Are you an #Afripreneur looking to raise funds? (Part 1)

Are you an #Afripreneur looking to raise funds? (Part 1)

__Seize the moment… Apply to win!

This week I am going to share some exciting news for many of you. Remember when I said in my recent town halls, “The future is now!”? Well, if you’re an African entrepreneur, there’s not a single moment to lose this month. Innovative opportunities are being created for you to raise “prize capital” like never before in history. This week I will share about two prize contests for African entrepreneurs but you have to move fast.

First, I am thrilled to announce that I will be a judge at the Grand Finale of the Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative run by the Jack Ma Foundation. This pan-African competition will offer 10 entrepreneurial finalists the chance to pitch their businesses to Jack, myself and a world-class panel of judges in November, for the opportunity to win a share of USD 1 million! Wow!

Do you think your business has the potential to transform Africa and the world? Has it been in operation for at least three years? I want you on this platform to compete to win here!! You have done a lot of homework over the years. Now is your time to go to the next level. To head to prime time.

The Africa Netpreneur competition is open to entrepreneurs of all ages, from all sectors, from across Africa. The application deadline is 30 June. If you haven’t already entered, you must go and learn all the details here: Don’t waste time! You’re going to have to do some work here… fill out an online application about your business, and make three brief videos: one from the company founder, one from a customer and one from an employee. Interesting!

I was so excited to hear that Jack was launching his new Netpreneur Prize this year because his entrepreneurial journey is very similar to what many African entrepreneurs are currently facing.

You know when he got started back in the late 1990s, Jack tells the story how he saw big companies like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle and thought to himself: “They take all the opportunities!!”

But then he had a realization, something similar to what we have talked a lot about on this platform:

__“Most people keep on complaining,” Jack noted, “but if you can solve the complaining, if you solve the problems, then that is the opportunity…”

Sound familiar?

For Jack back then, his “solution” was coming up with a simpler, cheaper technology that could be used by his company Alibaba, and the millions of small businesses he hoped to add to his e-commerce platform one day…

The rest as they say, is history.

You all know Jack is a multi-billionaire now. Like most of you, he started from scratch (When he got started, they wouldn’t even hire him at KFC, he said). Back then, Jack faced big challenges exactly like you do… such as the cost of IT, big competitors, not just big competitors, huge ones! His answer?


__“We had to innovate”, he said. “That’s it, we were forced!”

That was about 20 years ago now… Wow.

Now listen, when Jack and I were getting started, there were no prizes for entrepreneurs like the ones I am telling you about this week, and he has said something that I can really appreciate as you’ll know if you’ve been reading my page for a while:

“Early days were so tough for me,” he said. “Nobody helped us. Today I’m able to help. It would be an honor for me to do this.”

I think this is amazing and I am myself honored to take part as a judge. Like me with the new Generation Africa GoGettaz Agripreneur Prize that we launched in Johannesburg on 30 May (which I’ll tell you all about in Part 2), this is our way of opening some doors to entrepreneurs that we ourselves never had…

As my friend Richard Branson says: “Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for the perfect moment, they create it.”

The rest is up to you!

To be continued. . .

Image credit: Jack Ma Foundation, Nailab in Kenya. Remember: application deadline is 30 June!

Author:Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.

21 Replies to “Are you an #Afripreneur looking to raise funds? (Part 1)”

  1. Afterthought 2.

    “Real entrepreneurs don’t complain, they change things themselves… They are the real heroes.”

    With his new Africa Netpreneur competition, Jack Ma says they’re #LookingForHeroes, entrepreneurial heroes… I believe some of you on this page are exactly who he’s talking about.

    As I’ve written before, you don’t know if you don’t try. I am counting on seeing some of you in November!

  2. Afterthought 3.
    I first met Jack Ma when the two of us served together with Aliko Dangote as members of a UN Commission to look at ways to improve education outcomes for the poor and most vulnerable children in the world. There were also seven former heads of state on the commission, which was chaired by Former British PM Gordon Brown.

    As you know by now, good entrepreneurs don’t spend all their time hustling to make money. When you are offered any opportunity to help out in your community take it, even it is helping out at a school or local clinic.

  3. Afterthought 4.

    “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs with non-successful ones is pure perseverance…” Steve Jobs

    Don’t get daunted. Prize applications like this can take a bit of time. You can do this! Remember too, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Do the best you can!

