,000 applicants from 54 African countries, representing a broad spectrum of industries including agriculture, consulting, energy environmental protection, healthcare, information and communication technology (ICT), and retail.
Elia Timotheo, Founder and CEO of East Africa Fruits Co. and the 2022 ABH first prize winner, said: “My business represents my philosophy and my values, and I am thrilled that East Africa Fruits was recognized on the prestigious ABH platform. ABH has given homegrown African businesses like mine a tremendous opportunity to access learning and networking opportunities and benefit from media support. I hope that my story will inspire other entrepreneurs to feel that they too have the potential to make a difference and be part of ABH’s start-up community.”
Today, East Africa Fruits is the leading data and tech-driven food distribution company in Tanzania. The company serves more than 7,000 customers daily and works with more than 10,000 farmers from around the country, with a commitment to bridging the tech gap for smallholder farmers.
This year, ABH will be hosting in-person information sessions across the continent during the application period to facilitate the application process for interested entrepreneurs. Sessions will be held in Ethiopia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda in partnership with various local entrepreneur organizations and ABH local connect leads. Details will be shared via ABH’s social media accounts and newsletter.
A pivotal part of ABH’s success is its wide-ranging partnerships with key ecosystem partners. As with previous years, ABH will be partnering with several organizations to drive the call for applications, support African entrepreneurs and to spotlight their inspiring work. The 2023 Anchor partners are Afrilabs, RiseUp (https://RiseUp.co/), SA Innovation Summit (https://InnovationSummit.co.za/), The Room (https://www.TheRoom.com/) – an initiative of African Leadership Group and VC4A (https://VC4A.com/). Channel partners include African Management Institute (AMI) (https://www.AfricanManagers.org/), AfterSchool Africa (https://www.AfterSchoolAfrica.com/), Anzisha Prize (https://apo-opa.info/3IS4p3E), Briter Bridges (https://BriterBridges.com/), Disrupt Africa (https://Disrupt-Africa.com/), Haske Ventures (https://www.HaskeVentures.com/), Moroccan Center for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (MCISE) (http://www.MCISE.org/), MEST Africa, Pariti (https://www.Pariti.io/) and Seedstars. For organizations interested in joining the ABH Partner network, sign up here.
Applications are now open online until May 12, 2023, with the top 50 candidates announced in July, semi-finalists announced in August and the top 10 finalists unveiled in September.