The top 12 finalists have been announced for the 2014 Anzisha Prize. The competition recognises and celebrates African entrepreneurs between the ages of 15 and 22 who are using business to solve problems in their communities. The top three winners will be announced on 23 September, and will win a share of the US$75,000 prize money.
Here is why these 12 young innovators deserve to be in the running.
Sam Kodo, 22, Togo – developing low-cost computers
Togolese Sam Kodo is the founder of LC-COM (Low-Cost Computer)/Infinite Loop, a company that produces low-cost personal computers for students. The miniature computers can fit into a pocket and plug into TVs or touchscreens to turn it into an internet enabled desktop PC. They are sold for a fraction of the price of other PCs in the market, and cost about half the amount to produce. The company employs six people and has sold 45 computers in Togo since February.
Kodo created his first robot at the age of eight, and by 19 he caught the attention of the international media for his robots which could interact with humans, recognise faces and objects, speak, execute orders and even play football! A few years ago Kodo also created his first smartphone.
Jeffrey Mulaudzi, 22, South Africa – conducting lifestyle tours in a Johannesburg township
During the height of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, 18-year-old Jeffrey Mulaudzi saw an opportunity to provide bicycle tours of Alexandra, a Johannesburg township, the place where he was born and raised. He founded Mulaudzi Bicycle Tours, a lifestyle tour of Alexandra that also engages members of the community by telling their stories and enveloping them into the business.
Many of his customers are tourists who want to experience township life, and Mulaudzi says his tours immediately create business for other entrepreneurs in the community.
Today his tours are growing in popularity, and TripAdvisor currently ranks them in the top five activities in Johannesburg.
Benedict Mundele, 20, DRC – promoting healthy eating with tropical food business
Benedict Mundele is the owner of Surprise Tropicale, an organic local produce canteen to promote a healthy lifestyle in her community in Kinshasa. The idea came to her when she was 16 and in high school, and she started by offering breakfasts to members of the Kuvuna Foundation, a youth skills empowerment and leadership organisation.
Today, Surprise Tropicale is growing, and Mundele has plans to start processing her food products and supplying the local supermarkets.
Mundele has also been named one of the promising young World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Shapers and was selected to attend the WEF on Africa, held in Nigeria, this year.
Gabriel Kombassere, 17, Côte d’Ivoire – feeding families via a farming association
Ivorian Gabriel Kombassere works with fellow students to run Ribla Neda, a farming association that produces maize and cassava to feed its members and their families. His inspiration came from the determination to make a difference in his poverty-stricken community and eradicate starvation.
Kombassere formed the farming association when he managed to acquire a piece of land from an uncle to grow maize and cassava. Members pay a small contribution to cover basic expenses and are direct beneficiaries of the produce. Today Ribla Neda has grown to 30 members, and four student employees. His goal is to purchase more land for the association, and modernise the agricultural process. He also aims to start processing maize into flour and start a chicken farm.
Nteff Alain, 22, Cameroon – providing antenatal and newborn health information
Last year Nteff Alain co-founded the GiftedMom project, an e-content platform for pregnant women to combat the high mother and infancy deaths in under-serviced communities in Cameroon.
The project makes use of low-cost technology to provide women with vital information concerning pregnancy and newborn health. Within the first five months of launching, over 100 women had already subscribed for weekly informative updates and reminders concerning antenatal care and vaccination programmes. Today GiftedMom is growing fast and has seen a 20% increase in antenatal attendance for pregnant women in the Mankon community. The project has also expanded to five surrounding communities.
Winifred Selby, 19, Ghana – making bicycles from bamboo
When Winifred Selby was just 15 years old, she co-founded Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, which manufactures affordable, multi-purpose bikes out of bamboo.
With an abundance of bamboo forests in the country, the initiative trains members of the community to convert bamboo into shock-resistant bicycles to address transportation and employment needs in rural areas. The company has also found a large export market.
Selby has been recognised as a 2014 Set Africa Fellow and WEF Global Shaper, and Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative has received a number of international accolades.