Two Nigerian startups have clinched victories in the final awards at #LEAP2023, Saudi Arabia, bolstering the country’s position as the foremost startup hub in Africa.
Nigeria participated in six categories; and won two out of the six globally categorised pitches while taking the 2nd spot in another category.
Each winner has been gifted $150,000 to boost their startup vision among other supports that include mentorship and early exposure to wider markets.
Sponsored by Digital Cooperation Organisation, the Nigerian team to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was led by Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami.
Over 10,000 startups submitted applications from different countries.
After tough screening processes, the applicants were reduced to 220, and only 90 startups were selected to pitch their business ideas in the semi-final.
Eight Nigerian Startups participated at the semi-final, and three reached the final stage – RiceAfrika Technologies and Wicrypt.
RiceAfrika Technologies – is a tech-driven agric optimisation startup that deploys IoT-enabled harvester and its FARMEasy mobile app for smallholder farming communities in Africa.
RiceAfrika believes Africa can feed itself and feed the world. It emerged as the global best in ‘The Tech for Humanity Award’ category and is coming home with 150,000 dollars.
The second winner, Wicrypt – An innovative Tech startup aimed at decentralising the internet globally, has a custom OS and hardware that allows users to share data with people around them and charge an affordable rate.
The firm also won 150,000 dollars after he was announced as the global best in the ‘The Into New World Award’ category.
About 90 global startups fought for the chance to be one of the 15 nascent businesses selected to pitch before a judging panel consisting of Shark Tank India’s Ghazal Alagh, Baroness Karren Brady, aide to popular entrepreneurship tv show owner, ‘The Apprentice’ Alan Sugar, Saudi angel investor Tala Al Jabri, and Dragon’s Den stars James Caan and Steven Bartlett.
LEAP23 is known as the world’s most visionary and valuable technology event with a prize purse of US$1.54 million for winning-startups.
LEAP23 held from February 6-9 at the Riyadh Front Exhibition and Conference Centre and hosted the inaugural LEAP Rocket Fuel Startup Pitch Challenge, powered by Saudi Arabia’s National Technology Development Programme (NTDP).
The initiative is a collaboration between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), the MiSK Foundation, and NTDP.
Professor Pantami expressed his delight while maintaining that Nigerian Startups have all it takes to compete with their peers in the global stage.
“I am so proud of our Startups who emerged as the global best in these categories. It is quite a long journey that followed rigorous process until the end; from over 10,000 applications to the final 12, in which three Nigerians took part and two emerged winners. We are delighted that our startups are not only amazing but went through a lot of nurturing and mentorship to be the best in the world,” he noted.
The Minister stated that Nigeria is on the right track in implementing its National Digital Economy Policy and Strategies to ensure that Nigerian Startups add value to the global tech ecosystem. We are building the ecosystem and making it more conducive for nurturing innovation-driven enterprises. Our startups are creating solutions for the local market that can easily scale to the global market.
“The journey started in 2019 shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for Digital Nigeria. Now we are reaping the positive benefits of our commitment. In the space of five months, we have Nigerians that are making us proud on the global stage.
“The eight entries from Nigeria competed with over 90 Startups in the semi-finals, showcasing their innovative ideas that will transform economies and solve pertinent issues around the world. Therefore, they emerged global best. They did not only pitch to win grants but also attended various knowledge-sharing sessions, conferences and investor meetings that have exposed them to numerous ways to accelerate their products for the best market fit. The startups intracted with the world’s best mentors, angel investors and venture capitalists.”
“It is also noteworthy that eight Startups we brought to this year’s LEAP, three made it the Grand Finale, two won, and are going back home to add value to our Digital Economy. On behalf of the Nigerian government, we sincerely appreciate the Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) Headquarters, Riyadh, for sponsoring our innovative startups to participate and showcase their innovations to the world”, he added.
Prof. Pantami also said that the successes of Nigerian Startups in GITEX, Dubai, United Arab Emirates in October last year, and today in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is evident that the country’s innovators have accepted the challenge posed to them by the Federal Government to not stell as the African leaders but compute globally.
“The recent successes are the fruit of policies we put in place to ensure our Startups walk shoulder to shoulder with their counterparts in Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. Under President Muhammadu Buhari, the federal government appreciates the outstanding exploits of startups in the country, which are helping to create jobs, fast-track economic development, and also winning awards and grants amounting to millions of naira,” he concluded.
This year’s LEAP brought together breackthrough innovative ideas and emerging developments in technology under one roof. A landmark technology event that galvanised public and private organisations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.