The entrepreneurial landscape in Africa is thriving, offering startups opportunities for funding and increased visibility. Africa's Business Heroes plays a pivotal role in achieving this objective by identifying entrepreneurs and actively supporting their growth journey.

 Kigali recently hosted two days of intense competition among 20 African innovators at the Africa's Business Heroes (ABH) Semi-Finals. Three female-led startups stood out among the contest’s top 10 finalists, a significant achievement for gender diversity.

The three women are Bola Bardet (pictured) from Benin, Christina Gyisun from Ghana, and Nthabiseng Mosia from South Africa. They respectively operate in the healthcare, agriculture, and energy sectors.

Bola Bardet is the CEO and Co-Founder of Susu, a startup that revolutionizes healthcare by offering healthcare packages and insurance that diaspora Africans can finance for their relatives in three African countries - Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, and Gabon.

Christina Gyisun is the CEO and Co-Founder of Sommalife Limited. Her company empowers smallholder farmers in Ghana through advanced software technology, connecting them to global food and cosmetic manufacturers.

Meanwhile, Nthabiseng Mosia is the CMO and Co-Founder of Easy Solar, a startup that provides financing for high-quality solar systems and appliances to those without grid access, with flexible payment options. Mosia operates Easy Solar in Sierra Leone.

These women join other finalists from Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Africa, spanning diverse industries.

The top 10 finalists will compete for a share of $1.5 million at the ABH Grand Finale in Kigali in November. The winner gets $300,000, the first runner-up $250,000, and the second runner-up $150,000. The remaining seven finalists will each receive $100,000, with $100,000 for additional training programs.

Africa's Business Heroes (ABH) is the Jack Ma Foundation's program that aims to nurture African entrepreneurs. Launched in 2019, it identifies, trains, and provides grants to outstanding African entrepreneurs. Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba Group and the Jack Ma Foundation, created the initiative after witnessing Africa's entrepreneurial potential during his 2017 visit.

“At ABH, we have long recognized the potential of entrepreneurs as engines of economic and social growth. Now in the fifth year of the competition, we are encouraged to see that ABH has grown into a truly pan-African initiative that is positively impacting the continent’s entrepreneurship landscape,” said Zahra Baitie-Boateng, ABH head of partnerships and programs.

As the ABH Grand Finale approaches, the world eagerly awaits the impactful solutions and innovative visions these finalists will present, shaping a brighter, more inclusive African business landscape.

Hikmatu Bilali




Published in Public Management

The burgeoning youth population in Africa offers a promising market for startups to seize. However, these startups are faced with bottlenecks, including racial inequality, that hinder their progress. Several initiatives are being put in place to level the playing field.

Google for Startups has selected 25 African startups for its Black Founders Fund (BFF), addressing racial inequality in venture capital funding. The chosen startups, representing diverse entrepreneurship across the continent, will receive $4 million in funding and support to fuel their growth. This is the third cohort of the Founders Fund.

Each startup will receive up to $150,000 in cash awards, $200,000 in Google Cloud credits, advertising support, mentoring, and access to Google's network. Leveraging technology, these innovative startups aim to tackle Africa's challenges in healthcare, logistics, and fintech. For example, Tushop, a Kenyan startup, is revolutionizing retail through a group purchasing platform, while Herconomy -Nigeria’s first Fintech company for women -aims to establish Africa's first women-focused bank.

With Nigeria leading with 10 grantees, Kenya with 5, and South Africa with 3, the selected startups highlight the importance of women in Africa's startup ecosystem, as 72% of the chosen ventures are led or co-founded by women. Google has launched additional initiatives to empower women in technology, including the Hustle Academy and the Women Founders Cohort.

Through the Black Founders Fund and associated initiatives, Google for Startups aims to bridge the venture capital funding gap, nurture diverse entrepreneurship, and unlock Africa's immense potential. By supporting these visionary founders, Google seeks to stimulate economic growth, create job opportunities, and foster innovation that addresses the continent's unique challenges.

“In 2020, with less than 0.5% of global venture capital (VC) funding going to Black-led startups, Google announced the Black Founders Fund and has since deployed $20M in funding to founders across the US, Europe, Africa, and Brazil,” Google wrote in a statement issued on its website.