    1. Believe in yourself. Everyone started somewhere.

    2. Go online, read the rules and check out the application form carefully.

    3. Update your business plan and do whatever other research you still need to do. This is important!

    4. Take the time to fill out all the questions as well as possible, but don’t wait till the last minute…

    5. Don’t forget to tell part of your story and pitch in NUMBERS!

    6. Read it over to get the typos and silly mistakes. Remember – presentation counts.

    7. Make sure your pitch and other videos are filmed (even with your phone) using good lighting and sound quality! (Re-read my posts on pitching).

    8. Hit the “Submit” button!

    Anything I left out?

  4. Afterthought:
    Even if your own business does not yet qualify, try and identify a friend whose business you think qualifies. Bring it to their attention, and if possible help them in their bid.
    The lessons for you will be remarkable.

  5. #Pause:

    Listen to young people!

    This morning I was at Chatham House [a think tank in London] where I participated in a discussion series to honor Chief Kofi Annan.
    I used the opportunity to talk about the role that young African entrepreneurs will play to fulfill Africa’s century.

    In answer to a question about what we can do to help young people play a more meaningful role, after I pointed out that the majority of Africans are young people. I gave an example of this platform. This is what I said:
    “We must listen to young people, and encourage them to set up enterprises that create jobs and wealth.
    Every week I post something that gives me an opportunity to “listen” to young people. I write posts and then I listen by reading over 10,000 comments. I respect their comments, and I encourage them to act on their dreams.”
    This is my “listening post”!

  6. #Pause:
    Here are some important tips!

    #1. When I’m asked to bid for something, I first of all get a copy of the document, and print a copy. Then I sit down with a pen and note book.
    I sit down and read over, and over, and over again, the terms and conditions.

    #2. I like to spend time meditating carefully on what I’m being asked to do.
    I don’t rush.

    #3. Always remember that this is not a competition of “chance” [where you are going to win by luck]:
    You are going to have to work long and hard.

    #4. Don’t look for sympathy.

    #5. Study everything that Jack Ma has said about this competition and more.
    The more you know about him and his organization, the better placed you will be.

  7. #Pause:
    Who is Jack Ma?
    What can you tell me about him?
    Before you answer, check what others have written, and don’t repeat anything that has already been said about him.
    Write maximum 1 paragraph.

  8. #Reflection:
    Today I have a question for you, but before I ask you let me give you some context:
    A friend of mine is a soccer coach and once he told me that he first saw Ronaldo when he was only 14, and Messi when he was just 8 years old:
    “I make it my business to know the top talent in the game when they are still unknown. I like to go and see them play.”

    I first heard about Jack Ma in 2008 on a trip to China. I was stunned that I had never heard of him. Then I realized that I had not been watching China, because I thought all tech entrepreneurs come from the US!
    [How embarrassing for me!]
    I determined to spend more time in China. I still don’t spend enough time there, as I should.

    Now what about Africa?
    So here is your question:
    “How many rising stars of entrepreneurship from Africa, do you really know? And here I mean the entrepreneurs who are going to be the next billionaires [exclude yourself!]?”

    I can comfortably tell you at least 10, that I have been tracking for a number of years. I just won’t tell you here.
    I would rather you did not answer this question, at this time. Reflect on it with wisdom.
    You do know that not all questions have to be answered in life [at least not openly]?

    I saw Lionel Messi when he was about 18!
    He was tiny and pretty cool to watch as no one could take the ball off him!

  9. [Name withheld, so as not to embarrass] writes,

    Why is Jack Ma not using Xiaomi or Huawei phone lol?

    My reply,
    A lot of people in this world lose opportunities by allowing themselves to be distracted at crucial times, when it really matters to focus.
    This question you ask is actually a distraction to you, and possibly others.
    What does it matter?
    In a few months some young entrepreneurs on this platform, who are busy preparing themselves [after seeing this for the first time] will appear before Jack Ma and myself in Accra Ghana:
    They will walk away with their share of a million United States dollars [free money]!!!
    They will get mentor ship and opportunity to build serious businesses, and create jobs for others. They will become rich, very rich!
    Because they don’t allow themselves to be distracted, by pointless questions and observations!

    How can you be one of them, or how can you help a friend?
    That is all you should be thinking about!

    Pay attention Bro!

