Entrepreneurs have until April 15 before applications close for this year’s Anzisha Prize, Africa’s premier award for its youngest entrepreneurs. So far the team has received nearly 300 applications from young entrepreneurs running incredible businesses.
And many of these are women.
While in the past there have been a lot fewer women applicants for the Anzisha Prize than men, history also shows these young women can have a considerable social impact in their communities. In fact, since the Prize’s inception, there has never once been a year that a woman has not featured in the top three winners.
Below is a taste of some of this year’s women applicants. If you are doing something similar, or know of a young entrepreneur who is using business to solve local problems, then don’t forget to nominate or apply for the Anzisha Prize before 15 April.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Finalists for the Anzisha Prize have not been announced. The entrepreneurs profiled below have been selected randomly, and are not necessarily winners.
Micro-finance for low-income Zimbabweans
Considering the majority of Africans are unbanked and most business activities on the continent are conducted in the informal sector, many do not meet the rigid criteria for traditional bank loans. This means the fisherman supplying his daily catches to the community might struggle to get the capital required to buy new tackle to improve his yields. Or the informal trader selling fruit from a cart on the street might find it difficult to buy a new cooler box to keep her products perishing too soon.
However, one Zimbabwean woman is looking to take on this challenge. Mazvita Nyamakura (21) wants to play a significant role in the economic and financial transformation of the Zimbabwean economy by allowing access to funds to those who have previously been marginalised. She has recently launched her finance solution, Cathway Microfinance Institution, to specifically address the needs of low-income Zimbabweans.
“A lot of people cannot access funds to aid them in their day-to-day operations,” explains Nyamakura. “With this in mind, Cathway was formed in order to promote self-sustainability among Zimbabweans through economic transformation.”
Nyamakura, who is pursuing an accounting degree at Africa University, says her business currently faces a number of challenges, including the current political and economic sanctions placed on Zimbabwe that have limited access to potential foreign investors. She has also faced discrimination as a young business woman and found the regulatory environment to be a major challenge. However, she is not ready to give up and aims to see her business grow across Zimbabwe and beyond.
“All these are problems which can be dealt with over time, and as I acquire more knowledge in business as a young businesswoman.”
Empowering small-scale farmers
Africa’s agricultural potential is no secret. The World Bank estimates that the continent holds around 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, and has the potential to feed not only itself, but the rest of the world too. Yet the majority of African agriculture remains a poor man’s game as small-scale farmers struggle to overcome challenges that can transform their subsistence farming into profitable ventures.
Tanzanian Belinda Baraka (17) is one young entrepreneur who is looking to solve some of these challenges. Last year she started BITO Market, an online directory that allows farmers to connect with and sell their produce directly to end buyers. By cutting out the middlemen traditionally used in this process, farmers can gain a much greater share of the profits to reinvest into their farms. The platform also allows buyers to advertise their opportunities and place orders.
“I came up with this solution after discovering the problems many farmers encounter here in Tanzania. They want to sell their products but suffer as they are not sure of the availability in the market or the actual current prices at which products are sold. Middlemen who act as a current link or connection between farmers and buyers end up getting more profit than farmers,” she explained.
While Baraka said her company is still in the start-up face, within five years she hopes it will have a national presence.
Providing employment opportunities for the disabled
Entrepreneurship does not just offer the potential to improve the lives of individuals, but also entire communities of people. Not only can it provide employment and drive market competitiveness and innovation, but it can also look to solve some of the problems that society faces.
Ghanaian Yvonne Amankwah (21) is one of these entrepreneurs.
Last year she started a soap manufacturing business, Vons Liquid Soap, which employs and trains people with disabilities who had previously struggled to find employment opportunities. At the moment the company employs two hearing-impaired people.
“Addressing the challenges of persons with disabilities is essential in creating stable democracies as inequalities in society would be reduced,” she explains.
“I am working towards two sustainable development goals which are to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, and reduce inequality within and among our countries.”
Amankwah, who is also studying human resource management at Radford University, is the president of Enactus Radford, a non-profit organisation that seeks to improve the lives of people by applying green enterprise concepts.