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Jack Ma Foundation dishes out cash to African 'netpreneurs'

Jack Ma Foundation dishes out cash to African 'netpreneurs'

Alibaba founder Jack Ma, through his foundation, on Sunday hosted the inaugural Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), awarding R15 million ($1 million) in prize money to 10 entrepreneurs from across the continent.

The Jack Ma Foundation hosted the annual pitch competition, with 10 finalists selected from across the continent after showcasing their business ideas.

The finalists received grant funding from the Jack Ma Foundation and will have access to the netpreneur community of African business leaders to leverage its expertise, best practices and resources.

The ANPI was inspired by Ma after his first trip to Africa in 2017. The aim is to support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs "who are building a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future".

This year's competition saw nearly 10 000 entrepreneurs from 50 countries across the continent applying. According to the foundation, the competition will run for the next decade.

The finale was held in Accra, Ghana, where the top 10 finalists pitched their businesses directly to four judges, including Ma; Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet Group; Ibukun Awosika, chairman of First Bank of Nigeria and founder of the Chair Centre Group; and Joe Tsai, executive vice-chairman of Alibaba.

"It was an incredible honour to be named Africa's Business Hero," said Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and CEO of LifeBank.

"I was truly inspired by my fellow winners at today's Netpreneur Summit. The Africa Netpreneur Prize will give me the resources to grow LifeBank and expand our presence in Nigeria and throughout the rest of Africa. I look forward to continuing my journey to solve problems and make a significant impact on the future of Africa."

Each finalist received a share of the $1 million, with Giwa-Tubosun collecting the first prize of R3.7 million ($250 000); followed by Dr Omar Sakr, founder and CEO, Nawah-Scientific from Egypt, who pocketed R2.2 million ($150 000); and third prize of R1.4 million ($100 000) went to Christelle Kwizera, founder of Water Access Rwanda.

The other participants all received R900 000 ($65 000) each.

"The finalists who competed in 'Africa's Business Heroes' should be an inspiration for Africa and for the world. Each of these entrepreneurs looked at big challenges facing their communities, and saw them as opportunities," said Ma.

"It is my strong belief that entrepreneur heroes, like these finalists, will change the world – creating companies that drive inclusive growth and opportunity for the continent. Everyone is a winner tonight."

"The top 10 truly show the limitless potential of African business," commented Masiyiwa.

"This competition demonstrates the overwhelming entrepreneurial talent that exists across Africa. I'm very excited about the future of industry and entrepreneurship for this continent."

"What really struck me about the finalists was that they each addressed specific African problems with a specific African solution in a fresh way, leveraging technology that wasn't available previously," noted Awosika.

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