The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH), is one programmes that show promise in helping overcome these challenges and propel the continent to greater heights.
ABH Prize Competition, sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy, is a philanthropic initiative aimed at supporting and inspiring the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors. The goal is to build a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future of the continent.
Over a 10-year period, ABH plans to recognize 100 African entrepreneurs and provide them with grant funding, training programs, and support for ecosystem development.
Each year, the ABH Prize Competition and show feature 10 finalists who pitch their businesses to win a share of US$1.5 million in grant money.
Since its inception in 2019, Rwanda has been actively participating in ABH, and the country has greatly benefited from the program. Four entrepreneurs from Rwanda have emerged among the top 10 winners in 2019, 2021, and 2022, respectively. In total, Rwanda has received over US$385,000 (equivalent to over 406 million Rwandan Francs) in grant funding.
To provide seamless support to the program’s beneficiaries, ABH established its first physical African office in Rwanda in October 2022. The office, located at the Norrsken House in Kigali, aims to streamline operations and enhance the impact of the program in the region.
During an exclusive interview with IGIHE on the sidelines of GITEX Africa Summit held in Morocco from May 31st to June 2nd, 2023; Michael Mang, the Project Director of ABH shed light on the prospects for the local office, its impact, and why Rwanda was selected as a host among other related topics.
1. Africa Business Heroes recently established its first physical office on the African continent in Kigali. Why did you choose Rwanda as a host?
Choosing Rwanda as the location for our representative office was based on several factors. Firstly, Rwanda offers a stable business environment and presents numerous potential business opportunities.
Secondly, we have a valuable partnership with the African Leadership University (ALU), and by establishing an office in Rwanda, we can work closely with them as a team.
Lastly, Rwanda is known as a hub for entrepreneurship, making it an ideal base for us to connect with the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
We strategically chose to be based at Norrsken House in Kigali, which houses one of the largest entrepreneur incubators and co-working spaces on the continent, further enhancing our access to the ecosystem.
2. Since the office’s opening, what has been the contribution of the local office in Rwanda?
The local office in Rwanda has been really helpful. We decided to open an office here to engage with the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem and be accessible to entrepreneurs who seek our support.
Additionally, we had the opportunity to hire local talents who have brought significant value to our program. As a result, we have witnessed tremendous growth in terms of results and progress.
3. What kind of support do you extend to entrepreneurs in Rwanda and the region?
We offer support to entrepreneurs in various ways. As our program expands and we gain more experience, we have developed a keen understanding of their pain points.
We provide assistance with various aspects, such as filling out application forms, navigating the competition process, and addressing any support they require.
To facilitate effective communication, we have a dedicated customer service team in Rwanda that can assist entrepreneurs in both French and English. Our aim is to ensure a positive experience for them and help them gain better insights into their own businesses.
Moreover, entrepreneurs benefit from receiving advice from our judges and connecting with a larger entrepreneurial community.
4. Do you consider increasing the existing financial assistance you provide?
We appreciate your question but this is something we need to further evaluate. Currently, we observe that participants in our competitions are motivated not solely by monetary rewards.
While financial support is a part of the incentive and value they perceive, they also value the media exposure and connections they can establish.
Entrepreneurship can often be a lonely journey, but connecting with fellow entrepreneurs who share similar experiences is invaluable for business growth.
Therefore, when considering support, we will take a holistic approach to identify the types of assistance we can provide beyond financial resources.
5. What can we expect from the ABH local office in the next five years?
Over the next five years, we envision a stable and continuously growing team focused on three key areas.
Firstly, we aim to further enhance our competition, creating a captivating show that reaches an even broader audience.
Secondly, we seek to foster an engaged and beneficial community for our members.
Lastly, we aspire to witness the growth of individuals, the team, and the businesses we support as they come together for collective success.
6. How do you support entrepreneurs to embrace technology?
As you may be aware, our competition is highly inclusive and attracts a diverse range of grassroots entrepreneurs, whom we deeply value and recognize.
By looking at the achievements of the past heroes, including the top 10 and top 20 from the last four years, you can witness the remarkable diversity and wide variety of their projects.
Technology plays a crucial role in empowering entrepreneurs to seize market opportunities and deliver superior products and services to their target audiences.
Therefore, we actively encourage entrepreneurs to embrace technology, as it is instrumental in propelling their businesses to great heights.
However, we also believe in promoting a balanced approach by encouraging entrepreneurs to explore traditional methods and grassroots initiatives that can positively transform people’s lives and make a lasting impact.
7. What message do you have for Rwandans and the regional population?
Rwanda holds a significant advantage as a hub on the continent, particularly in East Africa. The government’s substantial support for entrepreneurship is commendable.
We encourage Rwandan entrepreneurs to actively participate in events, explore networking opportunities, and apply for competitions like ours.
It is also essential for them to reach out beyond their own region, both within Africa and internationally, to learn from others and gain exposure to different market dynamics.
While Rwanda offers an excellent market, there is vast potential to explore and tap into larger markets by embracing new experiences.