Albert Munyabugingo, a Rwandan innovator and co-founder of delivery company VubaVuba, has been named among 10 African entrepreneurs who will share $1.5 million (over Rwf1.7 billion) of funding through Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH), an initiative of the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy.
Munyabugingo is one of 20 entrepreneurs who pitched their projects during the ABH 2023 semi-finals held in Kigali from September 1-2.
The top 10 finalists, who emerged from more than 27,000 applicants from across the African continent, were announced on Saturday night.
Munyabugingo becomes the fifth Rwandan entrepreneur to win the Alibaba funding since 2019, when the initiative of the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma was launched.
“This is an exciting moment. I am full of joy after making it to the top 10 out of 27,000 applications. That means we have our share of the $1.5 million,” Munyabugingo told The New Times.
“I am looking forward to the next step. We have so many projects in the pipeline, including expansion to two more countries in 2024 and integration with major economic platforms, across the world looking at connecting farmers and restaurants that we partner with.”
Speaking of the environment that enabled previous Rwandan winners, Munyabugingo said, “the government is actually doing whatever they can to empower innovators and young founders. What I would say to innovators is do as many applications as you can, don’t do just one and feel discouraged. Do five or 10 a week. It takes 10 or 20 things to get one that works well.”
Also in the top 10 is Mawuse Christina Gyisun, CEO and co-founder of Sommalife, a Ghanaian agriculture enterprise.
“I need some days to recover from this because it is unbelievable. I can’t believe that the judges have this much faith in us to give us a chance to go out there and share our story,” Gyisun said.
“With ABH money, we plan to do two things. The first is to launch our carbon credits projects for our network of smallholder farmers. Then, the other 50 per cent of the money will go into ramping up our software technology. We are looking at integrating some advanced features like farmer verification, tree-monitoring AI tools, remote sensing and drone imagery,” she said.
Who are other finalists?
The other entrepreneurs include Bola Bardet, CEO and co-founder of Susu, a Beninese healthcare company; Ayman Bazaraa, CEO and co-founder of Egyptian education and training company Sprints; and Andrew Takyi-Appiah, founder of Ghanaian fintech company Zeepay.
Also among the winners are Thomas Njeru, CEO and co-founder of Kenyan agriculture company Pula Advisors Limited; Ismael Belkhayat, CEO and founder of Moroccan fintech company Chari; and Ikpeme Neto, CEO and founder of Nigerian healthcare solution Wellahealth Technologies.
There are also Nthabiseng Mosia, co-founder of Easy Solar, a South African energy distributing company and Theo Baloyi, CEO and founder of South African retail company Bathu.
How much does each innovator take?
In November, African’s Business Heroes will announce who takes how much out of the $1.5 million.
The top winner receives $300,000, the first runner-up $250,000 and the second runner-up $150,000.
The other seven of the top 10 finalists receive $100,000 each and the remaining $100,000 is split among all finalists for additional training programs.
Since 2019, four Rwandan entrepreneurs have scooped $385,000 (over Rwf460 million) in funding from the Alibaba initiative.
They are Francine Munyaneza, founder of Munyax Eco; Yvette Ishimwe, founder and CEO of IRIBA Water Group; Christelle Kwizera, founder of Water Access Rwanda and Kevine Kagirimpundu, co-founder and CEO of UZURI K&Y.