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Mastercard-backed prize opens applications for young African entrepreneurs

15 Feb 2021, 09:26 pm
Financial Nigeria
Mastercard-backed prize opens applications for young African entrepreneurs

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Young entrepreneurs have remained steadfast and have supported their communities through the global pandemic that has changed the world of work - Melissa Mbazo-Ekpenyong, Deputy Director of the Anzisha Prize.

The Anzisha Prize programme, a partnership between African Leadership Academy (ALA) and Mastercard Foundation, is calling for applications from innovative African entrepreneurs between ages 15 and 22. Entrepreneurs who apply for the 2021 Anzisha programme stand a chance to win a share of the $100,000 prize, according to a statement released on Monday.

Each year, 20 leading youth entrepreneurs are selected as Anzisha Prize Fellows. Over the last 10 years, 142 fellows in the programme have created more than 2,500 jobs. The Anzisha Prize is touted as Africa’s biggest award for young entrepreneurs.
The launch of the 11th annual Anzisha Prize is taking place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected many young entrepreneurs in Africa. In fact, young entrepreneurs are among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 crisis, according to a 2020 survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Meanwhile, youth unemployment rate in many countries on the continent has continued to rise.

Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, many young entrepreneurs are still creating opportunities and jobs for their communities. For instance, Alaa Moatamed, a 21-year-old Egyptian and the 2020 Anzisha Prize winner, was reportedly able to increase the revenue of her company Presto – an automated delivery system that connects vendors with customers and suppliers. She achieved this by providing delivery services to smaller businesses to cope with demand during the outbreak of COVID-19. The company currently employs 11 under-25 employees and plans on increasing that number.

22-year-old Madagascan, Matina Razafimahefa, the 2020 first runner-up, was hit by the pandemic as her business, Sayna – an education technology (edtech) venture school in Madagascar – experienced loss in revenue. However, the firm, which sources and trains highly equipped young Africans in industry-specific digital skills, was able to change its business model and pivot to online learning platforms, thereby boosting its growth. The company has since been able to train and place over 2,000 people in jobs across multiple African countries.

“The world of work has drastically changed as we experience a global pandemic. Young entrepreneurs have remained steadfast and have supported their communities through difficulties,” said Melissa Mbazo-Ekpenyong, Deputy Director of the Anzisha Prize. “We’re thrilled to celebrate the next 20 young business owners who are, no doubt, paramount to job creation on the continent.”

The winner of the Anzisha Prize receives $25,000, while the first and second runners-ups receive $15,000 and $12,500, respectively. ALA and Mastercard Foundation are encouraging young women to apply for the 2020 programme to access various offerings of the fellowship. Female Anzisha Fellows are urged to become role models for other young women who want to pursue entrepreneurship.

“To drive economic recovery on the continent, we have to tap into every available resource. That includes young entrepreneurs, including young women entrepreneurs,” said Daniel Hailu, Mastercard Foundation’s Regional Head for Eastern and Southern Africa. “Doing so takes intentionality. The Anzisha Prizes’ commitment to identifying and supporting very young entrepreneurs has only become more important in the wake of the pandemic.”

The statement by Anzisha Prize said the large African youth demographic could be the asset needed to transform the continent’s employment climate. The organisers of the programme said their objective is to fundamentally and significantly increase the number of job-generative entrepreneurs in Africa.

Amid the challenges caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, Hailu said the “creativity, agility and resourcefulness of young people has only become more valuable.”

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