How Are “Africa’s Business Heroes” Reshaping Entrepreneurship on the Continent?

Published 2 years ago
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Now in its fourth year, the “Africa’s Business Heroes” (ABH) grant spotlights the most talented entrepreneurs and small businesses from across the continent. We look at some of the recent successes of the ABH heroes and how they are reshaping entrepreneurship in Africa. 

Entrepreneurship in Africa is booming. There is enormous potential for small businesses and entrepreneurs to become a transformative force in powering both local impact and economic growth. At the Jack Ma Foundation, we believe that the future will be built by entrepreneurs. That is why, four years ago, we launched the Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition to spotlight and support talented entrepreneurs across Africa.  

Each year, 10 “heroes” win a share of a $1.5 million grant and gain access to unparalleled mentoring, networking, and training opportunities. Through their ventures, these outstanding entrepreneurs are generating positive impact for their communities. As we launch our fourth competition, we’d like to reflect on the achievements of our Heroes thus far. Collectively, our Heroes have created over 2,000 jobs and raised over $10 million USD. They’ve launched new products and services, expanded geographically and highlighted the transformative power of entrepreneurship. 


We highlight some of their recent success and get a glimpse into how they are building a better, more inclusive future.  

Ayodeji Arikawe (ABH Top 10 finalist, 2019) 
Co-Founder and CEO, Thrive Agric  

Software engineer Ayodeji Arikawe serves as both co-founder and CEO for Thrive Agric, and since receiving the ABH Grant, the company has grown its revenue 10x, created over 2,000 jobs and expanded to three states in Nigeria.  

Thrive Agric’s vision is to build the largest network of farmers on the continent aimed at creating “an Africa that feeds the world itself”. This agricultural technology-enabled company works with smallholder farmers to empower them with greater access to finance, as well as improve their income and harvest distribution.  


During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Thrive Agric navigated a turbulent season as lockdowns and the lack of movement significantly impacted the agricultural sector and the company’s ability to pay retail investors. Ayo and his team not only survived the challenges they faced but they’ve burgeoned since then. They’ve pivoted from a crowdfunding retail investor model to focus on institutional investors and are expanding their range of farmer-centric solutions.  

Their adaptability and innovation have not gone unnoticed. In 2021, they’ve received a $1.75 million co-investment grant from the USAID funded West Africa Trade & Investment Hub (Trade Hub) to serve an additional 50,000 farmers. And this year, Thrive Agric also raised $56.4million to accelerate its pan-African expansion plans.  

Ayo is an example of the values that we at ABH look for: resilience, innovation and integrity.  

Christelle Kwizera (ABH 3rd place winner, 2019) 
Founder, Water Access Rwanda  


With her company Water Access Rwanda (WAR), Christelle Kwizera has developed a sustainable way to provide communities across Africa with safe piped water. In 10 years, she aims to service 30 million and create over 13,000 jobs.  

To date and since being named the 3rd place winner of the inaugural ABH prize competition, she has received funding of $880,000, created more than 1,700 temporary jobs and grown to 86 full time staff. She has also been recognized by several prestigious international awards. She won the 2020 Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award for her work, and received $250,000 for Water Access Rwanda.  

Beyond this, Water Access Rwanda has expanded its range of services to include, a rain-to-tap product that helps households reduce their water bills by harvesting and using their own rain water, which results in reduced floodings in the city. The company is now mass-marketing with the aim to take WAR’s services directly to households across Rwanda and eventually the rest of Africa.  

Moulaye Taboure (ABH Top 10 Finalist, 2019) 
Co-Founder & CEO, Afrikrea and ANKA  
Cote D’Ivoire 


Moulaye Taboure founded the Afrikrea platform as a marketplace with thousands of vendors selling African-inspired fashion, accessories, arts and handicrafts. Afrikrea has connected more than 7,000 sellers from 47 African countries with buyers from 170 countries around the world.  

