Investors, partners and entrepreneurs from across sectors and markets gathered to discuss pressing issues and ideas for collaboration
ABH also unveiled its first annual report, highlighting the initiative’s achievements and the impact; Investors, partners and entrepreneurs from across sectors and markets gathered to discuss pressing issues and ideas for collaboration; Applications for this year’s edition of the prize competition are under review with the 2021 Top 50 to be announced in the coming weeks.
The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize competition, the flagship philanthropic program established by the Jack Ma Foundation to help foster an inclusive pan-African entrepreneurial ecosystem, held its first ever Annual Summit in a fully virtual format, gathering over 1,600 attendees from across Africa. The Summit consisted of a half-day online conference and workshops and presented an opportunity for the ABH community to connect, engage and hear from some of the best minds in business, technology and marketing.
At the summit, Jason Pau, Executive Director (International) of the Jack Ma Foundation, launched the first ever ABH Annual Report (https://bit.ly/2U4u57T), which recaps the journey of ABH to date and the impact it has created for participants and communities. “The team has relentlessly sought to look out over the horizon, innovate and drive greater impact through our program. We are focused on building an inclusive pan-African entrepreneurial community, and our achievements are only possible through the support of our partners, judges, volunteers, friends and communities across Africa and from all corners of the world.”
The report notes that since being named ABH finalists, the 2019 and 2020 top 10 have in total supported over 8,300 direct and indirect jobs, and created 455 new direct jobs. Many have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, leveraging their businesses to deliver blood, oxygen, PPE and other essential services to those most in need. Furthermore, several businesses have seen growth rise two and even threefold and raised millions of dollars in funding, thanks to the exposure and connections gained during their experience at ABH. In addition, 43,000 entrepreneurs from all over Africa who were past applicants have been able to access unparalleled training, learnings, and networking opportunities.
Throughout the Summit, participants discussed the central theme of this year’s competition, ‘It’s African Time’. Bogolo Kenewendo, global economist and former Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry of Botswana, and ABH Special Advisor noted the key role entrepreneurs can play in unlocking the economic potential of the continent: “The potential for businesses is immense. Africa has been one of the world’s fastest-growing regions for the past decade, with around USD 6.7 trillion available in consumer and business spending, many of the opportunities are veiled as challenges and problems. We need capital to fuel problem solving and innovation in the continent. It’s not charity, it is business. There is more scope for growth in Africa than the rest of the world.”
Participants also shared the same passion for delivering solutions. In a poll during the summit, 93% of respondents stated that a problem to solve and a great business idea was the reason they chose to become an entrepreneur. Only 5% said they were primarily driven by economic gain.
The event also gathered a panel of senior African and international speakers to engage with the audience on a number of crucial subjects including investment, technology, marketing and talent cultivation. Their common message was that this is an extremely exciting, yet challenging time for entrepreneurship and business-making in Africa, but the future looks bright:
Moulaye Tabouré, Founder and CEO of Afrikrea and one of the top ten finalists in 2019, commented: “Crisis is a great way to focus. In 2020 we grew volume 2.5x and revenue 5x. It was painful but it worked.”
Fred Swaniker, the founder of African Leadership Group, said the shift to remote work gives entrepreneurs access to new talent, across borders which makes now an excellent time to grow. He added: “Ignore technology at your peril. Stop thinking about tech as a side thing, think about it as core to everything. If you do, it’s a phenomenal time to be an entrepreneur.”
“The growth in access to capital in Africa is incredible,” said Charlie Graham-Brown, Chief Investment Officer & Partner at Seedstars. “2020 saw a drop in volume, but the number of deals grew by 44%. For entrepreneurs needing to raise capital, it’s a brilliant time.”
Entries for the 2021 ABH prize competition recently closed and expert judges are currently reviewing thousands of applications to select the top 50, to be announced later this month. All 54 African countries are represented in this year’s applicant pool and a variety of sectors, with agriculture dominating at 22%, followed by ICT at 9% and business, education, and manufacturing at 8% each. A third of all entrants are women with 15% from Francophone countries.
CNBC Africa, Star Times, and 11 national TV stations will broadcast a four-episode series on the journey of the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes in July. Full airing details will be available in local listings. To follow the next phases of ABH and all the updates, please visit: www.AfricaBusinessHeroes.org .