Ikpeme Neto, the founder of WellaHealth, a Nigerian digital health insurance company, has been named winner of Africa’s Business Heroes Prize competition. The startup won $300,000 for its contribution towards the creation of over 123,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The other winners are Thomas Njeru CEO and co-founder of Pula Advisors (Kenya) was rewarded with $250,000 and Ayman Bazaraa, the CEO and co-founder of Sprints (Egypt) got $150,000.

The announcement of the winners took place during an AR-enabled Grand Finale held in Kigali, Rwanda. The selected startup pitched their businesses on stage to a final panel of judges: Dr. Diane Karusisi, CEO of Bank of Kigali; Ibukun Awosika, Founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Group; and Joe Tsai, Chairman of Alibaba Group.

The top three winners were selected through multiple stages of interviews and evaluations from a staggering 27,267 applications spanning all 54 African nations. They have demonstrated exceptional ingenuity and tenacity, substantially impacting their communities and beyond.

Apart from the three final winners, the top 10 contestants will each receive US$100,000 in prize funding from ABH. An extra US$10,000 will also be allocated to each of the top 10 finalists for post-competition training programs.

“I am deeply honoured to be named this year’s Africa’s Business Heroes winner. This award energizes my commitment to driving positive change through innovation. I extend heartfelt gratitude to ABH for empowering entrepreneurs like me, and I am dedicated to shaping a brighter future for our continent through entrepreneurship. I am excited for the recognition of Wellahealth Technologies’ work and grateful for my team, family and the ABH team for making this impact in healthcare across Africa possible,” said Ikpeme Neto, CEO and Founder, Wellahealth Technologies, ABH 2023 First Prize Winner.

“The winners of this year’s ABH competition embody bold ambition and innovation, exemplifying the true essence of entrepreneurial spirit and a deep commitment to addressing societal challenges. The judges recognized them for their remarkable ability to turn challenges into opportunities, unwavering commitment to community betterment, and innovative approaches to solving pressing issues. Their resilience, passion and impactful contributions make them not just business leaders, but true champions of change,” said Jason Pau, Executive Director of International Programmes, at Jack Ma Foundation.

Africa's Business Heroes

2023 sees the 5th anniversary of ABH, marking the halfway point in the prize competition program. To commemorate this milestone, a celebratory summit spanning two days from November 23 to 24 was held in conjunction with the Grand Finale. Themed “AI: African Insight, Innovation, Impact,” the ABH Summit and Grand Finale brought together more than 1,750 entrepreneurial ecosystem players and aspiring entrepreneurs across Africa in the largest physical event in ABH’s history. In addition to the live pitching sessions held as part of the Grand Finale, the event featured a series of speeches and workshops, a showcase of the work of past ABH heroes and an afterparty to celebrate the anniversary, among other activities.

Since 2019, grant recipients of the ABH Prize Competition have achieved remarkable milestones, collectively raising over US$153 million in investments and serving a vast base of over 37.5 million customers or users. Collectively, these entrepreneurs have received US$7 million in prize money, facilitating their operations in 52 African countries. Notably, their endeavours have created over 123,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributing to the region’s economic development. With a combined reported revenue exceeding US$252 million, ABH grant recipients continue to exemplify the transformative power of entrepreneurship in fostering growth, innovation and socio-economic impact across the African continent.

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