The search was initiated to demonstrate the positive role that women are playing in helping drive growth, create employment and prepare the region for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Of the hundreds of entries received during the search, judges were able to manage the unenviable task of selecting only six laureates.
Under the search criteria, all companies considered are to be less than three years old, with at least one year of revenue and innovative technology or business model operation.
The winners have been invited to the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017, which is taking place in Durban, South Africa this week, to contribute to discussions – and generating action plans – that boost entrepreneurship in Africa.
The selected entrepreneurs are:
- Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja, Fresh Direct Nigeria (Nigeria): Fresh Direct Nigeria has pioneered stackable container farms – helping urban populations gain access to high-quality produce, reduce stress on land use and reduce the need to import vegetables. The company says its organic urban farms use less water and land than conventional farming while producing a 15 times-higher yield.
- Temie Giwa-Tubosun, LifeBank (Nigeria): LifeBank is deploying the latest in digital supply chain thinking to deliver blood and other high-value medical products to hospitals and health centres using predictive modelling to ensure health workers get the life-saving inputs they need before they even arrive at hospital. Launched in January 2016, LifeBank plans a rapid expansion into major cities across Africa.
- Esther Karwera, Akorion (Uganda): Akorion has developed software that integrates smallholder farmers into digital value chains, helping them sell directly to agribusinesses. Since launching in 2015, it has developed a network of 42,000 farmers in Uganda. The company’s growth is supported by a network of village-based service providers – mainly young people, helping to address youth unemployment challenges in rural areas.
- Darlene Menzies, FinFind (South Africa): FinFind aims to remove a major bottleneck to Africa’s growth: helping SMEs and start-ups secure financing. By explaining and aggregating all sources of SME finance, the company has been able to improve entrepreneurs’ access to vital capital and help lenders identify a pipeline of quality loan leads.
- Aisha Pandor, SweepSouth (South Africa): SweepSouth has created employment opportunities for 3,000 domestic cleaners since it was founded in June 2014. The Cape Town-based business, which is backed by Silicon Valley venture capital, employs sophisticated algorithms to match its customers and “SweepStars”, creating flexible working opportunities and helping elevate the status of cleaners in South African society.
- Charity Wanjiku, Strauss Energy Ltd. (Kenya): Strauss Energy’s proprietary solar roofing tiles are able to undercut conventional solar tiles by 30%. Having started with the domestic market, the company is looking to scale up the technology and recently completed a pilot project at a secondary school were it was able to cut the power bill by 30%, ensure uninterrupted teaching of vital IT skills and provide students with captured fresh rainwater for the school’s vegetable garden.