December 12, 2022
In conjunction with AmChams across Africa, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Africa Business Center (USAfBC) hosted its annual Digital Entrepreneurship Competition for African startups as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
This competition involved digital SMEs and startups working to facilitate the delivery of digital, cross-border, interoperable, and cross-domain services and solutions. President Barack Obama opened this year’s finalist pitch session with supportive insight.
“My message to Africa’s young people remains the same today: When you succeed, your countries succeed, and that creates more opportunities for everyone,” said President Obama. “All of us will keep doing everything we can to help you succeed, and my hope is that when you do succeed, we'll use your power to help address some of the biggest challenges of our time — from climate change to global health to food insecurity.”
Investment in Young African Entrepreneurs Is an Investment in a Strong Regional and Global Future
In a panel discussion on investment in African entrepreneurs, Dr. Awele Elumelu, Co-Founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, said her organization seeks to invest in and empower innovators across the continent.
“As we all know, the future of the world and of Africa is really in the hands of the youth,” she said. “We believe that if we can empower the entrepreneurs, [especially] the young ones, then we are … dealing with a lot of the problems of society. We know that if we develop the entrepreneurs … we improve development in the society.”
“I think the most important thing is the journey because it's really easy to give up,” said Koome Mwiti, Founder of TinyPesa, which was supported by the Tony Elumelu Foundation. “[Having] a foundation that just believes in [us] and takes [us] all the way … [means] we are able to supply and support those young vendors and our small-scale traders.”
Nkem Okocha, Founder of MamaMoni, echoed the same sentiment: “In 2015, I had this idea of funding low-income female entrepreneurs … who run micro-enterprises. I wanted to start a company that would fund them, but I did not have the business skills until I met the Tony Elumelu Foundation.”
The Tony Elumelu Foundation provided Okocha with the proper business training and a mentor who had over 25 years of experience in the financial services sector.
“For me, the business training is very key, [and] that's what we got from the foundation,” said Okocha.
Africa Doesn’t Need Aid; It Needs Innovation
During the pitch competition, actor Idris Elba noted that everyone involved in the African entrepreneurial economy shares one common desire: “We would love to see a better day for Africa in the future.”
“We do not need aid anymore,” he continued. “We need innovation. We need partnership. When you look at this incredible board of sponsorships, that is what partnership in Africa looks like, and that's what it should look like for the future.”
Elba noted that the film industry is a “window into Africa” and “a mirror of ourselves.” To change the narrative for Africa, he said, we must invest in media.
“Every other developed nation in the world has used film and television, books, media, and magazines to change their narrative, not just to the world but inwardly,” Elba said. “So it's important that we grasp onto that motion as well.”
The 2022 Africa Digital Innovation Competition Finalist Pitches and Winner
After the panel, the three finalists of the 2022 Africa Digital Innovation Competition gave two-minute pitches for the audience to vote on. Here is a summary of those pitches:
- Shopa: Frank Nana Addae co-founded and pitched Shopa, a B2B e-commerce business and embedded financial services application that allows informal grocery stores to source inventory directly from manufacturers or suppliers within just one to four hours. The company placed as a Continental Finalist from Ghana in the Sustainability & Supply Chain Solutions.
- GrowAgric: Ore Alemede co-founded GrowAgric, a “Farmers First” AgTech that empowers small and medium-scale farms to improve farming and increase their revenue. The company placed as a Regional Champion and a Continental Finalist from Kenya in the Sustainability & Supply Chain Solutions category.
- Healthbotics Limited: Tunde Oyebamiji co-founded Healthbotics with Imodoye Abioro. The company provides a holistic blood supply solution called Lend an Arm, which offers 360-degree medical logistics to health facilities by connecting them to suppliers and manufacturers of essential medical supplies. The company placed as a Regional Champion and a Continental Finalist from Nigeria in the Human Development & Social Services Solutions category.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken gave the closing remarks at a reception for the finalists, where Healthbotics Limited was named the 2022 grand prize winner.
“We're investing in thriving leaders since President Obama created the Young Leaders initiative,” said Secretary Blinken. “Nearly 5,800 trailblazers from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have come to the United States for academic leadership training, developing skills, [and] relationships that are going to last them a lifetime to the benefit of their communities, [and] also ours.”