Hikmatu Bilali 

Here are the chosen startups:

  • Akoma Health (Nigeria): Tech platform for accessible, culturally conscious mental health services in Africa.
  • BezoMoney (Ghana):Digital banking for Africa's underbanked via mobile/web platforms.
  • Chargel (Senegal):Digital trucking platform connecting shippers/carriers in Francophone West Africa.
  • Charis UAS (Rwanda):Provides 3D geospatial data via drone technology.
  • Evolve Credit (Nigeria):SaaS for digitizing and managing banking services.
  • Excel At Uni (South Africa):Supports student funders via digital services.
  • EzyAgric (Uganda):AI-powered mobile technology to enhance Africa's farming sector.
  • Fez Delivery (Nigeria):Last-mile logistics platform for various industries.
  • Fleetsimplify (Kenya):Monetization platform connecting gig drivers & vehicle owners.
  • HealthDart (South Africa):Digital HMO providing end-to-end health services with insurance.
  • Herconomy (Nigeria):Female-focused fintech aiming to be Africa's first women's bank.
  • Jumba (Kenya):Improving Kenya's construction sector supply chain via B2B platform.
  • MDaaS Global (Nigeria):Tech-powered diagnostic centers for affordable healthcare.
  • My Pocket Counsel (Nigeria):Legal tech platform for contract generation and management.
  • Orda (Nigeria):Pan-African neobank for restaurants, offering cloud-based software.
  • Periculum (Nigeria):Data company aiding in credit assessment, fraud/churn risk.
  • Raenest (Nigeria):Fintech offering global financial services to freelancers/startups in Africa.
  • Ridelink (Uganda):E-logistics platform providing shipping and real-time tracking.
  • Susu (Côte d'Ivoire):Health platform providing healthcare services/insurance funded by the African diaspora.
  • Talamus Health (Ghana):Tech solutions targeting healthcare inefficiencies in Africa.
  • TruQ (Nigeria):Streamlining mid-mile logistics across Africa with third-party vehicle connectivity.
  • Tushop (Kenya):Tech platform for group buying of daily essentials in Kenya.
  • Uzapoint (Kenya):Mobile/web POS for digitizing bookkeeping in Africa's informal sector.
  • Zinacare (South Africa):Online platform for accessible, affordable healthcare services.
  • Zydii (Kenya):Localised digital training solutions for African SMEs.

Published in Public Management

On January 1, 2021, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) officially became operational. Recently, the Zone reached a new milestone by launching its payment solution.

The Pan African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) was officially launched in West Africa on 13 January 2022, in Accra, Ghana. The cross-border payment platform was developed by Afreximbank and successfully tested in Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Integrating a growing network of central banks, commercial banks, payment service providers, and other financial intermediaries, PAPSS will serve as the settlement interface for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The commercial launch marks a significant milestone in connecting African markets seamlessly. It will provide a fresh impetus for businesses to scale more easily across Africa and is likely to save the continent more than $5 billion in transaction costs every year,” said Mike Ogbalu III (pictured), the chief executive officer of the financial platform.

PAPSS will connect African markets, enabling instant cross-border payments in local African currencies. It can be used for purchases, money transfers, wage payments, stock and share trading, or major business transactions. No more transfer fees, SWIFT fees, and bank charges. No more worries about exchange rates.

For example, a user in Mali can buy goods in Ghana from an SME, pay in CFA francs and the seller will get the payment in cedis. This is how it works: After the Malian buyer issues a payment order in the local currency (CFA) to his affiliated financial institution, the latter submits the transaction to PAPSS, which then proceeds to the necessary validation checks. Next, the payment order is forwarded to the seller's financial institution that gets the payment done in the local currency.

PAPSS collaborates with African central banks to provide a payment and settlement service that commercial banks, payment service providers, and fintechs in Africa can connect to as "Participants."

With PAPSS, central banks can instantly process settlements, hence reducing their hard currency holdings. Compliance, legal, and sanction checks are performed instantly by the system which processes transactions within seconds, thereby dealing with delays that constitute a significant barrier to the growth of African e-commerce, services, and products.

To access PAPSS, banks and other financial institutions must register and meet some criteria. The platform features two types of participants: direct and indirect. “Direct Participants”, banks and other financial institutions, have a settlement account with the central bank of the country in which they operate and comply with all the financial and regulatory proficiency requirements of that central bank.

"Indirect Participants", also banks and other financial institutions, do not have a settlement account with the central bank of the country in which they operate. They may, however, enter into individual sponsorship arrangements with direct participants to facilitate the settlement of payment instructions.

Adoni Conrad Quenum

Published in Solutions

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