Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Truly this year’s Anzisha prize winners took that to heart. The young achievers are making waves in their countries striving towards a better future for themselves, their peers and their progeny.
At a prestigious invitation-only ceremony on Tuesday, November 17th 2015 at Room Fivein Rivonia, Johannesburg, a critical decision was made. Who among the many promising contestants would grab the$75,000 worth of prizes?
Inspire Afrika caught up with the top 3 winners. These were Mabel Suglowho who was second runners up, Fabrice Alomo who was first runners up and the man of the night Chris Kwekowe who won first place.
Mabel Suglo is the 21-year-old brain behind EchoShoes, a start-up in Ghana, Kumasi. EchoShoes is a social enterprise that empowers people with disabilities with the skills to manufacture quality shoes from recycled materials. She thought it up when it dawned on her and her colleagues that hundreds of artisans with disabilities struggle to make ends meet. Furthermore, there is also the problem of thousands of discarded tire stockpiles in Ghana which pose an environmental and health hazard trapping rain water which provides a breeding point for mosquitoes that spread malaria. This project all stems from her desire for an Africa that has opportunities for its people to prosper, an Africa that competes fairly in trade.
“I want to see an Africa with young people that are focused and hardworking who will rise up and take up the responsibility. A new Africa and Ghana where young people will accept and honour people with disabilities and view them equally in all levels of education, health, employment, and all walks of life,”says Mabel.
Mabel applied for the Anzisha prize with a positive attitude. “Well every soldier goes to the war front with positive attitude and with the mindset of bringing victory home,” she says. She indeed brought victory to her friends and family who encourage and motivate her. She had over 2000 votes and bagged $12, 500.
Fabrice is from Cameroon. He is 22 years old but was 21 when he applied. He is the co-founder of MyAConnect which is, as he describes it, “The African Google”. He thought up the concept when he had great trouble finding a prescribed medicine for his ill mother. He therefore formed MyAConnect as a sort of online market that can be accessed with simple devices such as smartphones. “Today in Cameroon, more than 74% of the population (around 17 million), does not have access to formal financial services. Across the continent, it spirals to about 700 million people. This creates inequality, poverty and financial exclusion leading to social exclusion and frustration. However, in Cameroon there are more than 17 million phone users, and across Africa more than 650 million featured phone users. Something needs to be done.”
He has been working for three years now with his co-founder NgwainYeseh who is his main support. The business is based in both Yaounde, the capital city, and Douala. Alomo’s motives for applying were noble. He says, “I did not think I would win, my main objective was to share and learn during the week from the finalists, the ALA staff, the students of the ALA, and the mentors.” Despite this, he still came out with $15,000.
Chris Kwekowe, the winner of the Anzisha Prize 2015, is a 22-year-old Nigerian entrepreneur and founder of Slatecube. Slatecube is an internet platform based in Lagos that helps job seekers develop industry-relevant skills, gain work experience, and land well-paying jobs through world-class up-skilling courses and virtual/onsite internships. At the same time, it also helps start-ups find and recruit professionals at much more cost effective prices. He formulated the idea when he realized that while there are so many graduates across Africa, only a few really had the skills to work productively for companies, or even start their own businesses. This not Kwekowe’s first business, however. He initially was part of Microbold that he cofounded with his younger brother EbubeKwekowe.
Chris applied for the Anzisha Prize but was also nominated by a friend. He was inspired by the other finalists and their work in their respective countries. He took home $25,000. “I’m churning 100% of the money into the business. That’s what it was given for. We’re looking to cover more disciplines with focus on Tech, Corporate Finance, Business Management, Entrepreneurship, and Data Science.”
Visit the Anzisha Prize website to find out more about the finalists and how to apply for the award. This year we had some amazing winners who are all university students with big plans for a better, bigger and stronger Africa. What’s your contribution? In Chris Kwekowe’s words, “Don’t allow conventional and limited stereotypes deter you from thinking BIG. Remember, the person that has the most to do with what happens to you is YOU!”