Ultimate List: 50+ Business Funding Opportunities & Awards for African Entrepreneurs

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From students, startups, young and social entrepreneurs to small & medium and successful businesses, African and global organizations open business plan competitions and awards annually to support and encourage budding and successful entrepreneurs in Africa.

Whether you need funding to bring your bright idea to limelight or have made innovative progress as an entrepreneur in Africa and need a platform to demonstrate your achievements, there are opportunities out there.

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Below is AfterSchoolAfrica list of 40 plus business plan competitions and awards for African entrepreneurs. Most of these programs are offered annually. Look out for the next application.

African entrepreneur competition

Table of content

With Emphasis on Women Entrepreneurs

  1. Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Program: In 2019, the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) established the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE).  AWE provides women entrepreneurs with the skills, resources, and networks needed to start and scale successful businesses.  Through AWE, women entrepreneurs participate in a facilitated entrepreneurship program supplemented with localized content.
  2. Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards: Cartier reviews applications from 7 regions (Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, Far East Asia, South-East Asia). One from each region wins $100,000 award.
  3. UK Africa Tech Hub Future Females Business School: The Future Females Business School Tech Programme is a three month virtual accelerator programme, equipping local female entrepreneurs in Nigeria, Kenya & South Africa with the entrepreneurial skills and best practices needed to start and grow successful and sustainable businesses, that utilise technology to not only generate wealth for themselves, but to have a positive impact in their community, and environment.
  4. BMCE Bank of Africa – African Entrepreneurship Award – USD$1 Million for Women (and Men) Entrepreneurs: Are you dreaming of launching or growing your business idea in your community? Join the thousands of women (and men) entrepreneurs creating jobs all over Africa and submit your idea for a chance to share in the $1 million award.
  5. Women Techmakers Program: Google’s Women Techmakers program provides visibility, community, and resources for women in technology. It provides the Women Techmakers Scholarship Program, Grants and the latest Ambassadors Program for women who are passionate about technology.
  6. Ernst and Young (EY) Entrepreneurial Winning Women: Spanning 50 countries and over 400 participants, the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women programme identifies high-potential women entrepreneurs whose businesses show real potential to scale and provides them with ongoing support to help accelerate their growth.
  7. She Leads Africa is a social enterprise dedicated to supporting young African women and their journey towards professional success. The SLA Accelerator is a 3-month program designed to identify, support and fund the next generation of Nigeria’s brightest female entrepreneurs and offers. The winner of a Demo Day will receive a N 2mn investment from She Leads Africa Fund.
  8. Ashden International Award World’s leading green energy awards, seeks pioneering enterprises and programmes demonstrating achievement in any of the following areas: Increasing energy access for homes or businesses, Sustainable buildings, Developing innovative financial mechanisms or business models for delivering sustainable energy, Sustainable travel, Improving the lives of women and girls through sustainable energy, Sustainable energy and water. Prize money of £20,000; one International Gold Award of £30,000

