The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) Prize Competition, a philanthropic initiative sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy to recognize and uplift African entrepreneurs, has announced the top 50 finalists for its 2023 edition.
With a remarkable 27,267 applications, ABH this year has seen the highest number of submissions since its inception in 2019, reflecting the growing entrepreneurial spirit in Africa.
ABH continues to garner a remarkable level of reach and engagement across Africa, with applicants hailing from all 54 African countries this year. West Africa emerged as the frontrunner, representing 43% of the total applications received. Francophone countries accounted for 27% of all applications, the highest in ABH’s history.
Following an intense round of assessment by 256 judges from more than 40 countries, the top 50 finalists have been selected from 20 countries across 13 different industries, led by agriculture, education and training, and healthcare. The finalists are aged 36 on average, with 38% of them being female and 62% male. Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa account for the most top 50 candidates and, for the first time, applicants from Sierra Leone are represented in the top 50, which to date cover 33 out of 54 African countries. A panel of over 50 round-two judges will now embark on interviewing these candidates to select the top 20.
“We would like to express our sincere appreciation to all the entrepreneurs and judges who participated in this edition of the Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition. We are honored to see the overwhelming response, which is a testament to the rising potential of Africa’s entrepreneur ecosystem,” said Jason Pau, Executive Director of International Programs, Jack Ma Foundation.
“The top 50 finalists represent the incredible potential and talent that exists in Africa, and we believe there are more surprises underway for this edition. As our judging process moves forward and our fifth anniversary event series unfolds, we invite all our supporters to stay connected and follow ABH closely.”
This year, all the top 50 finalists will be invited to join the Alibaba Netpreneur Masterclass Global Edition 2023 to be conducted online by Alibaba Global Initiatives (AGI) from late July to late August, to acquire insights into how to harness digital technology to drive their business growth.
The top 20 finalists of ABH 2023 will be announced in July and the top 10 finalists in September. The return of a large-scale Grand Finale and Summit, during which the top 10 candidates will pitch live to global business legends to secure their share of the final award, is slated to take place in Kigali, Rwanda on November 23-24, 2023.
Every year, ABH spotlights outstanding participants through traditional media and social media channels, including providing significant exposure to the top 10 finalists via the ABH Show, which features the ABH journey of the previous edition’s top 10 finalists and their entrepreneurial stories. The first episode of the 2023 ABH Show was recently released and is available here.
As part of reaching its five-year milestone this year, ABH will be publishing a fifth-anniversary impact report to showcase the growth and impact of the prize competition on African entrepreneurs over the years, and reflect on the applicants, winners and stakeholders who have been integral to its success.
Nigerian Autotech Startup, Fixit45, Secures $1.9 Million for East Africa Expansion
Nigerian autotech startup Fixit45 has successfully secured $1.9 million in equity and working capital to fuel its ambitious expansion plans into East Africa.
The funding round, spearheaded by Launch Africa Ventures, witnessed significant participation from notable investors, including Soumobroto Ganguly and Dave Delucia, alongside a diverse group of angel investors.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, Fixit45 underscored the significance of this capital infusion as a substantial stride towards broadening its footprint and influence within Africa’s thriving automotive aftermarket industry.
The company revealed that these funds have been earmarked to fuel its strategic expansion initiatives, with a particular emphasis on fortifying its automotive repair business.
Fixit45 also shared its unwavering commitment to enhancing its spare parts distribution capabilities through its online-to-offline platform, xparts.africa. With a keen eye on the East African market, Fixit45 has set its sights on Kenya and Uganda.
Co-founded by visionaries Chioma Ahueze-Okochukwu, Goodluck Ikporo, and Pankaj Bohhra, Fixit45 offers a unique platform that empowers car owners to seamlessly connect and engage with a vast network of aftermarket stakeholders.
This extensive network encompasses automobile service providers, specialized technical teams, spare parts suppliers, and end-consumers.
Pankaj Bohhra, one of the co-founders of Fixit45, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “This funding represents a pivotal moment for Fixit45. We are profoundly grateful to our investors for their faith in our vision and our unwavering commitment to revolutionizing the African automotive aftermarket sector. With this capital infusion, we are well-positioned to advance towards our expansion objectives.”
Fixit45’s strategic move into East Africa holds the promise of ushering in transformative developments in the automotive industry across the region.
As the company intensifies its efforts, the future of automotive repair and spare parts distribution in East Africa appears poised for a remarkable evolution. Stay tuned for more exciting updates as Fixit45 continues to make waves in the autotech sector.
Payday’s $3 Million Seed Round: From Hope to Headaches
Six months after securing $3 million in a seed round led by Moniepoint, Nigerian fintech startup Payday finds itself embroiled in controversy and uncertain about its future.
Founder and CEO, Favour Ori, confirmed that the company is actively engaged in discussions with potential buyers.
In March, reports surfaced that Moniepoint was in talks to acquire Payday, with an expected deal closure within three months. However, the deal fell through, reportedly due to Moniepoint’s board’s lack of enthusiasm. Despite this setback, negotiations to sell the company continue.
