Top 50 finalists have emerged in a Jack Ma Foundation competition that seeks to support African entrepreneurs.
This year’s “Africa’s Business Heroes” prize competition, organized by Jack Ma Foundation’s flagship philanthropic program in Africa, Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative, is the second edition after its 2019 debut.
The competition 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, according to organizers.
Over a 10-year period, the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative plans to recognize 100 African entrepreneurs and commit to allocating 100 million U.S. dollars in grant funding and training programs for the broad African entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The top 10 finalists in the competition will share a prize pool of 1.5 million dollars this year and gain access to the initiative’s community of business leaders to leverage its shared expertise, best practice, training and resources.
“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,” said Jason Pau, senior adviser for international programs at Jack Ma Foundation.
Over 22,000 registrations from 54 African countries were received since the launch of the competition on April 6 until the close of the application on June 22, according to the foundation.
The applicants, from a wide range of sectors, are aged between 19 and 82, and the average age of the top 50 finalists is 37, it said.
The 50 entrepreneurs emerging in the first round represent 21 countries across Africa, such as Ghana, Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa and Kenya, and are from 18 sectors including agriculture, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, business services, construction, education, with female contestants making up the half, the foundation said.
The finalists have introduced “unique” projects in line with the situation of the continent. For example, Abid Khirani from Morocco developed a road safety device attached to the helmet, which is able to notify motorcycle riders of road-related dangers, provide location services, and trigger the emergency procedure and alert family members in case of an accident.
According to the schedule, the top 20 finalists, who will be determined by established business leaders through video-call interviews, will be announced in early August, followed by semi-final pitches in mid-August that will determine the top 10 competitors.
The top 10 are expected to be announced in September after they are selected through in-person pitches with a distinguished and experienced panel of investors, business leaders and professionals, the foundation said.
A final pitch competition show is scheduled to be held at the end of November, when the top 10 finalists will take the stage to pitch business legends, including Jack Ma, to win the share of the prize pool.
Jack Ma created the prize after he made his first trip to Africa in 2017, inspired by the energy and entrepreneurial potential of the young people he met with.
The Jack Ma Foundation, founded in 2014, has been focusing on education, entrepreneurship, women’s leadership, and the environment.