Student Entrepreneurship

  1. Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA): The Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA) is the premier global competition for student entrepreneurs who actively run a business. EO GSEA is an exclusive opportunity for student entrepreneurs to make connections, find resources, and grow their businesses!
  2. The African Innovation Prize (AIP) is a UK based non-profit organization founded by Cambridge University Graduates to spur student innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa. Through university based business planning competitions, AIP aims to encourage students to dream, design, and dedicate themselves to their business ideas. AIP also develops connections between students and the local enterprise community through seeding entrepreneurship clubs within universities, and brokering mentorship between students and local business leaders.
  3. The Dell Social Innovation Challenge identifies and supports promising young social innovators who dedicate themselves to solving the world’s most pressing problems with their transformative ideas. The program provides university students with world-class teaching and training, as well as with start-up capital and access to a network of mentors and advisors.
  4. Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa Innovation Awards: Open to university students of all ages based anywhere on earth, the Ericsson Innovation Awards competition recognizes innovative concepts that use technology to solve global challenges – and Imagine Possible. This year we are challenging you to ‘Impact our Sustainable Future’.
  5. The Cola-Cola Africa Foundation Entrepreneurship programs provide students with the tools needed to prosper as a young adult. The main objective is to help today’s youth understand the importance of self-reliance and the impact they all have on the future of the economy by addressing the issue of unemployment in Africa and helping to create a culture of entrepreneurship. The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation has invested $3.1 million in programs that promote entrepreneurship amongst the youth in 12 countries.
  6. Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Fellowship for South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland Students: The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation offers the exceptional Allan Gray Fellowship to Southern Africa’s pioneering bright young students. This initiative aims to develop students, known as Allan Gray Candidate Fellows, into Southern Africa’s future high impact responsible entrepreneurs.
  7. The School Enterprise Challenge is a global business planning awards programme run by the educational charity ‘Teach A Man To Fish.’ It aims to create globally aware, socially responsible, young entrepreneurs. The School Enterprise Challenge is an international awards programme for schools around the world with up to $50,000 in prizes available for the most entrepreneurial schools, teachers and students.
  8. The Skoll Scholarships in Social Entrepreneurship for International Students, UK provides funding and exclusive opportunities to meet with world-renowned entrepreneurs, thought-leaders and investors. The Skoll Scholarship provides tuition for entrepreneurs who have set up or have been working in entrepreneurial ventures with a social purpose, and who wish to improve their knowledge of market-oriented practices so they can be more effective in their subsequent social change pursuits. The Skoll Scholarship covers full costs of Said Business School tuition and college fees. The Scholarship also covers partial living expenses based on need, up to an additional £8,000.
  9. Google Hash Code Programming Competition for Students and Professionals in Africa, Europe & Middle East is a team-based programming competition organized by Google for students and industry professionals (18+) across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. You pick your team and programming language, Google picks a real-lifeengineering problem to solve.
  10. How will you change the world with US$1 million? Apply for Hult Prize – Social Enterprise Challenge: thousands of university students worldwide team up to create start-ups aimed at solving an issue faced by billions in need. More than 10,000 applicants will begin the journey, and only 300 start-ups from around the world will move on to pitch their start-up ideas at one of five global locations, including: Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai and Shanghai.
  11. The Google RISE Awards is an annual grant program for informal education organizations around the world that promote computer science for K-12/pre-university age youth. It aspires for students to be creators not just consumers of tomorrow’s technology, and that includes students from all backgrounds. This is why it’s efforts emphasize participation from girls, youth in low-income communities, and minorities who have historically been underrepresented in the field of computer science.

