… $1.5m grants at stake for winners
Since 2019, Nigerian entrepreneurs have been participating in Africa’s Business Heroes, an annual charitable initiative sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy.
The startup competition identifies, trains and supports African entrepreneurs across all sectors who are making a difference in their communities for the future of the continent.
In that respect, the Nigerian entrepreneurs enter the competition for all the above reasons, and especially for their share of the USD1.5 million grants being doled out by the sponsors to aid African startups.
This year marks five years of the competition, out of the 10 years sponsorship plan of the Jack Ma Foundation.
So far, Nigerian entrepreneurs have been living up to the healthy rivalry of the competition with 8 entrepreneurs emerging among the top 10 winners for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively, as well as winning a total grant of over US$1,185,000 (equivalent to over N912 million).
The feats achieved at the continent-wide competition by Nigerians are getting a boost this year as three Nigerians made the Top 20 finalists from a pool of 27,267 applications received this year.
At the Semi-Finals of the competition, which was held recently in Rwanda, Kigali, two of the three Nigerian entrepreneurs could not make it to the next level, but one of them made the country proud.
While Funmi Adewara, CEO/founder, Mobihealthcare Limited, and Bryan Mezue, CPO/co-founder, Lifestores Healthcare, could not convince the judges at their respective pitches at the semi-finals of the competition, Ikpeme Neto, CEO/founder, Wellahealth Technologies, made a difference with his Wellahealth, which aims at increasing healthcare access in Africa through alternative care pathways and technology that reduces the cost and improves accessibility.
With his technology-enabled network of over 2,000 health providers, digitally connected to over 27 insurance companies, leading banks, telcos and a network of sales agents, Wellahealth has enabled the efficient distribution of affordable healthcare services in Nigeria.
At the semi-final pitch in Kigali in September Neto, a medical doctor, was able to explain and convince the judges how from just $1 a month, patients can get high-quality care easily, and how Wellahealth has leveraged technology to serve over 130,000 patients and makes over $100,000 in monthly revenue from fees charged to companies and individuals.
With all these going for Wellahealth, Neto emerged among the Top 10 finalists, leaving Nigeria with an opportunity to increase its total grant won since the inception of the competition.
Of course, Adewara and Mezue, who could not make the next level of the competition, congratulated the organizers for the opportunity given to them to exchange, network and challenge their entrepreneurial spirit among participants from 54 African countries.
For Mezue, he is already a winner as Africa’s Business Heroes is the platform his business needed and not necessarily the grant, which though is needed.
Adewara, the only female among the Nigerian participants, is more than excited to be on Africa’s Business Heroes platform. For her, “Coming this far in the competition, we are all winners.”
Neto, who is still flying the Nigerian flag in Africa’s Business Heroes 2023 competition, is confident in making the Top 3 and eventually the winner based on his innovative problem-solving and wealth creation offering.
Neto will slug it out with the other Top 10 competitors at the grand finale of Africa’s Business Heroes in November in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda for shares of $1.5 million in grant money. The winner receives $300,000, the first runner-up $250,000 and the second runner-up $150,000. The other seven finalists each receive $100,000, and the remaining $100,000 is split among all finalists for additional training programs after the competition.
Other Top 10 include; Ismael Belkhayat, CEO and founder, Chari, a Moroccan fintech services provider, which helps traditional local businesses cope with competition from large and medium-sized stores.
Bola Bardet, CEO/co-founder, Susu from Benin Republic; Christina Gyisun, CEO, Sommalife, a Ghanaian firm; Albert Munyabugingo, CEO, Vuba Vuba Africa, a Rwandan company; Theo Baloyi, CEO and founder, Bathu, South Africa-based sneaker producer.
Others are: Nthabiseng Mosia, CMO and co-founder, Easy Solar, from South Africa; Thomas Njeru, CEO/co-founder, Pula Advisors Limited (Kenya); Andrew Takyi-appiah, founder, Zeepay Ghana Limited (Ghana) and Ayman Bazaraa, CEO/co-founder, Sprints (Egypt).
These Top 10 finalists, including Nigeria’s Neto, who represent 9 African countries, will be pitching in Kigali, Rwanda on November 24, 2023, to claim the title of 2023 Africa’s Business Heroes Winner.