Since being named as a top 10 finalist in 2019, Afrikrea has created 100 indirect jobs, grown its revenue 5x, and become the biggest African exporter of e-commerce with DHL.  

Inspired in part by advice from Jack Ma at the 2019 ABH Grand Finale, Moulaye pivoted Afrikrea’s model from a pure marketplace/platform towards a SaaS fulfilment platform and launched Anka in 2021. Anka is an on-demand software solution that will provide merchants with e-commerce, payment and logistics services. It raised a $6.2 million pre-Series A round with the launch.  

Like his fellow Heroes, Moulaye exhibits both innovation and courage to embrace and create change.  


Chebet Lesan (ABH Winner, 2020) 
Founder & CEO, BrightGreen Renewable Energy  

Chebet Lesan was named the ABH winner in 2020. Her company, Bright Green Energy, produces life-saving fuel bricks that provide energy for businesses and homes and reduce the cost of cooking for underserved communities across Africa. Its mission is to save lives and save forests.  

Winning first prize at ABH allowed Bright Green to increase its sales revenue by 35% and production output by 150%. In 2021, Lesan was celebrated along with four other global business leaders by Rekyjavik Global Forum as part of the Leading Edge Initiative. She has also grown the business to great success – increasing sales revenue by 35%, raising production output by 150%, and created 12 direct jobs.  

Ethel Mupambwa (ABH 3rd Prize Winner, 2020) 
Founder & CEO, Moneymart 


Moneymart is a Zimbawean based microfinance institution that offers tailor-made business loans to MSMEs and individuals who live off the power grid to access quality solar-lighting-kits. Ethel Mupambwa co-leads the company and has more than 10 years of experience in finance. She’s since completed her PhD and is a Chartered Financial Analyst.  

Her third prize win in 2020 has allowed her to add 4 branches across Zimbabwe, grow her loan book by 2x, and distribute more than 1,700 solar home systems. Moneymart was also recognized as Medium Enterprise of the Year from the SME Association of Zimbabwe.  

Khadija Mohamed Elbedweihy (ABH Winner, 2021) 
Co-founder & CEO, PraxiLabs  

Khadija Mohamed Elbedweihy founded and is currently managing PraxiLabs, a platform that provides interactive and immersive online science labs for students. Its aim is to increase practice and allow for experiments that would normally be hampered by safety, time or funding constraints.  

Since receiving the ABH grant, PraxiLabs has been able to double its team, and increased its partnership network in 6 new countries. It will also soon integrate with its sister company “Qorrect” to provide total assessment solutions and has signed an MOU with Liberia’s National Commission on Higher Education.   

Ikenna Nzewi (ABH 2nd Prize Winner, 2021) 
Co-Founder & CEO, Releaf 

Ikenna Nzewi is the co-founder and CEO of Releaf, an agriculture technology company that develops hardware and software solutions to drive industrialisation of food processing in Africa.  

After being named the 2nd prize winner of the 2021 competition, he has raised $4.2 million in seed funding and grants, partnered with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to improve growth and sustainability in oil palm production, and participated in the UN World Food Program’s Zero Hunger Sprint Innovation Accelerator.   


We couldn’t be prouder of our Heroes and the important work that they are doing creating inclusive and sustainable economies. We look forward to their continued progress and to the new Heroes who will join our growing Africa’s Business Heroes community and access the range of benefits we aim to make available to the entrepreneurs in our network.  

To become a part of the ABH Community, we welcome entrepreneurs from all 54 African countries across every sector, age group, and gender to apply for the fourth annual ABH prize competition, which is open until June 6, 2022. We also welcome mentors, seasoned business professionals and investors to become judges to help us identify the next set of Africa’s Business Heroes! 

It’s African Time!  

By Zahra Baitie-Boateng
Head of Partnerships & Program, Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition

DISCLAIMER: Brand Voice is a paid program. Articles appearing in this section have been commercially supported.