Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Announces Top 10 Finalists

The 2021 Africa’s Business Heroes Prize has announced its top 10 finalists who will compete for $1.5 million at the grand finale in November.

The 2021 Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize, a flagship philanthropic program established by the Jack Ma Foundation, has announced this year’s top 10 finalists. These ten entrepreneurs will take the stage at the grand finale in November for their final pitch to win a share of a US$1.5 million prize pool.

The ten entrepreneurs – half of whom are female – were selected from over 12,000 applications across all 54 African nations and passed multiple stages of judging and evaluation. With an average age of 32 years, the top ten represent businesses primarily operating in 7 African countries: Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda. Their businesses span key industries such as agriculture, beauty, education, energy, food & beverage, logistics, manufacturing, media & entertainment, and retail. 80% of the finalists operate their businesses in rural areas. Through their ventures, these outstanding entrepreneurs are generating positive impact and creating opportunities for their communities.

“It’s African time! We have been continuously impressed with all of our 2021 Top 10 finalists, especially their diversity and strength of their businesses. The Top 10 are truly inspiring and are a testament to the talent, resilience, innovation, and passion of African entrepreneurs. In the midst of unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, we remain steadfast in our efforts to identify, support and shine a spotlight on African entrepreneurs that are driving positive growth for their communities.”

Jason Pau, Executive Director of International, Jack Ma Foundation

“This is my 3rd year as a semi-final judge and therefore, I have seen a total of 60 entrepreneurs pitch. In my opinion they are all already heroes just by reaching this stage. Every year the competition gets tougher for the entrepreneurs but it also makes it harder for us judges to choose our top 10. I wish the Top 10 of 2021 well on the next phase of the competition and congratulations to our Heroes.”

Rene Parker, Director at R Labs and a semi-finale judge of ABH

“It was an absolute pleasure to judge the ABH semi-finals again this year. The quality of the semi-finalists continues to be high. It was extremely difficult to shortlist the final 10 because each entrepreneur was so inspiring. They demonstrated the resilience, passion, imagination and traction that we need in our entrepreneurs here in Africa. I can’t wait to follow their success!”

 Fred Swaniker, Founder of ALU and a semi-finale judge of ABH

In November, Africa’s Business Heroes will host its Grand Finale in a virtual format, and the top winners of the 2021 ABH prize will be announced in due course. The next few weeks will see the finalists finesse their pitches and leverage the in-depth training, learnings and insights that they have gathered during their ABH journey. Meet the 2021 Top 10 finalists here:

  • Ghirmay Abraham, Founder, Aptech Africa (Uganda)

Ghirmay was born in Eritrea and studied mechanical engineering at the University of Asmara before starting work in the renewable energy sector. He started Aptech Africa with only a $20,000 investment. Working to bring electricity and water to people across Africa, Aptech has grown to be a multinational business operating in seven African countries.

  • Navalayo Osembo-Ombati, Co-Founder and CEO, Enda Athletic (Kenya)

Navalayo is from a town in Kenya that has produced generations of the world’s greatest distance runners. To maximize social impact in Kenya through sports, Navalayo founded Enda Athletic, a made-in-Kenya running shoe brand that creates jobs, invests in local communities, and spurs economic development through exports. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics.

  • Oghenetega Iortim, Founder, Gricd (Nigeria)

Oghenetega is an Information Communications Engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from Covenant University. Oghenetega has been dedicated to solving health and food accessibility challenges through technology. Through his startup, Gricd, he is building cold-chain facilities to address storage pitfalls in the agricultural and healthcare sectors.

  • Yvette Ishimwe, Founder and CEO, IRIBA Water Group (Rwanda)

IRIBA Water Group is a social enterprise that offers innovative drinking water solutions. Its founder Yvette holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Southern New Hampshire University. She is a YALI Mandela Washington Fellow and has been awarded by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in recognition of the impact IRIBA has brought to the community.

  • Charlot Magayi, Founder and CEO, Mukuru Clean Stoves (Kenya)

When Charlot’s two-year-old daughter suffered a severe burn caused by a traditional stove, Charlot was moved to provide safer cooking technologies. She founded Mukuru to help keep children safe, as well as reduce fuel consumption and household air pollution. Charlot is an Echoing Green Fellow and has been recognized by Global Citizen, World Bank and AWIEF.

  • Khadija Mohamed Elbedweihy, Founder, PraxiLabs (Egypt)

Khadija received her PhD from the University of Sheffield studying human-computer interaction and user experience. With her belief in adopting technology for improving education and enabling equal opportunities, Khadija founded and is currently managing PraxiLabs, which makes virtual science labs accessible for educational institutions and schools.

  • Chidi Nwaogu, Co-founder and CEO, Publiseer (Nigeria)

Chidi Nwaogu is a tech entrepreneur and software developer. He is the CEO of Publiseer, a digital content distribution company that helps independent and underserved African creatives earn a living. He is the winner of the 2020 Migration Entrepreneurship Prize from the Swiss Government, and is also an Acumen Fellow, Alibaba eFounders Fellow, Westerwelle Fellow, and French-African Young Leader.

  • Ikenna Nzewi, Co-founder and CEO, Releaf Marketplace Nigeria (Nigeria)

Ikenna graduated from Yale University in 2017 with a Bachelors in Computer Science and co-founded Releaf while he was still at university. Releaf is an agriculture technology company that develops hardware and software solutions to drive industrialisation of food processing in Africa.

  • Violet Amoabeng, Founder and CEO, Skin Gourmet (Ghana)

Violet attained both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Business Administration – specializing in marketing, supply chain management and accounting. In 2014, Violet created Skin Gourmet with GHS 145 (US $ 45.00). Skin Gourmet is now distributed in over 17 different countries and Violet has been featured in Glitz and EMY Magazine as an emerging industry leader.

  • Ketsheaphone Jacob, Founder and CEO, The Bulb World (Botswana)

Ketsheaphone is the Founder and CEO of The Bulb World, an LED light manufacturing company. Ketshephaone is passionate about helping youth startups and also giving back to communities through The Bulb World’s CSR Initiative which sets out to light up public boarding schools to give learners a brighter learning environment.

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