The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative on Monday unveiled the top 10 finalists of the second annual Africa’s Business Heroes, a competition organized by the Jack Ma Foundation to identify and recognize the continent’s top entrepreneurs.
This year’s finalists were chosen from a pool of over 22,000 applications spanning all 54 African nations and key sectors, including agriculture, fashion, education, financial services, healthcare and renewable energy. The top 10, an even split of female and male entrepreneurs whose average age is 34, represent eight African countries: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
They will pitch their businesses at the competition’s online grand finale on Nov. 14 for a chance to win a share of $1.5 million in grant money. Their presentations will be judged by a panel of business leaders, including Jack Ma, founder of the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Group; Ibukun Awosika, First Bank of Nigeria chairman and founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Group; Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet Group; and Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba.
“I continue to be amazed by the passion, resilience and vision of Africa’s entrepreneurs, and I look forward to meeting these 10 extraordinary businesswomen and businessmen at the finale. I am excited to learn more about how they are driving positive change and progress across the continent,” said Ma.
The top 10 finalists and their businesses are:
Abdulai A. Dasana, CEO & COO, Amaati Company Limited (Ghana)
Amaati is a social enterprise with a mission to build sustainable communities through the use of the neglected crop fonio. The company is led by Dasana, an agricultural technologist with a decade of experience in finance, banking and SMEs. Dasana has a vision to revolutionize the agriculture sector to benefit the most vulnerable.
Aboubakar Karim, CEO & Founder, Investiv (Côte d’Ivoire)
Investiv is an Ivorian company with a mission to help build the future of African agriculture by leveraging innovative technologies to support smallholder farmers throughout Côte d’Ivoire and West Africa. The company is led by Karim, a 25-year-old agro-economist.
Axel Emmanuel Gbaou, CEO & Founder, Le Chocolatier Ivorien (Côte d’Ivoire)
Le Chocolatier Ivorien manufactures and offers high-quality, Africa-made, handcrafted chocolates and promotes sustainable cultivation techniques and a fairer distribution of income in the cocoa chain through direct partnerships with female growers. The founder, Gbaou, started his career as a banker and established the company in his mother’s kitchen. He holds a degree in international public law and a master’s in taxation.
Chebet Lesan, Founder & CEO, Bright Green R. Energy (Kenya)
Bright Green Energy produces fuel bricks that save forests and reduce the cost of cooking for underserved communities across Africa. The company is led by Lesan who has a background in leadership from the University of Cambridge. She also studied product design at the University of Nairobi, supply chain management at Rutgers School of Business and also completed a business-design fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology D-lab.
Cyrille Nkontchou, Founder & Chairman, Enko Education (Cameroon)
Enko Education operates the largest single network of private schools in Africa that teaches the International Baccalaureate curriculum to democratize access to quality international education for African youth. The company was founded by Nkontchou, an economist by training with extensive experience as a fund manager, banker and consultant.
Ethel Mupambwa, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Moneymart (Zimbabwe)
Moneymart is a Zimbabwe-based microfinance institution that offers tailor-made business loans to MSMEs and individuals who live off the power grid so they can access quality solar-lighting kits. The company is co-led by Mupambwa, who has nine years of experience in finance and is a Level 2 Chartered Financial Analyst Candidate.
Dr. Emma Naluyima Mugerwa, Founder, MST Junior School (Uganda)
MST Junior School is a Primary School with a unique approach and learning model. It aims to equip pupils with unique skills to solve agriculture issues, such as food insecurity, waste mismanagement and malnutrition. The school was established by Naluyima, a vet, farmer and educator with a desire to train young people and change their lives through modern and purposeful farming.
Joan Rukundo Nalubega, CEO & Founder, Uganics (Uganda)
Uganics is a social business that manufactures organic anti-malaria soap to address the disease, which kills millions of people every year. It sells its products around the world at a high profit margin to subsidize sales to poor populations at the same price as regular soap. The company is led by, a malaria survivor and a social entrepreneur with a vision to fight the disease.
Mame Diarra Bousso Gueye, CEO & Founder, Diarrablu (Senegal)
Diarrablu is a Senegalese fashion company that merges African artisan traditions with technology to empower the continent’s artisans and build an ethical and sustainable fashion future centered around ancestral African craftsmanship. The company is led by Gueye who has experience in finance, mathematics, and design and recently completed her master’s degree at Stanford University with a focus on creative mathematics.
Oluwasoga Oni, CEO & Co-Founder, Mdaas Global (Nigeria)
MDaaS Global builds and operates modern, tech-enabled diagnostic centers in clinically underserved communities, starting in Nigeria, to provide a world-class patient experience at highly affordable prices. The company is led by Oni, an MIT-trained system engineer.
Following the grand finale, a five-episode show detailing this year’s ABH journey will be aired between Nov. 21 and Dec. 19 in countries across Africa.
For more information on ABH and other initiatives by the Jack Ma Foundation in Africa, click here.
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