After about 10,000 applicants made entries to the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI) when the application was opened in March, the list has now been trimmed to 20 semi-finalist entrepreneurs after thorough interviews.
The semi-finalists are undergoing further interviews and evaluations in order to pick the final 10 who will battle out for the top prize in Ghana in November.
“Out of the 20, ten will be picked to pitch to Jack Ma and seven celebrity judges in Accra, Ghana in November. The semi-finalists were vetted by a panel which included Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Fatoumata Ba, Fred Swaniker, Hasan Haider, Marième Diop, Peter Orth, and René Parker. Jason Pau also stated that the final will happen as a TV show dubbed ‘Africa Business Heroes,” said Jason Pau, senior adviser for International Programs at Jack Ma Foundation. He was speaking during further vetting of the 20- semi-finalists at Nailab in Nairobi
The overall Netpreneur winner will get a grant prize of $250,000 (Sh25.9m), while the second place and third receive $150,000 (Sh15.5m) and $100,000 (Sh10.3m) respectively.
These are among the largest financial prizes offered to African entrepreneurs and the other finalists will also receive financial grants. The foundation has also made it clear that these will be grants and not loans.
The initiative was born after Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, visited Africa in 2017 as a UN special advisor for youth entrepreneurship and small business. After seeing the ideas Africans had and their commitment to changing the continent, he decided to start the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), through the Jack Ma Foundation in order to support the continent’s start-ups.
The foundation plans to host the pitch competition in Africa for the next ten years where ten finalists from across the continent will compete for Sh103 million ($1 million) in total prize money every year. The initiative, which is a first for the foundation outside Africa, is a personal commitment by Jack Ma as he wants to assist African entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions that will make a difference on the continent.
“Africa Netpreneur Prize is about looking for heroes. We are looking to shine the spotlight on existing African entrepreneurs whether they are in the traditional sector or tech sector or men or women who come from any of the 54 countries that are part of this continent,” Jason Pau said.
Mr Ma plans to continue with the initiative even after he steps down as executive chairman of Alibaba Group before the year ends.