Payday faced a wave of negative publicity in August after suspending access to customer accounts following fraudulent activities that resulted in customer losses. The company was accused of misappropriating customer funds before acknowledging the account restrictions.
Internal issues further marred the company’s reputation, especially after Payday implemented contentious salary reductions for some Nigerian staff in July and failed to issue promised stock options to affected employees.
This led to dissatisfaction and several employee departures.
Payday’s COO, Ogechi Obike, also departed, citing goal misalignment and clashes with Favour Ori.
Accusations arose that Favour marginalized Obike in crucial meetings and decision-making processes.
Favour Ori’s management style came under scrutiny, with allegations of impulsiveness and a lack of transparency.
Employees claimed that he hired top talent but stifled their input, resulting in customer disruptions, including difficulties creating virtual cards and accessing accounts.
Amid these controversies, Favour Ori has reduced his involvement in the company, focusing on external work with GitHub while the co-founder, Elijah Kingson, is employed at Revolut.
Payday’s future remains uncertain, with the potential sale of the company and the need to regain customer trust and employee satisfaction hanging in the balance.
The company faces the challenge of restoring its reputation and stability while navigating a tumultuous period in its young history.
Nigerian-American Nurse Turned Millionaire Entrepreneur: The Inspiring Journey of Courtney Adeleye
In the world of entrepreneurship, there are tales of rags to riches, and then there’s the remarkable journey of Courtney Adeleye, a Nigerian-American nurse who transformed herself into a millionaire entrepreneur. Her story is one of determination, innovation, and a relentless belief in herself.
From Nursing Scrubs to Business Suits
Rewind to 2013, and you’d find Courtney Adeleye in the role of a dedicated registered nurse, tirelessly caring for patients. But she had a different passion simmering beneath the surface. Courtney was on a quest to find the perfect product for treating natural hair, and her search proved to be a turning point in her life.
“I realized there were not many brands that used natural ingredients and specialized in healthy hair growth at the same time,” Adeleye recalls. Undeterred by the lack of suitable options in the market, she took matters into her own hands. Armed with a vision and just $500 to her name, she began mixing her own hair care products at home, infusing them with vitamins, nutrients, and healthy ingredients.
From YouTube to Entrepreneurship
Courtney’s journey took an unexpected turn when she decided to document her homemade hair care routine on YouTube. What started as a personal project soon attracted a devoted following of individuals eager to discover her secret for beautiful, natural hair. Not only did they seek knowledge, but they also wanted to purchase her products directly.
This grassroots movement led to the birth of “The Mane Choice,” Courtney Adeleye’s hair care solution for healthy locks. Her formulas were distinct, boasting ingredients that were free from mineral oil, petrolatum, parabens, sulfates, and formaldehyde, setting her brand apart in a crowded market.
The Mane Choice quickly gained momentum, and within the first three years of business, Adeleye sold a staggering $10 million worth of products from her own home. But she was far from finished. In just two more years, she had partnered with over 60,000 retailers across the United States, achieving the remarkable milestone of $100 million in sales and even launching an IPO in 2019.
However, Courtney Adeleye’s entrepreneurial spirit knew no bounds. In a testament to her commitment to health and wellness, she launched Olbali, a health-focused direct-selling company. Under this umbrella, she housed her private brands, including The Mane Choice, Cool Coffee Clique, Foolproof Body, and more, expanding her entrepreneurial empire even further.
Breaking Stereotypes and Inspiring Diversity
Courtney Adeleye’s journey hasn’t been without its challenges. Like many Black entrepreneurs, she faced the limiting perception that her products were exclusively for Black women, despite her extensive and diverse marketing efforts. This stereotype is a pervasive issue, as highlighted by research from McKinsey & Company.
Adeleye’s response to this challenge is simple yet profound: “My goal has always been to be diverse and inclusive.” She strives to be intentional about displaying diversity across her brands, aiming to realize her business’s full growth potential on a mass scale.
10 Secrets to Success
Courtney Adeleye has distilled her entrepreneurial wisdom into 10 key guidelines for those ready to take their businesses to new heights:
- Be authentic.
- Don’t meet your customer expectations…exceed them.
- If you don’t think you have a great product, try again before releasing it.
- Informal content can be more powerful than formal content.
- Be a walking billboard for your brand.
- Engage with your customers on all platforms.
- Show up consistently on social media.
- Bring your brand to life through grassroots events and activations.
- Invest more in your customers and micro-influencers versus macro-influencers.
- Fix the brand before you start spending money on marketing. Great branding can exceed great marketing.
Belief in Oneself
Throughout her remarkable journey, Courtney Adeleye holds one piece of advice above all others: “You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will.” Her unwavering self-belief has been the driving force behind her accomplishments, proving that with determination, innovation, and an unshakeable belief in one’s abilities, even the loftiest dreams can become reality.
As we celebrate the accomplishments of entrepreneurs during National Black Business Month, Courtney Adeleye’s story serves as an inspiring reminder that success knows no boundaries when passion, hard work, and self-belief lead the way.
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