Anzisha Prize tackles COVID-19

By: Sisanda Ntshinga

The coronavirus has brought with it a lot of uncertainty and has left us all feeling vulnerable. This is true even more so for young entrepreneurs who find themselves navigating through this pandemic that has caused many to re-evaluate how they do business during this time. The crisis has not only affected the communities the businesses service but also the employees that make it possible for the business to operate.

In response to the pandemic, Mastercard Foundation and African Leadership Academy have agreed to re-purpose funds into a dedicated Relief Fund to support Anzisha Prize fellows and their ventures at this time. Anzisha Entrepreneur Support Associate Tanya Mutepfa says they realised that small businesses had been most impacted, and part of what the Anzisha Prize is doing is to meet the immediate as well as the long term needs of the fellows. “Our fellows form part of different sectors and not all of them will be affected the same way because they all have different needs. This is the reason we have decided to have three types of support to try and meet the different circumstances that the entrepreneurs find themselves in and also factor the different stages the businesses are all in.”

The three types of support for the business owners include an Employee Retention Grant of up to $1000 per fellow, to help smaller or earlier-stage businesses retain the most valuable employees. Larger businesses can apply for interest-free loans of up to $2500 per fellow, with deferred repayment until January 2022. Anzisha has also offered to partner with businesses that can operate, and are already providing or could provide important services in response to COVID19. Acting as a client on behalf of others in need, Anzisha will buy these services (food, deliveries, medical supplies etc.) for up to $5000 per fellow, on behalf of the communities that need them.

Anzisha Program Lead for Very Young Entrepreneurs Acceleration Thokoza Mjo shares that the relief fund took into consideration what young entrepreneurs were voicing. “These options within the relief fund have been tailor-made for our young entrepreneurs who very early on voiced their needs and concerns with us. We were able to address the gaps that the entrepreneurs had depending on the sectors they were in.”

Tanya says entrepreneurs have had to be innovative and think fast about how to ensure that their businesses survive the pandemic, with one of the biggest issues being the break down in the supply chain. “No one was ready for the pandemic so some entrepreneurs have found themselves with stock and inventory that they can’t move and it is quite difficult to find new customers. Imagine you had a contract for 5 or 20 schools that you were supplying a lot of product to and then all of a sudden schools are shut down overnight.”

To assist entrepreneurs who find themselves in similar positions, Anzisha has also created a directory of the fellows which stipulates different ways the communities could support them. “On the directory, you can also see the makeup of the businesses, how many people are employed and how your contribution could help. You also have the option of shopping now but getting the product at a later stage or buying the product as a gift certificate, or making a donation,” explains Tanya.

Entrepreneurs have also had to make sure that they take care of not only the business but their emotional well-being as well. The Anzisha prize has also created a support structure in the form of webinars that speak to mental health specifically.

“What we did was run a webinar with the African Leadership Academy wellness team titled “Mental health in the time of crisis”, which provided tips, advice and shared information on mental health and the importance of it. All of our fellows also have access to all our wellness team members which consists of counsellors and therapists and they can book a session with any of them at any time that they need to,” says Tanya.

Should you also wish to support businesses owned by very young entrepreneurs during the pandemic please visit for more information.

Featured image: Anzisha Fellows Alina Karimamusama and Amanda Jojo at the Anzisha 2020 Very Young Entrepreneur Summit in Cape Town (Photo Credit: Mfundo Mbanze)

Support the businesses of Anzisha Fellows

As Anzisha Fellows and their employees, beneficiaries and partner organizations weather this unprecedented pandemic, The Anzisha Prize Program has compiled the fellow directory for our community to identify opportunities to support fellow businesses. Read more