  10. Togbe Tsali II writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa Sir, please is everything about money?
    It was a harmless question I asked.
    I gave up buying a Huawei phone for an iPhone because of the Android news… is not all of us that are after money Sir.
    Thank you.

    My reply,
    To be able to help 250,000 young people with school fees, and to help cyclone victims I needed money.
    It is not about money, as you say.
    I tried to spare your name.

  11. Austin writes,

    Strive Masiyiwa you are kind enough to hide his identity but listen, this is once in a life time opportunity. I must produce a winner on this platform if not myself then someone I helped.

    My reply,
    I wish I was not a judge!
    That is how badly want to help you guys to win this!
    Anyway, I have already equipped you to win, and most importantly I have helped raise people like Austin who will ensure that it is taken to every corner of Africa.

  12. Joel Anthony writes,

    Will there ever be any prize or seed funding for ideas or businesses that have been in operations for two years or less?
    Like anytime soon? Let’s give hope to a much wider audience.
    God bless Dr. Strive Masiyiwa

    My reply,
    Joel unfortunately this is not my prize, so I did not write the rules.
    What is really exciting me these days, is the increasing number of organizations that are approaching us with opportunities for African entrepreneurs that they want publicized.
    Hopefully there will be some opportunities that help you at the stage you are.
    What is important for you is to get started at whatever you are doing.

  13. #Pause:
    In 2008 I went to China for the Olympic Games. I then decided to spend a whole month there.
    One of the things I did was to visit Chinese shops that sell mobile phones.
    I was shocked by the number of Chinese brands, I had never heard about. Some of these phones were more innovative than anything I had ever seen. Many of them did not even have English manuals, and yet selling in China they were bigger than some of the most well known Western brands.
    I bought every brand I could find, and took them back in boxes!

    To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must be curious and openminded!

  14. Khumbulani Ndlovu writes,

    Jack Ma has another $150billion company, Ant Financial, a Fintech and payment services platform.

    My reply,
    My vision for Cassava Fintech [ The parent company for EcoCash] was based on this company.
    I want to create the Alipay of Africa.

    Next month we will unveil a platform thsy has taken us more than 3 years to build, which we hope will enable us to scale across Africa.
    Hard things are hard, but there is something called Grace.

  15. #Pause:

    To create anything of scale in Africa [a business that spans the continent] we have to overcome:

    -#53 national boundaries;

    -#53 Central bank regimes:
    Which means different interest rate regimes, and different banking laws.
    It also means that we face different inflationary environments. Some countries if the interest rates don’t get you, then inflation will flatten you completely!

    -#More than 30 different currencies:
    Many of them not convertible or transferable;

    -#53 [at least] different legal and regulatory regimes;

    -#restrictions in physical movement of Africans between African countries;

    -#Capital movement restrictions, which means we cannot move money to develop businesses in other countries.

    -#Different tariff systems;

    -#Different tax systems;

    In China, the US, and Europe, there are none of these barriers…none!

    That is why entrepreneurs from those countries can easily build businesses that scale to hundreds of billions or even $Trillions. It is not that their entrepreneurs are better than our own. Our entrepreneurs have to climb a huge mountain just to survive let alone to build into neighboring countries and beyond.

    This means that those who have been able to build businesses [and amass huge capital platforms] in the US, Europe or China, can have our markets for breakfast. They did not do it to us, we DO IT [present tense] to ourselves.
    Africa is wired to be a continent of consumers of products and services from outside.
    How does a young entrepreneur in a country with an inflation of 25%, borrowing at 30%, unable to even travel to a neighboring country, dream to build a pan-African business?
    All he can do is watch like a bystander.
    That we must change.

    I don’t write this to complain [you know I never complain] but to point out a cold reality which many of you face. This means that only a very small number will make it to the top.
    This is sad because the entrepreneurial talent is there.
    There is nothing on this list that is not in our power to change.

    One of the greatest mentors of my generation is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and he coined the phrase:

    “I’m a prisoner of hope”:
    Even as I wrote this, my mind was on a remarkable lunch I had only this week [three hours long] with an African leader and key members of government. They wanted to know what we need to fix to make Africa more prosperous. We just talked and talked about what we can do for young entrepreneurs. And later I fought back tears. There is hope.

  16. #Reflection:

    “We are prisoners of hope”.

