Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH), a philanthropic program under the Jack Ma Foundation in Africa has announced the top 50 finalists for the 2021 ABH prize competition. These 50 African entrepreneurs are in the running to win a share of Ksh. 162 million ($1.5 million) in grant funding and will gain networking and learning opportunities throughout their ABH journey.

In the first round of shortlisting, judges were looking for visionary entrepreneurs who provided innovative and robust solutions to problems in their communities. They were focused on identifying passionate professionals that demonstrated an exceptional work ethic, financial sustainability and growth potential.

Jason Pau, Executive Director of International, Jack Ma Foundation noted, “In the face of incredibly difficult conditions over the past year, Africa’s entrepreneurs have shown incredible resilience and innovation. The top 50 of the 2021 ABH competition are a true testament to this, and we are excited to support these talented entrepreneurs as they continue to grow and generate positive impact.”

Sixteen countries are represented in the Top 50. They include Kenya, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Nigeria has the largest cohort with 12 in the Top 50. Women are also well-represented, making up 38% of the Top 50.

The competition has received diverse business applications, with sixteen different sectors represented. They include agriculture, beauty and wellness, construction, consulting, education, energy, environmental protection, financial services, F&B, healthcare, ICT, logistics, manufacturing, media & entertainment, retail and transportation.

In the next stage, the Top 50 entrepreneurs will participate in an ABH virtual boot camp to engage with and learn from business leaders as well as previous ABH winners. The boot camp will prepare them for the next round of interviews with the Round 2 judges, after which the Top 20 will be identified and announced in August.

The Top 10 will be announced in late September, before heading to the grand finale where they will pitch live to global business legends and secure their share of the Ksh. 162 million ($1.5 million) prize pool.