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The 2021 Africa’s Business Heroes Winners Announced

The winners of the 2021 Africa's Business Heroes prize competition, represent seven African countries, with 80% operating businesses in rural areas and half of the finalists are female.

The Jack Ma Foundation’s philanthropic program, Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) announced its winners of this years ABH prize competition during a virtual live Grand Finale on Wednesday where 10 finalists pitched their businesses to a select jury where the top three were announced coming from Egypt, Kenya, and Nigeria.

The three overall winners were; Khadija Mohamed Elbedweihy; Founder, PraxiLabs (Egypt) who emerged in the first place, winning USD$300,000. PraxiLabs is solving pressing issues around education and training, and is focused and determined to change how Africa learns and teaches science, one virtual lab at a time.

“I’m very humbled to be named Africa’s Business Hero. This competition has been an incredible journey. I have learnt important lessons from each judge and from my fellow talented entrepreneurs. I hope that this win inspires many young Africans to believe, that we have what it takes to make an impact where we are,” said Khadija Mohamed Elbedweihy.

Ikenna Nzewi, Co-founder and CEO of Releaf (Nigeria) and Navalayo Osembo-Ombati, Co-founder and CEO of Enda Athletic (Kenya) came in 2nd and 3rd places respectively. Ikenna won USD$250,000 and Navalayo won USD$150,000 totaling the three cash prizes to USD$700,000 out of the USD$1.5 million that has to be shared amongst the top 10 finalists.

From the remaining balance, the remaining 7 finalists will each receive USD$100,000 and an additional USD$10,000 will be allocated to each finalist for a training program to be hosted by the Alibaba Group’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China. Thus, totaling to USD$1.5 million of the grant allocation.

The 7 finalists are; Ghirmay Abraham; Founder, Aptech Africa (Uganda), Oghenetega Iortim; Founder, Gricd (Nigeria), Yvette Ishimwe; Founder & CEO, IRIBA Water Group (Rwanda), Charlot Magayi; Founder & CEO, Mukuru Clean Stoves (Kenya), Chidi Nwaogu; Co-founder & CEO, Publiseer (Nigeria), Violet Amoabeng – Founder & CEO, Skin Gourmet (Ghana), and Ketshephaone Jacob – Founder & CEO, The Bulb World (Botswana).

In a press statement, Joe Tsai, Executive Vice Chairman of Alibaba Group, said this year’s top 10 finalists came from inspiring personal stories that is invaluable not only to their teams and communities, but to many would-be entrepreneurs across the continent who are thinking about pursuing this path.

“The kind of talent and passion I saw among this year’s Africa’s Business Heroes is unrivaled around the world. They are innovators and problem-solvers, but most importantly, they have a driving sense of mission and social impact,” Tsai said. He conclude by congratulating all the winners. “We look forward to seeing what you accomplish next,” he said.

In his remarks, Victor Williams, NBA Africa CEO said, all of the Africa’s Business Heroes are inspiring leaders who are actively pursuing their passions and helping Africa take its rightful place on the world stage.

“Entrepreneurship – like sport – is a transformative force for positive social change and economic growth. I want to congratulate the winners of this year’s Africa’s Business Heroes competition. I look forward to engaging with all of them as they continue their entrepreneurial journeys on the continent,” he said.

This year’s prize competition, over 12,000 applications were received from all 54 countries in Africa under the theme, “It’s African Time”, a bold call to action for all talented African entrepreneurs who are challenging stereotypes associated with “African time” through their businesses, to leverage Africa’s Business Heroes prize to scale their efforts as well as share their stories of how they’ve driven change and solutions.

The top ten winners represented seven (7) African countries: Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda. Their businesses span across key industries; Agriculture, Beauty, Education, Energy, Food & Beverage, Logistics, Manufacturing, Media & Entertainment, and Retail. 80% of the finalists operate their businesses in rural areas and half of the finalists are female.

Africa’s Business Heroes is a flagship philanthropic program established by the Jack Ma Foundation to help foster an inclusive and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Africa. The annual competition, shines a spotlight on talented African entrepreneurs who are working to make a difference in their communities and helping to build a more sustainable, inclusive future. The competition is grassroots oriented as well as age, gender, language and sector agnostic.

ABH will recognize 100 African entrepreneurs over a ten-year period and allocate grant funding alongside training, mentoring, and learning programs, as well as access to a community of like-minded African business leaders.

Applications for the 2022 ABH prize competition will open in early 2022.

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