    Even as I wrote the difficult #Pause on some of the challenges that make it so hard for African entrepreneurs to scale to the level of the likes of Jack Ma [China], Mark Zuckerberg [USA]; I was also thinking about something our great mentor Archbishop Tutu always says:

    “I’m a prisoner of hope”.

    Things are changing. There are leaders emerging on our continent who understand these issues. This week alone I spoke to no less than 4 African leaders who just wanted to “exchange ideas” on what can be done to help young African entrepreneurs scale in their own countries, and across the continent.
    Consulting others to get ideas does not take anything away from a leader. The wisest king that ever lived gave this advice:
    “A wise leader is one who is comfortable to take advice from as many advisors as he can.

    And again:

    “Without good advice
    everything goes wrong—
    it takes careful planning
    for things to go right.”

  17. #Why I’m grateful to people like Jack Ma:

    I was raised by a mother who instilled in me the belief that money belongs to the person who has earned it, as long as they did not steal it, it was theirs to do as they wish.

    I can still hear her stinging rebuke, if you criticized anyone over how they use their own money [no matter how much they had]:

    “Did they steal it?! If not then leave them to do as they please! Don’t go into another man’s pocket!”

    Tough woman, my mother!

    Fast Forward:
    When I was a young person, the idea that a rich person with money, could just decide to “give it away” to total strangers, was unheard of in Africa.

    Certainly not to young people who want to be entrepreneurs and also make their own money. Not a loan for return, just a gift!

    I first heard of people giving away their money reading about Americans like Carnegie and Rockefeller.
    “Why don’t they just keep the money and give it to their kids, so that they are all rich for generations like the Rothschilds?” I wondered, often aloud.

    Even now, I know that the vast majority of rich people around the world prefer to just pass their money to the generations of their children, and I would never begrudge them that [my mother is still alive and she will have none of it, even now].
    So when someone from far away places like China, [who did not make their money doing anything in Africa] simply says:
    “I want to give $1m every year to help young African entrepreneurs”. It is something I appreciate very much.
    All I ask of those who will get this money is that, when you too have made money:
    “Consider to do the same, but it’s not your obligation…just an appeal to the heart.”

    Thank you Jack Ma, and all those out there who decide to use their money to help others.
    This week I’m in Seattle at the foundation of the couple that give away the most money in the world, Bill and Melinda Gates.
    They intend to give away all their wealth to good causes. A commitment to give away more than $80bn.
    I remember them often in my prayers, as an amazing gift to humanity.

  18. Alloyce P Makhosi writes,

    This pause has really touched my heart, because it speaks about something that I witnessed myself when I was trying to launch my product the first time around. I live in Namibia and was struggling to find a continental gateway for the African market to integrate in my app, this was in 2017. I even tried reaching out to Cassava Fintech, to which I got no response. Some companies like direct pay were not offering solutions I needed, specifically currency exchange API. I had to settle with an American gateway called Stripe, that forced me to incorporate my company in USA through their Atlas program. I was very heartbroken that I have to reroute whatever little profit I might make through US Companies since payments had to be going into US account before being transferred to my Namibian 1. I do hope things have changed now in the last 2 years as I will soon again be on the hunt again for a Paygate, I really hope there will be a solution for us. I love your vision of an African Alipay, we really desperately need it.

    My reply,
    I have asked the team at Cassava Fintech to explain why they did not reply to you.
    Someone will be in touch with you.

  19. #Reflection:

    Stubbornness is not a good character trait:

    When I was a young man I admired stubborn people:
    I thought they were principled because they stuck to their position.
    Then I realized that some of the most flawed characters in history had this trait.
    Do all you can to avoid developing this trait, and do all you can to avoid people who have this trait.

    Samuel told King Saul, “a person who is stubborn is no better than a person who practices witchcraft!”

  20. Omoruyi Folarin Osas writes,

    Sorry to digress sir.

    Chief, I will humbly love to bring this video to your attention sir.

    It’s the very first of it’s kind in Africa, a school that collects used Plastic as school fees! I am so excited watching this, I told my mother that we would adopt it for her school as well.

    This idea should be adopted across Africa. So we can send out of school kids back to school.

    Please watch the video here chief.

    I personally don’t know the founders, but it’s great innovation for Africa.

    My reply,
    You know of course that this is one of my passions:
    #Reducing plastic waste in Africa.
    I have passed on this recommendation to my team @Clean City Africa.
    We will definitely contact them through CEO of Clean City.

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