Winners for Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition 2023 Announced

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The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) Prize Competition, a philanthropic initiative sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy, has named Dr. Ikpeme Neto from Nigeria; Thomas Njeru from Kenya and Ayman Bazaraa from Egypt the first, second and third prize winners, respectively, of this year’s competition.

 Dr. Ikpeme Neto, CEO and Founder, Wellahealth Technologies (Nigeria) emerged the winner with  US$300,000  prize,Mr. Thomas Njeru, CEO and Co-Founder, Pula Advisors Limited (Kenya) took the second position with US$250,000  while the third position went to Mr. Ayman Bazaraa, CEO and Co-Founder, Sprints (Egypt with  US$150,000 .

“I am deeply honored to be named this year’s Africa’s Business Heroes winner. This award energizes my commitment to driving positive change through innovation. I extend heartfelt gratitude to ABH for empowering entrepreneurs like me, and I am dedicated to shaping a brighter future for our continent through entrepreneurship. I am excited for the recognition of Wellahealth Technologies’ work, and grateful for my team, family and the ABH team for making this impact in healthcare across Africa possible,” said Dr. Ikpeme Neto, CEO and Founder, Wellahealth Technologies, ABH 2023 First Prize Winner.

The top three winners were selected through multiple stages of interviews and evaluations from a staggering 27,267 applications spanning all 54 African nations. They have demonstrated exceptional ingenuity and tenacity, substantially impacting their communities and beyond.

Apart from the three final winners, the top 10 contestants will each receive US$100,000 in prize funding from ABH. An extra US$10,000 will also be allocated to each of the top 10 finalists for post-competition training programs.

“The winners of this year’s ABH competition embody bold ambition and innovation, exemplifying the true essence of entrepreneurial spirit and a deep commitment to addressing societal challenges. The judges recognized them for their remarkable ability to turn challenges into opportunities, unwavering commitment to community betterment, and innovative approaches to solving pressing issues. Their resilience, passion and impactful contributions make them not just business leaders, but true champions of change,” said Jason Pau, Executive Director of International Programs, Jack Ma Foundation.

Audiences from across the globe watched the Grand Finale both live and online, closely following the top 10 finalists as they pitched their businesses on stage to a final panel of esteemed judges: Dr. Diane Karusisi, CEO of Bank of Kigali; Ibukun Awosika, Founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Group; and Joe Tsai, Chairman of Alibaba Group.

2023 sees the 5th anniversary of ABH, marking the halfway point in the prize competition program. To commemorate this milestone, a celebratory summit spanning two days from November 23 to 24 was held in conjunction with the Grand Finale. Themed “AI: African Insight, Innovation, Impact,” the ABH Summit and Grand Finale brought together more than 1,750 entrepreneurial ecosystem players and aspiring entrepreneurs from across Africa in the largest physical event in ABH’s history. In addition to the live pitching sessions held as part of the Grand Finale, the event featured a series of speeches and workshops, a showcase of the work of past ABH heroes and an afterparty to celebrate the anniversary, among other activities.

Since 2019, grant recipients of the ABH Prize Competition have achieved remarkable milestones, collectively raising over US$153 million in investments and serving a vast base of over 37.5 million customers or users. Collectively, these entrepreneurs have received US$7 million in prize money, facilitating their operations in 52 African countries. Notably, their endeavors have led to the creation of over 123,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributing to the region’s economic development. With a combined reported revenue exceeding US$252 million, ABH grant recipients continue to exemplify the transformative power of entrepreneurship in fostering growth, innovation and socio-economic impact across the African continent.

Over the past five years, ABH has received immense support from investors, entrepreneurs and business professionals from across the globe. A total of 903 volunteers have collectively devoted over 15,280 hours to judging, mentoring and supporting thousands of contestants, underscoring the powerful spirit of collaboration that fuels the success of the competition.

Pau added, “In commemorating our five-year journey, we extend our gratitude to all the judges, volunteers and partners who have worked hand-in-hand together on this remarkable journey. Looking back, we find strength in the tenacity of the entrepreneurs we have supported together. Moving forward, our mission is clear: to continue our work with ecosystem stakeholders to identify and support even more African Business Heroes so that their stories inspire millions more.”

The Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition strives to foster an inclusive and dynamic entrepreneurial landscape in Africa. In its fifth year, this annual competition continues to spotlight the remarkable talents of African entrepreneurs dedicated to effecting positive change within their communities. What sets ABH apart is its grassroots orientation, coupled with its age, gender and sector-agnostic approach.