Aspiring and Startup Entrepreneurs

  1. Mest Africa Challenge: Pre-seed to seed stage technology startups in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Kenya, and South Africa are invited to apply to participate in the regional competitions to be held in these countries. Two finalists will be selected from each country to participate in the final Demo Day Pitch event for the ultimate prize of $50,000 in equity.
  2. Westerwelle Young Founders Program: The Young Founders Programme is a 6-month fellowship for outstanding young entrepreneurs from emerging markets. It brings together leaders from all over the world, who are united in the pursuit to achieve entrepreneurial greatness
  3. IsDB Business Plan Competitionfor Sub-Saharan Countries. The Islamic Development Bank Business Plan Competition is a recently introduced initiative of the IsDB Group. In this competition, candidates come together to develop and further refine their business plans to launch their start-ups or grow ventures, while competing for the cash prizes!
  4. BID Network: Are you an aspiring entrepreneur from Rwanda or Uganda with a finance need between USD 10,000 and USD 500,000? Entrepreneurs can register on one or more of the online portalsand submit their business plan for assessment by our advisors. BiD Network introduces a unique offering of one-on- one, tailor-made Business Development Support (BDS) to help Ugandan entrepreneurs to professionalize their operations, accelerate growth and obtain finance.Benefit includes sourcing,business development support, coaching and matchmaking.
  5. Development Innovation Venturesaims to find and support breakthrough solutions to the world’s most important development challenges—interventions with the power to change millions of lives at a fraction of the usual cost. Through its grant program DIV invests in these game-changing ideas, rigorously tests them using cutting-edge analytical methods, and scales solutions that prove they work.
  6. The Argidius Foundation and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) have announced the Argidius-ANDE Finance Challenge (AAFC), a new competition designed to support innovative ways to provide capital to small businesses in emerging markets that require $20,000-$250,000 in early stage capital.  The goal of the challenge is to accelerate the development of innovative and sustainable solutions in a number of emerging markets, ideally establishing models that can be replicated.
  7. In 2011, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Western Union  launched the second African Diaspora Marketplace(ADM II). ADM II encourages sustainable economic growth and employment by supporting U.S.-based African Diaspora and other entrepreneurs through grant funding and technical assistance facilities. ADM II Awardees are individuals with demonstrable connections to or experience in Africa, who have innovative and high-impact start-ups and established businesses on the continent. Each business venture can receive matching partnership grants up to $50,000 and other forms of technical assistance.
  8. Launched in 2009, the MENA 100 Business Plan Competitionis co-organized by the MENA-OECD Investment Programme, aims to promote entrepreneurship and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Middle East and North Africa, by mentoring entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to come up with the perfect business plan for their startup or expanding their young enterprises. First prize US$ 25 000, Second prize US$ 10 000 and Third prize US$ 5 000
  9. Nigerian billionaire investor and philanthropist Tony Elumelu has committed $100 million to create 10,000 entrepreneurs across Africa over the next 10 years. Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme TEEP, a Pan-African entrepreneurship initiative of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, is a multi-year programme of training, funding, and mentoring, designed to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs.
  10. In Africa as elsewhere, many young people aspire to start their own business and build a brighter future, which is why Total created theStartupper of the year challenge. If you’re currently preparing a business plan or are in the early stages of creating your own business, you’re eligible to enter this challenge! Each winner will receive a customized coaching to help him/her to create and/or develop its business. Total will provide financial support up to $30,000 (in winners local currency).
  11. Seedstars World offers exclusive and global startup competition to promote, connect and invest up to $1.5mn for Entrepreneurs in emerging market in over 65 countries across Asia, Africa, LatAm, CEE and MENA. Companies less than two years old, MVP ready, thinking global and with less than $500k raised so far can apply to become Global Winners!
  12. Diamond Bank’s BET – Building Entrepreneurs Today – business grant marks another great opportunity for entrepreneurs all over Nigeria in the following industries (fashion and lifestyle, agriculture, information and communication technology) to present their businesses and innovation and have the opportunity of being selected as one of the top 50 businesses that will be provided with extensive training, mentoring and advisory by the Enterprise Development Centre with the top 5 businesses winning3 Million naira each.
  13. Shell LiveWIRE is a social investment programme that aims to help young Nigerians explore the option of starting their own business as a real and viable career option. It provides support, access to training, guidance, and business mentorship to young entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35. The programme operates mainly in the Niger Delta region and aims to inspire, encourage and support young people aged 18-35 to start up their own businesses through the provision of finance and training for young entrepreneurs.
  14. Ashoka Africa: Ashoka is the world’s largest network of changemakers and social innovators with more than 3,000 social entrepreneurs in 70 countries, and has been working in Africa for over 20 years. Ashoka believes that building a critical mass of leading social entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas is an important step toward creating a vibrant, prosperous African continent. Ashoka Fellows in Africa are empowering people to create their own economic and civic opportunities, addressing the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and other devastating health concerns, implementing transformative education systems, protecting their environments and natural resources, and introducing effective methods of conflict resolution.
  15. Since 1976, Rolex has honoured extraordinary individuals who possess the courage and conviction to take on major challenges. Each Rolex Award for Enterprise is given for a new or ongoing project anywhere in the world – one that deserves support for its capacity to improve lives, or protect the world’s natural and cultural heritage. These projects have touched all aspects of humanity by expanding knowledge or improving life on the planet.
  16. The Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competitionis a global programme and an online platform, which supports the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Young people from around the world are invited to submit their innovative ideas and projects with a societal impact, which champion and implement one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 SDGs address the most important social, economic, environmental, health and governance challenges of our time.
  17. The N10 billion Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) programme is an ambitious programme by the Bank of Industry (BOI) aimed at addressing youth unemployment in Nigeria which is currently over 50%.
  18. The SOCAP Scholarship for Social Entrepreneurs is a world-renowned conference series dedicated to increasing the flow of capital toward social good. Social entrepreneurs are the heart of SOCAP. They identify new solutions to pressing issues, balancing true impact with sustainable business models. We prioritize support for inspiring entrepreneurs, as they are the future of the social capital markets.
  19. The Saville Foundation Pan-African Awards for Entrepreneurship in Educationis a competition initiated by Teach a Man to Fish and generously sponsored by the organization Educating Africa. The competition is open to all organizations based in Africa working in education, from primary through to tertiary, as well as in non-formal and adult education. As well as a First Prize of $10,000 and two Runners-Up Prizes of $5,000, there are up to 50 Awards of $1,000 available for the best entry from every country on the continent.

