Over 500 young African entrepreneurs applied for the Anzisha Prize this year, in what has become the most sought-after award for those aged between 15 and 22 on the continent. Each bids for the chance of becoming one of 12 to win thousands of dollars in prizes and become a lifelong member of Africa’s most prestigious entrepreneur network.
And the search is now on as a panel of expert judges make their way through applications.
In coming weeks around 50 semi-finalists will be identified and contacted for phone interviews. The Anzisha team will then fly across the continent to visit the majority in person. Once their legitimacy is confirmed, 12 finalists will be selected and flown to Johannesburg for a high-profile awards ceremony in November.
The Anzisha Prize offers its Fellows all the tools and support to create leading African businesses. But in the end, those who put the most into the programme will get the most out.
Every year the chosen 12 start their journey with the Anzisha Week at the prestigious African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg.
“They will work with the best educators and coaches in the world for young entrepreneurs,” says Josh Adler, director for the Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership at ALA, and manager of the Anzisha Prize.
In addition, Fellows will also be equipped with skills such as pitching to investors, financial reporting, and dealing with the media. “And by the end of the week, they will each pitch their business to some of Africa’s most influential individuals. The top three will then gain a share of $75,000, while additional cash prizes will be awarded to other finalists.”
Being named an Anzisha Fellow means becoming a lifelong member of the Anzisha network, with access to a web of business leaders, investors and mentors. All Fellows will also go into the Youth Entrepreneur Support Unit (YES-U), an incubation and acceleration programme designed to supply one-on-one customised business consultation services.
In addition, they will participate in the Fellowship’s Experts in Residence programme, where they spend a week with specific industry or functional experts to deepen skills and assist in strategic thinking.
“For example, one week we might bring in an edtech expert from the US to spend one-on-one time with our Fellows running edtech start-ups,” explained Adler. “Or if we notice them facing HR-related struggles, we will bring in a HR specialist to work with them on identifying strategic solutions.”
The Anzisha Prize will finance attendance to select conferences, and support will be given to help Fellows prepare for the events and network more effectively.
Furthermore, they will be invited to attend regional indabas across the continent every year, which are also attended by ALA alumni.
“The idea of these is that the most promising entrepreneurs in Africa can meet and build relationships with some of the most promising leaders in Africa,” said Adler.
Becoming the best
Whether a grand prize winner or not, each Anzisha Fellow automatically receives an initial $2,500 in funding. But the total investment in them over the years turns out to be many thousands more.
From flying Fellows across the world for various events, to providing them with business consulting services, the Anzisha Prize is investing in young African entrepreneurs over the long term.
“Beyond the money, Anzisha Fellows will have access to the best on the continent, to help them to become the best,” concludes Adler.