Don’t be a jobseeker: Anzisha Prize fellows role model how you can create them for others


Watch the Anzisha Prize Pitch Competition as well as the Awards Gala live at

If you are living in Northern Africa and you are under the age of 25, you have a one in three chance of being unemployed. This, according to the International Labour Organisation’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends report for 2018, puts the youth unemployment rate of the region as the highest in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, your peers might have a better chance of being employed, but it won’t do them much good as 67% of young workers in this region earn such a pittance that they are classified as “working poor”.

These statistics are grim. They make the situation seem gloomy and dire for young jobseekers below the age of 25 on the African continent. There is, however, a way to flip the situation on its head: turn the highest potential jobseekers into high growth entrepreneurs.

In its eighth year, the Anzisha Prize and its accompanying fellowship does exactly that through what they call the #AnzishaEffect.

“The Anzisha Effect hopes to describe the world we want to see: thousands of very young – school and university age – high-potential Africans choosing entrepreneurship over other career options,” says Josh Adler, vice president of growth and entrepreneurship at African Leadership Academy (ALA). “It’s a call to arms for our most talented young people to create opportunities for themselves and others; to be the front line in the war against rampant unemployment.”

Creating opportunities

On 22 and 23 October 2018, the 20 finalists that have been chosen as Anzisha Fellows this year, will present their ventures and compete for the grand prize. The prize awards young entrepreneurs who have developed and implemented innovative solutions to social challenges or started successful businesses within their communities. This year the finalists were selected from a pool of over 600 applicants, from 13 countries.

The Mastercard Foundation has been ALA’s partner in building a globally recognised programme to inspire a new generation of young African entrepreneurs, and will have invested over US$10m in the Anzisha Prize programme by 2020.

The other statistics from the prize’s history are just as impressive. Since inception Anzisha has supported 82 high-potential entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 and 22. These entrepreneurs have collectively raised $1.6m in investment capital and $500,000 in grants. The businesses run by Anzisha Fellows have created 673 jobs. The 20 fellows that were just selected are expected to significantly add to these numbers in the years to come.

“We are one of the largest education non-profits in this space, but people often mistake us for merely a school,” Adler says of ALA, where he guides all the entrepreneurship programming at the academy. “We run many large education and access-to-opportunity programmes with partners like the Mastercard Foundation across the African continent from our base in Johannesburg.”

The demonstration effect as catalyst

The prize and fellowship has developed significantly over the years, ensuring that the programme remains relevant and impactful.

At the core of the partnership between ALA and the Mastercard Foundation is a belief in the power of the “demonstration effect” as an approach for large-scale attitude and behaviour change – the concept that observation of the actions of others and their consequences, can change the behaviour of individuals.

“The original idea for the Anzisha Prize was to celebrate innovation, and allow it to inspire further innovation in very young Africans,” says Adler. “Over time, with increased understanding of the jobs crisis for young people across the continent, we have shifted to finding and celebrating very, very young entrepreneurs – again with a demonstration effect approach.”

Currently, the main focus is to package and share their findings and the insights gleaned from the programme over the years.

“Two critical insights, for example, are around skills and support. The key skill we believe very young people need to develop in order to increase their likelihood of creating job-generating businesses, is learning how to build and lead teams. The second key insight is the role of parents – and they haven’t had an appropriate light shone on them. We are about to release a book for parents of very young entrepreneurs to start plugging this gap,” Adler says.

As part of the fellowship, the young entrepreneurs are armed with the tools they need to grow their businesses, attract investment, and are mentored by industry experts.

In the week leading up this year’s pitch event and gala award evening, ALA arranged for Andrew Mupuya, 2012’s Anzisha Prize winner, to mentor the next generation of fellows. At the age of 16, Mupuya founded his company, YELI, with only $14. Today, the business is a leading paper bag manufacturer in Uganda, exports 80% of production to other markets in East Africa, and employs 35 people.

“This is exactly the demonstration effect we hope for,” Adler says. “Young Africans must be able to dream of being as successful as Andrew, and equally see that it’s completely possible from where they are – just as it was for him. The glorification of international celebrity entrepreneurs in faraway places must end. People need role models far closer to home.”

The Anzisha Prize shines a light on the fact that African entrepreneurs need not become part of the statistics – they can rewrite them.

According to Adler: “The future is very bright for young African entrepreneurs who are willing to work hard enough to both seek the opportunities and take advantage of them. And there is support for those who are brave enough to try – from Anzisha and many other amazing organisations.”