The Jack Ma Foundation announced the top 20 finalists for its 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes competition on Wednesday. The competition, which is organized by the Foundation’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative, was launched in 2019 to cultivate and empower young African entrepreneurs by giving equal opportunities to those who harness the power of small businesses and technology.
Having come this far, the 20 finalists will now compete for the final top 10 slots in the grand finale. For this year’s competition, the 10 finalists of the pan-African business competition will split $1.5 million in grant funding to help accelerate their own businesses, up from $1 million in 2019.
According to Jason Pau, the foundation’s senior advisor for international programs, the finalists who made it from an initial pool of 22,000 applicants from all 54 African countries have displayed impressive talent and energy.
“This is no surprise though, as we are aware of the strength of the entrepreneurial spirit of Africa and the unique drive of businesswomen and businessmen in the continent,” Pau said. “This strengthens even more the commitment of the Jack Ma Foundation to spotlight today and tomorrow’s African entrepreneurs, supporting them while they build successful businesses and positively impact their local communities.”
The selected finalists, who come from 14 African countries and represent 11 key sectors and industries of the African economy, will now progress to the semi-final stage of the competition to face intense scrutiny from a seven-judge panel.
The next level of the competition will test the solidity of their business plans, their motivation, vision and ability to articulate why the groundbreaking nature of their ideas can solve pressing problems and catalyze change for society.
The competition was not spared from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and had to move online to host a virtual boot camp for the finalists on Aug 18. The boot camp was a unique event for finalists to exchange and learn from inspiring personalities from the African entertainment, sports and entrepreneurship scene, as well as the top three finalists from last year’s debut edition of Africa’s Business Heroes competition.
Speakers at the boot camp webinar reminded candidates that despite the unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, entrepreneurs who can adapt, be flexible and react quickly will be better positioned to unlock future opportunities.
The top 20 finalists, whose average age is 34 years old and of whom 55 percent are women, will undergo the next selection process over the next few weeks and after a semi-final pitch, the last 10 will be revealed. The 10 finalists will then take the stage to pitch to business moguls, including China’s Jack Ma and Zimbabwe’s Strive Masiyiwa.