$10 Million for Africa’s next Great Entrepreneurs

Melitta Ngalonkulu

Budding African entrepreneurs can now apply for the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), founded by the Jack Ma Foundation, for a $10 million prize.
The application process which is in partnership with Nailab was officially opened by Jason Pau, Senior Director and Chief of Staff International to Jack Ma, Alibaba Group Executive Chairman.
“Africa Netpreneur Prize is about looking for heroes. We are looking to shine the spotlight on existing African entrepreneurs’ whether they are in the traditional sector or tech sector or men or women who come from any of the 54 countries that are part of this continent” said Pau.
Pau says for the next ten years the foundation will host a pitch competition in Africa where ten finalists from across the continent will compete for $1 million in total prize money.
“Jack Ma will personally commit one million dollars in grant money. The trick to the part is for ten finalists to compete every year for the next ten years.  He wants to turn it into something like a show. A million dollars for entrepreneurs’ is not a lot of money but what we think we could do is to have their stories remembered and watched across the continent,” says Pau.
The prospective entrepreneurs will get assistance from experts.
On the advisory board is Jack Ma, Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations and Graca Machel, Chair of the Graca Machel Trust Board.
Pau says he believes having the Graca Machel Trust will expose the potential of women across Africa. He says their aim is to uplift the confidence in women of ‘you can and you should’.
“Through their networks, I believe they can reach a million or more women across Africa. I believe it is two things, one is confidence building. I think a lot of times women don’t really believe they could compete with men for whatever reasons,” said Pau.
Pau added that because the majority of women in the continent are single parents and breadwinners, they need all the support they can receive.
“We need to find those breadwinners and a lot of them are women… we are not only looking for tech-entrepreneurs we want to include the traditional sector because a lot of women are active in sectors such as agriculture. So if we could include a prize in industries that women in Africa are strong at, then that is the prize,” said Pau.
Shungu Gwarinda, Director of Programmes for Graca Machel Trust, says their mission is to connect women and put them at the center of Africa’s development.
“We strongly believe that the social and economic transformation that we seek to see towards building the Africa that we want, that nascent potential lies with women. Seventy percent of production on your lower level is driven by women, but at a lower level,” she said.
Gwarinda says she believes that through the partnership with Jack Ma Foundation they will better amplify the voices of women across the continent and build on their networks.

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