The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) Prize Competition is a philanthropic programme established in 2019 by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy. The programme aims to strengthen the African entrepreneur ecosystem and it does this by identifying, spotlighting, and giving grant funding and other forms of support to African entrepreneurial heroes. The programme has made a 10-year commitment to achieving this mission by aiding 100 African entrepreneurs and in 2023, it has reached its halfway mark.

Through its prize competition, the ABH programme has incubated and spotlighted high-impact entrepreneurs who have shown great commitment to changing the African business landscape. It offers a prize pool of $1.5 million, along with various benefits such as entrepreneurship training, networking opportunities, and publicity. The top finalists are selected based on their demonstration of vision, innovation, resilience, growth potential, and impact in Africa. 

ABH 2019 saw the likes of Mahmud Johnson (Liberia), who is helping smallholder farmers maximise the potential of their products through his startup J-Palm. In 2020, Axel Emmanuel Gbaou (Côte d’Ivoire) was one of ABH’s top 10 finalists and he won $100,000 to continue to lead an African chocolate revolution through his startup Le Chocolatier Ivoirien. Le Chocolatier Ivoirien sells African-made chocolates thereby aiding the local use of cocoa beans, often exported, and adding to the country’s GDP. In 2021, the first-place winner was Khadija Elbedweihy (Egypt), whose start-up PraxiLabs, is helping African STEM students compete with their global peers by providing access to virtual labs

This year, the stage is being set for the fifth anniversary summit and grand finale happening in Rwanda on the 23rd and 24th of November. The current edition of the competition received 27,267 applications in total—the highest number since the program’s inception— an indication of the importance of ABH and the growing entrepreneurial spirit in Africa. There was also greater diversity and inclusivity, with Francophone countries accounting for 27% of all applications.

What to expect

The 2023 ABH Summit and Grand Finale, which also marks the initiative’s fifth anniversary, will be a two-day event hosted at the Kigali Convention Centre (KCC) in Rwanda.  The organisers are expecting a massive turnout of over 1,000 African entrepreneurs, investors, and ecosystem players from all corners of the continent. The event will also feature renowned African tech influencers and stage performers. It’s going to be an event like no other, bringing together the best and brightest in African entrepreneurship.

This ABH Summit and Grand Finale is ABHB’s first physical event since 2019, and the public is invited to witness African entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas live to inspiring global business leaders and compete for grant funding.

The winner of the competition will take home $300,000, the 1st runner up gets $250,000, and the 2nd runner up receives $150,000. The remaining seven in the top 10 will each walk away with $100,000 and the rest of the prize pool ($100,000) will be split among all 10 to be used for further training programs.

There will be keynote speeches from industry experts, Ted Talk-style presentations, interactive workshops, debates between experts and more happening at the event. These sessions will provide valuable insights and knowledge sharing, making it a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and aspiring business enthusiasts to learn, grow, and engage in diverse forms of content and interaction. There’ll also be a live pitch competition, an award ceremony, dynamic networking, and an epic after-party celebrating ABH’s 5th anniversary.

The speakers

The 2023 ABH Summit and Grand Finale will boast more than 40 speakers who represent various facets of the African entrepreneurial landscape, as well as attendance by media and influencers from over 30 African countries. These speakers are regionally diverse, hailing from Africa and beyond, which adds depth and breadth to the event.

Key speakers to look forward to include Georgie Ndirangu, Head of Pan-African Program Communications at Mastercard Foundation; ABH Semi-final Judge Fred Swaniker, Founder and CEO of African Leadership Group; Christelle Kwizera, Founder & Managing Director of Water Access Rwanda and ABH 2019 Second Runner Up; and many others.

This event is a unique opportunity to connect with the pioneers shaping Africa’s business landscape. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, investor, student, or business enthusiast, you have a chance to make valuable connections and gain fresh insights that can transform your business or even life journey.’ 

The stage

ABH is bringing a massive immersive stage that will be a first for the continent. It is integrating an incredible Augmented Reality (AR) experience for each of the heroes that will provide an immersive experience for deeper insight into their business all from the auditorium of the Kigali Convention Centre.

A stage with a view of a city and a landscape

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A room with many different colored objects

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Other important things to look forward to this year are;

  • The release of a captivating coffee book chronicling the journeys of 50 incredible ABH grant recipients.
  • The prize presentation of the inaugural ABH Entrepreneurship Journalism Excellence Award, recognizing and honoring journalists who tirelessly cover entrepreneurship stories, raising awareness across the continent. 
  • The introduction of the ABH 100, a special recognition of some of the most influential supporters of the ABH program since its inception in 2019. Among other members of the ABH community, the ABH 100 consist of competition judges who have voluntarily dedicated a lot of time to assessing ABH contestants, hence adding to the overall impact over the different ABH editions

Everyone is invited, from entrepreneurs, students, youth, and investors to business enthusiasts. The ABH Summit and Grand Finale promises to be a valuable experience to connect with the trailblazers shaping Africa’s business landscape, learn, network, and find inspiration. 

Attendance to this exciting two-day summit and grand finale is free, but attendees are encouraged to reserve their seats as soon as possible to secure their spot at the event.

Register here now to secure your spot.

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