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Winners of Africa Netpreneur prize to be announced in Oct

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2019-08-17 04:38
Jason Pau (right), the senior adviser for international programs for the Jack Ma Foundation and Sam Gichuru (left), the founder and chief executive officer of Nailab, during a press briefing in Nairobi, Kenya on Aug 16, 2019, to give an update on the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative. Liu Hongjie/China Daily

A charitable organization called "The Jack Ma Foundation" is set to announce the top 10 winners of the 2019 Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative in early October - a competition which aims to award $10 million to 100 African entrepreneurs over the next 10 years.

The initiative is the brainchild of Chinese business magnate Jack Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba group, and aims to find and promote the next big entrepreneurs in African countries.

Jason Pau, senior adviser for international programs for the Foundation announced on Friday that the prize award ceremony will take place in Accra, Ghana, in November.

As interviews to select the top 10 winners got underway, Pau said 20 semi-finalists from 10 African countries had gathered in Nailab, one of Kenya's leading business incubators, where the two-day interviews were being conducted.

The top 10 finalists will pitch to Ma and another two influential judges, out of which the best three will be selected for the chance to be awarded a share of $1 million in total grand prize money.

"The first winner will receive $250,000 grant, the second $150,000 and the third $100,000. All the top 10 winners will get a financial grant as well," Pau said.

Sam Gichuru, the founder and chief executive officer of Nailab, said to mobilize the applicants across the continent they first identified four partners from the four African regions, in north, south and western part of Africa. Nailab, played the role of being both the continental and East African partner.

"Next, we tapped into over 40 channel partners from across Africa. They consisted of incubators, accelerators, institutions, venture capital firms, and Afrilabs to make sure we are inclusive," he said.

Gichuru said that by the closure of the 2019 Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative applications in June, they had received over 10,000 applications from 50 African countries. They then narrowed them down to 2,000 qualified applications. Next, they selected the best 50 and later 20, who were being interviewed on August 16 and 17, to select the top 10.

"It's impressive to see the passion coming from across Africa. I'm inspired by the quality of applications received and to see how young and old people are making a difference through the resilience and grit shown by their focus on the community," Gichuru said.

He said majority of the applicants came from Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

For the next 10 years, the program will be hosted across Africa culminating in an annual finale where 10 finalists will compete in a pitch competition.

The initiative aims to inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors, who are building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future.

Pau said the mission of the foundation is to identify and spotlight African entrepreneur heroes and their stories to inspire the continent and beyond.

Towards that end, he said plans are underway to launch a TV show where the winners will be featured. To be named African business heroes, the TV show is aimed at giving Africans an opportunity to see and be inspired by the stories of the entrepreneurs.

"We want entrepreneurs to be turned into heroes. We are looking to identify 100 African business heroes that are going to lead the continent into the next stage of development," he said.

Pau challenged African entrepreneurs to work in partnership and build teams of entrepreneurs from different African countries to achieve their competitive edge as well as access the international markets.

"The only way African countries will succeed is by finding a way to work together either as a region or as a continent. This will also enable the continent to benefit from its demographic dividend of young population," he said.


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