The search of Africa’s top 10 business heroes

Dec 2, 2019 · 4 min read

Let’s start at the beginning

The Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) was created by Alibaba founder Jack Ma after his first trip to Africa in 2017. Mr Ma was inspired by the passion and the drive exhibited by the entrepreneurs he engaged in both Kenya and Rwanda. (

“I saw myself in these young African entrepreneurs in the early days, early days were so tough for me, nobody helped us, very few people thought about helping, so today am able to help, it would be an honor for me to do this, not because I gave the money but because it’s my honor.” Jack Ma

Jack launched ANPI ( a $10M Grant that looks to support 100 entrepreneurs over 10 years from 2019 to 2029 with a total of $1M shared among 10 entrepreneurs every year) during an event co-organized by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), whose Secretary-General, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi was also in attendance on the 8th of August 2019 in Johannesburg South Africa at Wiits University.

The launch of ANPI and Opening of Applications

We launched Africa Netpreneur prize on 27th March 2019 and began the call for applications for entrepreneurs across the continent encouraging both traditional and tech driven businesses to apply. We received over 10,000 applications from 50 countries across the continent. We closed applications on 30th June and began the review and judging process.

Judging process

For utmost transparency, the judging process was done in four levels by judges from all over the continent.

Level One

The level one judges helped us narrow down from over 10,000 applications that were received to the top 50 heroes. This entire process took about 3 weeks.

Level Two

The level 2 judges helped us narrow down to the top 20 heroes from 50. They did it in two processes; Online and Offline. In the online process, the judges went through the applications on the portal and gave their marks. This was later followed by a one on one call with the participants. The judges asked the participants questions to get a better understanding of their businesses.

Level Three

The top 20 entrepreneurs flew to Nailab to pitch to a panel of 7 judges. Each participant had 30 minutes to pitch. The goal was to narrow down to the top 10 entrepreneurs who would then pitch to Jack Ma and his panel of judges at the grand finale and compete for $1M in total prize money.

The grand finale

This pitching event was like no other. The participants had tough questions thrown at them. The judges gave the entrepreneurs terrific advice emphasising on the fact that entrepreneurship is all about creating value where people see no value.

“Sometimes as an entrepreneur you can see what nobody else can see. And sometimes what you want to do doesn’t exist. But you can see it enough to pursue it and fight for it.” Ibukun Awosika, Chairman First Bank of Nigeria Limited and a finale judge of ANPI 2019.

Temie Giwa-Tubosun, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of LifeBank, was named in the first place, taking home US$250,000 in prize money. Founded in 2016, the Lagos-based startup offers an online platform that connects hospitals with blood banks, and blood banks with donors. Having until now used motorcycles, LifeBank announced at the event it had now added drones as a delivery option on its platform.

Second place went to Dr Omar Sakr, founder and CEO of research platform Nawah-Scientific, who took home US$150,000, while third place went to Christelle Kwizera, founder of Water Access Rwanda, who secured US$100,000.

The remaining finalists, each receiving US$65,000, were Mumm (Egypt), Thrive Agric (Nigeria), J-Palm (Liberia), UZURI K&Y (Rwanda), Black Swan (Nigeria), DrugStoc (Nigeria), and Afrikrea (Ivory Coast).

See all the top 50 heroes from across the continent.


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Nailab is an accelerator that offers a “Launch out” program for entrepreneurs and “Launch in” program for those seeking employability.

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