The ABH Prize Competition held for the fourth consecutive time this year, is a philanthropic initiative sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy.
The 10 entrepreneurs were selected from over 21,000 applications across all 54 African nations after six months’ rigorous evaluation by over 230 judges.
They hail from eight African countries including Cameron, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa and Tanzania. Their start-ups have been drawn from a wide variety of industries including agriculture, consulting, energy, environmental protection, healthcare, information & communication technology (ICT), and retail.
These outstanding entrepreneurs share a common trait of having a deep commitment to creating a positive impact on their communities, such as empowering disadvantaged groups, increasing access to digital commerce for businesses in Africa and leveraging technology to improve agricultural efficiency for small-holder farmers.
All finalists won a share of the competition’s US$1.5 million grant. Elia Timotheo, Founder and CEO of East Africa Fruits Co. emerged the overall winner and walked away with US$300,000.
Tesh Mbaabu, Co-Founder and CEO of Marketforce Technologies (Kenya) and Nadia Gamal El Din, Founder and CEO of Rahet Bally (Egypt) won the second and third place respectively and received a prize share of US$250,000 and US$150,000.
Each of the finalists other than the top three received US$100,000 in prize funding, and an additional US$10,000 will be allocated to each of the top ten finalists for immersive training program(s) and community gathering activities.
The remaining seven entrepreneurs include Cameroonian Flavien Kouatcha Simo, Managing Partner of Save Our Agriculture Sarl; Egyptian Amena Elsaie, Co-Founder of Helm Consulting; Ethiopian Amadou Daffe, CEO/Co-Founder of Gebeya Inc. Addis Ababa; Ghanaian Prince Agbata, Co-founder and CEO of Coliba Waste Management Services Limited; South African Shona Mcdonald, Founder and Executive Director of Shonaquip Social Enterprise; South African Elmarie Pereira, Chief Operations Executive, Co- Founder & Acting CEO of Memeza Shout (PTY) Ltd and Rwandan Francine Munyaneza, Founder of MUNYAX ECO.
Rwanda has been participating in ABH each year since its inception in 2019 and has highly benefited as 4 entrepreneurs from Rwanda have so far emerged among top 10 winners for the year 2019, 2021 and 2022 respectively. Overall, to date, Rwanda has won a total grant of over US$385,000 (equivalent to over 406 million Rwandan Francs).
IGIHE has sat with Rwandan Munyaneza to tell us more about what this continent-wide competition has been like, how she made it to the top, her innovation which is solving a major continental problem in the energy sector and what her win means to her business.
She also shared the key lessons Rwandan and African entrepreneurs can learn from the ABH initiative and how she plans to spend the grant.
1. Kindly tell us briefly about your project?
Francine Munyaneza: My projects are diverse and I can’t talk about them without mentioning MUNYAX ECO because this is where all are being implemented!
So, MUNYAX ECO is a promising company specialized in solar energy where we provide affordable green energy solutions such us: PV systems, SWH, SSL, SHS, Solar pumping, Solar cold chains (freezers & cold room), plus energy consultancy services (like energy auditing) while fostering women empowerment and leadership.
Our slogan is: Save Energy, Save Money, Save the Planet!
2. Which lessons have you learnt from participation in the Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition?
The first lesson I have learnt from the Africa’s Business Heroes prize competition is that technology holds the future. Whatever solution you are providing, for you to be competitive, your project needs to be very scalable. It has to be adapted to this century’s dynamicity and lifestyle.
Another lesson is that African entrepreneurs are doing great works in their respective fields, some of them are widely known and others only locally known due to limited financial means, but still the brains are sharp with strong desire to contribute to the overall development of our continent.
3. To what efforts do you attribute the selection among top ten winners of the 2022 Africa’s Business Heroes Prize Competition?
- To personal determination and desire to contribute on the development of my country & Africa in general,
- To the clear vision; business model; and impact of the company,
- To Team work spirit (strong, experienced, enthusiast, and dedicated team members _ board members, employees, and business partners)
- The correct and sincere explanation of my business during preliminary selections (pitches)_presentation skills,
4. Your company targets to solve Rwanda’s energy challenges in rural and urban areas by providing solar equipment made and tested in Africa. What are your long-term goals and how far have you gone with attaining the same?
