/ 22 December 2023

African Business Heroes Competition

ABH 2023 third prize winner Ayman Bazaraa, CEO of Sprints; first prize winner Dr Ikpeme Neto, CEO of Wellahealth; and second prize winner Thomas Njeru, CEO of Pula.

Fostering growth, job creation and development across the continent

The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) competition has emerged as a transformative platform that empowers entrepreneurs across the African continent. By providing a stage for innovative business ideas and solutions, the ABH competition plays a crucial role in fostering economic growth, job creation and overall development in Africa. 

In this article, we will explore the importance of the ABH competition, highlighting this year’s top three finalists and winner, as well as the inclusion of a South African entrepreneur in the top 10. Additionally, we will discuss how aspiring entrepreneurs can apply for the competition in the upcoming year.

The ABH Competition:

A catalyst for change:

The ABH competition serves as a catalyst for change by recognising and supporting African entrepreneurs who are driving innovation and creating positive impact in their communities. By providing a platform for these entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas, the competition helps to attract investment opportunities and raise awareness about the potential of African businesses.

Judges Dr Diane Karusisi and Joe Tsai with finalists Mohamed Ali, Theo Baloyi, Bola Bardet, Albert Munyabugingo and Ismael Belkhayat. Judge Ibukun Awosika is on the far right.

ABH is a philanthropic initiative sponsored by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy. It aims to support and inspire the next generation of African entrepreneurs across all sectors and build a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future of the continent. Over a 10-year period, ABH will recognise 100 African entrepreneurs and commit to allocating grant funding, training programmes and support for the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Every year since the first edition in 2019, entrepreneurs from across Africa apply for the competition and go through several rounds of rigorous evaluation conducted by ABH judges. The finalists are selected after demonstrating that they are visionary entrepreneurs who embody innovation, resilience, growth potential and impact on Africa. ABH aims to honour entrepreneurs who are not only building successful businesses but are also running mission-driven organisations that generate growth for their local communities.

The winners: Celebrating excellence:

The ABH competition crowned three deserving winners who exemplify the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation: Dr Ikpeme Neto from Nigeria; Thomas Njeru from Kenya and Ayman Bazaraa from Egypt. They were the first, second and third prize winners, respectively, of this year’s competition.

Dr Ikpeme Neto is the founder of WellaHealth, a Nigerian-based digital health insurance company. He won the African Business Heroes Prize and received $300 000 for helping to create more than 100 000 direct and indirect jobs. WellaHealth is designed to address the expensive traditionally bundled medical insurance model. Their plans cover common illnesses such as malaria, delivered through partnerships with pharmacies that dispense convenient tests and healthcare.

WellaHealth has created a technology-enabled network of over 2 000 health providers to solve the expensive problem of healthcare fragmentation and out-of-pocket payments. This network is digitally connected to over 27 insurance companies, leading banks, telcos and a network of sales agents to enable the efficient distribution of affordable healthcare services. From just $1 a month, patients can get high-quality care easily. 

Thomas Njeru is the CEO and Co-Founder of Pula Advisors Limited in Kenya. Pula is an agricultural insure-tech company that offers comprehensive coverage based on yield performance, protecting smallholder farmers against multiple perils, including drought, frost, floods, hurricanes, plant diseases and pests. It uses innovative technology to assess damages quickly and provides digital tools and agronomy advisory services to improve farming practices. 

It also leverages partnerships with governments, insurers and reinsurers and other distribution channels, creating linkages and synergies for better cooperation. Pula forms insurance consortiums for risk transfer to global markets and aims to enable all farmers in Africa to access insurance and achieve yields similar to those of developed economies, sustaining their livelihoods.

Ayman Bazaraa from Egypt launched Sprints to guarantee that young graduates are able to get decent jobs. The ed-tech company assesses the youth who register for its courses, provides them with a personalised learning path and supports them in their careers. Before Sprints, Bazaraa also co-founded Avelabs, a provider of integrated solutions and services for the automotive industry.

Sprints believes itself to be the only social enterprise that offers guaranteed hiring programs where graduates only pay upon successful hiring in 0% interest payments over three years. In four years, it has delivered more than 50 000 learning experiences, graduated more than 15 000 learners and delivered over 1.3 million learning hours in the 13 most demanded technology fields. 

South African representation

in the Top 10:

The ABH competition also celebrated the inclusion of a South African entrepreneur in the top 10 finalists, Theo Baloyi, an entrepreneur who started Bathu Shoes in 2015. Bathu is about fostering an environment that encourages breaking barriers in what is possible. It employs more than 400 people in 35 retail stores across the country. The Bathu Care initiative has distributed over 50 000 pairs of school shoes to local schools and ultimately aims to donate one million pairs of shoes to schools across the country over the next 10 years.

This recognition highlights the diversity and richness of entrepreneurial talent across the African continent, showcasing the potential for growth and success in various regions and sectors, including fashion.

Applying for the ABH competition:

For aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to participate in the ABH competition, the application process is straightforward. 

Application Overview

Eligibility Check: you’ll have to answer questions to check whether you meet all our criteria and upload proof of your eligibility.

Reference: you’ll be asked to provide the details for an individual who can provide a reference for you. A suitable individual includes: a mentor, friend, colleague, business partner, supplier etc. He/She will be asked to tell us why they believe you’re a good fit for the prize.

Founder Profile: answer questions about why you became an entrepreneur and your achievements.

Business Profile: answer questions about your business.

Business Deep Dive: answer questions about the problem your business is trying to solve, the solution, its competitiveness, market traction, your business model, and future plans.

Video Introductions: your opportunity to introduce a customer and why they choose your product/service.

Applicants also need to have the following documentation: a government-issued ID, a business licence or registration certificate, and proof that you have been operating your business for three years or more, such as bank statements in your company’s name and rental agreements. You have until May 2024 to submit your application. 

Thulani Pfende from the Mail & Guardian with two members of the audience at the ABH competition.


The ABH competition serves as a powerful platform that empowers African entrepreneurs, enabling them to showcase their innovative ideas and solutions. By recognising and rewarding their achievements, the competition attracts investment opportunities, raises awareness about African businesses, and contributes to economic growth and development. 

This year’s top three finalists, the winner and the inclusion of a South African entrepreneur in the top 10 exemplify the immense talent and potential that exists across the African continent. Aspiring entrepreneurs are encouraged to seize the opportunity and apply for the ABH competition in the upcoming year, as it offers a chance to gain mentorship, training and networking opportunities that can propel their businesses to new heights.

For more information, visit: https://africabusinessheroes.org/en/