Breakthrough Entrepreneurs & Small Businesses

  1. The Anzisha Prizeseeks to award young entrepreneurs who have developed and implemented innovative solutions to social challenges or started successful businesses within their communities. 12 finalists from across Africa will win an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa to be a part of a week-long entrepreneurship workshop and conference at the African Leadership Academy campus on the outskirts of Johannesburg.  The grand prize winners, selected from these finalists, will share prizes worth $75,000 USD.
  2. The Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA)IPA honors and encourages innovative achievements that contribute toward developing new products, increasing efficiency or saving cost in Africa. Specifically, the award targets technological breakthroughs in 5 main areas: manufacturing & service industry, health & well-being, agriculture & agribusiness, environment, energy & water and ICTs. By providing USD 150,000 to winners who deliver market-oriented solutions for African-led development, the IPA acknowledges and encourages the endeavor of innovators and entrepreneurs and works to raise their profiles on the development agenda. USD 100,000 for the winner with the best innovation, USD 25,000 for the Second Prize and USD 25,000 for the Special Prize.
  3. The Facebook Internet.org Innovation Challenge in Africa supports Internet.org’s vision of a connected world. To this end, the goal of the Challenge is to recognize individuals and organizations that are working on internet-based solutions to promote education and economic empowerment in countries throughout Africa. Up to $150,000 awarded.
  4. The African Media Initiative (AMI), the continent’s largest association of media owners and operators, has announced a $1 million fund to spur innovation in the news industry. The African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC)is designed to encourage experimentation in digital technologies and support the best innovations that strengthen African news organizations.
  5. The Zayed Future Energy Prizeinvite entries from companies, individuals, organizations and high schools to submit applications, for a chance to win part of the US$4 million prize fund. The scope of the Prize has also been broadened to include five distinct categories: Large Corporations, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Lifetime Achievement, and the newly instituted Global High School Prize.
  6. The Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA)is a bilateral trust fund administered by the African Development Bank – anchored in a generous commitment of USD 60 million by the Government of Denmark and the United States – to support small and medium clean energy and energy efficiency projects in Africa.
  7. The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation aims to stimulate and reward engineering entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa Prize will encourage ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines to apply their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges, highlighting the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development. Finalists will be invited to present at an event held in Africa and a winner will be selected to receive £25,000 along with runners-up, who will each be awarded £10,000.

Successful Entrepreneurs and Business leaders

  1. Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub (Open to anyone) – Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub brings people, knowledge, and benefits together to help founders at every stage solve startup challenges.
  2. Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards are the world’s most prestigious business awards for entrepreneurs. The award encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement.
  3. US Business In Africa Awards: This collaborative, innovative, inspirational initiative aims to launch and sustain a culture of responsible and good corporate citizenship by U.S. businesses in Africa.
  4. The African Leadership Network celebrates entrepreneurs by hosting the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurs,the most distinguished business and entrepreneurship awards programme in Africa, which considers candidates from African Nations. The award recognizes and award exceptional entrepreneurial leaders who serve as role models to Africa’s aspiring entrepreneurs and demonstrate business excellence, innovation and profitability.
  5. African Leadership Network – ALN has hosted the Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship (AAE), dubbed the ‘Oscars of Entrepreneurship in Africa’. AAE was established in 2007 by the Legatum Group to recognize business leaders who demonstrate innovation, profitability, and business excellence while serving as role models to inspire Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs in Africa.
  6. African Achievers Awardsis a set of annual awards bestowed on Africa’s most accomplished achievers in politics, diplomacy and entrepreneurship. Now in its fourth year, the African Achievers Awards recognizes individuals and organizations that selflessly devote their time and talents toward improving Africa’s international profile and building stronger, integrated communities in Africa.

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  • Ikenna Odinaka C. is a Writer, Career Development Professional, Entrepreneur, Educator and Investor. He is the founder of AfterschoolAfrica.com, AfterSchoolMedia.com and Edxtra.com. He has also co-founded other businesses in Education, technology and media industry. He is passionate about the future of work, entrepreneurship and helping young people explore opportunities to develop their financial capability. You can read his best content on AfterSchoolMedia.com and watch his insightful videos on YouTube

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