My long-term goals to this matter lay within other big and exciting projects in pipeline!
- MUNYAX ECO is planning to extend its activities in Africa.
- I have an ambitious project of starting a manufacturing firm starting with Solar Water Heater (SWH) Systems. This project is going to include the existing recycling department (we currently make furniture and building materials from old/defected products). This will reduce importation expenses (shipment & clearance cost, waiting time, other risks) to enhance the affordability of our products.
- The Second project is about opening a gender sensitive training centre. This project will train skillful employees to the previous one!
Where we are on this point: There is no time MUNYAX Eco has been operating without interns/apprentice. We always offer to the youth (especially young women) apprenticeships and internships opportunities to sharpen their practical skills.
5. What has been the impact of your project to the community, particularly, Rwandans?
I might have mentioned some of the impacts briefly, let me elaborate!
- Munyax eco is contributing to the achievement of most of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- More households (Rwandan) are getting access to clean and affordable energy solutions _SDG 7,
- Job creation (income generating of course to reduce poverty) and most of the employees are Rwandans part of the community _ I must highlight that for new job or field activities which do not require special skills, we always employ locals (many cases on cold room and SHS), _SDG 1 and 8,
- Gender inclusion though women empowerment (those are Rwandan women, who are basic foundation of the community) _SDG 5
- Contribution in quality education (Munyax Eco has provided lighting and SWH to different schools (eg: Juru Primary school, Kibihekane TVET, St.Joseph Nyamirambo, etc _SDG 4
- By providing PV system, SWH, and filtered drinking water to 2 health centres (Gahanga and Gitarama), we contributed to both _SDG 3, most of the patients and employees at those health centres lives in nearby community.
- Our solar pumping solution contribute to agriculture productivity to beat hunger when it’s done for irrigation _SDG 2, and contribute to the supply of safe drinking water where water is being pumped from wheel and filtered for consumption _SDG 6 (partenering also with Water Access’ kiosks in Rwanda).
- Our partnership with Solaris Kit, IPRC and SOS Rwanda is also providing skills to young Rwandans as we already have 4 interns from both last institutions _SDG 17,
- Reduced Co2 emission (5000 tons per yesr) by providing environmentally
- friendly energy solutions which is a contribution to climate action _SDG 13.
6. What can other entrepreneurs especially Rwandans learn from your project?
- I would advise other Rwandan entrepreneurs to believe in themselves first.
- Align your business with local and global agenda/policies,
- Always remember why they started their ventures and let the purpose drive them,
- Stay updated, information is the key!
- Think out of the box, look beyond their current struggles, take risks worth taking.
- You must have a qualified team & constantly give them opportunity to grow (eg: trainings)
- Learn from others (advanced business advisors or fellow business owners),
- Build partnerships that would add value or expand your business (In innovation, scalability or technology)
7. How do you intend to spend the ABH prize share to make Munyax Eco more meaningful to communities surrounding your operations?
The ABH prize share is mainly going to be used in cold chain technology, and we believe to become a success given the fact that we provide solar cold rooms and solar freezers on reasonable lease agreement.
New cold rooms will create new job opportunities for locals during construction and operation later, local farmers will benefit by storing they production while waiting for buyers which reduce post-harvest losses.
8. What message do you have for budding and existing entrepreneurs across Rwanda and in the region who have not yet participated in this competition?
I would tell them that knocking on a door doesn’t cost anything but if you don’t do it, you may never get in!
ABH is a big and powerful competition for African entrepreneurs. There is no condition about business stage; age limit; gender or any other thing. The most important thing is your business model, it’s scalability and impact.
Please try your chance, follow ABH website to get updates regarding next competitions.
You never know how life-changing this competition can be, a break through window that lead you to an open platform where growth opportunities are shared amongst those who manage to make it to the top 10 finals, living alone the prize.
It’s possible. If I did it, If Munyax did it, you can do it too!